A dramatic end to the 2023 Rok GP Super Karting Series saw Kraige Berdos crowned as MiniRok Expert champion last September 9/10 at the Carmona Race Track (CRT). It was a weekend riddled with engine issues and unexpected scrutineering checks, yet the 11-year-old managed to overcome all these challenges to take the crown for Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines (Mercedes YDDP).
The 4th and final round of the season pushed Kraige to his limits, especially when he had to make up for an 14 point deficit against teammate and 3-time MiniRok champion Axel Nocom. It also didn’t help that he had to run the team’s practice engine during the race. But all these had little to no effect on the 11-year-old who had the championship in his sights.
He was able to keep pace with his teammates during the early Warm Up sessions and clocked the 2nd quickest time with a 1:06.659. Driving the #99 Mercedes-AMG F1-liveried kart, he repeated the feat by notching the 3rd best time in the Time Trials with a 1:07.057 proving that the practice engine was no slouch after all.
Impressively, Kraige took an early lead in Heat 1 and held position over the course of 5 laps. He was only pipped for the win on the very last lap by his fellow Mercedes YDDP karter Lucas Aldave resulting in a photo finish with Kraige missing out on 1st place by 0.033 secs.
Although this allowed him to slash 5 points off Axel’s lead in the standings, the cancellation of Heat 2 due to poor weather conditions meant that the title will go down to the wire in the Finals. If he takes the win and Axel finishes no higher than 4th, the MiniRok Expert championship is his.
This time though, team finally switched to the race engine to give Kraige the best shot at the title. However, it appeared that it wasn’t the right decision to make as the new engine was bogging down the straights. From P2 at the start he lost ground to the leaders lap after lap and saw the championship begin to slip away as he fell back to P6. Refusing to give up, Kraige kept himself composed and soldiered on until his engine later sorted itself out, giving him the opportunity to fight back. He immediately regained 2 places and set successively quick laps to catch up to the leaders. Unfortunately he ran out of laps and crossed the finish line in 4th.
In an expected twist of fate, several drivers were later disqualified after a sudden post-race inspection which included his closest rival Axel Nocom. While bittersweet for the team, Kraige would officially be classified 2nd overall in the Finals thus earning him the title of Rok GP Super Karting Series’ 2023 MiniRok Expert Class Champion.
A testament to their hard work, skill, and dedication, Mercedes YDDP favors no drivers as long as they put in the effort and seat time. This is best demonstrated by Kraige who bravely contested in the MiniRok Expert category despite it being his rookie year in the class and beat his teammate fair and square.
Kraige Berdos credits his achievement to Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines, team tuner Richard Peek, and mechanics Ralph Parreno, Christian Dela Cruz, and Albert Parungao. It also wouldn’t have been possible without Team Principal Rommero Alojado and the Nocom family.
[Photos by Bong Boado]