|November 30, 2012 News
|EKN Trackside: 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals - Friday Heat Race / LCQ
|Complete coverage can be found at the EKN Event Page
| Oliver Askew will be the lead North American in Junior Max, starting 16th|
(Photo: Ken Johnson - GoRotax.com)
Thursday was the final day at the 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals to qualify for the 34 spots in the four categories to compete for the prize of world champion at the Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve. Aware that a place in the Prefinals and Finals were still up for grabs, Friday's on-track action in Portugal featured a final Heat race for all the drivers, and for a few it was a Last Chance Qualifier to make one of the transfer spots into tomorrow’s big show.
As always, it was the Junior drivers who got the racing underway with Heat A vs. D. The conditions were less than ideal for the young racers, as early morning rain shower meant the track was still damp, particularly off line, and there was more threat of rain. A dry line formed following the final warm-up groups, and the drivers switched to dry MOJO tires before the start of their final heat races. With Bruno Borlido and Stefan Van Galen leading the field to the green, Juan Manuel Correa was the lone Team USA entry on row eight after Santino Ferrucci was excluded from the event for an incident in the scale line after his opening Heat race on Thursday. While Borlido got away cleanly to hold the top spot, things did not go according to plan for Correa, as he fell back to 18th by lap two. While the American attempted to fight back as the race progressed, he never recovered, finishing 22nd. Great Britain's Josh White captured the win, leading Borlido and Portugal's Nuno Sousa to the stripe.
The final Junior Heat race had B vs. C under increasingly overcast skies. Harry Webb and Thomas Preining were the duo on the front-row, while Team USA had Oliver Askew and Ashley Rogero getting the green from rows eight and 14. The duo had mixed results during the opening two tours, as Askew was able to work his way forward to 14th, while Rogero was shuffled back to 35th. Askew continued his progress forward, joining the top-10 on lap five. Askew in the end crossed the line in 12th, while Rogero was 32nd. Out front, Great Britain's Webb pulled away throughout the race, scoring a comfortable victory over Finland's Samu Kylmala and Netherland's Janneau Esemeijer.
Using the Heat race results, it was determined which drivers advanced directly to the Saturday's Prefinal, and which had the opportunity to book their place via top-six finish in the LCQ race. For Team USA, both Askew and Correa advanced directly, while Rogero was forced to take part in the LCQ. The American started 22nd and battled hard in the seven lap affair, ultimately missing out on a top-six finish via 19th place. Great Britain's Raoul Hyman won the race, with Denmark's Jan Jonck, Australia's Joseph Burton, Slovakia's Patrik Pastorok, Netherland's Lars Lamborelle, and Sweden's Jessica Backman all advancing.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Oliver Askew - #113
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Mechanic: Mike Maurini
Heat Start: Group B - Row 9
Heat 3: 12th (Bvs.C)
Askew started on the inside line for his third heat and was able to take advantage of the track position, coming around in 14th on the opening lap. He began picking up positions as the race wore on, until a slight error cost him nearly all the positions he gained. The Florida Winter Tour driver continued fighting, and worked his way up to the 12th position, another comfortable result that ensured a starting position in the main event. The final points were released with Askew the top American in the 16th starting position for the Prefinal on Saturday. Talking with Maurini, they are set with where the kart and engine are, just waiting to see what the weather brings tomorrow.
Driver: Juan Manuel Correa - #121
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Mechanic: Bryn Nuttall
Heat Start: Group D - Row 8
Heat 3: 22nd (Avs.D)
After starting the day on wet tires, Correa switched back to the dry MOJO rubber as did everyone in his heat race - the first of the day. The Florida driver was a victim of contact and got shuffled off the track in turn one at the start of the race, no thanks to starting in the outside line. He rejoined the race just outside the top-20 but began making some strong moves forward until he was just a few kart widths off line in turn eight. He hit some streaming water from the early rain and drifted off track. Correa lost positions as he rejoined the racing surface and continued on. Still fighting to the end, JMC finished the race in 22nd, but showed great pace despite the two off-track excursions. The error in the final heat race cost Correa a number of positions but the first time Rotax Grand Finals competitor will go from P21 tomorrow in the Prefinal. His mechanic Bryn stated they may make a gear change tomorrow, but happy with the chassis setup.
Driver: Santino Ferrucci - #130
Hometown: Woodbury, Connecticut
Mechanic: Mike Ferrucci
Heat Start: Group A - Row 10
Heat 3: DNS
Ferrucci and another competitor were both given a warning following yesterday’s actions after the A vs. C heat race. When they arrived this morning, Rotax officials adjusted their ruling and excluded both Ferrucci and the other driver. U.S. Rotax Max Challenge’s Josh Smith was set to submit an appeal on the ruling after discussions with Santino and his father, as well as reviewing CIK procedures. The appeal however was not submitted within the hour timeframe, thus not received by Rotax officials. Thus, the U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals champion was excluded for the remainder of the race.
Driver: Ashley Rogero #158
Hometown: Naples, Florida
Mechanic: Jim Rogero, John Russell
Heat Start: Group Group C - Row 14
Heat 3: 32nd (Bvs.C)
Luck continues to turn her head at Rogero as she can’t get anything going in the right direction. An off in warm-up on wet conditions was followed by another at the start of her final heat race. She was able to get through the opening corners well, but early on was spun around while jostling for position in a group, entering turn 10. Rejoining at the tail of the field, Rogero recorded a 32nd place finish and ticket to the Last Chance Qualifier. Starting 24th, the Pan American Challenge champion drove up to the 18th position and tried to fight her way forward. Unable to make up any ground, she finished the race in 19th position to end her 2012 Rotax Grand Finals event.
| Louie Pagano fought his way into Saturday's events with a second in the LCQ|
(Photo: Ken Johnson - GoRotax.com)
For the Senior combatants, the opening affair of the day was Heat A vs. D. Before the karts went out though, heavy rain arrived forcing the officials to declare it a rain race After the initial start was waved off, it was Pierce Lehane and Jordi Van Moorsel who led the charge into turn one, while behind Team USA's Louie Pagano and Andrew Palmer started from rows six and 15. Avoiding the expected incidents in the tricky conditions, Pagano and Palmer completed the opening lap in 13th and 23rd. While the duo showed good car control in the wet, this remained where they fought for positions throughout the race. In the end, Pagano took the checkered flag in 13th, while Palmer followed in 24th. The Australian Lehane remained perfect in the Heat races, leading Canadian Jesse Lazare and Ireland's Charlie Eastwood to the line.
The final Senior Heat race witnessed Heat B vs. C, still in the wet, albeit with the rain having briefly slowed. James Singleton and Alexandre Finkelstein were the front-row starters this time out, being chased by Team USA's Phil DeLaO, Sam Beasley, and Danny Formal, starting in rows three, seven, and eight respectively. DeLaO got a dynamite launch, vaulting up to third place by the completion of lap one. Unfortunately, his hard work was not to last, as on lap three he was sent down the order, falling to 18th. While this was going on Formal was steadily working his way up the scoring charts, sitting just outside the top-10 in 11th. Beasley meanwhile was not having the race he desired, forced to duel for positions just inside the top-20. Locked in multi-karts fights throughout the second half of the race, Formal led the American charge when the checkered flag waved, coming in 10th. Beasley was next in 19th, ahead of DeLaO in 30th. Great Britain's Singleton emerged from an entertaining fight for top honors with the win, just edging Hungary's Ferenc Kanscar and Japan's Ukyo Sasahara.
