Tak­ing on the mean streets of Italy

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By David Witte NEWS-SEN­TINEL SPORTS ED­I­TOR

While a lot of stu­dents in Lodi are hav­ing a fun time dur­ing their fall break, there’s one stu­dent at Lodi Acad­emy who is also tak­ing some time off.

It’s not a va­ca­tion, though — Kai Sorensen is all busi­ness as he chases a world cham­pi­onship in the ROK Cup Su­per­fi­nal, an in­ter­na­tional go-kart event in Lonato, Italy.

Sorensen was there last year as well, plac­ing 17th in the 33racer A-Main, which was whit­tled down from 155 driv­ers who qual­i­fied from all over the world.

“I’ve learned a lot. Last year in Italy, I learned a lot about race craft,” said Sorensen, 11. “Last year I was in a train with four driv­ers, and if you passed some­one, you would im­me­di­ately get over­taken by some­one. You have to be re­ally, re­ally smart out there.”

Sorensen races for Su­per­tune USA, a team based out of In­di­anapo­lis that helps him race all over the coun­try.

Sorensen qual­i­fied to the Su­per­fi­nal by win­ning the ROK Florida Tour, a three-race cham­pi­onship. By win­ning the tour, Sorensen’s trip to Italy is paid for by Team USA — in­clud­ing the car, which is man­u­fac­tured by OTK in nearby Prevalle, Italy.

“I just have to get him there,” said Richard Sorensen, Kai’s fa­ther. “He’s got­ten in re­ally good with OTK, be­cause Su­per­tune, it’s ba­si­cally the fac­tory team for the USA. He has to work for it though. He has to have re­sults, which is fun. It’s very com­pet­i­tive for that age group.”

This is Kai’s fi­nal year in his cur­rent class, ROK Mini, which races 60cc 2-stroke en­gines and gets up to speeds in the low 60s. Next year he will move up to the Ju­nior Class, which races 125cc beasts with a full adult-sized frame.

Kai has been rac­ing since he was 5 years old.

“My dad used to drive gokarts once in a while, and I saw it and I said, ‘Dad, I want to drive,’ ” Kai said. “So he bought me one for Christ­mas when I was 4 1/2. I prac­ticed it in the park­ing lot next to his shop, and then went out to the track to prac­tice.”

Richard, who owns Jer­gens, Inc. in Lodi, takes Kai to prac­tice at Prairie City Kart Tack near Fol­som.

The fam­ily, which also in­cludes Richard’s wife Sylvia and Kai’s 7-year-old sis­ter Sum­mer, lives in Amador County, but Richard and Kai come into Lodi each day — Richard to work, and Kai to school at Lodi Acad­emy.

Kai said the flex­i­bil­ity of his teachers has made it pos­si­ble for him to pur­sue rac­ing around the coun­try.

“We have to give two weeks’ no­tice, he plans all the work, and gives me how­ever many days I’m gone,’ Kai said. “Same with my English and sci­ence teacher.”

Richard added that the school has an on­line home­work por­tal that makes it easy for Kai to stay up to date with his aca­demics. “He has to keep his grades up. The teachers, he goes to Lodi Acad­emy, and his teachers are real un­der­stand­ing,” Richard said. “They have a new on­line por­tal where you can do your home­work and sub­mit it. So you can stay up on your school­work. It’s a re­ally good pro­gram.”

The Su­per­fi­nal gets un­der­way on Oct. 9 with tech­ni­cal checks and the first prac­tices. Qual­i­fy­ing heats be­gin on Oct. 10, and the fi­nal will be on Oct. 12.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Kai Sorensen cel­e­brates a vic­tory at a re­cent race.

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