Rotax Challenge of the Americas – Tucson – Sunday Report
Arscott, Rudolph and Rocha earn victories as Leesmann doubles up
The final day of action wrapped up the opening weekend of the 2013 Rotax Challenge of the Americas program at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. The story of the weekend was the weather, as unseasonably cold temperatures hit the area over the three days of competition, providing a unique challenge for all 130 drivers. Saturday night saw many drivers sleeping with their engines, or just bringing them back to the hotel to keep them from freezing overnight as temperatures dropped below 30. Despite the cold weather, the seven classes provided solid racing all weekend, equating to 10 different winners in five classes, with two able to repeat.
Buddy Rice Karting Senior Max
The 35-kart field of Senior Max was once again broken up into two groups for the Sunday morning qualifying session. Canadian Nathan Kelly (CRG) advanced his way from 27th in qualifying to a top-10 finish in Final, and the Team WRS driver started Sunday as the provisional pole sitter in the first group with a 51.441. His time however fell quickly as a host of drivers exchanged the provisional pole early on in the 15-minutes for the final group. Andrew Palmer (Kosmic) was the first to strike with Mason Marotta (FA Kart), and Phillip Arscott (Kosmic). Saturday winner Parker McKean (Kosmic) stamped a solid lap on his sixth circuit and held the spot for some time. Drivers made their way onto pit lane for some changes, including Marotta as he came out to overtake the top spot with five minutes to go. Arscott (pictured above) quickly responded with a fast lap of his own – 51.111 – to better Marotta’s time and it stood to the checkered flag of the session. Marotta settled for second with McKean ending up in third, just 23 thousandths off the time of Arscott. KartSport North America driver Will Owen (Arrow) put down an impressive time to end up fourth in the session as Palmer rounded out the fast-five. Kelly fell down the order to end up a respectable tenth overall.
Arscott went wire-to-wire for the Prefinal win with Marotta right there in second. Arscott led the field around the opening laps with McKean up to second and Palmer also sliding through around Marotta as Ben Schermerhorn (Arrow) jumped into the top five. They were able to break away from the rest of the field early, with Marotta the quickest of the group. He worked his way into the second position and pressured Arscott. The former US Grand Nationals champ held him off to the end for the win as they gapped the remainder of the top-five by two seconds. McKean was third. Palmer finished fourth, but not without a final charge from Owen, who caught the group and passed Schermerhorn with laps very similar to that of Arscott.
With Arscott and Marotta once again on the front row for the main event, it was questioned if we would see a similar start to yesterday’s race. It was roughly the same, only this time Arscott escaped unhurt while Marotta and the rest of the outside line got the worse of it. Marotta, McKean, and Palmer fell outside the top-20, allowing Nick Rivellini (CRG) from 12th to slide into second, followed by Bailey Murphy (CRG) up from 15th, Alex Keyes (CRG) and Louie Pagano (Birel). Lap after lap, Arscott extended his lead, which at one point was near the seven second mark. After 25 laps, Arscott took his first Challenge victory by five seconds. Pagano advanced his way up to second early, but later on was challenged by a charging Owen who was shuffled outside the top five at the start. Owen ran laps quicker than Arscott, and on lap 16 secured the second spot. Pagano kept it close but Owen crossed the line in the second spot and Pagano earned his second podium finish of the weekend in third. Keyes was a close fourth, ending a good Senior debut weekend for the NorCal transplant. Arizona driver Augie Lerch (Tony Kart) was able to hold on to the fifth spot in his Pure Karting entry despite last lap contact with Phil Giebler Racing’s Mason Daughters (FA Kart). The contact allowed Rivellini thru for the seventh position. McKean, who fought his way back from the back to end the day eighth, salvaging points in the championship chase. Daughters fell to ninth with Kelly scoring another top-10 finish.
Dallas Karting Complex DD2 / Billet Performance DD2 Masters
Saturday DD2 winner Fritz Leesmann (CRG) began where he left on in qualifying, getting faster and faster as the session went on. Early on, Masters driver Alan Rudolph (CRG) was the quickest overall, but the 2012 Challenge champion posted a fast lap of 50.178 to secure the pole position. Sean Owens (Sodi Kart) was second in class with Andrew Evans (Kosmic) in third. Rudolph cleared the Masters field by over a half-second, laying down a 50.336-second lap. The rest of the class was separated by roughly a tenth of a second, as Brent Harper (Sodi Kart) was third with Saturday winner Mike Jones in third.
