EKN Trackside: 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals – Thursday Report
Super Pole highlights day as racing action gets underway in Mooresville
Rookie Oliver Askew was top qualifier and won the Super Pole session in Senior Max
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.us)
For complete coverage of the 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals, visit the EKN Event Page
Be sure to post your comments regarding the opening day of the event below in the EKN Global Members Discussion section – Ed.
The build up toward Championship Saturday continued at the GoPro Motorplex as the 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals completed qualifying and the first round of heat races Thursday. Weather was a concern throughout the day as the threat of rain loomed over the area. With spurts of sunshine and a couple rain drops, the day ended with all sessions contested in dry conditions and the clouds moving away for the banquet dinner – sponsored by MRP Speed Schools – following the on-track activities. The focus of the day however was establishing the early contenders for the seven Rotax titles on the line, and the debut of the Super Pole sessions in the Senior Max and Junior Max categories.
The Senior Max division was also split up into two groups as well to allow the 36 drivers space on the track for the qualifying session. The opening group was paced by Dominic Tesoro in the growing AM Racing Kart chassis, as the only driver into the sub 47-second times. The second group however was quick to take away the provisional pole with nearly the entire list of drivers into the 47-second bracket. It was all OTK in the top-10 with Ocala Gran Prix going 1-2 in the order. Senior rookie Oliver Askew (Tony Kart) set the fast lap for the provisional pole with a 47.488. Sam Beasley (Tony Kart) was second with Dan Roeper (Tony Kart) in third. Fast driver in warm-up – Nick Neri (Tony Kart) – was fourth with Wednesday quick driver AJ Myers (Tony Kart) and Jonathan Koytk (Tony Kart) rounding out the top-six to fill out the Super Pole session.
Kotyk was the first driver to hit the track for the Super Pole run, posting his fast lap on the second circuit to set the mark for the other five to beat. Myers took to the track and was able to nearly match is fast lap from the qualifying session to hold the provisional pole. His second lap was slower, and left the door open for 2011 champion Neri. On his out-lap however, Neri was unable to better Myers’ time, off four tenths from his qualifying lap and had to put in more effort on the second circuit. He went quicker, but the OGP driver ended up behind Myers in the order. Roeper hit the track, knowing what Myers and Neri had done. On his second lap, he was able to better Neri’s time but fell short of what Myers had set, leaving Beasley and Askew to fight for the Super Pole. Beasley came short as well, moving to second and dropping Roeper and Neri down the order with Askew left on the track. His out lap was only good for third overall, putting more pressure on the final circuit. The rookie came through to take the Super Pole award and the top spot for all three heat races, posting a 47.727-second lap. Myers jumped to second with Beasley, Roeper, Neri and Kotyk the final order.
Askew and Beasley filled out row one for the start of A vs C heat race to open up the wheel to wheel battle for the Grand Nationals championship. OGP drivers Askew, Beasley and Neri slotted in line to lead the front pack as Evan Mehan (Sodi Kart) and Roger Ralston Jr. (FA Kart) filled out the top-five. Beasley took over the lead from Askew on lap three, with Neri coming through to drop Askew back to third, but at the same time Ralston worked past Mehan for the fourth position. At the halfway mark, the entire top-five posted their fast lap of the race, with Ralston the quickest and closing the gap on the front three. Lap six, Askew moved up to second, and began pressuring Beasley for the top spot. The Ohio driver would hold the position to the checkered flag for the heat race win. Askew was second and Neri third. Ralston held a late charge from Mehan for the fourth spot with Jake Craig (ART GP) running his fast laps of the race at the end in sixth. Tesoro was seventh with Michael Pagano (FA Kart), Alejandro Fernandez (Energy) and Nick Losito (Tony Kart) completing the top-10.
The outside line got the jump on as the green flag waved, putting Roeper out front over Myers and Stepanova Nekeel (FA Kart). Contact in turn eight on the opening lap between Derek Dignan (FA Kart) and Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) shuffled up the group behind them, as Andrew Palmer and Kotyk filled out the top-five. Myers moved into the lead early, and was able to pull away to secure the win. Roeper held off Nekeel for the second spot with Palmer and Kotyk trailing behind. Morgan Healey (Tony Kart) was sixth over Jeremy Doll (Tony Kart), Elliot Finlayson (Birel), Nick Landi (Tony Kart) and Ayrton Mutagaana (CRG).
