EKN Trackside: 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Tuesday Report

Team USA bags fast lap in three categories behind Formal, Rudolph and Askew

For complete coverage, visit the EKN Event Page and for a recap on the day’s action, visit the EKN Paddock Insider – including interviews with a number of the Team USA members.

It was a wild day at NOLAMotorsportsPark as the drivers made their first on-track appearances at this year’s Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.  With the Team USA driver pit stalls lining a full block of the paddock laneways, the EKN staff wore a trail between the media center and the paddock, making regular trips all day to keep up with all the action.  The US squad had its strongest opening day ever, placing an exciting number of drivers in the top-10 during the three practice sessions, including overall fast times in three of the four classes, thanks to the leading pace of Daniel Formal (DD2), Alan Rudolph (DD2 Masters) and Oliver Askew (Senior Max). All in all, the team has developed a solid baseline and is looking forward to tomorrow, despite a weather forecast that calls for cold temperatures and a small possibility of rain.

EKN’s coverage will put a focus on each driver, providing an in-depth look into their respective days.  Every Team USA member has a different story and a different road to Saturday, and there are presented with unique issues and situations.  Our goal is to tell each story.


Juan Manuel Correa – #173
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Mechanic: Yuri Carvalho
Practice 2: 58.130
Practice 3: 57.495

The first timed session was a solid P5 in the odd group for Correa, top for Team USA. Comfortable with the chassis, despite the axle shifting on him during the session, no chassis adjustment was made heading into the third session for the day. Instead, a gear change was made. The gear change was better for Correa in the third session, finishing up sixth quickest in his group. Looking for more speed, he is electing to change again heading into Wednesday.

Thomas Issa – #156
Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica
Mechanic: Sam Fugett
Practice 2: 58.305
Practice 3: 57.800

P8 in the even group, Issa felt the chassis had a steady setup. Looking for more speed, minor adjustments were in store between heading into the final run of the day. The lap time improved for Issa in the third session, however, it was done without draft help. Competitors are guessing the draft is worth about three tenths, which is a big difference in where you stack up in the field with Issa posting the 12th quickest in the final session of the day. With his recent growth spurt, the now 6’ driver is about overweight more than normal, and looking to reduce the disadvantage.

Kyle Kirkwood – #171
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Mechanic: Cody Johnson
Practice 2: 58.440
Practice 3: 57.477

It was a positive expression on Kirkwood’s face when speaking to him between sessions two and three. The kart felt good ending up 11th in his group, however, they were only able to get one lap in the draft. A gear change for the third session was made to see if more speed could be found. It was all smiles under the tent for the Kirkwood group, coming in P5 in today’s final session. A full-second gain was the most by any on the Team USA squad, with Kirkwood able to use the draft more in the session. A small carb adjustment will be made for Wednesday to find even more speed.

Ryan Norberg – #180
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Mechanic: Robert Bujdoso
Practice 2: 58.732
Practice 3: 58.088

Still learning the track, Norberg opened up the timed session 26th in the Even group. He and Bujdoso were happy with the start, and looked to make some chassis adjustment along with some driving changes around the NOLA circuit to find more speed in session three. Norberg was quicker then the previous session, but did not gain as much as others did to end up 24th. He mentioned that he is still learning the quick way around the course, making only his third session ever on the course. The engine is working well, however, they still need to find a better baseline for the chassis.

Blaine Rocha – #174
Hometown: Oakdale, California
Mechanic: Eric Bartolero
Practice 2: 58.035
Practice 3: 57.486

Leading the Even group for much of the 15-minutes, Rocha ended up third in his session. Very happy to have a top-10 kart early, he and Bartolero set up for minimal chassis adjustments heading into the third run of the day. The adjustments worked as Rocha was quickest of his group and ended up fifth overall. The previous testing with the Energy chassis have helped to put Rocha among the early contenders, and boost the confidence of the first time Rotax Grand Finals competitor.

Ashley Rogero – #155
Hometown: Naples, Florida
Mechanic: Jim Rogero
Practice 2: 58.757
Practice 3: 57.625

Rogero was unhappy with the start to the event, placing 25th in the Odd group. Lacking any speed, they turned to adjusting the carburetor on her machine. The change in carb settings was the move in the right direction, ending up 13th. Father Jim’s gameplan for the week is on course, as they narrow in the baseline setup. Not worried about the speed today, they are more focused on where they need to be later in the week. They narrowed up the gap on the setup for both the chassis and the jetting, and ready to keep learning tomorrow as they prepare for qualifying tomorrow afternoon.

Luke Selliken – #172
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Mechanic: Arie Ouimet
Practice 2: 58.151
Practice 3: 57.973

Selliken ended up fourth behind his teammate in the Odd session. The speed came later in the run, steadily moving up the order in the 15-minute run. He and Ouimet set up for a motor change along with adjustments to the front end. Luke’s pace went in the wrong direction for the final run of the day, ending up 20th. Unable to get a good draft off his fellow competitors, they were missing the straight-line speed they experienced earlier in the day and changing the seat position for tomorrow.


Phillip Arscott – #260
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Mechanic: John Arscott
Practice 2: 56.429
Practice 3: 55.853

Arscott is happy to be on the same page as everyone else this time in NOLA. Last month they were struggling to match the pace of his fellow competitors, but now they are on an even playing field. Too rich on the carb setting in the first timed session, Arscott was still fifth in the Even session. Making the adjustment for the final run, Arscott jumped toward the top of the order to end up second. Looking to tomorrow, they want to try a couple smaller changes to the chassis and engine to improve even more.

Oliver Askew – #272
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Mechanic: Gary Carlton
Practice 2: 56.176
Practice 3: 55.735

Askew was the quickest driver of the Team USA contingent, placing second in the Even group. Pleased with the performance, he and Carlton debriefed between the two timed sessions to find the little adjustments needed to be even quicker. A change on the front end and trying out a new rear gear was the set list for practice three. The changes worked as Askew was P1 of his group, improving his pace by a half-second. Happy with the performance, they are going to test out a few changes in the carb and chassis to see if they can improve before qualifying.

Sam Beasley – #261
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Mechanic: Ben Beasley
Practice 2: 56.346
Practice 3: 55.794

The fast lap set by Beasley in the opening timed session was early, placing sixth in the Odd group, as the rear hub on his Sodi Kart slid in on him during the session. Confident that he has a top-five kart, they looked to make a carb adjustment heading into the final session of the day. Beasley backed up his statement by posting the fast lap of his group to close out the day. A very happy father/son duo are showing some confidence heading into Wednesday, and hope to work with the other Senior drivers to coordinate some changes tomorrow in effort to find more speed.

Jake Craig – #275
Hometown: Mission Viejo, California
Mechanic: Chris Wesson
Practice 2: 56.570
Practice 3: 56.406

Visiting the course for the first time, Craig ended up P15 in the Odd group for his first timed session on the NOLA circuit. Comfortable with the chassis, he lacked in speed down the long straight. Losing about three-tenths to the leaders, they set on a gear change for the final session of the day. Craig’s paced remained unchanged, with everyone getting faster and put him back to 26th in the order for the final session. More adjustment with the engine and chassis, especially front grip, is in store for tomorrow.

Nick Neri – #274
Hometown: Palmetto, Florida
Mechanic: Alex Speed
Practice 2: 56.353
Practice 3: 55.950

Neri was second best for Team USA, placing fourth in the Even group and just off Askew’s time. The right rear hub slid in on him during the 15-minute session, so fixing that was priority along with a carb adjustment for the third session. Neri was quicker in the third run of the day, but ended up placing sixth in the session. He feels they are still missing on the carb setting, and hope to find the right combination for tomorrow.

Andrew Palmer – #276
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Mechanic: Justin Stefani
Practice 2: 56.636
Practice 3: 56.520

P12 was the end result for Palmer in his first on-track timed session. Not much feedback from him, other than making changes to both the chassis and the engine before heading into the final session of the day. The end of the day went in the wrong direction for Palmer, as he finished 27th in his group. Unsure of why they are struggling with exit speed, they are going to look over the data to determine the course of action for Wednesday.


Scott Falcone – #461
Hometown: Lone Tree, Colorado
Mechanic: Eric Jones and Benny Small
Practice 2: 55.972
Practice 3: 56.186

In the Odd group, Falcone was the quickest Team USA driver with the third fastest time of the session with no draft help. The KartSport North America driver spent the last month losing weight, only to still be 10 pounds over the minimum. Despite the effort, he’s still improved as a driver and the times show it. No rear grip and needing more front grip are the complaints, but the engine is strong. The changes they made were in the wrong direction, as he lost speed but till finished 10th in the group. They are trying to get the chassis to rotate better through the corner, so moving the seat back on the recommendation from the Praga tech support is the call. They will go back to what was working on the front end geometry, looking to get into the top-five of the group tomorrow.

Mike Jones – #476
Hometown: Sachse, Texas
Mechanic: Greg Bell
Practice 2: 56.288
Practice 3: 55.778

Happy to not be under the Rotax tent this year, the luck of the draw was in Jones’ favor as his engine is working well to begin the event. Placing P10 in the Even group, he’s looking for more rear grip heading into the third session. One spot better in the final session was the result, but the session was much more positive. The changes made helped, as Jones felt more comfortable and quicker, happy with the moves.

Rene Martinelli – #475
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Mechanic: Carlos ‘Tyson’ Barbosa
Practice 2: 56.157
Practice 3: 56.134

Just off Falcone’s time, Martinelli was sixth in his opening timed session. Complaining of the engine stalling out on him down the straight, he made a carb adjustment to the engine along with front end change on the Praga chassis, his first day on the kart. The pace did not improve for Martinelli, but it only dropped him down to ninth on the speed chart for the group. We were unable to track down Martinelli before he left, but if continues on like he did last year, his pace is set to improve each time out.

