There was a obvious change in the morale of the paddock at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals as the event officially kicked into official competition on Wednesday. Following three days of excitement, preparation and on track testing, it was time for official Qualifying and the truest test of the event so far.
The morale became very serious and for some, a gut check moment. The Rotax Grand Finals attracts the best Rotax drivers from around the world, all of whom are champions in their own right and when combined among a group of 72 champions, every thousandth matters.
For Team Canada, our results from Qualifying day were not quite what we were expecting. The pace shown in multiple practice sessions gave us optimism but when it came time to Qualify, the results just weren’t there. It’s always a scrap for track position, it’s only a 6-minute session to set your best time, and the pressure is the highest it will be all week.
Leading the way for Team Canada was Ilie Tristan Crisan who remarkably posted the fastest lap of the Rotax Mini Max odd group session in the only flying lap he completed. The group waited until halfway to hit the track and then scrambled for track position but Ilie was able to hit his marks and showcase his talent that earned him a front row starting spot for the heat races.
We touched base on the pace of Ben Cooper and Gianluca Savaglio yesterday but they ran into some challenges in their Qualifying session. Cooper was unable to post a respectable time with a en engine sputter and wound up 20th, more than seventh tenths of a second off the pace. For Savaglio, he just couldn’t find the clear track space he wanted, twice pulling aside to find a clean area during the session and eventually posting a lap that ranked him fifteenth.
The E20 electric karts started the event off where Ian Qiu and Frederique Lemieux had only 5 minutes to post their best time. Qiu would rank seventh while Lemieux was thirteenth in E20 Senior.
In Micro Max, it was not the outcome either of our drivers expected. Learning how different and difficult it is qualifying with drivers from around the world, both Olivier Chasse and Sebastian de Moissac were unable to post a time they were capable and were ranked at the bottom of the charts when the checkered flag flew.
In Mini Max, Eddy Kennedy posted a great lap that ranked him fifteenth while Alexis Baillargeon was only a tenth of a second slower and that put him 25th. Struggling for pace this weekend, Antoine Lemieux was 57th overall.
A brilliant lap from Lucas Deslongchamps put him P7 in Junior Max, giving him a row two starting spot for all of his heat races. Similar to the Mini Max’s, Olivier Mrak’s group of Juniors waited to hit the track and for the final three minutes the timing charts did not sit idle. Mrak put down his best on his final flyer and that put him 28th overall. For Boss Patel he was just behind the halfway mark and ranked 45th and now needs some good heat races to move up the rankings if he wants to race in the Grand Final on Saturday.
In Senior Max there will be some confusion when looking at the results as one group was much faster than the other. However, Rotax merges the groups together, not by overall time, but by the the ranking in each group. The group with the fastest time fills out spots 1, 3, 5, 7, etc while the other group is 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. So Laurent Legault was ninth in his grouping, putting him 18th overall while Timothe Pernod was 17th in his group and even though he posted a faster lap than Legault, ranked 33rd overall. It’s just the way it is when there is a large number of competitors.
In Rotax DD2, Lucas Pernod was the second highest Canadian in 27th overall followed by Matthew Taskinen and Olivier Bedard who ranked 37th and 43rd. Finally, Dave Laplante was 25th in DD2 Masters Qualifying.
Wednesday evening also featured the first round of heat races for all classes. Taking to the track after sunset it was time to race under the lights. More to come on that shortly.
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!