EKN Trackside: 2014 Rotax Pan American Challenge – Preview
Over 100 racers vying to make history at GoPro Motorplex
This weekend is the fourth edition of Rotax Pan American Challenge event, scheduled for the immaculate GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina. ‘NASCAR Country’ will become ‘Rotax Territory’ for this week as over 100 drivers will compete to earn the title of Pan American champion, with many more registering on-site to compete for this coveted title. Drivers from all over North America as well as selected spots from around the world will battle in the seven Rotax Max Challenge categories this weekend, with four tickets to the Rotax Grand Finals on the line.
The winners in the Senior Max, DD2 and DD2 Masters will earn a ticket to represent their respective country at the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals at the Kartodromo Internactional Lucas Guerrero in Valencia, Spain on November 25-29. The ‘Olympics of Karting’ welcomes over 250 drivers from nearly 60 countries every year, fighting for the four world championship titles. The Junior Max winner will earn a ticket to the 2015 event, with more prizes schedule to be awarded throughout the weekend for all categories.
Concept of the Rotax Pan American Challenge began as a series in 2010, racing at four regional circuits in the United States with the idea of expansion to other bordering countries. The program was changed in 2011, focusing on just one event and have been hosted at New Castle Motorsports Park, The Track at Centennial, NOLA Motorsports Park and now the GoPro Motorplex.
The GoPro Motorplex is just now into its second year open, hosting some major events in its short history. The 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals were held at the beginning of August last year, and Rotaxians return for some international racing at its best. The 7/10-mile course is based on the famous and historic Kartdromo Parma in Italy. Long straights with fast corners and tight sections, including elevation changes make the GoPro circuit among the best in North America.
The seven Rotax Max Challenge categories will compete this weekend, with official practice beginning Thursday, October 16. Friday will host the qualifying session with a Super Pole session for Junior and Senior Max. The opening round of heat races will close out the day, with the final two rounds set for Saturday. Results from the three rounds of heat races will line up the fields for the Prefinal Sunday morning, with the Main Events scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
This year’s Senior Max field of 19 drivers is primarily North American, with just one international driver. Only one is a ticket holder for the Rotax Grand Finals, making the other 18 gunning for the first place prize. 2014 Cold Stone US Grand Nationals runner-up Dan Roeper (Birel) will use this weekend as warm-up for next month’s trip to Spain for the world championship. Roeper finished sixth at the 2013 edition of the Grand Nationals at GoPro Motorplex, so it is a track that fits his talents.
The early money on clinching the Rotax Grand Finals ticket is Jamaican Thomas Issa. A Senior rookie this year, Issa is a two-time Rotax Grand Finals driver and was the Super Pole winner at the Grand Nationals in Utah. Issa was among the contenders all weekend until contact took him out of contention.
Success at the new GoPro Motorplex has come easy for the Ocala Gran Prix powerhouse. Two of their top drivers will be in attendance this weekend with Senior rookie Kyle Kirkwood and Morgan Healey. Kirkwood (Tony Kart) was the top qualifier at the Rotax Grand Finals last year in the Junior division, and quickly put himself toward the front in the Senior ranks, placing ninth at the Grand Nationals. Healey has continued to improve behind the wheel, as she place 13th at the Miller Motorsports Park.
One of their graduates is making a return to the seat of a kart after some time off. Ashley Rogero was the provisional winner at the Pan American Challenge last year in NOLA, and placed runner-up at the Grand Nationals behind 2013 Rotax Grand Finals winner Juan Manuel Correa. This will be Rogero’s first Senior Max race on this big stage, teaming up with AM Racing Engines to pilot a Tony Kart.
Coming from the west is another rookie, looking to end his season on a high note. Luke Selliken has made great strides throughout the year, improving through the Rotax Challenge of the Americas, posting the fast lap of the race at the Grand Nationals with a severely bent front end, and came up just short of the Rotax Can-Am Challenge title. A win will give him his second straight trip to the Grand Finals as part of Team USA.
The one international driver is Frenchman Jules Cousin. Joining the PSL Karting operation, Cousin will look to better his seventh place result at last year’s Pan American Challenge. Under the same tent is a former US Grand Nationals winner. Dalton Sargeant is scheduled to make a return in a kart after spending the season in stock cars. The 2011 Junior Max champion will be on a CRG chassis this weekend with the Canadian-based operation.
One compelling story entering the Rotax Pan American Challenge is that of Koene USA driver Elliot Finlayson. The Illinois driver set out to be a member of Team USA this season, racing at the Cold Stone US Grand Nationals and schedule to compete at the Pan Am. Finlayson was offered a free trip to compete at an international event this weekend in France, however, elected to pass for the opportunity to earn his own way into the Rotax Grand Finals.
Senior Max Provisional Entry List
|303||Luke Selliken||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Portland, OR|
|311||Sam Watson||Fifer Racing||FA Kart||Belmont, NC|
|313||Jules Cousin||PSL Karting||CRG||Clamart, France|
|314||Dalton Dow||Birel||Cornelius, NC|
|315||Bjorn Bovim||Jam Racing||Kosmic||Waxhaw, NC|
|316||Morgan Healey||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Bradenton, FL|
|317||Ashley Rogero||AM Racing Engines||Tony Kart||Naples, FL|
|318||Walker Hess||Rolison Performance Group||Tony Kart||Park City, UT|
|326||Nick Landi||Chi Chi Racing||FA Kart||Old Bridge, NJ|
|327||Adam Tams||MRP Motorsport||Birel||Huntley, IL|
|328||Kyle Kirkwood||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Jupiter, FL|
|355||Lane Vacala||MRP Motorsport||Birel||Antioch, IL|
|359||Elliot Finlayson||Team Koene USA||Tony Kart||Yorkville, IL|
|361||Dan Roeper||Orsolon Racing||Birel||Delray Beach, FL|
|375||Justin Neu||MBR Motorsports||Tony Kart||Mooresville, NC|
|380||Dalton Sargeant||PSL Karting||CRG||Deerfield Beach, FL|
|388||Carson Kapica||McAleer Motorsports||Birel||Katonah, NY|
|394||Thomas Issa||J3 Competition||Kosmic||Kingston, Jamaica|
|397||Marco Signoretti||Energy Kart North America||Energy||Toronto, Canada|
The largest field of the Rotax Pan American Challenge is the Junior Max category. Thirty drivers are scheduled to race, including a number of talented United States drivers with a good handful of international competitors. Among them are the two drivers that were recently announced as the Mazda Road to Indy selections – Austin Versteeg and Christian Brooks. Versteeg (Kosmic) has already clinched his ticket to the Grand Finals with the Rotax Challenge of the Americas championship this winter, and followed it up with a great performance at the US Grand Nationals aboard his Rolison Performance Group entry.
Brooks (Tony Kart) is among the 28 drivers vying for the top prize of winning at the Pan American Challenge, and earning a ticket to the world championship. A Mini Max Grand Nationals winner in 2011, Brooks has been a Rotax regular after moving up to Junior last season. A fifth place finish at this year’s Grand Nationals and 10th at the NOLA Pan Am event in 2013 makes him a contender this weekend. Two others that finished in the top-10 at last year’s event include Christian Munoz and Trenton Estep. Munoz (Tony Kart) has been a consistent top-10 finisher the last three major events, including the 2013 and 2014 US Grand Nationals. Estep was a contender in Utah until contact removed him from contention, opening up 2014 by finishing seventh in the FWT standings.
With the GoPro Motorplex celebrating its second birthday just a few days ago, the facility is quickly becoming a favorite for a number of karters. One who has found success at the circuit is New York driver Anthony Gangi Jr. The Tony Kart driver has a Micro and Mini Max Grand Nationals victory under his belt, and was in contention this year in Junior.
A number of young guns that are finishing their rookie season in Junior will be in attendance. Sting Ray Robb was the runner-up in the Rotax Can-Am ProKart Challenge to Versteeg, and was awarded the spot on Team USA for the Rotax Grand Finals. Robb (Tony Kart) is making a detour from his home in Boise, Idaho. This past weekend, Robb traveled to Valencia, Spain to get some laps at the Kartodromo Internactional Lucas Guerrero Chiva – site of this year’s Grand Finals. Robb will return back to the United States, meeting up with his BBR Karting team in Mooresville. Nick Brueckner has been improving with every weekend in the Junior ranks, and the young Texas driver is making the switch over to the Tony Kart after piloting Birel all season.
The Junior Max category will welcome the driver who traveled the furthest. Jack Black (Tony Kart) will race in Mooresville coming from Australia. The Aussie finished 10th at last year’s SuperNationals Rotax Junior main event. Drivers from Columbia, Mexico and Canada round out the big field this weekend.
