2021 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Monday Report

Opening laps in Bahrain completed for Team USA drivers at ‘Olympics of Karting’

(Photo: CKN)

The 376 drivers that make up the 2021 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals took to the Bahrain International Karting Circuit on Monday for the opening laps of the event. Today was about getting accustomed to learning the spec karts and Rotax engines they received on Sunday, and the 1.4km circuit. It was also a momentous day, with the first official sessions under the lights ever at the RMCGF in the 21-year history of the event. The 14 drivers representing Team USA at the ‘Olympics of Karting’ took to the Bahrain facility for three rounds of practice.

Event Information

Time Schedule

Live Timing

DD2: Birel ART (72 entries)

Ethan Ho (Photo: CKN)

Both of the drivers representing Team USA at the Rotax Grand Finals have little to none DD2 experience. Alex McPherson-Wiman was at the last edition of the RMCGF in Mini, and raced Junior over the last two seasons, moving up to Senior for the week in Bahrain for the first time. For Ethan Ho, he’s been racing everything from 100cc, 125cc and shifterkart. Ho was able to get some testing in a DD2 before traveling to the Rotax Grand Finals, unfortunately, he is rolling solo.

“It’s been pretty exiting being able to experience the Rotax Grand Finals for the first time. It’s unfortunate that both my father and mechanic could not make it so it’s just me with the help of my fellow teammates under the Team USA banner. It is my first time in Bahrain and racing a DD2. I’m happy with the pace for the first day and I think I can fight for a good result as I get more comfortable with the kart and the track.”

#458 – Ethan Ho

Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (2nd – Senior Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (even) 26th – 53.971
Practice 2: (even) 21st – 53.633
Practice 3: (even) 16th – 53.132

#459 – Alex McPherson-Wiman

Hometown: Colorado
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (1st – Junior Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 1 – 2019 (Mini)

Practice 1: (odd) 26th – 54.059
Practice 2: (odd) 27th – 53.725
Practice 3: (odd) 32nd – 53.725

DD2 Master: Praga (36 entries)

John Bonanno (Photo: CKN)

There is no one with more experience from the USA at the Rotax Grand Finals then Derek Wang. Making his 10th start at the Olympics of Karting, Wang is looking to better his best result of 7th from 2017, coming off his first SuperNationals victory in Vegas just one week ago. Three runs in the top-10 help put him on the list of favorites. Joining him is second-time Team USA member John Bonanno. The New Jersey driver missed the main event in 2018, and has learned from that event, starting off this year’s program with solid speed.

“I’m very pumped up. You never know how it’s going to go and at 49 years old, you know this event is not guaranteed.  The competition is strong and the field seems to be trending younger as I get older.  First practice is break in session and learn the track.  I was a little disappointed if I’m honest. I’ve been driving well this year and had hoped to see top 10-15 pace. Second session we aborted my fast lap to do a hit pit change. Felt I left a few tenths out there having gone green in the first two sectors. Third session was under the lights. This facility is super impressive, and the flood light system is second to none. You know us senior citizens battle night vision issues, but it was clear as day! We ran tenth but had potential to move toward top five with some track position. Also, I made a horrible setup call that was a handful to drive. I’m excited to see how the weekend plays out. Two Americans in the top 10 and pushing toward the front! Race Rotax has been great. Praga has been top notch, the Rotax team is putting on a fantastic event and Bahrain, the host city is warm and welcoming. Obviously tricky times with Covid but everyone is doing their best to ensure a safe event.”

#522 – Derek Wang

Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (1st – Masters Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 9 – 2010, 2011 (DD2), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 (DD2 Masters)

Practice 1: 3rd – 53.962
Practice 2: 6th – 53.849
Practice 3: 8th – 53.621

#533 – John Bonanno

Hometown: Thorofare, New Jersey
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series East (1st – Masters Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 1 – 2018

Practice 1: 20th – 54.846
Practice 2: 9th – 53.990
Practice 3: 10th – 53.647

Senior Max: Sodikart (72 entries)

Macy Williams (Photo: CKN)

The best finish in the Senior Max category for Team USA drivers was runner-up in 2015 with Luke Selliken in Portugal, besting the third-place result of Oliver Askew in 2013 on USA soil. Two drivers will attempt to match or better those results in Bahrain. Justin White has the experience of racing at the RMCGF twice, making his third start but first in Senior Max. A rookie to the Rotax Grand Finals is Colorado driver Macy Williams, one of the top Senior drivers in the western half of the USA.

