Paddock Insider: 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Friday
Last day to determine top-34 competing on Championship Saturday in NOLA
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:
Palmer, Falcone and Martinelli Qualify into Championship Saturday
Ryan Norberg was the lone Team USA driver in the Junior Max LCQ. Getting through the first few corners clean, he was up to the tenth spot after starting 18th. Contact however in turn six pushed him wide and into the marbles and then grass. He continued on and fought strong, finishing 22nd to end his 2013 RMCGF. Three of Team USA drivers were in the Senior Max LCQ with Sam Beasley starting on the outside of row one. With a great start, Beasley put himself into the lead and from there, pulled away to a four-second advantage. Unfortunately, he came in underweight at the scales and was removed from the results. While Beasley was pulling away, Jake Craig and Andrew Palmer were fighting their way forward, starting 21st and 33rd. Bit by bit, both were inside the top-10 after six laps. They continued to move forward, as Palmer reached seventh and Craig ninth at the checkered flag. With Beasley’s DQ, Palmer was put into the top-six and transferred into Championship Saturday. Craig, like Beasley, will have to cheer on Team USA from the sidelines.
It was clear sailing for the two Team USA DD2 Masters drivers as Scott Falcone and Rene Martinelli finished second and third to qualify for tomorrow’s main event. Falcone started on the pole position, and nearly lost a lot of positions through the opening corners but he fought strong to only drop to second. Martinelli held fourth after the opening lap, and advanced to third to place himself right behind Falcone. Pushing one another, they pulled away from the rest of the group to secure their spots in the prefinal. In the DD2 class, none of the three drivers would continue on. Fritz Leesmann started ninth, but was pushed around like a pin-ball at the start and fell to 17th. He drove back to 13th, but it would not be enough. Contact for both Sean Owens and Mitch Carey ended their days early, and would join Leesmann on the sidelines for tomorrow’s action.
Drivers Slated for the Second Chance Race on Team USA
The format following the heat races is as follows; the top-28 in points qualify into Saturday’s Prefinal. The next 36 will race for six transfer positions into the Prefinal during the Second Chance Qualifier, with the remaining eight drivers not qualified for the LCQ.
All but one driver in the Junior Max category qualified their way into the prefinal Saturday, with Florida driver Ryan Norberg forced to race the LCQ, starting 18th. Half the Team USA roster was placed into the Second Chance Qualifier, with Sam Beasley (2nd), Jake Craig (21st) and Andrew Palmer (33rd) into the race. DD2 Masters will see just two of the six racing in the Second Chance Race with Alan Rudolph, Mike Jones, and Derek Wang making the top-28. Scott Falcone will start the LCQ from P1 with Rene Martinelli in P4. Corey Mitchell came five points short of qualifying for the LCQ, ending his event short already. Fritz Leesmann (9th), Sean Owens (25th) and Mitch Carey (27th) were placed into the Second Chance Qualifier.
Mistake by Formal Drops Him Outside Top-10, Wimsett Earns Another Top-5 in DD2
The final heat races for the DD2 were very dramatic. Daniel Formal got another great start from the pole position, pulling out with the lead. Like yesterday, he would get run down and caught, losing the lead. With the lead pack just him and Kazimieras Vasiliauskas. Formal began to race the Lithuanian when Formal went off at turn two. Thankfully, he did not get stuck in the wet grass and continued one but finished 13th. Mitch Carey had his best performance of the week, climbing his way from 29th to 18th. In the Bvs.C heat race, Joey Wimsett was again on a mission to the top-five. Starting 11th, he was into eighth after the first lap and raced his way up to fourth. Fritz Leesmann, piloting a new CRG frame after yesterday’s was damaged, came from 20th to 12th while Sean Owens continued fighting forward, placing 20th from 32nd.
Rudolph and Wang Give Team USA First 1-2 Heat Race Finish in DD2 Masters
Starting on the front row, Alan Rudolph and Derek Wang paced the entire Avs.D heat race to score the first ever 1-2 finish in a heat race for Team USA at the Rotax Grand Finals. No one was able to keep pace with the two experienced rain racers, as Rudolph secured the pole position for the prefinal with his third straight heat race win. Wang helped balance out his DQ from yesterday’s first heat race, and may go directly into the top-28. Mike Jones got a great start running near where he started, but fell off at the end to drop to 11th. Despite the small set-back, he qualified into the top-28. Rene Martinelli fought tough all race long, ending up in 12th. Scott Falcone was caught up in a turn one wreck at the start of the Bvs.C heat race, and limped around for a 33rd place finish. Corey Mitchell was making progress, until contact in turn two about halfway through and he fell back down the order, just inside the top-30.
Beasley DNS as Askew and Neri Drive to Top-10 Again in Senior Max
With the rain coming down, it was a madhouse in the parc ferme area for the opening Senior Max drivers. Sam Beasley was a victim, as in the scramble to change over to wet set-up, they left the engine loose and Sam was unable to start the race from row one. Jake Craig was the lone Team USA driver in the Avs.D heat race, improving up from 17th to 11th after getting the reed cage changed finally, suffering all day yesterday with 7mph less than everyone else. In Bvs.C, Oliver Askew and Nick Neri continued their drive to the top-34, finishing seventh and eighth. Askew moved up at the start, settling into this position, with Neri climbing the entire 10-lap race to finish in the top-10 once again. Phillip Arscott struggled, ending up 16th with Andrew Palmer retiring after one lap.
Kirkwood Wins as Rain Dampens Third Junior Max Heat
The track was still a bit damp, but certainly drier then when the Junior Max drivers took the to the circuit for warm-up. Kyle Kirkwood started his third and final heat from the pole position, and was able to secure the win holding off just one other driver. It was a great drive for the Ocala Gran Prix driver, securing a 2-2-1 score and possible the pole position for the Prefinal. Blaine Rocha started fourth and was clean through turn 1, but another drive pushed him off track at turn two, dropping him to 26th. He pushed forward hard, climbing his way up to 14th after seven laps, salvaging crucial points after being penalized 10 seconds for contact yesterday, dropping him from second to 20th in his second heat race. The rains opened up for the Bvs.C heat race, leaving some drivers on rain Mojo tires, and others on slicks. Luke Selliken was among those stuck on slicks, dropping down the order and crawling around the track to a 19th place finish. Up front, Jamaican Thomas Issa had the best finish for Team USA, ending up fifth. US champion Juan Manuel Correa was one spot back in sixth with Ashley Rogero climbing to ninth from 15th on the grid. Ryan Norberg had a great start, but retired after the first circuit.
What’s a Rotax Grand Finals Without Rain?
As has grown accustom to the US Rotax Grand Nationals and the Rotax Grand Finals, rain always becomes a factor. This morning, showers hit the area to dampen the track and racers got a first taste of the circuit with Mojo rain tires mounted. The rain stopped enough so that the track continued to dry as the sessions wore on, but clouds are forecasted to remain in the area. Below is the fast Team USA driver in each warm-up session:
Junior A+D: N/A
Junior B+C: Juan Manuel Correa – 1:10.396 (5th)
Senior A+D: Sam Beasley – 1:10.536 (10th)
Senior B+C: Nick Neri – 1:09.619 (5th)
DD2 Masters A+D: Derek Wang – 1:09.852 (5th)
DD2 Masters B+C: Scott Falcone – 1:10.614 (16th)
DD2 A+D: Daniel Formal – 1:08.482 (21st)
DD2 B+C: Joey Wimsett – 1:06.329 (2nd)