Nathan Mauel has the most experience in the DD2 category of anyone else in the field. The longtime CRG driver has been to five Rotax Grand Finals, and is looking for a sixth trip back, including his first Grand Nationals championship. His drive toward that began strong in qualifying as he was able to lay down the fast lap of the session, a 47.362-second lap. Last year’s Senior Max champion Daniel Formal (Kosmic), making his debut in the DD2 category, was second in the order and sure to be a contender throughout the weekend. Final practice top driver Sean Owens was third with fellow Sodi Kart drivers CJ Cramm and Alex Tartaglia capping off the fast-five. Masters was controlled by defending champion Alan Rudolph (CRG). The current Challenge of the Americas title winner posted a 47.788-lap time, just edging out veteran Ariel Castro (AM Racing Kart) by seven-thousandths of a second. Rene Martinelli (CRG) was third in the order with Paul Bonilla (Arrow) and Mike Jones (Sodi Kart) capping out the top-five.
Formal got the jump on Mauel and that was all he need. The Florida driver pulled away on the opening lap, but Mauel kept it close at the checkered flag to score the win with Mauel recording the fast lap. Michael Ilavia (Sodi Kart) moved up to third from sixth on the grid, with Tartaglia fourth and Mitch Carey (CRG) fifth. In Masters, Castro was slow at the wave of the green and it shuffled up the field behind Rudolph, who drove away from the field. After 10 laps, he held a three second advantage over Martinelli. Castro rebounded to move into third, working past Bonilla, Jones and Crow.
The largest field of the event is the Junior Max category, with 59 drivers fighting for the title and two spots to the Rotax Grand Finals. The Junior group was also fight for the six position that transferred into the Super Pole session that would decide the top spots in the final standings. The first group out for qualifying was paced by Devlin DeFrancesco (Tony Kart) with a 49.165-second lap. Three others – Jordan Perry (Tony Kart), Ryan Norberg and Austin Versteeg (Tony Kart) – were all within six hundredths of his time to set them up for a good spot in the first half of the overall field. The second group however was able to dip below the 49-second mark, but not many in the first half of the session. Making a late move, Kyle Kirkwood (Tony Kart) put himself in the provisional pole with a 48.779-second lap. That bumped Juan Manuel Correa (Tony Kart) down to second. Pan American Champion Ashley Rogero was third with Derek James Sobel making it a Tony Kart top four. Luke Selliken (Kosmic) was fifth with Christian Munoz (Tony Kart) earning the final spot in the Super Pole session. Sobel, however, lost his fast three laps for an illegal airbox component, thus moving Trenton Estep (Tony Kart) into the Super Pole session.
Estep was the first to enter the track for the SuperPole session, setting the mark at a 49.702-second mark, about six tenths slower than his qualifying time. Munoz was next held the provisional pole as Selliken was unable to run quicker. Rogero hit the track and on her out lap, posted a 48.866-second mark to move to P1 in the order. Correa, who ran that same lap in the qualifying run, was half a second off Rogero’s time on her and though was quicker in his second lap, was unable to better her time. This left Kirkwood as the only driver left to battle Rogero’s time. His out lap was just above 49-flat, about two-tenths off her time. Kirkwood’s final lap would not be enough, giving Rogero the Super Pole award. Kirkwood settled for second with Correa third. Munoz, Selliken and Estep rounded out the order.
Rogero and Munoz led the Group A vs. C heat race field to the green flag with Rogero benefitting from shuffling behind her to pull out to a solid lead. Austin Garrison (Tony Kart) was into second with DeFrancesco, Brian Lockwood (Tony Kart) and Versteeg making up the early top-five. Taking advantage of the Super Pole award, Rogero drove away to a one second victory over Garrison. The driver on the move was Versteeg. Starting eighth, he went around Lockwood quickly and ran down the top four. Past DeFrancesco, he posted the fast laps of the race while closing in on Garrison in the third position. DeFrancesco finished fourth with Lockwood in the fifth spot. Jack Weprin (FA Kart) went from 14th to sixth, with Quentin De Boever (Tony Kart) in seventh. Perry, Matt Solarczyk (Birel) and Jamaican Thomas Issa (Kosmic) capped off the top-10.
