The week many racers have been waiting for is finally here. The 2022 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals kicks off Sunday in Portimao, Portugal to determine the global Rotax Champions in eight categories.
21 Canadian drivers will participate in the event held at the Autodromo International Algarve, a track that has hosted the event three times since 2012 and was set to host in 2020, only for it to be cancelled due to the pandemic. It’s a fast and long circuit, with many drivers taking to the track in the few days leading up to the event via the rental karts to get to grips with the layout.
Officially the event has started today with registration and sporting checks taking place for those who have arrived early. Saturday will be much of the same leading up to Sunday’s official launch and world-famous chassis raffle. This year 394 karts will be raffled to the drivers, the most ever in Rotax Grand Finals history as the Rotax E-Max Junior division joins the roster. Team Canada will have representation in every category this year and is bidding for another Nations Cup title.
CKN will be trackside this week, keeping you in the loop on how our drivers are doing. It’s a very busy week with six days of on-track action due.
Canadians had a number of chances to qualify for the event this year. Starting at the Canadian Open in Mont-Tremblant, followed by the Max Karting Group Canada Final in Saskatoon and Warburg, the Canadian Karting Championship at Mosport and finally, through the US Trophy Final in New Castle, Indiana. Much success has led to a large contingent of racers earning their way to this great event.
So who is racing on Team Canada this week in Portugal? Let us tell you below.
- Brando Londono, #20
- James Bedard, #25
Our pair of hopefuls in the youngest Rotax category have been ready to go for a few weeks now. Both Brando Londono and James Bedard came early to Portugal and have spent some time at the track, testing the rentals and learning the track and being tourists in the Algarve region. Londono has actually been in Europe for a few weeks now, competing in a Rotax race in Portimao as a tune-up.
Londono scored his ticket at the Canadian Karting Championships as the highest-ranking eligible Micro Max racer while Bedard drove to the Canada Final ticket, sealed with a victory at Warburg.
With a grid of 36 drivers, our pair doesn’t have to worry about making the cut for the Final but will have their hands full competing against the world’s best.
- Alexis Baillargeon, #140
- Lucas Deslongchamps, #142
- Antoine Lemieux, #144
- Edward Kennedy, #148
If there was one group of racers we’re really excited and hopeful for this week it’s our Mini Max contingent.
All four of these drivers have been superb this season and arrive in Portugal with their eyes on the RMCGF podium.
Alexis Baillargeon win the Canadian Open for the second year in a row, Antoine Lemieux scored his first major win at the Canada Final, Edward Kennedy found success at the Canadian Championships and Lucas Deslongchamps scored a last-moment ticket in the USA after coming up just short at Mosport.
This group has tons of potential and we’re excited to see how they stack up against the Rotax world. Kennedy has been competing in Europe for the past two months and brings his new experience to the big show while Baillargeon and Lemieux arrive from ROK Vegas two weeks ago. Capped off by Deslongchamps returning to the Grand Finals for his final Mini race, there’s no shortage of experience for these young drivers.
- Ziming Wang, #201
- Ryan Maxwell, #244
- Jensen Burnett, #248
We have two Grand Finals rookies and an international start suiting up in Junior Max this week as last year’s Mini Max fast qualifier Jensen Burnett is joined by Ryan Maxwell and Ziming Wang.
Maxwell was flawless at the Canadian Open to secure his spot and will be making the biggest start of his career this week at the Grand Finals. A driver who has really come into his element this season, he will be exciting to watch.
Wang drove home the Canada Final ticket out west, competing against a small field of drivers that were so close up front that the ticket came down to the final race. He also had the opportunity to race in Portimao a month ago at the Portuguese Championships in the E-Max Junior division, where he finished on the podium, and returns to the track with some great experience.
Finally, Burnett has spent the past two months competing in Europe with the Energy Corse factory team and returns for his second Grand Finals start courtesy of a victory at the Canadian Championships. He was very impressive at the Rok Cup SuperFinal in Italy a month ago and with the equal equipment opportunity that Rotax provides should be able to showcase his driving talents this week.
The Juniors will race SodiKart this week, which will be new to all three of our drivers.
- Adam Ali, #334
- Gianluca Savaglio, #338
- Kevin Foster, #340
Three drivers in Senior Max is one of the smallest groups we’ve had at the Grand Finals in many years but there is still plenty of excitement with this group.
