Belgium's Jan Heylen won the star-studded Performance Racing International / CKI All-Stars Karting Classic last night at the PRI Show in Orlando. The former Renault Eurocup and British Formula Ford Champion and Champ Car World Series competitor dominated the night, winning pole and leading both the 25-lap pre-final and 40-lap feature race from flag to flag.
Heylen beat current Force India Formula 1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sprint Cup drivers Scott Speed, Jamie McMurray and A.J. Allmendinger, and Indy Racing League veterans Justin Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Buddy Rice, Tomas Scheckter, Ed Carpenter and Alex Tagliani.
Heylen represented Volkswagen Motorsports and the Jetta TDI Cup, and raced for CRG Karts and SSC East. The chief driving instructor for the Jetta TDI Cup, he is also lead testing and development driver for the series, which uses karting as a qualifier for the young drivers selected to race in the program.
“For me, the PRI / CKI karting event is a lot of fun, but everyone comes here to win the race," said Heylen. "Look around and you see some impressive names and the big kart manufacturers like CRG, Birel and Tony Kart and, as a result, the competitive level is so, so high. Karting was my first passion in motorsport, and I've driven against lots of these guys over the years. Tonio [Liuzzi] and I used to race for the same tire manufacturer, and we raced together for years. It was really good to hang out and spend time with him, but even better to beat him on the track!
"I've competed against Justin [Wilson] and the IndyCar guys as well, so it was like old home week in some respects. The race itself was great – the CRG and SSC East guys gave me a fast kart right out of the box. We did minimal laps in practice, and only five laps in qualifying, but it was enough for me to get pole. In the pre-final and the final, I was able to lead every lap, despite having Tonio and Scott Speed on my bumper the entire time. It was really, really tight and with the lapped traffic, at times it was really exciting.”
“I want to thank CRG, SSC East, Oakley and Volkswagen. It's due to them that I was here racing in the first place, and the support they gave me was fantastic.”
The PRI/CKI Karting All-Star Classic will be televised nationally on FOX Sports Net early in the new year. Both the Karter and All-Star Divisions of the race will have their own dedicated half-hour broadcasts. The Karter division from the 2009 event will air on Monday, Jan. 11 at 4:30 p.m. local time while the All-Star division will be broadcast on Monday, Jan. 18 at 4:30 p.m.