Inaugural So-Cal Rotax Challenge Comes to a Close
Champions crowned during finale event at CalSpeed Karting Center
The 2014 season welcomed the new So-Cal Rotax Challenge, providing the only Southern California series toward the Rotax Max Challenge. Nearly 120 different racers took part in the six events on the year, taking on the seven-round championship program that included three different facilities. The inaugural series began in March and completed on October 26, both at the CalSpeed Karting Center. A double-round weekend in June at Willow Springs and night racing at the historic Adams Motorsports Park in August gave the series a diverse experience, with more excitement planned for the future.
“I was pleased with the support and encouragement by those who took part in the inaugural season,” stated So-Cal Rotax Challenge promoter Andy Seesemann. “We had a few hurdles on the year that we worked around that in the end, helped out our program and showed our support for the sport in general. The competitors were very positive in their feedback during the race weekends and on the future of the series. We expect to see the numbers improve next year, as we have shown to be a very professional and courteous program for racers to enjoy. I’d also like to thank all the series sponsors and contributors for their support in the inaugural season, and looking forward to future.”
The season finale took place this past Sunday at the CalSpeed facility just outside the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Six drivers left the weekend carrying the inaugural hardware of claiming a So-Cal Rotax Challenge championship. Each of the title winners were awarded a champion jacket courtesy of K1 RaceGear, along with a set of Mojo tires. Other championship podium finishers received K1 gift cards, Rotax apparel, and much more. Honda/HPD donated a Honda Kid Kart engine to the class champion, and RLV donated an engine that was presented to the class winner at the series finale.
Eric Molinatti went on a four race win-streak at the end of the series to secure the Tru Tech Senior Max championship. Molinatti had a perfect score in the final three rounds, securing the title over Jin Bai. Three-time podium finisher Nathan Seegrist ended up in the third position.
The PSL SoCal Masters Max class welcomed the most drivers on the season with 34 taking part in the seven races held on the year. The driver everyone was chasing on the year was Larry Hayashigawa. Winning the second round helped to propel him into the championship lead early. Runner-up at Round Four behind double weekend winner Tyler Brooks extended his championship lead. Michael Middleton however made a late season charge. With three straight third-place results along with the victory at Round Five closed the gap. Hayashigawa took his second win of the season at Round Six, and Middleton ran third at the finale behind Paul Bonilla and Brian Phillipsen. When the final tally for the championship was calculated, Hayashigawa was the title winner by only nine points ahead of Middleton. Kevin Martin completed the season in the third position, over Michael Boyer and Ed Quinn.
Arie Zimmermann used three straight victories at the end of the season to claim the title in the Nash Motorsportz Junior Max division. Zimmermann’s three race win streak helped to put him on top of the standings over Jonathan Shone. Willow Springs double winner Christian Munoz finished the year third with two-time race winner Christian Brooks in fourth.
Five different drivers scored a victory on the season in the Ryan Perry Motorsports Mini Max division. Dante Yu and Trey Brown were split winners at the series only double header weekend at Willow Springs. Yu recorded four podium results on the year, one better than Brown, which helped him secure the championship by 88 points. Tyler Cole was the only driver to win twice on the season – taking the checkered flag at Round Two and the Adams night race – finishing the title chase in third. Christian Mauthe was the victor at the finale weekend.
It was all Cole Keith Cotham in the 2 Wild Karting Micro Max category. Cotham ripped off five wins to open up the season, finishing with runner-up result and a sixth victory in the last two events to claim the first series championship. Ethan Ho was 98 points behind in the final tally, recording five podium results. Tyson Quach was third, with Chance Gibson – the only driver to beat Cotham on the year – fourth in the championship chase.
The Mack Motorsports Honda Kid Kart competed as a local option category throughout the season, bringing 16 different drivers to the So-Cal Rotax Challenge to experience a solid regional series. Cooper Hicks won the opening event in March, and was able to hold on to the top spot through the remaining six events to claim the class championship. Another victory and three runner-up results helped him earn the title. Zang O’Shaughnessy won at Round Four, but could not match the results of Hicks to come up 96 points short. Delaney Adamo was third in the points, credited with three podium finishes. The last five rounds were won by five different drivers. Hicks and O’Shaughnessy split the Willow Springs event, with Austin Manka victorious at Adams, Carson Morgan picking up his second of the year in Round Six, and Sheldon Andrews winning the season finale.
Planning for the 2015 So-Cal Rotax Challenge program is already underway. A complete schedule will be released before the 2014 calendar turns over. New for the upcoming season will be the addition of the Briggs & Stratton LO 206 engine, with a Senior division added to the local option categories alongside the Honda Kid Kart category that will also return.
“Our goal is to provide a place where new racers can become familiar with the level of competition of regional racing, using the same kart they compete at their local club track,” added Seesemann. “We will mandate this as an entry level category, thus not allowing those competing in the Rotax divisions to take over what is reserved for new or non-experienced racers. The simple and basic format of the Briggs LO 206 engine platform is very similar to that of Rotax, and will give these racers an opportunity to experience what Rotax and the So-Cal program provides.