Ben Cooper is now just one Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals victory away from tying the record for most wins by a single driver as he recorded his fourth title on Saturday in Bahrain.
Competing in the Rotax DD2 Masters division for the first time, and making his first RGF start since Spain 2014, Cooper battled mechanical gremlins throughout the week that put him behind the eightball early.
Qualifying only 20th overall, Cooper only had two heat races and a PreFinal to fight his way back to the front. He managed both heats well and drove back to the front, even with a pushback penalty in the first heat, and then finished runner-up in the Prefinal to secure him a front row starting spot for the main event.
It wasn’t the best of starts as Cooper was slow off the start line and fell back to third place on the opening lap. He didn’t wait long to regain second and on lap three pounced on the lead. A sneaky defensive line into corner one forced his chasers to go two wide through the first sector of the lap and that was enough for Cooper to open up a gap.
And just as the lead he built looked enough to cruise to victory, Cooper arrived in corner 12 and his kart did not slow enough for the apex. On the lap prior, an accident resulted in some gear oil on the track and when Cooper ran very wide through the corner, New Zealand’s Mathew Kinsman took full advantage.
Cooper was able to retain second place and tried his best to close the gap to Kinsman but just wasn’t able to get closer than one second.
However, heartbreak quickly turned to celebration as Cooper would regain the top position when Kinsman entered technical inspection with a bumper activation, resulting in a three-second penalty.
In his post race interview, Cooper explained that is not how he wanted to win the race, but knows that it is part of racing and accepted the victory while also celebrating a great week with his fellow competitor.
With his fourth victory, Cooper is now one shy of South Africa’s Cristiano Morgado for the record of five Rotax Grand Finals victories.
Will he come back and try again? We asked him.
“I’m not sure yet. At the minute I’ve not thought about it. It would be a nice way to finish off like this, but one thing I have learned is never say never.”
But he was very happy to talk about what it meant to win this year while competing alongside so many of his young protege’s that have come through the Ben Cooper Racing academy, along with having his dad, Papa Ben, on the wrenches and alongside him for the ride.
“I means a lot obviously. I’m not going to lie in saying that the last couple of years have been very difficult for me personally, so to come to Bahrain with my dad and bring back a fourth title kind of feels like closing the end of the book. I’m also very open to admitting that I had a cry when I got back to the tent as there was a lot of built up emotion.”
“To see the young Team Canada members cheering me on when I walked on the podium just makes me feel very proud to be able to do what I love and help these younger drivers in there career. Whether it’s getting them started in the sport, or coaching them, small words of advice or just as someone to look up to, it means the world to me.”
“Now I’m ready to go and spend the holiday period with my family and live the simple life.”
We will have a full report on Team Canada and Saturday’s Final races on CKN in the coming days.
Rotax Winter Trophy
We want to thank Grid 14 Motorsport and the Rotax Winter Trophy as they have come on board with CKN to be our coverage partner for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
The Rotax Winter Trophy is a two-race series to award the first tickets to the 2024 Rotax Grand Finals. The first round takes place on January 26-28 with the second on the following weekend, February 2-4. Both will be contested at the Orlando Kart Center with two different configurations being utilized.
Registration is open and several Canadian race teams will be present including Prime Powerteam, Premier Karting, Scott Campbell Racing, PSL Karting, Team VSR, Team PRO, and Team BCR.
Visit https://rtxkarting.com/rotax-winter-trophy-2/ to learn more and sign yourself up to race!