After tabulating the points from the Heat race, Team USA's Beasley and Formal had advanced directly into Saturday's Prefinal. Pagano and DeLaO still had some work to do though, forced to try earn their place via a top-six finish in the LCQ. Unfortunately for Palmer his Rotax Grand Finals event was over. Staring within the top-six Pagano briefly battled the polesitter Finkelstein before settling for second, and a place in the Prefinal. DeLaO's chance a joining his teammates in Saturday's action ended on lap one, when he dropped to 26th. He subsequently retired one lap later after going off track, ending his event. Behind France's Finkelstein and Pagano, Sweden's Jesper Magnusson, France's Xavier Pozzoli, Slovakia's Sandor Jakab, and Russia's Alexander Serenko also earned places in the Prefinal.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Phil DeLaO - #227
Hometown: Peoria, Arizona
Mechanic: Tim Lobaugh
Heat Start: Group B - Row 3
Heat 3: 30th (Bvs.C)
The Challenge of the Americas champion seemed to be heading in the right direction after yesterday’s initial heat race. Friday’s final heat began with a great start for DeLaO as he jumped into the third position. After losing the spot, he began losing more and eventually was pushed off track in turn eight. He continued on to finish 30th, which cost him a direct qualifying spot into the Prefinal. Starting 11th in the LCQ, DeLaO was able to get through the opening corners clean, but eventually went off again and fell down the order. His race ended on lap three with another off-track excursion, putting the final period on a challenging Rotax Grand Finals return.
Driver: Sam Beasley - #217
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Mechanic: Ben Beasley
Heat Start: Group C - Row 7
Heat 3: 19th
The third straight Rotax Grand Finals has not been as successful as hoped for Beasley, but he’s got himself into the show for Saturday with the final direct qualifying position after the heat races. His final heat race was not that strong of a performance. Holding his spot in the 13th position through the start, he began to lose spots as the race went on. He eventually finished 19th, and coupled with his results of 12th and 19th, he qualified for a start outside row 14 in the Prefinal. He’s still complaining about no RPMs on the exit of the corners, no matter what changes they do to the kart.
Driver: Danny Formal - #230
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Mechanic: Donald Formal
Heat Start: Group C - Row 8
Heat 3: 10th
The top American heading into Saturday’s action in the Senior Max division is reigning U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals champ Daniel Formal. After qualifying fourth overall for Team USA, he worked his way forward in the heat races. The final one today was another example of working forward. Starting 16th, the Florida driver into 13th quickly and continued fighting his way forward. He ended up with another 10th place finish and will go from 16th in Saturday’s Prefinal with a positive attitude and a well working kart/engine package to possible challenge in the top-10.
Driver: Louie Pagano - #254
Hometown: Camarillo, California
Mechanic: Chris Lobaugh
Heat Start: Group A - Row 6
Heat 3: 13th
Today may be the first time that Pagano has shown his familiar smile while in Portugal. It’s been a rough few days for the California pilot as he struggled to find speed. The wet weather came today and his experience on the wet track showed. Losing a few positions on the start of the final heat, Pagano fought his way back was into the top-10. Racing within a pack he lost a few spots toward the end to record a 13th place finish, his best thus far. It helped him to move up the point total standings, but not enough that he qualified directly in. Starting fifth in the LCQ, he knifed his way into the lead early and tried extending out a lead. One driver was able to catch him, but they stayed out in front and he secured a spot in the Prefinal for Saturday.
Driver: Andrew Palmer - #272
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Mechanic: Justin Stefani
Heat Start: Group D - Row 15
Heat 3: 24th
The 2012 Rotax Grand Finals will not be a favorable memory for Andrew Palmer. Trouble all week long led to a final day of action on Friday for the Illinois driver. Warm-up in wet conditions seemed to favor the U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals podium finisher however when the lights went out for his third heat, it was backwards for Palmer. With a finish of 24th, he ended up outside of the Last Chance Qualifier grid to end his event much sooner than expected.
| Texan Mike Jones continued fighting back all week, and starts 23rd in the DD2 Masters Prefinal|
(Photo: Ken Johnson - GoRotax.com)
The stacked DD2 Masters were the third group to begin their final Heat races, with A vs. D first on the docket. Henry Martin and Cristiano Morgado were the two drivers out front row when the starter got the action underway, followed by Team USA's Alan Rudolph, Mike Jones, and Bill Lester on rows four, 10, and 13. After what was wild opening lap, that featured a kart into the barriers on the front straight but continuing, Jones was one of the main drivers on the move, taking over eighth, just ahead Rudolph in ninth. Rudolph, however, soon found a way past his teammate as the rain returned. In increasingly deteriorating conditions, the Americans continued working their way forward, with Lester also joining the top-20. When the action concluded, the strong run resulted in Rudolph crossing the line in seventh, Jones in ninth, and Lester 27th, following a late session shuffling. South Africa's Morgado overcame the heavy rain to score another win, besting a hard charging Netherland's Dennis Kroes, and Russia's Igor Mukhin.
