2019 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Wednesday Report

Stage is set as qualifying and opening heat races show early stars in Italy - Maier and Norberg qualify in top-five

Ryan Norberg qualified third overall in Senior and led during his opening heat race (Photo: Cody Schindel - CKN)

The 2019 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals saw its first day of wheel-to-wheel competition on Wednesday at the Circuito Internazionale Napoli in Sarno, Italy. The 360 drivers from nearly 60 countries put in their final session of preparation before putting all the chips in for qualifying. The order from those sessions sets the line-up for the three rounds of heat races. The first round of heat races completed today’s on-track action as the racers were able to begin their drive to the main event or help recover from a tough qualifying effort. The 14 drivers making up Team USA at the ‘Olympics of Karting’ had an up and down day with some bright shining moments in the timed session.

Event Information

Time Schedule

Live Timing


DD2: Birel ART (72 entries)

Max Hewitt (Photo: Cody Schindel – CKN)

What began with issues with the engine right away, Hewitt seems to have caught up now after seven rounds of practice. The Texan gained speed for the qualifying session to sit inside the top-30 overall. Max bounced around the top-15 in the opening heat, crossing the line in 15th only to receive a pushback bumper penalty to drop him out of the top-20.

#413 – Max Hewitt

Hometown: Houston, Texas
Qualified: RTX All Star Finals (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7 (odd): 25th – 59.429
Qualifying (odd): 17th – 59.118
Overall: 28th +0.360
Heat Group: D (Row 7)
Heat CvsD: 22nd +5-second penalty


DD2 Masters: SodiKart (72 entries)

Derek Wang (Photo: Cody Schindel – CKN)

The day began horrible for the Masters group for Team USA with a bit of sunshine at the end for one. Shutt, who had his backpack stolen, is struggling with engine issues and ended up outside the top-40 after qualifying. The driver from North Carolina was able to race his way forward in the opening heat, gaining five spots. Mauel finished one spot ahead of him in the opening heat, holding onto his starting position. Each will need more positions tomorrow to set themselves up for a good grid spot in the Prefinal on Friday. The spotlight has been on Wang, who was top-10 throughout the practice sessions. Wang’s pace remained at the 59.8 mark, the same fast time he set on Tuesday, however, dropped him in the overall picture to outside the top-20. The heat race was what he needed, gaining five positions in the 10-laps against many of the same competitors he has seen year after year at the RMCGF.

#507 – Tim Shutt

Hometown: Troutman, North Carolina
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7 (odd): 24th – 1:00.371
Qualifying (odd): 24th – 1:00.335
Overall: 48th +0.923
Heat Group: D (Row 12)
Heat CvsD: 19th

#514 – Derek Wang

Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Qualified: RTX All Star Finals (1st – Masters Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 8 – 2010, 2011 (DD2), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 (DD2 Masters)

Practice 7 (even): 11th – 1:00.023
Qualifying (even): 10th – 59.889
Overall: 24th +0.477
Heat Group: D (Row 6)
Heat CvsD: 7th

#527 – Nathan Mauel

Hometown: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Qualified: RTX All Star Finals (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: 8 – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2016, 2017 (DD2)

Practice 7 (odd): 14th – 59.985
Qualifying (odd): 17th – 1:00.044
Overall: 36th +0.632
Heat Group: D (Row 9)
Heat CvsD: 18th


Junior: Praga (72 entries)

Connor Zilisch (Photo: Cody Schindel – CKN)

Expectations were high on the Mars / Zilisch duo going into qualifying as well. Both had roamed around the top-10 mark, but could not get the lap they hoped for in qualifying to end up outside the top-20. The two were in the same heat race to begin with, as Mars got a great start and into the top-10. He was fighting to get into the top-five until the final lap when he was shuffled down to 11th. A pushback bumper penalty dropped him even further in the final tally. Zilisch fought forward throughout the race as well, crossing the line just behind Mars, elevated into the top-10 after penalties were handed out. Pierson has struggled with engine issues and thought they were cured going into qualifying when more problems came about, putting him nearly at the end of the results sheet. The overall speed is still not there, but was able to work himself to the 17th position until a pushback bumper penalty lowered him in the result.

#202 – Joshua Pierson

Hometown: Wilsonville, Oregon
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Trophy (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: 1 – 2017

Practice 7 (even): 13th – 1:01.563
Qualifying (even): 34th – 1:01.533
Overall: 63rd +1.222
Heat Group: C (Row 16)
Heat CvsD: 21st +5-second penalty

#205 – Luca Mars

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: 2 – 2016 (Mini), 2018

Practice 7 (odd): 13th – 1:01.529
Qualifying (odd): 11th – 1:00.772
Overall: 26th +0.461
Heat Group: B (Row 7)
Heat AvsB: 18th +5-second penalty

#215 – Connor Zilisch

Hometown: Matthews, North Carolina
Qualified: RTX All Star Finals (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7 (odd): 8th – 1:01.351
Qualifying (odd): 14th – 1:00.834
Overall: 33rd +0.523
Heat Group: A (Row 9)
Heat AvsB: 8th


Micro: Praga (36 entries)

Ben Maier (Photo: Cody Schindel – CKN)

One of two drivers were able to lead a heat race today for Team USA. Maier qualified second and jumped out to the lead for the opening heat race. He led the first three laps until position shuffling took place. In the process, contact put Maier off the track and toward the tail of the field. He ended up 24th at the checkered flag but officials handed him a 10-second penalty for contact. He was second at the time of the contact, and unfortunately, the live broadcast did not show the incident. It included he, the leader and third place. At the same time, Brickley was able to take advantage and gain a number of spots, ending up inside the top-five.

#4 – Adam Brickley

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7: 17th – 1:10.861
Qualifying: 9th – 1:09.497
Heat 1: 4th

#9 – Ben Maier

Hometown: Stevensville, Maryland
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (2nd)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7: 13th – 1:10.734
Qualifying: 2nd – 1:09.077
Heat 1: 34th +10-second penalty


Mini: CompKart (36 entries)

Cameron Weinberg (Photo: Cody Schindel – CKN)

Racing is exactly what Weinberg was waiting for the entire time. The Team Nitro Kart driver was able to gain 10 positions in his opening heat after qualifying outside the top-20. Alex McPherson-Wiman continues to get quicker, with his lap time in the heat races two tenths faster then the mark he set in qualifying.

#103 – Cameron Weinberg

Hometown: Carrollton, Georgia
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7: 22nd – 1:06.367
Qualifying: 27th – 1:05.943
Heat 1: 17th

#109 – Alex McPherson-Wiman

Hometown: Centennial, Colorado
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (2nd)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7: 34th – 1:07.461
Qualifying: 35th – 1:06.582
Heat 1: 33rd


Senior: SodiKart (72 entries)

Jace Denmark-Gessel (Photo: Cody Schindel – CKN)

The second driver to lead a heat race for Team USA was Norberg. The EKN Driver Rankings #1 holder was quickest in his group for qualifying and ended up third overall. He earned the pole position for one of the three heat races, with today being that. It was a rough start, getting shuffled back early but the RPG driver fought back to lead. He was able to establish a gap after contact behind him, but was run down and crossed the line in third. A pushback bumper penalty added some points to his score. The Texan Wiley had a great morning session and put himself closer to the top-36 in qualifying. He was as high as 17th in the same heat race as Norberg, but a pushback bumper penalty hurts his result. JDG is doing exactly what he needs to do in order to transfer to the big show. He nearly broke into the top-20 in qualifying and maintained his position on the track with no penalties.

#303 – Jace Denmark-Gessel

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Open (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7 (odd): 15th – 1:00.381
Qualifying (odd): 10th – 1:00.024
Overall: 22nd +0.436
Heat Group: B (Row 6)
Heat AvsB: 10th

#304 – Ryan Norberg

Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Qualified: Stars & Stripes Trophy (1st)
RMCGF Appearances: 2 – 2013, 2014 (Junior)

Practice 7 (even): 5th – 1:00.070
Qualifying (even): 1st – 59.715
Overall: 3rd +0.127
Heat Group: C (Row 1)
Heat CvsD: 7th +5-second penalty

#307 – Travis Wiley

Hometown: Austin, Texas
Qualified: RTX All Star Finals (replacing Nick Brueckner)
RMCGF Appearances: None

Practice 7 (odd): 4th – 1:00.120
Qualifying (odd): 28th – 1:00.345
Overall: 47th +0.757
Heat Group: C (Row 12)
Heat CvsD: 20th +5-second penalty


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