Kirkwood and Selliken filled out the front row for Group B vs. D heat race as Kirkwood would hold the top spot through the opening lap. Sobel was able to jump ahead of Correa to fill out the lead group as Selliken dropped to fourth as he led a number of drivers behind him. They ran unchanged until the final lap with Correa able to work past Sobel for the second spot behind the race winner Kirkwood. Selliken pulled away in the fourth spot as Norberg finished fifth. Atoni Ptak (Birel) drove up to sixth with Luis Jose Forteza (Kosmic) seventh, Phillippe Denes (ART GP) eighth while Jared Cordova (Birel) advanced from 17th to ninth ahead of Ethan Tyler.
The qualifying session for the Masters Max group was a tight one as four drivers finished the session within a tenth of a second – similar to what we saw in the final practice on Wednesday. Diego Pelosi (FA Kart) was able to lock down a quick time early on, posting a 49.157-second lap. Others tried to better the time, but were just unable to drop below it to award Pelosi the pole position for the heat races. Ryan Perry Motorsports teammate Tyler Brooks (Tony Kart) made it a 1-2 for the SoCal operation as he was just 62 thousandths off the fast time. Yesterday’s quick driver Scott Falcone (Arrow) was third with Corey Mitchell (Kosmic) and Rob Maier (Tony Kart) completing the fast-five.
The RPM teammates led the field to the green flag with Pelosi getting the jump and Falcone splitting them up as Brooks went back to third. Maier moved into fourth with Randy Sampson (Arrow) filling out the early top-five. The top nine drivers made up the lead group with Papis into sixth, Mitchell seventh, Scott Roberts (Tony Kart) eighth and Andy Seesemann (Arrow) ninth. Falcone held the second spot briefly until Brooks returned to the spot. They ran static until the two laps to go signal when Brooks made his move on Pelosi into turn one. Falcone tried in turn three, giving Brooks space out front. After 10 laps, Brooks took the win over Pelosi and Falcone. Maier edged out Sampson for the fourth spot with Papis close behind in sixth. Mitchell was pulled off track for a dragging bumper, moving Roberts to seventh and Seesemann to eighth.
It was a back and forth battle for the coveted pole position during the three heat races in the Mini Max category. The 12-minute session saw numerous shuffling for the provisional pole, with 2012 Micro Max champion Nick Brueckner securing it on his 12th circuit. The MRP Motorsport/Birel driver posted the only sub-52 second lap with a 51.989 circuit. He edged out Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) by 75 thousandths of a second. Mathias Ramirez (Tony Kart), quickest in morning warm-up, was third with Enzo Fittipaldi da Cruz (Kosmic) and Joseph Lambert (Birel) rounding out the fast-five.
Brueckner and Boutot led the field the green flag for the start of heat one with Brueckner holding the lead through the opening corners. Ramirez and Kollin Stuart (Birel) had a great opening lap to move Boutot back to fourth with David Malukas (Birel) on the move, up to fifth from ninth in the order. An early three driver breakaway became about six fighting for the lead by the halfway point with Brueckner still leading. Malukas continued to charge and was up to third by lap six, looking to measure up the front two drivers. At the end of lap seven, he was around Ramirez and looking for the win on the final circuit of the eight lap battle. Not forcing anything, he settled in behind Brueckner who scored the victory with Malukas making it a 1-2 Birel finish. Ramirez was third with Stuart and Michael d’Orlando (Tony Kart) – up from ninth – to complete the top-five. Boutot fell to sixth with Fittipaldi da Cruz and Joshua Sirgany (CRG) filling out the lead group. A great drive by Aiden Keel (Birel) put him up from 16th to ninth in the order, with Lamberth all the way back to tenth.
Following the morning warm-up in the dry, Reece Gold was able to keep up his quick pace into the qualifying session as the Tony Kart driver secured the pole position. The session was a battle including with Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) and Harry Coulton (Birel). Gold’s 12th circuit was the quickest of the session, a 55.189-second lap to secure the pole position. Tavella was just nine-hundredths off his time, with Coulton ending up third, all within a tenth of each other. Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) was fourth with Derek Carmenate (CRG) capping off the fast five.
Gold and Tavella led the field to the green flag for the start of heat one, but the race was stopped after a few drivers got together in turn one. After everyone was checked out ok, the race was restarted with a four driver breakaway, including Gold, Tavella, Coulton and d’Orlando. Gold was able to steal the win ahead of a charging Coulton as Tavella fell to third with d’Orlando in fourth. Tyler Gonzalez (AM Racing Kart) won the battle for fifth that include a host of drivers behind him.
Be sure to post your comments regarding the opening day of the event below in the EKN Global Members Discussion section: