Taking on the mean streets of Italy
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.
Kai Sorensen celebrates a victory at a recent race.