It’s been a long time since our first Canadian driver secured a ticket to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. It was all the way back in February when Gianluca Savaglio took on the Rotax Winter Trophy, a double-header championship held on back-to-back weekends on two different circuits in Florida.
A dominant opening weekend saw Savaglio score the race win at the new Piquet Race & Entertainment circuit to build up a nice lead and then consistent top finishes in round two at the Orlando Kart Center sealed the deal for the championship and the ticket.
Winning an invite to his third straight Rotax Grand Finals changed up Savaglio’s plans for the 2023 race season and he no longer had to worry about winning his way in, instead using the entire season to prepare for a return to the country of Bahrain and a circuit that he finished fourth on in his RMCGF debut in 2021.
So how did his mindset change after winning a ticket so early in the season? Savaglio linked up with Team PSL Karting, the official North American BirelART race team, to do as many races as he could on similar machinery to what he will race in Bahrain.
“It feels like forever since I won my ticket,” explained Savaglio to CKN. “For starters, I switched teams to Team PSL Karting, which allowed me to race on a BirelART kart for the whole season. I feel like I’ve gotten comfortable with the brand and the kart which will definitely help. Also, I tried to race as many races as I could in DD2 because I normally don’t race it.”
This shift meant leaving his home province of Ontario and running a few races in the Coupe de Montreal in Quebec. He also ran the Canadian Open and the Canadian Championships to keep himself familiar with the DD2 machine along with his regular ride in ROK Senior with PRO.
Heading back across the globe to the relatively small island of Bahrain, Savaglio returns to one of his favourite circuits, possibly because he ran up front throughout the entire Rotax Grand Finals there in 2021 or because it is dressed up like a Formula 1 circuit, which just happens to be on the same property.
“I would say it is my favourite race track. I’ve been to so many tracks and nothing compares to it. It has a mix of everything; slow speed and fast speed corners and the roller coaster parts, which are my favourite.”
That experience will be very valuable at an event where getting up to speed is very important. It will also be a tough result to match with 72 of the best Rotax DD2 drivers from the world competing on equal equipment for a world championship title.
“A fourth place will definitely be hard to top but I’m gonna try my best. I feel like I made a few mistakes the last time I was there during the heat races. It was my first time at a Grand Finals and I wasn’t sure how the racing would be. I know what to expect now so I feel more prepared.”
Savaglio is one of four drivers on Team Canada in Rotax DD2 this year with a group that all has recent RMCGF experience. In fact, all four have been on the team at least once in the past two Grand Finals. Working together should help them all put Canada up front and in contention for another Rotax DD2 Grand Finals title.
The Rotax Grand Finals will take place from December 3-9 at the Bahrain International Circuit. Follow along with the action on CKN all week long.