We are five sessions into the race week here in Bahrain and now it’s time to get serious at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
After receiving their karts from the chassis raffle on Sunday and spending the day preparing their machines for battle, our drivers have spent the last two days getting up to speed on the Bahrain International Kart Circuit. Monday featured daytime running on the track while most of Tuesdays running was in the evening and under the bright lights, giving a taste of all the conditions the drivers will face this week.
In the massive paddock tent where all 380 karts are stationed, the Team Canada atmosphere has been very positive. Everyone is working together and supporting those in red and white and it’s great to see so many supporters from around the world check in on their mates from Canada. With the second largest team of drivers this year, Canada is a popular team to watch this year as well.
We don’t like to put a lot of emphasis on Practice times as there are so many variables when drivers are given one set of tires to manage, have bugs to work out of new equipment and really are driving a fast evolving track every time they take to the circuit, but it does give us an idea of who has the pace to be up come Qualifying time.
Two drivers topped their sessions to close out Tuesday’s practice and that is a very positive thing. We expected Ben Cooper to be among the fastest this week and after working out a carburettor issue on Monday, he was lights out on Tuesday, staying in the top two in all three sessions.
Gianluca Savaglio did the same thing on Tuesday, topping practice four in his group and ending the nights running in P2 for practice five. He really enjoys this circuit and is pushing to better his fourth place result from 2021 and is off to a great start.
Fresh from his big WSK win in Italy, Ilie Tristan Crisan has garnered a lot of attention in Mini Max practice as many drivers want to chase him in hopes of learning a thing or two. He was another Canadian to remain in the top two on Tuesday, going P1 in FP4 and P2 in final practice.
A couple of our drivers are battling a weight differential this week as Olivier Chasse and Antoine Lemieux are more than 15 pounds over the minimum weight of their category. Both have had growth spurts as of late, but also both raced in a category above for most of this season as well. They are in good spirits though and are pushing for every tenth of a second they can find, but on this high speed circuit, their weight will be a factor this week.
Senior Max is going to be chaos in Qualifying tomorrow, were calling that now.
In final practice, 54 drivers were within a second of the fastest lap and it is so close at the top. The quality of drivers in Senior Max this year may be the best ever at the Grand Finals and those that can’t be here need to put it in their calendars now to watch on the live stream. There are seven Brits in the field and they are all in the top fifteen for speed. It’s going to be great!
Finally, the buzz continues to grow for the Rotax E20 program. It is such a great project to witness and having two Canadian drivers this week is great as well. We’re excited to hear from Ian Qiu and Frederique Lemieux this week about their experiences driving the electric beast.
Wednesday will feature a final round of practice before everyone receives their only set of fresh rubber for the rest of the week, which will get put to use quickly in Qualifying and Heat 1 set to run in the afternoon and into the evening, which will be broadcast on the live stream beginning around 2:00PM local time.
We will embed the live stream right here on CKN so you won’t have to go far to watch it. As a reminder, we are 8 hours ahead of those on EST, and 11 hours for those on PST, so it may be an early morning if you want to catch the action live at home, and we hope you do.
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!