Junior Max Provisional Entry List
|200||Trenton Estep||Piquet Sports/Architext/HR Racing||Tony Kart||San Antonio, TX|
|204||Andre Castro||Chi Chi Racing||FA Kart||New York, NY|
|207||Anthony Gangi Jr||GT7 Motorsports||Tony Kart||Brookville, NY|
|211||Mayo Livingston||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Bainbridge, GA|
|212||Matthew Solarczyk||HVR||Birel||Ashburn, VA|
|213||Juan Solorzano||Vmotorsport||Tony Kart||Bogota, Colombia|
|222||Maximilian Hewitt||MPH Racing Team||Intrepid||Houston, TX|
|224||Blake Hunt||Ultra Pro Karting||Tony Kart||Mooresville, NC|
|225||Darren Keane||Strawberry Racing||Tony Kart||Coconut Creek, FL|
|230||Dhyllan Skiba||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Leesburg, VA|
|231||George Stojakovic||KMS North America||Birel||Wappingers Falls, NY|
|232||David Ilavia||J3 Competition||Kosmic||Houston, TX|
|234||Christian Brooks||Nash Motorsportz||Tony Kart||Santa Clarita, CA|
|241||Jack Black||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart||Emu Plains, Australia|
|242||Lorenzo Alborta||Vmotorsports||Tony Kart||Bogota, Colombia|
|244||Sting Ray Robb||BBR Karting||Tony Kart||Boise, ID|
|251||Luis Alfonso Perez Pena||Falcone GP||Tony Kart||Monterrey, Mexico|
|268||Spencer Mills||Andersen Racing||Birel||Bradenton, FL|
|269||Aidan Keel||Andersen Racing||Birel||Plant City , FL|
|270||Michael McCarthy||Andersen Racing||Birel||Clearwater, FL|
|273||Bradley Zilisch||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Matthews, NC|
|274||Nick Brueckner||Orsolon Racing||Tony Kart||Hockley, TX|
|277||Austin Versteeg||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Sandy, UT|
|292||Christian Munoz||VMotorsport||Tony Kart||Coral Springs, Florida|
|293||Russell Boyle||Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid North America||Intrepid||Uxbridge, Canada|
|294||Samuel Lupien||SH Racing||FA Kart||Mascouche, Canada|
|295||Kellen Ritter||BBR Karting||Kosmic||North Vancouver, Canada|
|297||Michael Bovim||Jam Racing||Birel||Waxhaw, NC|
|298||Phillippe Denes||J3 Competition||Tony Kart||Carmel, CA|
|299||Robert Megennis||McAleer Motorsports||Birel||Amawalk, NY|
A small but stacked field will go to battle at the GoPro Motorplex facility this weekend in the fastest Rotax category on the planet. Five drivers already locked for the Rotax Grand Finals will go to battle against three looking to clinch their ticket to Valencia. Three-time Rotax Grand Finals winner Ben Cooper is one of the most decorated Rotax racer in the world, and set to earn his fourth world title this November. Cooper (Birel), a UK transplant now in Canada, won his 2014 ticket through the SKUSA SuperNationals XVII event at the end of 2013, and trumped it with the Rotax Max Challenge Euro title this summer. Joining him on Team Canada and racing south of the border is the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship title winner Fred Woodley (Maranello), set to make his first RMCGF start.
Three Americans set to be part of Team USA in Valencia will be in Mooresville. Rotax Challenge of the Americas champions Gavin Reichelt (CRG) and Alan Rudolph (CRG) are set to warm-up for Spain. Reichelt won the DD2 title while Rudolph earned his second straight in Masters, electing to run the DD2 division like he did at the Cold Stone US Grand Nationals. Michael Ilavia (FA Kart) earned his first RMCGF ticket in Utah, and was a top-10 contender at last year’s Pan Am in New Orleans.
The ticket from Mooresville is up for grabs for three drivers, with Pier-Luc Ouellette leading the list. The 2007 and 2011 Rotax Grand Finals DD2 champion has not yet earned at ticket for the world championship, and is joining the KMS North America operation with Cooper, racing on a Birel kart. Fellow Canadians Max Preston (Intrepid) and Dante Lerra (Energy) are the other two drivers vying for the RMCGF ticket to Valencia.
