For two decades, Blake Choquer has had a connection to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
It all started back in 2003 when his karting emphasis was put into competing in the ASN Canadian Karting Championships where the winners would win an invitation to the relatively new global event. It took him four years of trying before he finally finished on the podium in 2006 and was awarded that coveted ticket to compete, that year in Portugal, and it was only a few months later that he fell in love with an event he has rarely missed since.
Travelling to Bahrain this week, this will be the fourteenth time Blake has attended the Rotax Grand Finals. Twice as a driver followed by many years as a coach, mentor, supporter and/or mechanic. He has a Grand Finals victory to his credit from 2016 when Diego Laroque stunned the world in Micro Max with Blake turning the wrenches that week. He has supported his brother Bryce, who also competed in a number of RGFs in the years after Blake first competed. And now, to support the drivers who win tickets through his race series, the Canada Final.
To say it’s a passion is rightly so.
“I guess it’s been a few. This year, it will be 14. When I look back and think about all the Grand Finals, I get to share so many adventures, great moments, and tough ones with family, friends, and customers. Truly a wonderful memory.”
“My journey started in 2003-05, trying to win a ticket at Canadian Nationals. Finally, in 2006, I finished third in Senior, and what an honour to be there. I returned again in 2007 as well. I learned so much, and it truly opened my eyes to a higher level of competition. After that, my brother, Bryce, went on and qualified for many years.”
So what is it about the Grand Finals that is so attractive to Choquer?
“The Grand Finals is magical. It is the Olympics of karting. To be able to bring so many countries together, unite them and compete all on identical equipment with various chassis suppliers is truly a sight all in itself.”
“You have to tip your hat to the organization of this event. Everything is planned and thought out. The staff is so welcoming and kind. It makes you feel like you’re part of something special.”
“For the people that have been to the event, know what it feels like and the atmosphere. I hope more and more Canadians get to experience what I have been thankfully a part of since 2006.”
“Best race of the year. Always.”
His passion for helping his drivers qualify and compete at the Grand Finals was one of the many reasons why Blake has formed what is now known as the Max Karting Group Canada Final.
The series in Western Canada has just completed its second year of competition under the guidance of Choquer and another lifelong Rotax supporter Scott Campbell. The pair have been working together for more than five years now to keep Rotax alive in Western Canada, but also to keep the Grand Finals ticket opportunity available in a region that is so grand, that it’s sometimes hard to keep numbers up.
That changed this year with arguably the best competition in Western Canada in more than a decade. The Canada Final featured a stout grid in Senior Max and Junior Max this year, exceeding 30 drivers in Senior at both events, attracting drivers from the USA and new drivers from the western provinces, including Vancouver Island. There was also great participation in Micro and Mini Max too, which has a focus point for both the BBR Racing and SCR Karting racing teams.
Choquer credits the growth to continued reinvestment in the program, with a new camera system purchased to aid in officiating and official Rotax technical staff being two major additions in 2023.
“2023 was a great year of competition at this year’s Rotax Canada Final. It was epic. The teams, the drivers, the families and the level of competition all created a great atmosphere. I definitely think it’s an accumulation of things. First, it’s the racing community. We would not exist if it wasn’t for their support. This is a series built for them. For myself, I am just the messenger. I try to listen to the racers and help connect all the dots in organizing it.”
“The Rotax engine is the best it’s ever been. Racers and families realize this and can see it on track and in their wallets.”
“It is so great to see the USA coming back to Rotax and with some drivers heading North to the Canada Finals really raised the bar and also get some exposure to the Canada Final. Really cool to have them join us.”
“In terms of the series, I really tried to make the events even 1/100 of a Grand Final. We reinvested in the series almost every dollar. This year we had a great staff and support team, including official Rotax technical staff. Every person on the Canada Final crew really did an awesome job. I really want people to feel welcome and enjoy their weekend so that positive vibe is really important to us.”
“The camera system for our race director was probably the best investment for the series, allowing us to take officiating to a higher level.”
“Providing racers with the chance to vie for a ticket to the Grand Finals and be a part of an experience that holds immense significance in my heart is the driving force behind my commitment to this endeavour.”
Plans for 2024 are well in the works for the Canada Final where it appears the series will stick to two race dates. One thing that stood out to us at the season finale this season, there was a small questionnaire for the drivers to fill out, and it was presented to everyone as they entered the grid before their Final to ensure they received feedback from all of the competitors to get the best feeling of the paddock.
“In terms of dates and locations, I wish I could give you the inside scoop, but at the moment, we are working with two clubs in trying to lock down the details. Tracks in the West are all run/owned by nonprofit clubs, so it’s a bit different versus making deals with business to business. Hopefully soon. I want to make the best series possible in the West, and it’s stressful sometimes when you have to make sure all the puzzle pieces fall into place.”
From the 2013 Max Karting Group Canada Final, six drivers qualified for the Rotax Grand Finals, four from Canada and two from the USA.
This year at the Grand Finals Choquer is coaching and working with Ian Qiu, a driver he has worked closely with for four seasons now, as he competes in the Rotax E20 electric division.
It will be the third year a BBR Racing driver will compete in the E20 category following the late Teddy Sin in 2021 and Coco Chi in 2022.
Always looking towards the future, Choquer knows that electric karting is only going to grow as the world continues to adapt to electric power.
“This is our third event working with the E20. Personally, I really enjoy it. As a coach/tuner, I spend a considerable amount of more time on driver development versus working on the chassis. The drivetrains of the E20 are bulletproof. You’re not adjusting your chain, cleaning the carb, checking your power valve and plug. The racing is great. They’re super fast.”
“I must be getting old because in my 20’s I loved the sound of engines. Now I hate it. In E20, you can watch a race and literally have a normal conversation with someone beside you.”
“E20 is the future. In 1999, I remember seeing the Rotax engine for the first time at a club meeting and everyone was like, what is this? Laughed it off. Guess who’s laughing now. I have shelves of engines that are good-looking paperweights. But the engine we keep pulling off the shelves is the Rotax. One day it will be the E20.”
The Rotax Grand Finals will take place from December 3-9 at the Bahrain International Circuit. Follow along with the action on CKN all week long.