The DD2 Masters Heat racing action concluded with Heat B vs. C on a very wet track, and Florent Lambert and Guy Pansart on the front-row. Behind the duo, Johnny Blair, Rene Martinelli, and John Crow represented Team USA, taking the green flag in rows seven, nine, and 10. Getting great launches, the trio was initially grouped close together, with Martinelli 12th, Crow 14th and Blair 18th. As the race progressed, Martinelli and Crow continued to run virtually nose-to-tail, moving up the ranks. Battling through the conditions to the checkered flag, Martinelli cracked the top-10, just ahead of Crow in 11th. Blair, had issues with water working inside the motor and dropped to 22nd in the closing stages. Ireland's Martin Pierce having worked his way forward, scored the win ahead of France's Pansart and Finland's Mika Salo.
With the DD2 Masters Heat races, the points were calculated, determining who advanced directly into the Prefinal. For Team USA that was Rudolph, Jones, and Crow. If Martinelli, Blair, and Lester wanted to join their teammates, they had to finish in the top-six in the LCQ race. Unfortunately for Martinelli, he never got that chance as a flat tire leaving the grid ended his event. Following three failed starts, the action finally got underway with Lester and Blair completing lap one in 14th and 17th. For Blair that proved the high point, as he was subsequently shuffled down the order, end his event with a 20th place result. While Lester enjoyed an impressive mid to late race charge, he too ultimately came up short, crossing the stripe in 10th. Germany's Thomas Schumacher scored the win, while Chile's Aldo Salas, Hungary's Csaba Nemeth, New Zealand's Niki Urwin, Norway's Thomas Jrgensen, and Hungary's Gerry Hargitai all earned places in the Prefinal.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Johnny Blair - #413
Hometown: Puyallup, Washington
Mechanic: Eric Armstrong
Heat Start: Group B - Row 7
Heat 3: 22nd
The underweight disqualification cost Blair his chance at racing on Saturday after not qualifying through Friday’s action. A quick driver in the wet, it was the first time driving a DD2 kart for the U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals Master Max champion on a slick track. The third heat was not as expected in the results department as he was shuffled back to the 22nd position. This coupled with the DQ in heat one put him down in the heat points order and into the LCQ. Back in P19 on the LCQ grid, the work was cut out for Blair. He made some great moves early on but was caught up in an incident that dropped him down the order. Pushing on, he finished 20th but his event was done. Talking with Johnny after the race, he said patience is one thing he learned through the event. He said he would suggest to anyone thinking about trying to make the Rotax Grand Finals to do so, as its something he’s going to strive for in the future.
Driver: John Crow - #419
Hometown: Long Beach, California
Mechanic: Brian Robson
Heat Start: Group C - Row 10
Heat 3: 11th
Knowing the task at hand, Crow went to work in the final heat race looking to secure a direct spot into Saturday’s events. Staring 20th, he made quick work of his competition continued to pick off positions over the 11-lap event. Working with fellow Team USA driver Rene Martinelli, Crow gained a total of nine positions to end up 11th at the checkered flag. Eagerly waiting for the points to be published, Crow was ecstatic to learn he was moving on in his first Rotax Grand Finals start.
Driver: Mike Jones - #428
Hometown: Sachse, Texas
Mechanic: Yonny Alberto Pena Hernandez
Heat Start: Group D - Row 10
Heat 3: 9th
After qualifying 40th overall on Wednesday, Jones was one of the top drivers to improve his position through the heat races. Today’s final run was his best yet, securing a spot in Saturday’s action. Starting 20th, he knifed his way through the opening corners and continued gaining spots over the 11 laps. He would finish ninth, just two back from Rudolph. The finish place him 23rd in the point total, clinching his goal of making the show on Saturday and solidifying a rough start to the event.
Driver: Bill Lester - #435
Hometown: Windermere, Florida
Mechanic: Cale Wyse
Heat Start: Group A - Row 13
Heat 3: 27th
The day started out well for Lester as he continued to improve on what was a rough start to the event. Excited about the wet weather, he was the top driver in the warm-up session for Team USA, and took that confidence into the final heat race. Unfortunately, a ground wire hampered the engines performance and he could only muster a 27th in the heat race to place him in the LCQ. A great start propelled him up the order quickly, and he never gave up. By the checkered flag, he had charged up from 22nd to finish a solid 10th to end the event. A year of karting now under his belt, and his first experience at the Rotax Grand Finals, he now understands getting behind early is tough to recover from.
Driver: Rene Martinelli - #437
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Mechanic: Brian Fletcher
Heat Start: Group C - Row 9
Heat 3: 10th
The three-time Rotax Grand Finals contestant began the day with his first objective, recording a good heat result. Contact in the first two heat races put him behind in the point chase, and the wet weather suited Rene’s need. Starting 18th, he moved forward with a great start. Martinelli drove an excellent race to finish 10th in the race to move him further up the LCQ starting grid. Unfortunately, he was unable to leave the grid as his front left tire went flat while waiting to take the track. Rene was not happy to end his event without a chance of continuing his race.
Driver: Alan Rudolph - #448
Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
Mechanic: AJ Whisler
Heat Start: Group A - Row 4
Heat 3: 7th
Rudolph continues to be the lead driver for Team USA in the Masters class, but ended the heat races without improving his position. After a few false starts, the field was given the green light with Rudolph getting shuffled back at the start. Changes they made to his kart were not in the positive direction, and Rudolph was unable to show a similar pace he did in heat two finishing second. At the line, he ended up seventh to be classified 14th in the point standings. He and mechanic AJ Whisler continue to make little changes to the chassis and engine toward perfection. There is no questioning his talents behind the wheel and the anticipation is high heading into Saturday.
| Earning the final transfer spot in the DD2 LCQ, Fritz Leesmann will continue fighting on Saturday|
(Photo: Ken Johnson - GoRotax.com)
The DD2 was the final group to contest the Heat races, with Heat A vs. D featuring a wet track and Xen de Ruwe and Ben Cooper on the front-row. The lone American in the race was Kristina Vorndran getting the green from row 14. Overcoming a lack of visibility due to the spray, and the expected bumping and banging through the first few corners, the Team USA finished lap one 25th place. The race, however, proved to be a hard fought affair, with her position regularly changing. When the checkered flag waved, Vorndran was 32nd, having lost numerous places over the course of the final lap. Out front, Canada's Ben Cooper proved unstoppable pulling away to a huge eight second win over Portugal's Henrique Baptista and Belgium's De Ruwe.
The chase for a direct birth in the Prefinal concluded for the DD2 racer via Heat B vs. C. Simon Wagner and Shaun Slavin were the two drivers on the front-row when the flag dropped to begin the racing, while Team USA's Cody Hodgson, Joey Wimsett, and Fritz Leesmann launched from rows two, three and 11. Despite a kart making heavy contact with a barrier on the front straight before continuing, the start was deemed good, allowing Hodgson and Wimsett to immediately take over second and third place. The order switched though before the completion of the first tour, with Wimsett now in second. Hodgson lost some additional position in the opening stages, the result of a heated multi-kart dice. Behind the duo, Leesmann was also having a strong run, working his way into 13th and looking for the opportunity to crack the top-10. With the rain coming back and increasing in intensity, all but the race win was up for grabs in the closing few tours of the high-speed track. Wimsett ultimately lead the Team USA charge with a third place finish, followed closely by Hodgson in sixth, having only relinquished fifth in the final lap, and Leesmann in 18th. Austria's Wagner and Latvia's Martins Lapins were first and second.
