Ugo Ugochukwu Earns Team Koene USA a Rotax Pan American Championship
Five drivers run at the front of the field at the GoPro Motorplex
In dramatic fashion, Team Koene USA added to their impressive resume of race wins and championships in 2014 by claiming the Cold Stone Rotax Pan American Challenge Micro Max championship. While five drivers competed and ran at the front of the field with the Indianapolis-based squad, Ugo Ugochukwu stole the show in the Micro Max main event with a dramatic ‘Spin and Win’ performance last Sunday afternoon.
Taking to the track on Wednesday morning for unofficial practice, five drivers, four whom participated in a team test the weekend before, took to the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina to test and tune their Rotax powered Tony Karts. Looking to get up to speed ahead of Friday’s qualifying and Super Pole sessions, the squad worked well together as all competitors were at the pointy end of their respective divisions.
“It was our first time running a team larger than three or four drivers,” expressed Team Principal Mike Maurini. “We want to remain small and elite with a focus on driver development so we will only offer services for five or six drivers per season. With the current group that we have along with some extra help that we hired, everything ran proficiently and smoothly and that transformed into some great on track results.”
The weekend started off strong for Team Koene USA with three of the five team drivers qualifying in the top-six and were able to make the cut to advance to the Super Pole sessions on Friday afternoon. When the sessions were finally complete, Ugo Ugochukwu would claim an outside front row starting spot in Rotax Micro Max while Elliot Finlayson would start outside row three in Rotax Senior. The Mini Max trio of Michael and Nicholas d’Orlando and Payton Durrant would line up in the second, ninth and thirteenth positions respectively.
Progressing through the heat races nicely, all five Team Koene USA drivers entered Championship Sunday starting their respective prefinals in the top-ten. Ugochukw and Michael d’Orlando scored heat races wins in their marches to the final while Nicholas d’Orlando, Durrant and Finlayson would claim solid results throughout the heats. With the points calculated heading into Sunday Ugochukwu would start his quest for the Pan American championship from the third position while Finlayson advanced forward to fourth. Michael d’Orlando remained constant and would start Sunday second while younger brother Nicholas and team newcomer Payton Durrant advanced forward several positions to begin their prefinals in seventh and ninth.
Sunday morning proved to be a setback for the team as every driver under the tent would lose positions before the start of the main event except for Ugochukwu. Taking the Micro Max prefinal victory, Ugochukwu began his quest for the title from the pole position. In dramatic fashion, the youngster from New York had a race for the ages as he took the lead early before disaster would strike on lap two. Entering the fastest corner on the track, Ugochukwu was tapped from behind and sent into a high-speed spin. Never taking his foot off the gas, Ugochukwu did a complete 360, losing seven positions in the process. Now just inside the top-ten, Ugochukwu was one of the fastest drivers on the track as he was determined to make his way back to the front. Moving forward and beginning the last lap in P3, Ugochukwu moved to the second position in corner one and made a bold pass in turn two to take the point. Defending for the last three quarters of a lap, the seven-year-old driver picked up the biggest victory of his career and added another championship to the Team Koene USA resume.
Next on track for Team Koene USA would be the Mini Max trio with two of them being out of the prefinal by the end of lap one. Michael d’Orlando started outside row one and quickly fall down the running order and eventually drop out of the race with a broken spark plug. Younger brother Nicholas d’Orlando would be involved in an incident in turn two and was also forced to retire. Team Koene USA pilot Payton Durrant advanced forward from his ninth place starting spot and ran inside the top-ten before some bad racing luck would cause him to lose several positions late in the race eventually being classified in the 13th position.
With all three drivers starting their main event from deep in the field, the trio looked to earn hard charger honors as they drove their way forward. Durrant would be out before the green flag as an errant wheel would force him to retire. The Utah resident showed speed in his first weekend under the Team Koene USA tent and will now shift his focus to the SuperKarts! USA (SKUSA) SuperNationals. Michael and Nicholas d’Orlando would start 23rd and 24th respectively and have solid drives through the field to end their event in fifth and eighth.
With the Rotax Senior division the last class on the track, Elliot Finlayson would start his prefinal from outside row two. A tough opening lap saw the Illinois resident fall outside the top-fifteen but a determined effort would see a great drive forward. As one of the quickest karts on the circuit, Finlayson passed karts lap after lap to end his prefinal in sixth.
The main event would see the Rotax Senior driver advance forward in the opening laps as he quickly worked his way into the third position. Stalking the leaders, Finalyson was caught by the fourth place driver as the duo went side by side for several corners. Shoved off line three corners from the end while running fourth, Finlayson would end his main event in seventh.
Maurini continued, “What a great event for the team and all the drivers under the tent. We would like to thank MAXSpeed Group for another great event as well as the GoPro Motorplex for their professional staff and courtesy team trackside.”
Next on the docket for Team Koene USA will be the Superkarts! USA (SKUSA) SuperNationals on the grounds of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For more information on Koene USA and their online store, please visit www.KoeneUSA.com or contact company representatives at 317.270.8723 or via e-mail to Info@KoeneUSA.com. Team Koene USA is also very active in social media and can be found on Twitter at @KoeneUSA or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/KoeneUSA.
For information on press releases or other media services offered by Race Tech Development, please contact Mike Maurini via e-mail at Info@RaceTechDevelopment.com or 317.270.8723. Race Tech Development can also be found on Twitter at @RaceTechDvlp as well as Facebook at their Race Tech Development Fan Page.