Leesmann continue leading the DD2 class through the Prefinal, as he drove away to a 13-second win in the 17-lap race. Evans held second, holding off Owens for the spot. The Masters was fun to watch, the entire course of the run. Rudolph led early but locked up the brakes at the end of the long straight, and stalled the engine. Getting the engine refired, he rejoined a good distance behind the rest of the field. The other six drivers put on a clinic on how to race, running a clean and nail-biting event with nearly every driver taking a turn at the lead. Jones escaped with the win over Paul Bonilla (Arrow) and Scott Falcone (Arrow). Rudolph fought his way back to end up fourth.
The feature was not as eventful as the Prefinal was for either class. Leesmann went wire to wire to sweep the weekend in the DD2 category, winning by a 23-second margin. Evans ran second with Owens nearly running him down after a spin in the opening corner. Bill Kann (Zanardi) ran fourth with Cory Milne (Arrow) a DNF. The Masters group shuffled up it up on the exit of turn one, as Jones and Falcone made contact, sending them spinning and the rest of the field shuffling. Rudolph escaped with the lead and drove away with the victory, pulling out to a 10-second advantage. The fight for second saw the remainder of the field diced it out, much more calmly compared to that of the Prefinal. Bonilla and Crow emerged as the top drivers in the bunch, earning the second and third position. Jones matched Rudolph’s pace, and was able to climb back to fourth, moving ahead of Canadian Daryle Redlin (Zanardi) and Harper.
CRG-USA Masters Max
With two days now in the books, the Masters Max field is getting more competitive and it showed during the qualifying session Sunday morning. Five drivers were in contention for the pole position, but in the end Saturday winner Diego Pelosi (FA Kart) was able to secure the spot with a late lap of 52.849. Saturday pole sitter Ryan Casner (Energy) set up for a run to the checkered flag but traffic bulked his pace, leaving his previous his best and off Pelosi’s time by 31 thousandths. Ken Maxfield (Arrow) also made a late charge and jumped to the third position, moving down Justin Peck (Tony Kart) and Donald Durbin Jr. (Birel).
Pelosi led the field to the green flag to begin the Prefinal with Maxfield getting into the opening corner too quick and spun. Thankfully everyone avoided him and he rejoined at the tail of the field. Pelosi and Casner pulled out to a sizeable lead as they ran 1-2, with Casner taking over the spot just a few laps in. Pelosi struck with a few laps remaining to take over the top spot, but Casner fought back as he retook the position a few laps later. With two laps to go, Pelosi overtook Casner down the front straight, as it seemed Casner’s engine popped. He regrouped to close in as they navigated the final lap, but dropped a tire on the exit of turn five, allowing Pelosi to cruise to the win. Casner still finished second with Durbin and Peck a few seconds behind in third and fourth. David Pergande (Arrow) advanced from seventh on the grid to fifth while Maxfield recovered to sixth.
Durban grabbed the holeshot, sliding through from the third starting spot to drop Pelosi to second. It was short lived as Pelosi struck back after the long back straight to steal the lead before the completion of turn one. They along with Casner broke away, but mistakes by Casner saw him drop off as the race went on. Durban and Pelosi exchanged the lead a number of times, setting up for a last lap finish for the victory. Pelosi led as they took the white flag, and Durbin waiting until at the end of the long back straight, diving inside as they went clean through the final few corners. Durbin came away with the position and hit the finish line first for the victory. Pelosi settled for second with Casner in third. Utah drivers Peck and Maxfield battled all race long for fourth, with Peck earning the position. Officials however penalized both Durbin and Casner, promoting Pelosi to the victory, Durbin down to third, Casner to fourth and moved Peck up to second for another podium finish.
Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
Saturday’s qualifying session for Junior Max saw Sonny Cervelli (CRG) escape the first group as the provisional pole position and hold it through the second group. Sunday he began as the driver at the top in the opening group and held off the first set of drivers with a 52.320-second lap for the provisional pole. It appeared as if Cervelli would repeat once again as he held the spot for most of the session. Blaine Rocha (Kosmic) and Noah Grey (FA Kart) were early challengers with Brendan Baker (ART GP) and Saturday winner Luke Selliken (Kosmic) jumping in the mix. Rocha and Selliken of Rolison Performance Group worked together the entire session, not once coming in the hot pit but swapping a lead-follow session. It was the final lap where Selliken was able to nip Cervelli for the pole position, posting a 52.388-second lap to secure the position by just two-thousandths of a second. Baker finished the session third with Rocha and Jim McKinney (KGB) making a late charge to complete the fast five. Austin Versteeg (CRG) rounded out the top-six, separated by just half of a tenth, showing just how close the competition is at the front of the Junior field.
