Following a week’s worth of racing at the Canadian Karting Championships, Rotax Max Challenge Canada welcomed six drivers to join Team Canada for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
It was a gruelling weekend of racing that featured hot and sticky conditions on Friday and Saturday while Sunday’s Finals were flipped upside down by a morning rain shower and very wet conditions to start the day. Rotax Junior competed in full wet conditions while the Rotax Seniors were divided on their tire choices as the track began to dry out, setting the bar for everyone that followed to transition back to dry tires for their Finals.
Five Canadian Rotax Max Challenge Canadian Champions were awarded at Mosport along with six invitations to join Team Canada following a mini-championships between the Canadian Open and the Canadian Karting Championships.
There was no shortage of action, both on and off track on Sunday and sadly, a few of the results were adjusted after the races. Regardless, the competition was stout all weekend long and the grids were very competitive in all of the Rotax categories in a province that only uses the engine once a year.
So who won what this weekend? Here’s how each of the Finals went down.
Rotax Junior: Challenging Conditions for Rotax Junior Final
The first National Final to take to the track at Mosport was under gloomy skies on a wet surface and given that the racers only had a 3-minute warm-up on the wet track an hour earlier, it was a little chaotic in corners one and two.
Rotax Senior: Split Tire Selection for Rotax Senior Final
Everything in the Rotax Senior division came down to a gut check decision only moments before the National Final was about to begin.
The Mosport circuit was showing signs that it could dry up, but the surface was still very much wet and when the group of 31 racers rolled off the grid, the choice of tires was split almost 50/50.
Rotax Mini Max: Balog Dominates but is excluded for not attending tech
Following up the Rotax Senior race, all of the Mini Max drivers were back on their slick tires as only patches of the circuit were now wet and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds.
The drop of the green flag saw pole sitter Gabriel Balog (RaceLab/JV Kart) score the lead while contact sent the other front row starter, Antoine Lemieux (PSL/BirelART), for a wild ride through the grass up the hill and to the tail of the field.
Impressive early race pace for Balog allowed him to open up a comfortable gap on the pack, leaving Lucas Deslongchamps (BCR/BirelART) and Edward Kennedy (TRT/Energy Kart) to battle for second place with Alexis Baillargeon (Blastforce/BirelART).
As the trio traded positions, Balog’s lead grew even larger and even a sprinkle of rain on lap five couldn’t slow him down.
Crossing the finish line ten seconds ahead of the pack, Balog cruised to the victory while Kennedy pulled off an impressive last lap pass on Deslongchamps to finish in second place.
But the results wouldn’t stay. After the race, Balog was notified that his engine had been claimed and after discussion with his engine builder, they decided to take the exclusion. A very unfortunate situation for the young driver who drove very well all weekend long.
This elevated Kennedy to the top step of the podium joined by Deslongchamps and Olivier Mrak (BCR/BirelART) while Brando Londono (HM Propela/Kart Republic) and Baillargeon completed the top-five.
Two Rotax Grand Finals tickets were also up for grabs with Kennedy earning the Mini Max ticket and Londono scoring the most points of the eligible drivers for the Micro Max ticket. Both will compete in Portugal on Team Canada.
Rotax DD2/DD2M: Pernod Completes the Big Three in 2022
Heartbreak for one driver turned into a major accomplishment for another in the Rotax DD2 Final at the Canadian Karting Championships.
Making a return to his roots, professional car racer Jeff Kingsley (PSL/BirelART) was back in a Rotax DD2 machine for the weekend and immediately in contention to win.
On the pace lap, pole-sitter Gianluca Savaglio (REM/Exprit) came to a halt before he could complete the pace lap with a mechanical gremlin ending his race before it event started.
Jumping to early lead in the Final was Canadian Open race winner Lucas Pernod (BCR/BirelART) and he went straight into defensive mode.
Looking everywhere for a place to pass, Kingsley was all over Pernod in the early laps while Yuchen Ye (BCR/BirelART) and Matthew Taskinen (TAG/CRG) were also in the mix for the lead.
Eventually, Kingsley had enough and contact was made in the bowl that forced Pernod wide. Kingsley moved into the lead and Yu Chen snuck into second while Pernod fell back along with Taskinen.
The race was calm from there until disaster struck for Kingsley. His rear bumper would come dislodged with four laps to go and he received the meatball flag to end his race early.
Pernod recovered to overtake Yu Chen and inherited the race win, even with a jump start penalty as Yu Chen received pushback bumper penalty.
With his win, Pernod celebrated winning three of the biggest Rotax DD2 races of the Canadian season, taking the Canada Final in Saskatoon, the Canadian Open in Mont-Tremblant and the Canadian Championships at Mosport, an impressive feat.
Taking home the Rotax Grand Finals ticket was Olivier Bedard (Premier/TonyKart) and he will join Pernod and Taskinen on Team Canada in Portugal later this year.
Also, in the race within the race, Pier-Luc Ouellette (TAG/CRG) was fifth overall in the race to take home the Rotax DD2 Masters victory and with it, secure his ticket back to the Rotax Grand Finals. After qualifying on the pole-position in 2021, he will join Team Canada seeking his third Grand Finals victory this fall in Portugal. Alexandre Gauthier (CRT/BirelART) and Maximilien Gareau (BirelART) completed the DD2M podium.
This wraps up the last opportunities in Canada for racers to score a ticket to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, but for those still hoping to score a spot on Team Canada, there is one more race to do so.
The Rotax US Trophy Final will take place on October 7-9 in New Castle, Indiana, USA and the race winners of each Rotax Max category will earn the final tickets to compete in the Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal. Registration is open and more information can be found here: https://racerotax.com/rotax-us-trophy-final/