Pole-Position and heat race wins in Rotax DD2 at star-studded event
Traveling across the continent to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Maranello North America and it’s team of four team drivers arrived at the RIO Hotel & Casino to take on the worlds best kart racers as part of SKUSA SuperNationals XVII, the largest and most prestigious karting event in North America. The 2013 event boasted over 600 entries spread out over eleven classes, but Maranello North America had its sights set only one class; Rotax DD2.
The addition of the Rotax DD2 class to the 2013 event and the award of tickets to the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals for both DD2 and DD2 Masters class winners appealed to Team Manager Trevor Wickens, and he assembled a roster of familiar faces for the event.
Maranello North America regulars Brendon Bain and Fred Woodley were joined in the Rotax DD2 class by Mercedes DTM pilot Robert Wickens, Trevor’s younger brother, while 2013 Canadian DD2 Masters Champion Stuart Clark rounded out the team, taking part in the DD2 Masters sub-division.
“Starting P4 in Masters and P16 overall on Super Sunday was a challenge, but I knew I had the speed to win.”
While the weather was less than expected, it did not deter the team and after two days of practice on the temporary circuit in the parking lot of the Rio Hotel & Casino, it was time for Qualifying. Immediately Wickens went to the top of the charts in the cold and wet conditions, and with a last lap flyer the DTM race winner solidified the pole-position in his first kart race in over a year, amongst a field full of World Champion kart racers.
With 44 drivers in the class, mixed between DD2 and DD2 Masters, Clark was able to muscle the 13th best time, placing him third among the Masters, while Woodley and Bain found themselves right in the middle, placing 21st and 22nd.
Wickens continued to impress, winning the first heat race in very treacherous wet conditions on Friday, before finishing second in heat two, and 14th in heat three, after being forced into a spin in the first corner and resuming from the tail of the field. Clark was very smart in his heat races, taking minimal risks and ensuring he finished all three flights, all according to strategy, earning himself a solid starting position for Sunday’s Final.
“…when I looked at the grid before the weekend it was actually a little intimidating.”
A change of weather for SuperSunday would see sunshine and dry conditions for the first time since Thursday morning in Las Vegas.
A great start in the Final saw
Wickens advance from fourth to second place on the opening lap while Clark kept his nose clean and advanced into the top-ten. The luck wasn’t quite the same for Bain and Woodley, who would be caught up in the same incident, ending Bains race and forcing Woodley to resume from 41st.
However Wickens would fall back to sixth by lap six, waiting for his kart setup to come in, as Clark advanced up to seventh overall with some great passing. By midway, Wickens was flying, setting the fastest lap of the race and the weekend, but it was a little too late. With the leaders out of sight, Wickens would have to settle with a fifth-place finish and the final step on the podium.
Finding himself in a heavy battle for position amongst the DD2 racers, Clark would finish the weekend the smart way, keeping an eye on his Masters competition and posting consistent lap times en route to ninth place result overall and P1 in the DD2 Masters division, clinching his ticket to the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
A solid drive back through the field for Woodley saw him drive all the way back to 16th, leaving him wondering what he could have done had he not been caught up in the first lap incident.
Trevor Wickens, Maranello North America Team Manager:
“Hands down the smartest and most deserving victory of his career. Stuart was able to choose risk over reward at the right time and place himself in a position to win. That’s all you can ask from a driver at this level.”
“Robert did Fantastic job all weekend. His maturity really showed through when it counted. Even though the win eluded us, it’s nice to know that we had the fastest DD2 package in the wet and dry at such a large race with so many first class drivers. Fred and Brendon were great
in Las Vegas. It’s unfortunate that the wet qualifying session placed them so far down the grid. In the dry, both drivers were solidly in the top-10.”
Stuart Clark, Rotax DD2 Masters SuperNationals Champion:
“The SuperNationals was a very strategic race for me. From Practice 1 through Heat 3, I played it very cautious. I had good speed in the wet and dry to keep me near the front but finishing was most important. Starting P4 in Masters and P16 overall on Super Sunday was a challenge, but I knew I had the speed to win. At the green flag I passed (Christophe) Adams into turn 1 with a late brake, and then managed to pass (Scott) Campbell with another late brake into turn 2. After two laps and a few more passes I found myself in P8 catching (Andreas) Matis, the P1 Master. I was very glad in was dry Sunday because I was reeling Matis in who had been very fast in the wet. Lap five I passed Matis into corner 1 and set sail. Winning the main in DD2 Masters at the SuperNats, finishing inside the top-10 overall and setting the Masters fast lap was great redemption for the lack of results at the Grand Finals in New Orleans.”
“Racing is a very humbling sport that always keeps everyone guessing, I love it! I’m very excited to be named to Team Canada for 2014 and I will be ready.”
Robert Wickens, Rotax DD2 SKUSA SuperNationals Pole-Position:
“Ending up in the top-five exceeded my expectations to be honest. I knew Trevor and Maranello would give me a package that was capable of winning, but when you are out of karting for a few years and when I looked at the grid before the weekend it was actually a little intimidating. Trevor, Brendon, Fred, Stuart and my mechanic Wes helped me out a lot all week with getting me back in the swing of karting. I had so much fun with all of them, and it was really a great team atmosphere all week long. Getting the pole was actually a first in my SuperNats career as I wasn’t able to do it in 80cc Junior 10 years ago. Even though it was cold and raining for most the week it was a lot of fun. All and all it was really satisfying for me to compete against the worlds best in both the wet and the dry at the largest event in North America.”
The SuperNationals closed out a very busy 2013 season for Maranello North America, that saw the team in action for 11 straight months. With that, preparations have already begun for 2014, where the team will kick off it’s campaign in the sunny state of Florida as part of the Florida Winter Tour.
Those interested in joining Maranello North America are asked to contact Trevor Wickens at email@example.com.