It has been a long season and for most Canadian racers the goal is to close out a successful season by wearing the Canadian Maple Leaf and representing their country at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. The annual event draws the best Rotax Max racers from around the globe in a unique event that pits racers on equal equipment in unique destinations around the world. For 2015 the event is held in the Algarve region of Portimao, Portugal.
Eleven drivers make up Team Canada for this years event, one of the smallest contingents of Canadian racers to attend the event in the past decade, but the small team is full of potential. Only two Juniors and two Seniors will compete while there are four in DD2 and three in DD2 Masters.
The provinces of Ontario and Quebec make up every roster spot except for one, with most of Canada’s Rotax Max focus happening in the east.
Drivers in Rotax Junior will pilot a Praga chassis this year while Rotax DD2 will be aboard BirelART Karts. Both Rotax Senior and DD2 Masters will utilize the SODI Kart chassis as the brand has stepped up to a big presence this year with Rotax.
Here is look at the drivers that will represent Canada this week in Portugal. The chassis raffle takes place on Monday, November 9 with drivers hitting the track for the first time on Tuesday for practice. Qualifying takes place on Thursday followed by heat races leading up to Saturday’s Finals.
For those wishing to tune into the Rotax Grand Finals, we will be live streaming the event coverage right on CKN. Come back to the site starting Tuesday, November 10.
Samuel Lupien – Montreal, Quebec
Returning for his second chance at the Rotax Grand Finals in Rotax Junior, Samuel Lupien enjoyed a stellar season in Canada that saw him claim both the ASN Canadian National title and the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship title in Rotax Junior.
After learning a lot last year in Spain we expect big things from Samuel in Portugal. He shouldn’t have too many issues adapting to the Praga chassis and his smooth driving style will help him on the very challenging Autodromo International Algarve circuit.
We even saw him and his Canadian teammate Joe Soranno spending quite a few sessions on the rental karts in Portimao acclimatizing themselves with the circuit before the event officially gets underway.
Fun Fact: This is actually Samuel’s third trip to the Rotax Grand Finals as he also competed in New Orleans, USA as part of the Mini-Max invitational, standing on the final podium.
Joe Soranno – Mississauga, Ontario
The second of our Junior contingent will be making his first real start at the Rotax Grand Finals after finishing as Vice-Champion in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship. Like Samuel, Joe Soranno also competed in the Mini-Max invitational as part of the 2013 Rotax Grand Finals in New Orleans, but Portugal 2015 will be his first true start in the ‘Olympics of Karting’.
It was a roller coaster of a season for Soranno in Canada, taking big victories at the start of the year, but struggling in the second half, barely hanging onto the ECKC vice-champion position in Mont-Tremblant. While Soranno has the ability to step up and surprise us like he did at the start of the season, we feel he may be in for a bit of a rude awakening when competing against 71 other international drivers like so many Canadian juniors have before at the Rotax Grand Finals.
Marco Di Leo – Stouffville, Ontario
Our Canadian Rotax Senior duo is made up of a veteran and a rookie. Leading the charge after earning another ASN Canadian is Marco Di Leo, making his sixth start at the Grand Finals, Di Leo brings a wealth of event knowledge but is still looking for a solid result.
Di Leo raced in Portugal three years ago on a SODI Kart and will race the SODI again this week, while we don’t think the chassis has much effect on Di Leo, who has raced and won on many different chassis brands over the years. We are expecting him to race well through the heats and transfer to the main event with relative ease.
Cedrik Lupien – Montreal, Quebec
The rookie on the other hand is Cedrik Lupien. Making his Grand Finals debut after losing out on a ticket last year with after suffering a broken arm in practice leading up to the ECKC Finale.
Cedrik impressed many in 2015, winning his Senior debut at the Rotax Challenge of the Americas in Arizona. Back home he was fast and consistent, winning the ECKC title and showing great speed at the Canadian Championships before retiring with a mechanical malfunction.
Given his ability to step up this season we have high hopes for Cedrik, even in the class that Canadian drivers have struggled in over the years at the Grand Finals. Pending no hiccups Cedrik shouldn’t have an issue qualifying for the main event and taking it to the worlds best Rotax Senior drivers.
"I'm happy to represent Team Canada for the first time. I've been to the last two grand finals with my brother but never raced, so this year is very special to finally race. Senior is the elite class here at the Grand Finals, so for sure it will be hard to get up front with the Europeans who have experience here, but I'm sure we will be able to get there and fight with the best." Cedrik Lupien, Rotax Senior #221
Tyler Kashak – Hamilton, Ontario
The largest contingent of Canadian drivers at the Grand Finals this year will chase the Rotax DD2 crown as four drivers have entered, all with the potential to do well.
Canadian Champion Tyler Kashak will make his Grand Finals debut in Portugal. After a slight hiccup with his flight travels, Kashak arrived a day later than expected but is primed to show off his talents on the global stage.
Given the success that Canadians have had in the DD2 class at the Grand Finals over the years, we expect Kashak to be right in the thick of the action all week long.
Jeffrey Kingsley – Whitby, Ontario
Making his third start in a row, Jeffrey Kingsley is back on Team Canada hoping to improve on his career best finish of eleventh in 2014. Turning heads with a third-place qualifying effort and winning heat races in 2013, as a junior, Kingsley has had great success at the Rotax Grand Finals and given the strength he has presented this season we are sure he will be racing up front in Portugal.
Kingsley enters via the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship where he claimed the title after finishing second to Kashak at the ASN Canadian Championships. He has also won an international race this season at the US Open of Colorado.
Alessandro Bizzotto – Montreal, Quebec
Alessandro Bizzotto is making his second Rotax Grand Finals start courtesy of his victory at the CAN-AM Karting Challenge DD2 Shoot-Out. Making big strides in 2015, Bizzotto scored a breakout ECKC victory this summer and showed impressive speed at every race he attended.
After making his debut at the Grand Finals in 2013 in New Orleans, USA, Bizzotto is back with much more international knowledge than his first Grand Finals showing and that wealth of experience should help him get up to speed quickly. Like many Team Canada members, should he be able to avoid trouble in the heat races, Bizzotto should be a sure bet to qualify for the main.
"I have had an amazing time racing this season, just enjoying my time at the track and always focused on doing the best I possibly can. Despite the strong season I've had so far, nothing has proven to be a greater motivator than being able to represent Canada in the Grand Finals. I've gained a lot of experience over the past couple seasons racing over in Europe and competing in this same event in 2013 in New Orleans, and I believe these experiences will allow me to carry over an aggressive style of racing, knowing when to pass and when to defend, and an understanding of how to drive under extremely grippy track conditions. I go into every race with the hopes and expectations of winning and this will be the same for this event in portugal. I will do my best and excited to get started!" Alessandro Bizzotto, Rotax DD2 #323
Fred Woodley – Hamilton, Ontario
It has been a challenging years for Fred Woodley who’s results have been like a roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland. In Canada his pace was very good in ECKC competition, claiming a couple victories, but a couple of DNF’s hurt his opportunity for the championship.
Qualifying via the Florida Winter Tour, Woodley enters the Rotax Grand Finals a year after just missing the podium with an impressive fourth place result in Spain. It will be a tall order to better that result this year, but like his Canadian teammates we still have big expectations for him.
Rotax DD2 Masters
Stuart Clark – Milton, Ontario
An all-star lineup of DD2 Masters drivers should do Canada quite proud this week in Portugal. Leading off is Canadian Champion Stuart Clark who rebounded from a tough 2014, back to his normal self in 2015. Clark was strong is every race he competed in and while he hasn’t raced a kart since he won the Canadian Championships, he is determined to improve his best finish at the Rotax Grand Finals. Racing on a SODI should help Clark out a little more than the Praga Kart he’s had to race in years past.
Having two drivers who have stood on the top of the Rotax Grand Finals podium before as teammates will also go a long way this week for Clark. The trio will work together for the best results in testing, giving Canada a great shot at the podium.
Luc Sauriol – Montreal, Quebec
It may be ten years since Luc Sauriol claimed the Rotax Max Masters Grand Finals title but 2015 showed that he still has it. He was a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, taking the title in fine fashion and earning another ticket to represent his home country abroad.
Looking to seek a little vengeance after a disappointing showing at the 2012 event in Portimao, Sauriol seems as prepared as ever to take on the world.
Scott Campbell – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Making only one major start this season was all Scott Campbell needed to earn his record eleventh invitation to the Rotax Grand Finals. Champion in 2010, Campbell also stood on the podium in Portugal in 2012 finishing second and 2013 finishing third and he has his eyes on returning to the top of the podium this week.
If he is able to shake the rust off and return to his usual Rotax Grand Finals form, we expect Campbell to be up front with his teammates right there with him all week long in Portugal.
He is also the only driver this year representing Canada not from the province of Ontario or Quebec.
"I always feel honoured to represent Canada at the Grand Finals. I haven't raced as much Since the 2013 Supernats as this is only my third race but I still plan on going for the win, which I know I can. Every year you still have to be ready to learn and always expect the unexpected, no matter how many years of experience." -Scott Campbell, DD2 Masters #415