“This is my first time traveling overseas for racing, and I must say it is a little bit harder than traveling within the states. We started our trip off by going straight from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany. This flight got delayed an hour due to technical issues. This caused my tuner Christian Bird and I to miss our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Bahrain. We ended up staying the night in Frankfurt, then the next morning we flew to London before we could go to Bahrain. Eventually, we arrived in Bahrain a day later than expected but all in good spirits though. We are ready to do our best to represent Team USA. Day one of practice went well, as I learned the track and a bit more of the kart having driven OTK for much of my career. Our outright speed was ok, looking for more speed tomorrow.”

#331 – Justin White

Hometown: Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series East (1st – Senior Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 2 – 2013 (Mini), 2018 (Junior)

Practice 1: (odd) 11th – 54.584
Practice 2: (odd) 10th – 54.084
Practice 3: (odd) 13th – 53.967

#368 – Macy Williams

Hometown: Littleton, Colorado
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (1st – Senior Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (even) 29th – 55.472
Practice 2: (even) 29th – 54.694
Practice 3: (even) 26th – 54.383

Junior Max: Sodikart (72 entries)

#260 – Cooper O’Clair

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (2nd – Junior Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (even) 17th – 55.381
Practice 2: (even) 32nd – 55.518
Practice 3: (even) 33rd – 55.250

Mini Max: Praga (72 entries)

#148 – Kyle Drysdale

Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (1st – PKRA Finale)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (even) 15th – 59.424
Practice 2: (even) 16th – 59.173
Practice 3: (even) 15th – 58.905

#158 – Gage Korn

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series West (1st – Mini Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (even) 8th – 59.154
Practice 2: (even) 5th – 58.876
Practice 3: (even) 10th – 58.746

#159 – Alexander Jacoby

Hometown: Washington DC
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series East (1st – Mini Max – 2020)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (odd) 12th – 59.148
Practice 2: (odd) 16th – 59.299
Practice 3: (odd) 26th – 59.191

#164 – Jackson Wolny

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Qualified: RTX Karting
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: (even) 12th – 59.306
Practice 2: (even) 15th – 59.148
Practice 3: (even) 18th – 58.983

#169 – Rayan Mneimneh

Hometown: N/A
Qualified: Wildcard
RMCGF Appearances: 1 – 2018 (Micro)

Practice 1: (odd) 30th – 1:01.024
Practice 2: (odd) 28th – 59.650
Practice 3: (odd) 24th – 59.179

Micro Max: Birel ART (36 entries)

Sebastian Rist (Photo: CKN)

Two of the first four title winners in the Micro Max division at the Rotax Grand Finals call the USA home. Diego LaRoque was the inaugural winner in 2016 while Brent Crews took the victory in Brazil just three years ago. One driver represents USA this year in Sebastian Rist from Maryland. When EKN contacted them via social media, Sebastian was already asleep, preparing for the next day of action in Bahrain. His father Brian provided us with some words on Sebastian’s first day.

“This is his first trip overseas. The whole event so far has been awesome. He was able to dial in the kart and learn the track. The transponder was not working for the opening session, but we are happy with his performance over the three rounds on track. He said he can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow.”

#21 – Sebastian Rist

Hometown: Crownsville, Maryland
Qualified: Rotax US Trophy Series East (2nd – Micro Max)
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: No time
Practice 2: 31st – 1:03.275
Practice 3: 22nd – 1:02.693

E20: Sodikart (18 entries)

Also new for the 2021 edition of the Rotax Grand Finals is the addition of Project E20 electric karts as part of the official class roster. This category has been steadily growing in Europe, and taken part as a special class in previous RMCGF events. Team USA is joined by a driver with solid electric kart experience vying for the first Rotax Grand Finals E20 title in New Jersey driver Ellis Spiezia.

“Ending my 2021 season with the Grand Finals in Bahrain is cool enough, but continuing to represent the Project E20 and be part of their first time here is even better. The track is amazing and the elevation changes are super fun. The changing conditions throughout the day make it a good challenge and the track suits the E20 really well. Driving under the lights tonight was my favorite part.”

#704 – Ellis Spiezia

Hometown: Hoboken, New Jersey
Qualified: N/A
RMCGF Appearances: 0

Practice 1: 5th – 57.486
Practice 2: 5th – 56.539
Practice 3: 9th – 54.598

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