Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines (YDDP) brought with them a surprise wildcard entry for the season finale of the 2023 Rotax Max Challenge. Kaoru Yoshida was supposedly at the Carmona Race Track (CRT) only for coaching duties, but at the last minute the team decided to put him on the grid. With an old chassis and a borrowed engine, the Japanese driver showed that he can be competitive against the best local Senior Class karters and even won the Finals on Sunday.
At 19 years of age, Kaoru is an accomplished karter in his native land and actively competes in OK Senior. He was flown in to country by Mercedes YDDP last November 4/5 to watch over fellow Japanese karter Seira Kojima who was racing in the double header weekend.
With guidance from Kaoru, the lady driver was consistently in the Top 3 of every session and scored a 2nd place finish on Saturday. But as a true racer, Kaoru couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get behind the wheel.
Mercedes YDDP was able to quickly source a 3-year-old Kosmic Kart chassis and a borrowed Rotax engine for Kaoru. A few practice sessions around the 1.380 km circuit was all that he needed to get up to speed and managed to set the 3rd fastest lap during Time Trials on Saturday.
It was just unfortunate that he was later disqualified after his kart was found to be 1kg underweight caused by a rulebook misunderstanding as English was not Kaoru’s first language. But even that couldn’t slow him down. Kaoru muscled his way from P20 and dead last during the Qualifying Heat to make it up to 3rd place at the finish. Now starting from the 4th row in the Finals, the Japanese quickly found himself battling with the top 2 Senior Class drivers in the country. He later finished the 15-lap race in 2nd place ahead of 4x champion Miguel Quiñones and only 1.588 secs behind championship leader Bern Corpino.
Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines (YDDP) strives to elevate the level of karting competition in the country. Its program not only focuses on honing local talent, but they also bring in drivers from overseas to benchmark where we rank against the global stage. Aside from Kaoru, Mercedes YDDP has also brought in 2 other drivers from Japan this season. 8-year-old Leon Hanabuchi entered 3 events in MiniRok earlier this year, while 13-year-old Koki Kunioka contested in 4 events under the Junior category.
Kaoru took things up a notch on Sunday. He would secure a 1st and 2nd place finish in the Qualifying Heats to put him on pole position for the Finals. The Finals then became a rematch between him and Bern which lasted all the way until the chequered flag dropped. The Mercedes YDDP wildcard gave the local ace a run for his money and and went on to win by a slim 0.340 secs margin, concluding his one off outing in the Philippines on the top step of the podium.
[Photos by Bong Boado]