DD2 Provisional Entry List
|403||Michael Ilavia||J3 Competition||FA Kart||Houston, TX|
|418||Pier-Luc Ouellette||KMS North America||Birel||Canada|
|421||Fred Woodley||Maranello North America||Maranello||Wilsonville, Canada|
|431||Ben Cooper||KMS North America||Birel||Canada|
|411||Max Preston||Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid North America||Intrepid||Milton, Canada|
|446||Dante Lerra||Energy Kart Canada||Energy||Bolton, Canada|
|477||Alan Rudolph||PSL Karting||CRG||Gilbert, AZ|
|482||Gavin Reichelt||PSL Karting||CRG||Rhinebeck, NY|
Four drivers will be racing for the DD2 Masters Rotax Grand Finals ticket, representing three different countries. Representing the United States are two Florida drivers. Scott Roberts (Tony Kart) will go double duty, racing in both Masters divisions. Robert Greene (Maranello) is making the transition from Masters to the two-speed Rotax powerplant for the Mooresville event. Andres Fonseca (CRG) was a top-five finisher at last year’s Pan Am event, as the Costa Rican is looking to score the win to clinch a RMCGF ticket. Elvis Stojko has represented Canada on the world stage, earning three world championships and two Olympic silver medals as a figure skater. Stojko has traded in the skates for a driver helmet, taking part in the Canadian nationals the last two years and making his first Pan Am start, looking to earn a spot at the ‘Olympics of Karting’.
Already set to travel to Valencia at the end of November are Luis Schiavo and Ken Maxfield. Schiavo (Intrepid) dominated the DD2 Masters division at the Florida Winter Tour to earn his second ever trip to the Rotax Grand Finals. Maxfield will be making his first after earning the Cold Stone US Grand Nationals victory in the Masters Max division. This weekend in Mooresville will be his first competitive race in a DD2 machine, using the weekend to prepare for the race in Spain.
DD2 Masters Provisional Entry List
|517||Andres Fonseca||PSL Karting||CRG||San Jose, Costa Rica|
|528||Scott Roberts||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Winter Park, FL|
|546||Luis Schiavo||Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid North America||Intrepid||Stouffville, Venezuela|
|562||Ken Maxfield||Kart Sport North America||Praga||Salt Lake City, UT|
|585||Robert Greene||SKLTN Chi Chi Racing||Maranello||Fernandina Beach, Florida|
|588||Elvis Stojko||Maranello North America||Maranello||Richmond Hill, Canada|
While the field is just four drivers, it is a stack list of drivers taking part in the Pan American Challenge. All eyes will be on Max Papis, a veteran of multiple forms of motorsports and resides in Mooresville. Papis (Tony Kart) won the 2013 Rotax Grand Nationals at the GoPro Motorplex, and is the favorite heading into the weekend. Scott Roberts came just inches away from winning the 2014 Grand Nationals title. The Ocala Gran Prix driver will make his first Pan American start. Derick Boyle (Intrepid) will represent Canada while John Robicheaux (Kosmic) makes his second straight Pan Am start.
Masters Max Provisional Entry List
|610||John Robicheaux||J3 Competition||Kosmic||Gulfport, MS|
|628||Scott Roberts||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Winter Park, FL|
|669||Derick Boyle||Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid North America||Intrepid||Thornhill, Canada|
|677||Max Papis||Orsolon Racing||Tony Kart||Mooresville, NC|
It is a 25-driver deep field in Mini Max, with a number of young studs looking to shine on the international spotlight. A number of drivers from last year’s event in New Orleans graduated onto the Junior level. Eyes will focus on the trio of Koene USA. Michael and Nicholas d’Orlando will be joined by Payton Durrant. Michael is the 2013 Mini Max champion, winning at the GoPro Motorplex. Nicholas was a podium finisher in Micro that year, and was a contender at this year’s Grand Nationals as a rookie. Durrant will join the team for the first time, making his national Tony Kart debut after placing eighth at the 2014 Grand Nationals.
The top returning finisher is Florida driver Devin Boutot (Tony Kart). His 2014 season has been focused on other programs this year, earning victories along the way. Home track advantage goes to Enzo Fittipalidi (Tony Kart). The North Carolina transplant from Florida was runner-up at the 2013 Grand Nationals, top-10 at last year’s Pan Am, and drove to fifth in Utah this July. A victory is on the horizon for the young driver from the famous family. Representing Canada is Matthew Latifi (Tony Kart). A third place finisher at the 2013 Pan Am event, he was fifth in hid Mini Max debut during the Florida Winter Tour.
Watch for a number of other drivers who are projected to be in contention. Sebastian Alvarez (CRG) was among the quickest drivers at the Grand Nationals until contact took him out of contention. Harry Coulton (Birel) was the top American at the Florida Winter Tour this year. Riley Dickinson (Tony Kart) is coming off clinching a championship and earning four wins in the Burger King Rotax Max Challenge in Texas. Maryland’s Kaylen Red Frederick (Tony Kart) as also been fast in 2014.
