Paddock Insider: 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Wednesday
Push to qualifying continues as second day on track begins drive to Championship Saturday
EKN’s Paddock Insider is a new Trackside coverage addition, bringing you notes, updates and breaking news, as it happens. The article will be a timeline of events as they happen during the 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. The information will not be seen anywhere else, including notes, interviews and photos. For complete coverage, visit the EKN Event Page. Please feel free to comment and discuss our coverage and today’s action in the EKN Global Members Discussion area below:
Formal Gives Team USA Third Pole Position with Fast Lap in DD2
Saving the fastest for last, the DD2 groups hit the track to end the day. Former world champion Canadian Pier-Luc Ouellette set the pace in the Odd-Number group, with Team USA driver Joey Wimsett the quickest of the squad. He moved up into the top-five late in the 15-minute session, running consistent 54.4 lap times to end up fifth in the group. Fritz Leesmann was in the top-10 early on, but dropped to 15th in the final order while Sean Owens was back in 29th, about one second off Wimsett’s time. Daniel Formal was the loaded gun for Team USA arsenal, running in the Even-Number group, a fast driver in nearly every practice session heading into qualifying. It took him Daniel four laps to post the quickest lap of the class and earn the pole position – the third for Team USA on the day. Mitch Carey completed the roster, ending up P34 in the group.
Rudolph Becomes Second American on Pole Position, Besting DD2 Masters Field
Derek Wang stepped up in qualifying to open up DD2 Masters. He challenged former champion Cristiano Morgado for the provisional pole position during the Odd-Number session. Morgado would better his time, but Wang finished just 84 thousandths off the three-time Rotax world champion. Rene Martinelli and Scott Falcone were in the top-five early, but dropped down the order as the session closed, ending up ninth and 12th, unable to get into the 54-second bracket as Morgado and Wang did. As he showed throughout the practice sessions, Alan Rudolph was ultra-quick and put his name at the top of the order in qualifying. Leading the way in the Even-Number group, Rudolph laid down a blistering 54.693-second lap, bettering Morgado by over two tenths. The Bondurant/PSL Atlantic driver’s time would hold for the remainder of the 15-minute session, making him the second American on the day to earn the pole position. Mike Jones finished in the top-10 in the group, about a half-second off Rudolph’s time, while Corey Mitchell continued his improvement, nearly breaking into the 55-second mark.
Beasley Leads Team USA with Fourth Place Qualifying Effort in Senior Max
Just two drivers were in the Odd group for Team USA with Sam Beasley leading the charge. The four-time US Rotax Grand Nationals runner-up was in the top-five for most of the 15-minute session, before moving up to third on his seventh circuit late in the session. Unable to better his time on the final circuit, he dropped to fourth at only three hundredths off the provisional pole lap. Jake Craig was about a half-second off Beasley’s time, back in the 22nd position. The Even group saw a number of drivers waiting to hit the track, and then it was a cat-n-mouse game of finding the right driver, and at one point the entire field was on the long straight crawling along waiting for someone to be the rabbit. Once they got going, the Americans found their spots on the track. Oliver Askew and Phillip Arscott flirted with the top-five, but the jostling continued until a red flag with less than two minutes remaining. Askew would be the best of the group in tenth, with Arscott 12th. They would be about four tenths off Beasley time, putting him as the top Team USA driver. Andrew Palmer was P16 in his group, while Nick Neri ended up P18, about eight tenths off the pole position time.
Kirkwood Makes History as First American Top Qualifier
The opening session for the Junior Max group saw all three Team USA drivers shoot right to toward the top of the charts with Kyle Kirkwood, Juan Manuel Correa and Ashley Rogero filling up the top-five after the second lap. Kirkwood bettered his time the following circuit, setting the bar for the entire group. While others came close, he held on to the top spot throughout the remainder of the 15-minute session. Correa found himself outside the top-10 until a late charge moved him into sixth. Rogero would end up 12th in the group order. Kirkwood’s time would stand, but it was a battle as a number of drivers fought for the top spot in the Even-Number group. Luke Selliken, Jamaican Thomas Issa and Blaine Rocha were all at the top of the order at one point, but finished fourth, fifth and sixth, resspectively. Kirkwood told EKN he was happy and was not expecting to be the top qualifier. A huge draft on his quick lap helped propel him to the top of the order.
Set-Up for Qualifying
The final practice session prior to qualifying gives the 288 competitors one final chance to see what works and what doesn’t before the first test comes in the form of qualifying. That one session can make or break your event, as it sets up where you will start all three heat races. The Junior was stellar, with six of the seven finishing within the top-10 of their groups. The quickest on Team USA was Kirkwood, posting the fastest lap of the Odd group. He and mechanic Cody Johnson continue to improve each session on course. On the Senior side, drivers tried certain things that didn’t work, and it showed on the time charts as they were unable to get into the front of the order. Sam Beasley led the way for the USA drivers, running P5 in Odd group while Nick Neri was 11th in Even group. Alan Rudolph returned to the top of the charts in DD2 Masters, with Derek Wang P4 in the opening group – setting up for what could be five Team USA drivers in the top-20 after qualifying. Daniel Formal tried to make a changed for the better in the final session, but it went the opposite direction on the stop watch. He did manage to end up P4 in his group and best for Team USA.
A Cold Day in NOLA
The 360 competitors of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals woke up to find an unusual day in New Orleans weather wise. The sun is shining, but a cold front has dipped down to bring in over 30 mph wind guest to create a below freezing wind chill. Everyone is buddle up for the weather, and the track is much colder than what drivers experienced Tuesday morning when practice began. With more rubber down, it will be interesting to see how the weather affects the on-track performance, including the crucial draft element on the straights and the grip level around the corners.
The track was slower for first group of Juniors on course, but as the sessions went on it continued to build up rubber. During the first round for each category, the Team USA drivers were still among the top of the order. Kyle Kirkwood was quickest in the Odd session in P7 with Blaine Rocha the top USA driver in Even, placing fifth. Sam Beasley was P7 for the Senior odd group, while Nick Neri led the way for Team USA in Even group, ending up sixth. Scott Falcone was quickest among the Team USA drivers in Odd DD2 Masters, while Alan Rudolph slipped back to third in the Even group after setting the bar all day yesterday. In DD2, Joey Wimsett was fifth in the Odd group with Fritz Leesmann there in ninth after replacing the cylinder overnight. Daniel Formal continued to hold the top spot in the Even group, setting up solid positions going into the final practice before qualifying.