Adam Ali competed last year in Bahrain and returns for another go courtesy of the Canadian Karting Championships. He’s had another successful year of races in North America and looks to cap off his season in style. Taking the opportunity to test the Portimao circuit just over a month ago, he’s gotten up to speed and should hit the ground running on Monday.
Shifter gears to single speed, Gianluca Savaglio is back on Team Canada but now as a Senior. He competed in DD2 in Bahrain and is excited about this new challenge. He got his ticket through consistent runs at the Canadian Open and Canadian Championships.
Finally, Kevin Foster was impressive at the Canada Final to lock down his first ticket to the Grand Finals. A recent winner of the FEED Racing F4 Shootout in France, Foster has been busy starting his transition to open-wheel car racing, but he’s back in a kart this week ready to take on the world in his first Grand Finals start.
Like the Juniors, the Seniors will race aboard the Sodikart this week.
- Jason Leung, #434
- Daniel Ali, #436
- Matthew Taskinen, #438
- Lucas Pernod, #440
- Olivier Bedard, #444
Courtesy of two last-chance tickets in the USA, Team Canada has five drivers competing in DD2 at this Grand Finals.
Lucas Pernod was the first to join the team with his convincing victory at the Canadian Open. To help work on speed and racecraft, Pernod competed in the Rotax Euro Trophy this summer and that experience should really help him as he makes his second Grand Finals start this week.
Next on the team was Matthew Taskinen who dominated the two-round Canada Final series. Taskinen is no stranger to the Rotax Grand Finals, competing as a Junior in 2016 in Italy and was set for the 2020 Grand Finals that was cancelled.
At the Canadian Championships, Olivier Bedard completed his goal of returning to Team Canada and will bear the Maple for the first time since 2013. A two-time Grand Finals competitor, Bedard jumped back in a kart this season with hopes of qualifying for the Grand Finals and he did just that. His third RGF appearance will also be his third different category as he raced as a Junior in 2011 (Al Ain) and a Senior in 2013 (New Orleans).
Taking their chances to win some of the last invitations to the Grand Finals, Jason Leung and Daniel Ali competed in the US Rotax Trophy Final in Indiana. Both we able to secure podium results in Rotax Senior that awarded Rotax DD2 slots. Both are regular single-speed drivers competing in DD2 for the first time, but both are more than capable of getting up to speed quickly and showcasing their versatile talents.
The DD2 class will race on BirelART machinery this week.
Rotax DD2 Masters
- Jared Freeston, #522
- Alexandre Gauthier, #525
Our two Masters drivers both represented Team Canada in 2019 in Italy and are back on the roster this year. They will have their work cut out for them if they want to repeat the success of Pier-Luc Ouellette from last year, who qualified on the pole position and finished the final on the podium.
Jared Freeston had his eyes opened up in 2019 and since then has pushed very hard to return to the Grand Finals. He qualified for the cancelled 2020 version and again for last year’s event, but was unable to travel to Bahrain, forcing him to wait another year. An impressive run at the Canada Final scored him his ticket and he arrived in Portugal so ready to go that he was the first driver in line to check in and get his credentials at the circuit!
Alexandre Gauthier returns to the team courtesy of the Canadian Open and Canadian Championships. When Ouellette opted not to compete, Gauthier was next in line to take the ticket. He will be interesting to watch this week with the support of Christophe Boisclair as his mechanic. The pair could surprise many this week and we’re here for it.
The DD2 Masters will race on Praga Karts this week.
Rotax Project E20
- Aixin Chi (Junior)
- Griffin Dowler (Senior)
We have two Canadian drivers competing in Rotax’s electric categories this week.
After scoring an invitation to compete in the Portuguese Championships at the EDKRA Summer Challenge, Griffin Dowler travelled to Portimao a month ago with no real expectations, but he left as the race winner and one of the final invitees to the Grand Finals. A regular in DD2, he was quick to adapt to the EKART and was blown away by the immediate pace and power it has. As a proven race winner, he will be one to watch this week.
The Junior EKART division will make its debut at the Grand Finals this year and Aixin Chi is entered on behalf of BBR Karting and Rotax Canada Final. Chi competed in Rotax Junior this season, coming up just short of the title out west. With the new class comes a new champion and anything is possible this week.