Corey Mitchell – #446
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Mechanic: Scott Gordinier
Practice 2: 57.774
Practice 3: 57.285

Making his first DD2 start, Mitchell is getting up to speed quickly behind the wheel of the two-speed Rotax machine. The lap time in the first timed session does not show his progress however as the engine was cutting out down the long straight, hurting his time. He and Gordinier planed a lot of changes to the kart and the engine for the final session of the day. The final session for Mitchell was better, as the engine ran clean, and he grew more accustom to the circuit. Corey understands however that he is overdriving the kart and losing time in crucial spots on the circuit. He and Scott are working to get the chassis closer to a better baseline and Mitchell will go over the data to help find a quicker way around the course.

Alan Rudolph – #460
Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
Mechanic: Jesse Dunham
Practice 2: 55.642
Practice 3: 55.228

Just where he would like to be, Rudolph started out P1 for his group. Happy with the position, he was not satisfied with where the kart and engine were overall. A carb adjustment was the change for the final session of the day, to help clear out a miss on the bottom end side. Rudolph would again pace the group, but in doing so posted the fast lap of the class to end the day as the quickest driver. He still has not found the perfect setting on the carb, so improvement is still there for Alan to get quicker. The kart handled much better, with minor adjustments to the front end scheduled for tomorrow’s opening session.

Derek Wang – #459
Hometown: Kirkland, Washington
Mechanic: Diego Valverde
Practice 2: 56.253
Practice 3: 57.279

Wang, a former two-time member of Team USA, opened up his first as a DD2 Masters driver with a P10 spot in the Odd group. A gear change inside the gearbox of his DD2 engine was in order for the final session, along with finding more grip through the higher-speed corners around the NOLA circuit. Derek was only able to get two laps in the third session when his shifter linkage broke, leaving the two-speed running in second gear. Unable to see if the changes made were an improvement, while also missing out on crucial track time, Wednesday morning’s session will be a pivotal.


Mitch Carey – #378
Hometown: Parker, Colorado
Mechanic: Jim Carey
Practice 2: 55.787
Practice 3: 55.486

With a limited karting schedule in 2013, Carey is a bit behind on the rest of the competition, but having a great time being part of Team USA. He started out P28 in the Even group, working on getting an oversteer condition along with a jetting change to find more speed in practice three. On the stop watch, it was an improvement for Carey in the final session. Position wise however he dropped down to 32nd in the group. The changes made helped, including a gear change, but entry grip level into the corners is still not where they would like it to be.

Daniel Formal – #368
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Mechanic: Donald Formal
Practice 2: 54.609
Practice 3: 54.453

Formal became the second American to top the charts through the opening round of timed sessions, posting the fast lap in the Even group. He was at the top of the charts for much of the session, but came off track early after hitting the curb at the end of the straight a bit too hard and spun. He bent the left end of the chassis slightly, and was looking to make that adjustment for the final session. Taking the first half of the session to make sure the kart was in proper working order, Formal picked up the pace toward the end. Following a trip down pit lane, he went back to work and posted the quickest lap of the event.

Fritz Leesmann – #371
Hometown: Folsom, California
Mechanic: Ricky Luther
Practice 2: 55.195
Practice 3: 55.216

It’s a complete 180 from last year for Leesmann who struggled early with engine issues. He now finds himself among the top-10, placing sixth in his group. Traffic was the obstacle during his run, unable to find a clean lap and knowing he had a pace to get quicker, which could lead to a better result in the final session. Trouble would strike as the Rotax powerplant for Leesmann would eventually seize toward the end of the session three. No early indications came about for the engine to let go, but a trip to the Rotax center in the paddock for Fritz was the order for the night and hoping the engine was ready to go for Wednesday.

Sean Owens – #377
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Mechanic: Tom Owens
Practice 2: 56.041
Practice 3: 56.013

Owens is another excited driver happy to be part of Team USA for the first time. He joked with us after the first timed session, stating he’s ‘creeping up on the competition’ after placing 27th. The positive attitude is great to have and a joy to be here in the paddock. He struggled with rear grip on the exit, so they are adjusting the chassis for that, but happy with where the engine is. The third session was an error of trial for Owens, as the pace remained the same and he dropped down to P31 in his group. Both a gear change and tire pressure change was not the direction to go, and the father/son pairing are going back to the data to determine the path for Wednesday morning.

Joey Wimsett – #369
Hometown: Beavercreek, Oregon
Mechanic: Wesley Boswell
Practice 2: 55.178
Practice 3: 54.579

Wimsett was among the contenders all last year in Portugal, and this year should be no different. He placed fourth in the opening Odd session to lead the Team USA squad in that group. One thing they noticed from the Pan-Am event, was the chassis taking a beating on the left front from hitting the curbs, they are already seeing that and adjusting to insure the chassis remains stable throughout the event. Wimsett and Boswell are heading in the right direction, placing third in group and improving his pace by six tenths. Along with the front end changes, they worked on seat placement and gearing to help with the heavy winds. Their goal is to continue in the positive path, and remain among the contenders heading into qualifying.

2 thoughts on “EKN Trackside: 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Tuesday Report

  1. Wow, I’m half way through this and I’m loving the individual reports. Enjoying the mechanic names listed as well.

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