The field got through the opening corner with no issues to begin the Prefinal, but McKinney was a victim as they entered the second corner he dropped a while and spun around, dropping him to the end of the field. Selliken broke away as Rocha quickly joined him out front. The two held a small advantage over Baker after just six laps with another group behind them fighting for the fourth position. Lap eight, Rocha – the quickest driver in yesterday’s final – took over the top spot and Selliken fell back into the grasp of Baker. Selliken fought back with personal fast laps to be able to put a few kart lengths between himself and Baker, but Rocha was consistent lap after lap to score the win by just over a second. Selliken made it a RPG 1-2 finish as Baker capped off the top three. Grey won the fight for fourth over Versteeg as Cervelli dropped to sixth.
Rocha had the slight advantage as they punched off for the start of the feature race as Selliken was not able to accelerate and as they exited the opening corner, fell back to sixth. Rocha pulled out to a small gap over the rest of the top five as Versteeg was into second over Copple and Baker as Selliken moved into fifth before they completed the first circuit. Selliken charged forward and eventually worked his way to the second spot after Baker had held the position previously. By lap 10, Rocha’s lead was nearly three seconds and Selliken kept the distance, unable to close in on his teammate. The drive of the race was put in by McKinney as everyone watched him advance from his 16th starting spot after a spin in the Prefinal. Lap after lap, McKinney drove toward a chance at finishing in the top five. Out front, Rocha cruised to victory, matching his win here in Tucson last year, this time much easier as Selliken was three seconds back. Grey put in a great drive, edging out Baker for the final podium spot in the closing laps. McKinney accomplished his goal of reaching the top-five, placing fifth with the fast lap of the race.
HoleShot Drive Systems Mini Max
Despite the cold temperatures, the Mini Max class laid down similar lap times to yesterday’s session. Leading the way after 15 minutes was Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) as he posted a 55.702 lap to secure the position. The top four drivers were within six hundredths of a second with Roy Fulmer IV (Arrow), David Rafailov (CRG) and Chase Farley (Energy) just off the pace. Derek DesLauriers (Energy) rounded out the fast five with Saturday winner Horatio Fitz-Simon (CRG) back in ninth.
Robb was able to break away at the start of the Prefinal, as the rest of the field battled for the second spot. On lap six, Robb’s engine mistakenly shut off but refired. The end result was him dropping back to the fifth position. This gave Rafailov the lead as he was able to break away from the group, going on to take the win. Robb was able to recover to finish the 13-lap race in second, just edging out Farley for the position as Fulmer and Sophia Price (Kosmic) rounded out the top-five.
Rafailov took advantage of the pole position to lead the early portion of the 18 Final. He along with Robb was at the front with Farley and Price trailing. Saturday winner Fitz-Simon steadily worked his way up to the top five and ran down the top four. Once around Price and Farley, he joined Rafailov and Robb out front and they pulled away to battle for the win. On the final lap, Fitz-Simon dropped a wheel on the exit of turn five, leaving the other two drivers to duke it out. Robb was able to hold off Rafailov through the final few corners for the victory. Fitz-Simon settled for third with Price and Farley in fourth and fifth.
Overdrive Motorsports Micro Max
The same five drivers that were in the hunt all day Saturday began Sunday’s action at the top of the qualifying time sheets. Canadian Marco Kacic (CRG) set the benchmark with the fast lap in the session, posting a 1:00.232. Saturday winner Liam Letzsch (KGB) was just 35 thousandths off his pace to fill out the front row. Payton Durrant (Birel) and Filip Niemkiewicz (Energy) were third and fourth with provisional winner on Saturday Anthony Willis (DR Kart) rounding out the fast five.
Four drivers battled for the win in the Prefinal with Kacic, Letzsch, Durrant and Ellie Anna Musgrave (CRG) up from seventh. They swapped positions throughout the 10-lap event with Kacic able to pull off the win by just 0.090 seconds at the line over Letzsch, with Durrant and Musgrave following. Tanner Hudspeth (Energy) advanced from eighth on the grid to finish fifth.
Durrant put in a solid performance to go wire to wire with the victory in the Micro Max Final. Kacic was shuffled out at the start of the 14-lap event and fell out of contention early on. This allowed Durrant to slide through with the lead and pulled away early. By lap five, his advantage was 2.2 seconds and he stretched it out to 4.9 seconds for the victory. The battle for second went down to the wire with Letzsch scoring second and Willis edging out Niemkiewicz for the final podium position. Musgrave capped off a good day with the fifth place finish.