Using the results from the DD2 Heat races it was determined which drivers advanced directly into the Prefinal. Representing Team USA were Hodgson and Wimsett, while Leesmann had the opportunity to book his place with a top-six finish in the LCQ Race. Unfortunately, Vorndran's event was over. Staring in the final transfer spot, Leesmann gave him himself some breathing room on the opening lap, advancing up to fourth. His position was not secure, however, as the closing few laps witnessed plenty of unexpected dicing among the top-six and the chasing pack. Leesmann in the end survived the encounter, earning a Prefinal start via sixth place. Netherland's Tom Dielissen scored the win, besting Portugal's Eduardo Leitao, Great Britain's Patrick Pearce, Spain's Daniel Vacas, and France's Sebastien Bertrand.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Cody Hodgson - #329
Hometown: Escalon, California
Mechanic: Alex Speed
Heat Start: Group B - Row 2
Heat 3: 6th
Hodgson finished third on the podium in DD2 back in 2009 Rotax Grand Finals held at Egypt. He’s been there and knows what it takes to return to the front of the field. He continues to show the intelligence of a great driver, and working with multi-time American karting champion Alex Speed is an added help. Hodgson had a chance to be among the front row starters going into the final heat race today, and was in position after the opening lap when he slotted into second. He was challenge early by Team USA driver Joey Wimsett, and once he was back into third, his paced slowed compared to the leaders. He managed to hold onto sixth to end up seventh in the point standings, with a shifted axle the cause of his issues in the heat race. A new axle was mounted to Cody’s kart tomorrow with the goal of moving into the top-five for the Prefinal.
Driver: Fritz Leesmann - #338
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Mechanic: Neil Hodgson
Heat Start: Group C - Row 11
Heat 3: 18th
Reigning Challenge of the Americas champion Leesmann secured the final transfer position in the Last Chance Qualifier to be starting the Prefinal in the 34th position. Receiving a new motor in the morning, he began tuning around it in the wet session for warm-up. Rain returned for the heat race and Leesmann was moving his way forward in the 11 lap event. Running as high as 13th, he fell back to 18th by the checkered flag. Classified 34th in the points, he started the LCQ in sixth. Another great start put him among the lead group quickly and ran comfortably in third and fourth until the closing laps when a few trailing karts caught up. Fighting for every inch, Leesmann held on to the sixth and final transfer spot to the checkered flag and into the show. Now qualified for the main event, and with nothing to lose, Leesmann is going full force into Saturday’s action with a mission.
Driver: Kristina Vorndran - #359
Hometown: Dudley, Massachusetts
Mechanic: Wes Phillips
Heat Start: Group D - Row 14
Heat 3: 32nd
Vorndran made little gains throughout the 2012 Rotax Grand Finals event but was just caught up in too many issues to make it past the heat races. Warm-up seemed to be when she had the pace to compete, but once in race mode she would have a number of factors take her out of contention. Sometimes mechanical, others contact from other drivers. She could only muster a 32nd finish in the final heat in the wet, and it was not enough to move her into the tail end of the LCQ. Talking with Kristina, she’s learned to focus more on what she’s doing herself, and not others, as most things are out of her control. Not much rain racing under her belt so the chance to race against the best in the world in wet weather was a bonus, and knows she has the ability to return to the Rotax Grand Finals again.
Driver: Joey Wimsett - #361
Hometown: Beavercreek, Oregon
Mechanic: Mike Rolison
Heat Start: Group C - Row 3
Heat 3: 3rd
Wimsett is making his first start at the Rotax Grand Finals in the DD2 category, and is showing just how talented he is throughout the week. A minor mistake in yesterday’s second heat race was put behind him today as he drove to third in the final race before Saturday’s action. Starting sixth, Wimsett followed Team USA teammate Hodgson in third for a few laps before moving up to second. He kept on the leader for much of the race, but was getting heat from the driver behind and allowed him to pass through. With enough gap on the rest of the field, Wimsett cruised to a third place finish, moving him to eighth in the final points and putting two Team USA drivers in row four for the Prefinal.