2016 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals: Team USA Saturday Report

LaRoque becomes inaugural Micro Max world champion to lead United States squad in Italy

(Photo: GoRotax.com)

The 17th edition of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals came to a close with the final day of on-track action held during Championship Saturday around the Circuito Internazionale Napoli in Sarno, Italy. Wet weather continued into the morning hours, with the final warm-up for the Final competitors done on a soaked track. Thankfully, the sun came out and dried the 1.547km course for the six main events. Team USA featured five drivers completing the first ever Mini Max and Micro Max world championship events, with four competing in the Junior Max, Senior Max and DD2 Masters with no American qualifying for the DD2 division.

Micro Max

LaRoque celebrating with his parents (Photo: GoRotax.com)

LaRoque celebrating with his parents (Photo: GoRotax.com)

It was an epic battle for the first ever Micro Max world championship. Both Team USA drivers were in the hunt throughout the weekend with James Egozi starting on the pole position with Diego LaRoque behind in row two. About seven drivers stood out and formed the lead pack, never really settling in as all drivers were jockeying for position. On lap eight, the Team USA duo moved up to the lead with LaRoque at the point. The following lap, they were broken up by Portugal driver Adrian Malheiro, but fought back to come across to the last lap board with Egozi in the lead. The two were setting up for a 1-2 finish when LaRoque made a move for the lead at the 180-degree turn six. Egozi was surprised by the move and was shuffled back by others in the lead group. LaRoque, with the lead in hand, went unchallenged to the checkered flag to score the inaugural Micro Max world championship. Egozi was able to hold on to fifth.

#11 – James Egozi
Miami, Florida
RMCGF Appearances: none

Warm-Up: 1:29.094 (18th)
Final Grid: 1st
Final: 4th +0.837 (1:11.954)

#12 – Diego LaRoque
Phoenix, Arizona
RMCGF Appearances: none

Warm-Up: 1:28. 928 (16th)
Final Grid: 4th
Final: 1st +0.283 (1:11.943)

Mini Max

Arias Deukmedjian drove from 32nd to 6th (Photo: GoRotax.com)

Arias Deukmedjian drove from 32nd to 6th (Photo: GoRotax.com)

Contact in the Prefinal relegated Arias Deukemdjian down to 32nd on the grid. With just 12 laps for the Final, there was little hope on a podium finish. Arias nearly proved everyone wrong, putting in an amazing performance to fight his way up to the sixth position. By the halfway point, the US Rotax Grand Nationals third-place finisher worked up to the 11th position. The Florida driver gained five more spots in the final six laps to lead Team USA. Luca Mars was the top starter for the squad, but contact in two separate times dropped him out of the top-10 after starting ninth. He fought back to finish 12th after qualifying last on Wednesday, however a nose cone penalty of 10 seconds put him down to 23rd. Ashton Torgerson ran laps similar to that of the leaders, and after getting pushed out of the top-20 at the start, crossing 16th but classified 24th after a nose cone penalty.

#51 – Luca Mars
Sewickley, Pennsylvania
RMCGF Appearances: none

Warm-Up: 1:21.665 (10th)
Final Grid: 9th
Final: 23rd +18.294 (1:08.078) +10.000

#52 – Ashton Torgerson
Central Point, Oregon
RMCGF Appearances: none

Warm-Up: 1:20.913 (8th)
Final Grid: 15th
Final: 24th +19.083 (1:07.996) +10.000

#54 – Arias Deukmedjian
Orlando, Florida
RMCGF Appearances: none

Warm-Up: 1:35.733 (32nd)
Final Grid: 32nd
Final: 6th +5.234 (1:07.976)

Junior Max

A return to the podium was not in the cards for Mathias Ramirez (Photo: Rotax-Kart.com)

A return to the podium was not in the cards for Mathias Ramirez (Photo: Rotax-Kart.com)

Last year’s Junior Max RMCGF runner-up Mathias Ramirez did not have the event he wanted to, but continued to fight for a strong finish. Starting 21st, Ramirez gained four positions on the opening lap. From there, it was a battle for the entire 17 laps, bouncing around lap after lap. Mathias eventually settled into the 16th position by the checkered flag with the third quickest lap of the race. Unfortunately, Ramirez was excluded from the race for cutting the track avoiding an incident.

#103 – Mathias Ramirez
Bradenton, Florida
RMCGF Appearances: 2015

Warm-Up: 1:20.999 (20th)
Final Grid: 21st
Final: DQ

Senior Max

Christian Brooks improved throughout the weekend, recording a better finish from 2015 (Photo: GoRotax.com)

Christian Brooks improved throughout the weekend, recording a better finish from 2015 (Photo: GoRotax.com)

The entire week was a fight to climb up the order for Christian Brooks, and the Final was no different. Starting 14th, Brooks was pushed wide at the start, and fell down to the 32nd position. The Red Bull Global Rallycross shoe fight back the entire 20-lap event, eventually getting up into 15th with just two laps remaining. On the final lap, Brooks lost three positions to come to the checkered flag in 18th. A nose cone penalty however dropped him down to 24th, still an improvement from his finish last year, where he placed 27th.

#235 – Christian Brooks
Santa Clarita, California
RMCGF Appearances: 2014, 2015

Warm-Up: 1:14.399 (3rd)
Final Grid: 14th
Final: 24th +27.888 (1:02.255) +10.000

DD2 Masters

Derek Wang and Luis Schiavo did not come away from Italy with the results they had hoped for (Photo: GoRotax.com)

Derek Wang and Luis Schiavo did not come away from Italy with the results they had hoped for (Photo: GoRotax.com)

What looked to be the best shot at a podium for Team USA went away in a blink of an eye. Luis Schiavo had a podium finish in his hands last year, until he was excluded for a bumper infraction. This year, he kept his nose clean and remained at the pointy end of the grid, starting sixth in the Final. After working up to fourth, he settled into fifth behind Canadian Scott Campbell as the lead group sorted itself out. On lap six, Campbell got sideways at the end of the paddock straight. Schiavo had no where to go, and made contact with Campbell. The race was done for Schiavo with Campbell having a bid for another world title gone due to contact for a second straight year. The driver he made contact with in last year’s main event – Derek Wang – carried the Team USA flag for the remainder of the race. He was shuffled back to 19th at the start, and worked his way up to 12th in the final few laps.

#403 – Derek Wang
Seattle, Washington
RMCGF Appearances: 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015

Warm-Up: 1:12.589 (5th)
Final Grid: 14th
Final: 12th +16.324 (1:01.584)

#446 – Luis Schiavo
Miami, Florida
RMCGF Appearances: 2010, 2014, 2015

Warm-Up: 1:32.500 (30th)
Final Grid: 6th
Final: 33rd +5 Laps (1:02.339)

EKN Global Members Discussion: