We kick off our coverage of the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals with a look back at the successes of Team Canada in the previous fourteen years.
While the initial years were a real challenge for drivers wearing the Maple Leaf, the past decade has seen the emergence of Team Canada and multiple titles have made their way back to the great white north.
Patrick Moreau and Michel Boisclair, the two known for first introducing the Rotax Max program to Canada and the team organizers for each year have something very unique when it comes to the Grand Finals; both have attended all fourteen events, something even most organizers and officials can’t even account to. They have seen the ins and outs of the program, the growth and development and the success of Team Canada on the International level.
“Over the years, we have visited nine different countries, located on four different continents and discovered great tracks,” explains Moreau. “The first event in Puerto Rico is still special because of the fantastic weather and hotel on the beach. Everyone was on a learning process there. Rotax because they never organized racing event before, the drivers because most of them were at their first international race (most had no mechanic with them) and the distributors which could exchange on the implementation of the program in their respective countries.”
“Taking aside the CIK KF and KZ classes which are now seen as ‘factory driver championships’ the Rotax MAX Challenge is recognized as the most prestigious event in the karting world and there are reasons for that. No other karting event has more countries represented and having all drivers compete on the same material gives more value to the driver skills. Very important, you cannot buy your place, you must earn it, like the Olympics!”
Canada struggled in the first five years of the event, where initially it was just the Rotax Max category. In Puerto Rico, Malaysia, South Africa and Egypt drivers arrived at the event with their own equipment. While in Egypt Rotax introduced the Junior category on a spec chassis and the following year in the Canary Islands and ever since, each class has competed on equal equipment and that is when Canada started to excel.
“Portugal marked the debut of the Team Canada at the top, with our first podium with Luc Sauriol, first place in the MAX Masters class. This continued the year after in United Arab Emirates where we won the Nations’ Cup and Pier-Luc Ouellette won the DD2 title.”
“Italy 2010 was a fantastic event as well with two pole sitters, Scott Campbell (DD2 Masters) and Daniel Morad (DD2), which were crowned Grand Finals champions a few days after. How can we forget Daniel’s crash after the finished line?”
Pier-Luc Ouellette added his second Grand Finals DD2 title a year later, again in the UAE, in what was one of the most exciting Grand Finals races to date and Canada scored it’s third in a row in Portugal 2012 when Ben Cooper claimed the title with an amazing drive. Three Rotax DD2 titles in a row and two runner-up finishes in the Nations Cup and suddenly Canada was really earning some international karting recognition.
“Before 2006, Canadian drivers were not considered as ‘top drivers’ and just qualifying for the Final was the objective for most of our competitors. Now, we are going there to drive in front and this is significant because the level of competition increased a lot over the years at the Grand Finals.”
Scott Campbell leads all drivers with ten Rotax Grand Finals appearances. Over the past five years, Campbell has recorded some astounding results including victory in 2010, and vice-championship finishes in 2012 and 2013. He was in the running in 2011 as well until a broken front hub ended his bid to defend the Grand Finals title at the very start of the Final. (Who can forget the photo of Scott waving the tire in the air surrounded by the entire DD2 Masters group?)
While the Rotax Junior category has been a challenge for Canadian drivers over the years, many won’t forget Parker Thompson’s impressive drive from deep in the field to finish third place in Portugal. The result caught the attention of a few factory race teams and ultimately vaulted Thompson to a European KFJ program with the Factory Energy Kart team.
Canadian drivers are still seeking a podium in the Senior Max class. Through 14 years, some have come close but the Canadian flag has yet to wave in what can be classified as the most competitive class.
With 13 drivers making the trip to Spain this November for the 15th edition of the Rotax Grand Finals, one thing is certain, putting on the Team Canada suit will earn each driver a little expect respect in the paddock but with that comes a little bit of added pressure to inscribe their name to this list of Canadian accomplishments at the ‘Olympics of Karting’.
Patrick Moreau’s Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals Fast Facts:
2000 – Puerto Rico – 1st edition with 72 drivers, 6 Canadians, competing in the Rotax MAX class.
2001 – Malaysia – 72 drivers, including 4 Canadians.
2002 – South Africa – 72 drivers, including 3 Canadians.
2003 – Egypt – Arrival of the Junior Max at the Grand Finals. 5 Canadians.
2004 – Canary Islands – All drivers on the same equipment. 5 Canadians
2005 – Malaysia – Arrival of the DD2 class. 3 Canadians.
2006 – Portugal – 1st Canadian Podium (Luc Sauriol 1st in MAX Masters). 11 Canadians.
2007 – UAE – Nations’ Cup Champion. Pier-Luc Ouellette DD2 Champion. 11 Canadians. We introduced the Team Canada racing suit.
2008 – Italy – 1 podium (P-L. Ouellette, 2nd in DD2. 11 Canadians.
2009 – Egypt – 10 Canadians racing.
2010 – Italy – Introduction of the DD2 Masters class as separate class. 2 champions: Scott Campbell (DD2 Masters) and Daniel Morad (DD2). 14 Canadians.
2011 – UAE – Pier-Luc Ouellette Champion (DD2). Team Canada finished 2nd in the Nations’ Cup. 21 Canadians.
2012 – Portugal – Ben Cooper Champion (DD2), Scott Campbell 2nd (DD2 Masters) and Parker Thompson 3rd (Junior). Team Canada 2nd in the Nation’s Cup. 14 Canadians.
2013 – USA – Scott Campbell 2nd (DD2 Masters). 13 Canadians in the official classes, 18 Canadians in the Micro & Mini Invitational classes.