Jamaica’s Alex Powell proudly displays the spoils of his victory in the first round of the FIA Karting European Championships KZ2 category in Zuera, Spain on Sunday.

IT was a day Alex Powell never imagined would have come so soon in his career. But given his consistent growth and development over the years, coupled with his attitude for success, the Jamaican sensation saw one of his dreams come to fruition when he topped the first round of the FIA Karting European Championship in the KZ2 category on Sunday.

Despite the competitive nature of the category and, by extension, throughout the four-day event drivers had to have strong nerves as well as great speed to get good results in Zuera, Spain, it was the American-born Powell, with little experience, who exhibited all to see off the challenge of his older and more experienced rivals so as to excel.

Powell, who was fairly consistent throughout the heats and qualifiers, started the 18-lap final in sixth position but took over the lead on lap 12. From there he led the final six laps to easily claim his first victory in the category over Great Britain's Freddie Slater and Spaniard Jorge Pescador.

The historic victory was even more gratifying for Powell, a Mercedes-Benz AMG F1 protege who was only introduced to the KZ2 (shifter-karts) by his handlers some three months ago, with the ambition to transition the young driver to the Formula 4 circuit next year.

Jamaica’s Alex Powell celebrates topping the first round of the FIA Karting European Championships KZ2 category in Zuera, Spain, on Sunday.

"I wouldn't have imagined that I would be sitting here as a winner in KZ2 because you are racing against drivers who had years of experience under their belt, so coming into this category three to four months ago, it's still fairly new to me so I definitely didn't think I would have won this soon," an almost hoarse Powell told the Jamaica Observer during his seven-hour drive back to his base in Italy.

"So it still hasn't really sunk in as yet, but we have put a whole lot of work coming in. The build-up to this event was really intense and it's rewarding when you can win. We worked really hard to ensure we gave off our best and so this is gratifying," he added.

Powell's father John, a former Rally driver, was also over the moon about the accomplishment.

"It's an unbelievable feeling, truly unbelievable. This class is like the F1 of Karting, you can't get any higher…and for Alex to win the first round of the CIK FIA European Championship in his first attempt is fantastic. I think I'll have to pinch myself to make sure it's real," the beaming father told the Observer.

Heading into the main event Powell never doubted his chances, but with the sport being one of glorious uncertainties the 15-year-old explained that the mindset was merely to ensure that he gave of his best, especially with the KZ2 category being decided over three rounds as opposed to the OK category which has four rounds of competition.

The final started with Romanian Daniel Vasile and Slater in an early duel, as the pack remained tightly bunched and the outcome uncertain until after the halfway mark.

That was when Powell launched his rally with some very fast laps that allowed him to pass Vasile and then Slater, before he eventually distanced himself from the pack to register what was also the first success in karting for his new Prema Racing team.

"Overall it was a fantastic weekend. The main goal was to be consistent throughout the heats, and once you can bring your A game from there it basically sets you up for the remainder of your races, so when we got pole in qualifying and I was able to win three more of my heats I was extremely confident heading into the final," Powell said.

"I wasn't sure what the outcome would be like but once I was able to slowly work my way through the field and hit the front, it was all about keeping my head down and trying to stay consistent until I saw the gap getting wider. But even then, I tried not to get too excited because mistakes happen when you lose focus. So, I had to focus on myself and my driving, knowing what my job was and what I had to do," he shared.

Despite the win, Powell sits second on the championship standing on 66 points, seven points behind Slater with two more rounds. Vasile (61 points), another Britain Kean Nakamura-Berta (49 points), and Frenchman Matteo Spirgel (44 points) complete the early top five.

Jamaica's Alex Powell proudly displays the spoils of his victory in the first round of the FIA Karting European Championships KZ2 category in Zuera, Spain on Sunday.

The next round of the KZ and KZ2 is scheduled for July 7-9 in Sarno, Italy.

Powell, last year's European OK vice-champion, is expected to shorten celebrations and hit the track on Tuesday to continue preparations for both the OK and KZ2 events to come.

"So much preparation has gone into the European Championships — both in OK and KZ2 — and so I can only give big props to the team for all their hard work and efforts because it paid off on this occasion. We have had an extremely strong package this weekend and I was able to get the most out of the kart in the final," Powell stated.

"Of course it serves as a confidence booster going into the next few races. You know it's not easy competing in this high-level category so it will help me going into the next few races, which are in the OK category.

POWELL...the build-up to this event was really intense and it's rewarding when you can win. We worked really hard to ensure we gave of our best and so this is gratifying.

"So we have to take the positives and negatives from the weekend and take it forward to the next few races leading into the second round in Sarno where it will be a very close fight, because there are a lot of points on the line. But I know what I have to do and so I am just focused on myself to do the best that I possibly can. If the overall championship honours come, then that would be amazing," he said.

BY SHERDON COWAN Staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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