Mini Max Provisional Entry List
|102||Devin Boutot||Tony Kart||Naples, Florida|
|103||Derek Carmenate||Tony Kart||Miramar, FL|
|105||Juan Jose Diaz Rodriguez||AM Racing Engines||AM Racing Kart||Chia, Colombia|
|108||Hannah Greenmeier||Kart Sport North America||Arrow||Parker, CO|
|110||Filip Niemkiewicz||AM West||Benik||Breckenridge, CO|
|115||Nicholas d'Orlando||Team Koene USA||Tony Kart||Hartsdale, NY|
|118||Matthew Latifi||Ferrolati||Tony Kart||Toronto, Canada|
|123||Lance Fenderson||Benik||Benik||Mooresville, NC|
|130||Lachlan DeFrancesco||Benik||Benik||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|131||Tyler Gonzalez||AM Racing Engines||AM Racing Kart||St. Cloud, FL|
|149||Emma Delattre||McAleer/HP-Tech/Monticello Motor Club||Birel||Wilton, CT|
|151||Michael d'Orlando||Team Koene USA||Tony Kart||Hartsdale, NY|
|153||Riley Dickinson||Orsolon Racing||Tony Kart||New Braunfels, TX|
|157||Sebastian Rodriguez||Orsolon Racing||Birel||Bogota, Colombia|
|169||Cash Tiner||Brash Racing||Tony Kart||Lake Jackson, TX|
|172||Enzo Fittipaldi||Helio Rodrigues Racing||Tony Kart||Davidson, NC|
|178||Harry Coulton||Andersen Racing||Birel||Palm Beach Gardens, FL|
|180||Pauly Massimino||FA Kart||Indian Trail, NC|
|181||Payton Durrant||Team Koene USA||Tony Kart||Lehi, UT|
|187||Jeremy Fairbairn||Benik||Benik||Wellington, FL|
|188||Kaylen Rex Frederick||Pilot ONE Racing||Tony Kart||Potomac, MD|
|191||Cooper Becklin||Go Kart Hero||FA Kart||Medford, OR|
|194||Sebastian Alvarez||PSL Karting||CRG||Mc Allen, TX|
|198||Alejandro Jaramillo||Dallas Karting Complex||Sodi Kart||Dallas, TX|
|199||Arias Deukmedjian||Deuk Spine Institute||Tony Kart||Merritt Island, FL|
The Micro Max division is very similar to that of the Cold Stone US Grand Nationals event back in July with 18 drivers scheduled to compete in Mooresville. Reigning US national champion Sebastian Montoya (Birel) is among the drivers racing this weekend. Montoya, the son of IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, won a dramatic race at the Miller Motorsports Park. Four of the top-five drivers will be at the Pan Am event, including 2014 runner-up Josh Pierson (Tony Kart), Florida Winter Tour champion Reece Gold (Tony Kart), and Rotax Challenge of the Americas title winner Jak Crawford (Benik).
Micro Max Provisional Entry List
|3||Ugo Ugochukwu||Team Koene USA||Tony Kart||New York, NY|
|14||Josh Pierson||Neliton Racing Concepts/RPG||Tony Kart||Wilsonville, OR|
|18||Caleb Bacon||CB Motorsports||OTK||Kingsport, TN|
|20||Alessandro De Tullio||SLA Kart Racing||Praga||Doral, FL|
|24||Juan Pablo Cepeda||Falcone GP||FA Kart||Monterrey, Mexico|
|27||Tyler Maxson||Tyler Maxson Racing||Tony Kart||Lawrenceville, GA|
|28||Gray Leadbetter||Team Lewis||Kosmic||Morganton, NC|
|33||Chloe Chambers||OVRP||RK||Monroe, NY|
|36||Justin Arseneau||PSL Karting||CRG||Mirabel, Canada|
|41||Karsten Defonce||Peak Roofing/KML||FA Kart||New Preston, CT|
|45||Dillon Defonce||Peak Roofing/KML||FA Kart||New Preston, CT|
|48||Leland Honeyman||Honeyman Racing||Tony Kart||Phoenix, AZ|
|52||Jak Crawford||Nash Motorsportz||Benik||The Woodlands, TX|
|55||Reece Gold||Ticket Clinic Racing||Tony Kart||Miami, FL|
|58||Sebastian Montoya||Team Montoya||Birel||Miami, FL|
|69||Branyon Tiner||Brash Racing||Tony Kart||Lake Jackson, TX|
|72||Connor Zilisch||Ocala Gran Prix||Tony Kart||Matthews, NC|
|99||Arturo Alcalde||AM Racing Engines||AM Racing Kart||Caracas, Venezuela|