Asian karting sensation Michele Bumgarner and brother Mark Bumgarner will represent the country in the 11th Winter Cup on February 16-19 at the South Guarda Kart Track in Lonato, Italy. The Winter Cup is the year's first major karting race in Europe which attracts top teams and drivers worldwide.

Michele and Mark's participation in this year's Winter Cup Intercontinental Class A (ICA) race marks the karting queen's return to the top European motor sports event and Mark's karting debut in Italy. They will be joined by father Edward Lee Bumgarner and coach Terry Fullerton. "With Michele and Mark's involvement in the Winter Cup, we will take one step further into their dreams of making it into Formula series racing. We want to prove that the Philippines is a proving ground for karters," said Edward Bumgarner.

Terry Fullerton (a 1974 world karting champion and the Bumgarner's karting coach) admitted that the Winter Cup competition will be tough, but is confident that the siblings will tough it out. "The tracks in the Winter Cup are milder, a lot better, and the drivers are a lot better. They (the drivers) tend to play a tad dirtier and take chances more. You actually have 130 or more drivers competing in this karting series. Competition nowadays is in a broad spectrum; it's much harder now to get to the top. Many drivers today have managers, trainers, basically a lot of people to help them. But I believe that Michele has a very good chance because she's experienced, improved hugely and much more ready now. She's also fit, healthy and strong, thanks to lots of badminton and weightlifting sessions for her upper body. I also believe that if she stays one more year in the ICA series, she's got a chance to win it all," added Mr. Fullerton.

And the siblings are confident that with Fullerton's tutelage (Mr. Fullerton has trained Formula One racers such as Allan McNish, Anthony Davidson and Ralph Firman), they will land a top ten finish - or possibly a podium place - in every race on their spring-summer European karting trip. Michele says that Mr. Fullerton's style of teaching on the course may be difficult to understand at first, but he doesn't confuse you. "He's straightforward and one of a kind. He notices very minute details in both me and Michele's driving habits; plus, he's like a second dad to us, " added Mark Bumgarner.

While in Italy, the Bumgarners (who are sponsored by M&M Kart Racing, Accel, Powerade, Oakley, Salon Prive, Gold's Gym, Bridgestone Karting Tires and Petron), will also see action in the Margutti Cup in Parma on March 9-12 as well as the first round of the 2006 Italian Championship Open Masters in Muro Leccese on March 23-26. They will be back in Manila on March 28.

Last year, the racing siblings were quite successful in their races abroad. Michele retained her ICA crown at the 2005 Asian Karting Open Championship held at the Kartrodomo de Coloane in Macau while Mark settled with second runner up honors. Michele also set the fastest lap at the 2005 CIK-FIA Asia-Pacific ICA Championship at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan.