EKN Trackside: 2013 Rotax Pan-American Challenge – Saturday Report
Formal and Rogero win to secure pole position, Rudolph and Neri retain top spot in NOLA
US champ Daniel Formal won both heats Saturday to retain the pole position (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.us)
Day two of the Rotax Pan-American Challenge completed Saturday at the NOLAMotorsportsPark in New Orleans. The near 200 drivers continued through the second and third heats of the event, to either maintain or improve on their qualifying positions from Friday. With four tickets on the line for the Rotax Grand Finals next month, the pressure and intensity stepped up from the previous day, with drivers looking to secure the best setup heading into the final day on Sunday. Leading the way into the final day of action include four Americans, as Nick Neri, Daniel Formal, Alan Rudolph and Ashley Rogero start Sunday from the P1 position.
Team USA members Nick Neri and Oliver Askew, both Ocala Gran Prix Tony Kart drivers, claimed their front row positions for the start of heat two, both looking to improve on finishes during Friday’s heat one event. The outside line held the advantage through the opening corners as Askew took the lead and Neri dropped down the order. Running second down the long back straight, Jack Weprin (FA Kart) took over the top spot from Askew. Sam Beasley (Tony Kart), Jordon Lennox (CRG) and Alfredo Zabalza (Kosmic) making up the top-five. The lead group was busy early as the drivers shuffled positions around the 1.1-mile circuit with Askew and Beasley hooking up and getting out front. Contact on lap three dropped reigning world champion Charlie Eastwood (Tony Kart) and Zabalza down the order, moving Neri back into the top-five. The top four including Lennox and Neri broke away and put on a show as the race closed out. Beasley showed to have the race-pace as he took over the lead on lap seven and held the spot with Neri in the challenger position as they took the last lap board. Neri was able to make a move in the final corner and edge Beasley at the line for the win by 0.090 seconds. Lennox was closing in third until he came on the back straight and lost power, stalled out and unable to finish. That put Weprin up to third as he moved past Askew in the closing laps with Jules Cousin (Sodi Kart) up to fifth from 14th. Eastwood rebounded from the early wreck to end up sixth. A great drive was put in by Team USA driver Phillip Arscott (Sodi Kart). Starting 29th with a lost chain on the warm-up lap for qualifying, the 2009 US champion advanced up to ninth in the final order.
It was a jostle as the Senior Max field made its way through the opening circuit to begin heat three. Askew took the lead as Neri was slow at the start once again. Beasley moved up to second with Eastwood, Neri and Zachary Claman-DeMelo (Praga) who advanced to fifth after contact between Dan Roeper (Tony Kart) and Weprin. The top four, full of Tony Kart drivers – ran nose to tail as DeMelo led a large group in fifth. They remained unchanged until Eastwood took ownership of the second position from Beasley with a move at turn 11 on lap five. The fight for fifth heated up with the addition of Lennox. By lap six, he took the spot and broke away from the rest of the group. As the race drew to a close, Neri was the quickest driver on the track. Running third by lap eight, he reset the fast lap of the race as he closed up on the Irishman Eastwood in second. The top four would finish that way as Askew scored the race win over Eastwood, Neri and Beasley with Lennox fifth. Arscott put in a solid 10-lap event as he drove to 12th position, setting for a mid-pack start in the prefinal.
Neri is set to go from the pole position in the prefinal with Eastwood alongside on the front row. Weprin and Morin are set for row two with Beasley and Cousin in row three.
Daniel Formal (Tony Kart) and Ferenc Kanscsar (CRG) set row one for the DD2 heat race. Formal held the top spot with Kancsar and Pier-Luc Ouellette (CRG) slotting in behind. Cristiano Morgado (Praga) advanced up to fourth with Joey Wimsett (CRG) getting shuffled back after contact with Fritz Leesmann (CRG). That allowed Xen De Ruwe (CRG) into the top-five. The top three were nose to tail until lap four when Kancsar slowed and fell all the way back to 10th. Formal would go wire-to-wire for the win with Belgian De Ruwe having the best drive forward in the race, jumping from ninth to third as Morgado held off Leesmann for fourth.
Heat three saw a sloppy start as drivers made the switch from neutral to first gear, bunching up the field as they took the green flag. Formal led the way with former world champion Ouellette took the second spot away from Kancsar as Swedish Andreas Backman (Tony Kart) and Wimsett fifth. The top three ran nose to tail with Backman holding a little space as De Ruwe was pressuring for a place in the top-five. The top-five ran static for the remainder of the race with Formal scoring the race win over Canadian Ouellette. Kancsar ran third with De Ruwe able to jump past Wimsett and then Backman for fourth in the final corner. Wimsett ended sixth with Leesmann seventh.
Formal’s two wins place him first again in the prefinal grid with Ouellette alongside with three straight runner-up finishes. De Ruwe and Leesmann will go from row two with Backman and Kancsar falling to row three.
United States two-time DD2 Masters champion Alan Rudolph (Praga) and Brazilian Fernando Guzzi (Praga) filled out the front row for the start of heat two, with the racers getting the first taste of racing under dry conditions. Rudolph was able to lead after the opening few corners but it was Guzzi, who feel from second to third in the opening corner, taking the lead as they completed the opening lap. Fellow Team USA driver Mike Jones (Praga) was able to slid past Rudolph for the second spot with Belgian Christophe Adams (Birel) and Scott Falcone (Praga) making up the top-five. The fight for second allowed him to stretch out to nearly a two second advantage by lap four, with Rudolph and Adams around Jones for position with Falcone pressuring his fellow Team USA driver. Derek Wang (Praga) was the driver on the charge, up to sixth from his 14th starting spot and closing up on the fight for fourth. Guzzi continued to lay down fast lap after fast lap, adding time to his advantage over Rudolph, who’s kart began to come in better in the closing laps. The top-five order changed on lap eight with Jones pulling off track with a broken battery wire, handing Falcone fourth and moving Wang into the top-five. Guzzi ended up with the victory as Rudolph closed in the final circuit. Falcone was able to make a last corner, last lap pass for the third spot over a former world champion, putting Adams fourth. Wang would complete another solid drive in the fifth position.
Heat three began with contact through the starting line as Jim Carey (Zanardi) had a hard hit with the tire barriers and thankfully was able to stand up and get out of danger. The field continued on with Rudolph leading Guzzi. Andres Fonseca (CRG) was up to third by the end of lap one. Guzzi went after Rudolph on lap three, taking over the spot and began to pull a little gap over the US champ. Behind them, Falcone challenged Fonseca for third, and was able to make a pass stick through turn three. Fonseca now came under pressure from Brent Harper (Kosmic). Starting seventh, Harper and Fonseca went back and forth for the position on lap six. At the same time, Rudolph made a move to the lead, working past Guzzi as they entered turn one to begin lap seven. Completing lap eight, Guzzi retook the spot with a move inside at turn 11. The top two continued to dice it up, all the way to the final lap. This brought Falcone into the mix with Guzzi taking the top spot and Falcone diving inside of Rudolph at turn six, taking over the runner-up spot. Rudolph would settle for third. Fonseca would cross the line in fourth alone, after Harper retired on lap eight following contact from Adams, who finished fifth. Wang had another great run to sixth, setting up for a good Prefinal grid position. In the tech barn, Guzzi was removed from the results for a carburetor infraction, handing the win to Falcone and moving everyone up one position.
With three top-three finishes, Rudolph retained the pole position heading into the prefinal with Adams lined up outside row one. Falcone will go from inside row two with Fonseca fourth, Wang up to fifth with his great drives and Johannes Rodriguez sixth.
The Group A vs. C event set up the heat races for Saturday in the Junior Max field as top qualifier Kyle Kirkwood (Tony Kart) and US champion Juan Manuel Correa (Tony Kart) filled out the front row. Correa used the outside line to take the top spot from Kirkwood with Coltin McCaughan (OTK), Thomas Preining (CRG) and Ferdinand Habsburg (Birel) made up the top five. Correa took back the top spot on lap two as they top two shuffled the spot a couple times as they completed the lap. Their fighting allowed Preining to close up and make it a three driver fight for the top spot. Once by Kirkwood on lap four, he got attached to the bumper as they hit the last corner complex with Preining jumping the curb and losing a chain. He would pull right off the track and see his chance at the win come to an end. Kirkwood retook the second spot as he and Correa held the top two positions comfortably. The battle was for third on the final circuit with Habsburg holding the position to the checkered flag. Christian Munoz (Tony Kart) advanced up the order to end up fourth as Canadian champ Gianfranco Mazzaferro (Tony Kart) in fifth.
Heat B vs. D went next as Ashley Rogero (Tony Kart) and Pedro Cardoso (CRG) lined up 1-2, leading the field to the green flag. Rogero held the top spot through the opening corners with a good jump with Jai Nijjar (Tony Kart) up to second, dropping Cardoso back to third. The top three were well out front as a fight for fourth place brewed behind them, including Guan Yu Zhou (Tony Kart) and Austin Garrison (Tony Kart). The Ocala Gran Prix driver continued to lay down fast laps during the first half to extend to a near two lap advantage. Cardoso and Nijjar ran nose to tail with Garrison and Zhou dicing for the fourth spot. Rogero’s lead would be 1.7 seconds after seven laps for the heat win as Cardoso scored the second spot over British driver Nijjar. Garrison held of Zhou for fourth at the checkered flag with Canadian Jeff Kingsley (Tony Kart) placing sixth.
Group A vs. D were the first in the round three heat race as Kirkwood and Cardoso set the front row. Kirkwood held the lead through the opening lap with Preining locking on his back bumper. Cardoso dropped back to sixth on the opening lap behind Garrison, Habsburg and Christian Brooks (Tony Kart). Cardoso continued to drop down the order as Blaine Rocha (Kosmic) and German driver Philip Harmprecht (Kosmic). Preining stayed glued to the leader as they ran the quickest laps of the race toward the halfway mark. Garrison ran alone in third as Brooks took over the fourth spot from Hamprecht. Preining set up a last lap move in turn 10, where we had not seen a move for position all-event long. That gave him the win as Kirkwood had to settle for second. Garrison and Brooks ran third and fourth with Cardoso getting back up to fifth.
Rogero and Correa, the top two from the US Grand Nationals, led the field to the green flag for heat race B vs. C. It was Rogero again getting away cleanly as the field made their way around for the first time. Correa slotted into second as they both enjoyed some space out front. Zhou ran third with Austin Versteeg (Kosmic) in fourth and with Dutch driver Rinus Van Kalmthrout (Energy) fifth. Versteeg was the driver on the move, up to third by lap three and posting the fast lap of the race to that point. He trailed Correa by just over one second, looking to gain ground quickly. Versteeg continued to be the quickest driver on the track until the final circuit, but ran out of time to close up on the top two as Rogero won another heat race and Correa second. Zhou and Van Kalmthout completed the top-five.
Calculating the points with all the heat races, Rogero’s perfect score placed her on the pole position for the prefinal, putting Kirkwood to the outside of row one. Nijjar and Garrison will fill out row two with Cardoso and Correa in row three.
Top qualifier and heat one winner Chris Bogart (Tony Kart) led the field to the green flag and was able to get away with a one-second advantage on the opening lap. Raul Costa (Tony Kart) slid past Justin Peck (Tony Kart) for the second spot, as Michael Auriemma (Tony Kart) and Armando Watson (Sodi Kart) made up the top five. Lap four, Peck was in the second position, working past Costa in turn one. Contact with Watson however into the turn 11 chicane section sent him off the track. That put Watson into the second spot with Auriemma third and Costa fourth. Bogart was able to secure a two-second advantage over Watson with Auriemma, Costa and Orlando Munoz (AM Kart) completing the top-five. Peck was able to continue on and ended up gaining seventh at the line.
Contact took place in the opening lap with Auriemma and Watson involved in the wreck, and thankfully both continued on but at the tail of the field. Up front, Bogart led the way once again with Munoz taking advantage of the contact in the first turn, advancing up to second from sixth with Costa in third and Peck back to fourth. The first two held a strong advantage with Costa feeling the pressure from Peck. Lap three, Peck hit the chicane section coming onto the front straight too hard, and popped the chain of his Rotax powerplant to put himself out of the race. Out front, Bogart drove away to a 3.5-second advantage over Munoz. Costa cruised to third with Zachary Rouse (CRG) and Watson recovering to fifth.
Bogart was perfect through the heat races to retain the top spot heading into the prefinal. Costa is classified second in the standings with Watson, Rouse, and Auriemma making up the top-five starting gird.
The front row of KRex Frederick (Kosmic) and Manuel Sulaiman (AM Kart) began heat two, looking to make up for a tough start in yesterday’s wet heat one start. From about the middle of the field, a number of drivers were collected in a first turn wreck and thankfully no one was hurt. A number of other wrecks shuffled up the field, including Frederick, David Malukas (Top Kart) and Sergio Terife (AM Kart). Aiden Keel (Birel) came away with the lead with Mathias Ramirez (Tony Kart) up from 11th to second. Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) was another advancer, moving into third from 12th before the red flag came out for Horatio Fitz-Simon (Sodi Kart) for the opening lap wreck. After he was checked and cleared by the medics, the race was restarted with Keel holding the top spot until lap five with Ramirez moving to the point. Ramirez was able to pull away as they fought for second behind them on the final circuit, pulling out to nearly a second on the final circuit for the win. Robb would end up second with Nicholas Brueckner (Birel) sliding past Keel for position. Enzo Fittipaldi da Cruz (Tony Kart) would complete the top five. Top qualifier Frederick would end up 28th on the final order with Sulaiman seventh.
It was a long train of drivers as the Mini Max group fought it out in heat three to set up the Prefinal lineup. Malukas was able to move himself up into the lead early and establish a soli lead by the halfway mark as the group behind him continued to fight it out. Malukas held on to score the race win as Keel landed the second spot on the final circuit with Frederick third. Brueckner ended up fourth with Ramirez earning another top-five finish after starting outside the top-10.
Ramirez’s two wins place him on the pole position with Texan Brueckner on the outside of row one. Keel and Robb will go from row two as row three is d’Orlando and Malukas.
The second day of racing began with Micro Max taking to the track for a six-lap battle as top qualifier Mathew Latifi (Tony Kart) and Harry Coulton (Birel) on the front row. Coulton was able to secure the lead with Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) coming through as well, dropping Latifi back to third with Maxwell Waithman (Kosmic) joining the top three. Latifi was able to use the draft to work his way back to the point as they completed the second lap, and their shuffling allowed Tyler Gonzalez (AM Kart) to join the fight. As they completed lap four, Coulton and d’Orlando were able to draft around Latifi, as the lead group continued to fight. This brought Gonzalez and Emiliano Richards (CRG) into the mix for a six driver lead pack. As they took the white flag, Latifi went from third to first, setting up for a run at the win. He would be able to fend off the challenge and score the top spot. D’Orlando ended up second with Coulton third. Waithman fought off Gonzalez for fourth with Richards in sixth. Alessandro Famularo drove a great race, making it up 11 positions to end up 11th with Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) placing 14th from 31st.
The final heat race saw the top six going at it for the final time on the day. Latifi led for the majority of the race but it was Coulton that would steal the top spot in the final corner of the final lap, earning the win. D’Orlando held off the charge by Ethan Arndt (Tony Kart) with Sebastian Rodriguez (Tony Kart) and Richards making up the top-six.
The grid for the prefinal Sunday shuffled up the order from the roster set in qualifying. Gonzalez will hold the pole position with d’Orlando on the outside of row one. Richards and Rodriguez. Xavier Harris moves up to the fifth spot with Latifi back to sixth.