|November 28, 2012 News
|EKN Trackside: 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals - Wednesday Practice / Qualifying
|For complete coverage, visit the EKN Event Page
| Florida driver Juan Manuel Correa was the top American in the Junior Max qualifying sessions|
The Rotax Grand Finals finally put in its first official timed session today when qualifying capped off the third day of on-track action. Held at the Kartodromo Internacional Algarve in Portimao, Portugal, this global karting event has brought together drivers from over 40 countries and the result will be a certain battle come Saturday. Team USA has encountered a number of hurdles and now has drivers at several different positions throughout the class rankings after Wednesday qualifying. At the culmination of a final morning practice run, it was time for all the Rotax Grand Final racers to take part in their lone qualifying sessions, setting the grids for the subsequent heat races, which will take place on Thursday and Friday. The qualifying sessions were 15-minute affairs and would finally give the paddock a true look at who would be the players in Saturday’s battle.
Up first were the Junior drivers, once again broken into two groups, odd and even numbered karts. With clear skies, but a stiff wind blowing, the odd numbered karts were the initial karts on course. Many of the racers elected to remain in the pit lane in the opening stages of the 15-minute outing, seeking to get some space on-course and save their tires. Among the American contingent, Florida’s Oliver Askew was the early pacesetter, cracking the top-10. That, however, proved to be the high point of the session for Team USA, as despite the fact that both Askew and Juan Manuel Correa both steadily improving their times, neither was able to benefit from a vital draft, ultimately taking the checkered flag in 19th (Correa) and 21st (Askew). Out-front, Portugal’s Bruno Borlido ended with the quickest lap, despite a late challenge by Austria's Thomas Preining.
When the even numbered Junior karts rolled out for their qualifying run, like the earlier session, several drivers elected to stay in the pitlane for the first few minutes. Americans Ashley Rogero and Santino Ferrucci, however, were not among that group. Rogero immediately showed good pace, taking over seventh place early on. Meanwhile, Ferrucci took his time building speed, slotting into sixth by the halfway mark. Given that many of the racers had gone out late, it was not surprising that the final three minutes witnessed the top of the speed charts constantly changing. In the end, Great Britain's Harry Webb was quickest, just edging the Netherland's Stefano Galen. Ferrucci and Rogero were classified 16th and 24th in the group.
Combining the two groups together to form the final Junior qualifying order, Borlido captured the pole position, ahead of Webb, Preining, Van Galen and Great Britain's Josh White. Correa was 32nd overall, besting Askew in 34th, Ferrucci in 37th, and Rogero in 55th, giving them lots of work to do when the heat races get underway on Thursday morning.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Oliver Askew - #113
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Mechanic: Mike Maurini
Session #4: 1:03.231
Qualifying: 1:02.766 (21st-odd)
The 2012 Florida Winter Tour Junior Max champion qualified 34th overall. Track position was key in the Junior sessions, and Askew was unable to find a clean lap to lay down a quicker time. He sat on pit lane for the first six minutes, waiting for the track to warm with other drivers on course. The move worked as he was quicker with each lap, but unable to break into the top-30. Askew will be placed in Group B starting from the ninth row.
Driver: Juan Manuel Correa - #121
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Mechanic: Bryn Nuttall
Session #4: 1:03.217
Qualifying: 1:02.724 (19th-odd)
The quickest driver under the Team USA tent was Correa. He has continued to improve his pace since they hit the track on Monday, and little by little he’s moved up the time sheets. He laid down the 32nd quickest lap overall, and will be placed in Group D in the eighth row for each of the heats. Talking with Bryn, his mechanic, they continue to improve on all three aspects - engine, chassis, and driver performance. They are searching for more straight-line speed, something they will examine for tomorrow’s action.
Driver: Santino Ferrucci - #130
Hometown: Woodbury, Connecticut
Mechanic: Mike Ferrucci
Session #4: 1:03.634
Qualifying: 1:02.820 (16th-even)
The 2012 U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals champion gained the most time between the final practice session this morning (eight tenths), but only ended up 37th overall on the time sheets in qualifying. Santino and his father tried a set-up in the morning that did not work, and decided to go back to what was working for them on Tuesday. Now moving forward, they know which direction to go. Ferrucci was unable to find a good drafting partner in the session, as he used the fast guys he approach as a rabbit, but would run them down too quickly. He feels he has a solid kart for racing, and is looking forward to the heat races. He’ll have the advantage of starting on the inside line for all three heat races, put into the Group A and starting from row 10.
Driver: Ashley Rogero #158
Hometown: Naples, Florida
Mechanic: Jim Rogero, John Russell
Session #4: 1:03.674
Qualifying: 1:03.184 (24th-even)
Ashley Rogero was confident heading into her qualifying session. While her times in the final practice session were not that quick, she felt they had the right set-up going into the timed run. However, track position just ever worked in her favor. On a track where the draft is so important when trying to lay down a fast lap, the reigning Pan American Challenge champion was unable to find the right partner. Her fast lap was a solo run, leaving her 55th on the final classification. With 36 drivers making the field in Saturday’s main event, three clean heat races with some measurable progression is on order for Ashley.
| Phil DeLaO continues to progress up the ranks in Senior Max, qualifying 10th overall|
The Senior contingent was up next in qualifying, with the opening odd numbered kart racers facing an increasingly difficult head wind. American Phil DeLaO was one of the drivers who elected to go out almost immediately, hitting the asphalt in search of a quick lap. He promptly did just that, fighting for the top spot early and holding the position until the 10-minute mark. Unfortunately, as the drivers who had waited to go out began working together, he slowly began falling down the order. While Ohio’s Sam Beasley had hoped to benefit from this strategy, he wasn't quite able to match the pace of his fellow American nor that of the leaders. When the checkered flag waved, Australian Pierce Lehane was quickest, in front of Great Britain's James Singleton. DeLaO held for top-10 finish in the group, posting the ninth best time, while Beasley was 19th.
With the head wind getting worse, none of the drivers in the second group of elected to go out in the opening five minutes of the qualifying run. When karts began taking to the course and got in a flyer, it was quickly clear it would require a special lap to better the fast times from the first group. One of the last drivers to go out, the Team USA charge was led right from the get go by California star Louie Pagano, who took over fourth on his first fast lap. While he was able to improve his best time shortly thereafter, he was unable to advance in the order. Florida’s Danny Formal though steadily got quicker as the session progressed, culminating in his best lap just before the checkered flag. Andrew Palmer, however, endured an uncharacteristic session that witnessed the front-runner in practice languishing deep down the order. Canadian Jesse Lazare proved quickest in the significantly slower session, edging Ireland's Charlie Eastwood. Pagano was classified seventh, while Formal made it two Americans in the top-10. Palmer was back in 28th.
Combining the two Senior groups together, Lehane secured the pole position, ahead of Singleton, France's Alexandre Finkelstein, Great Britain's Harrison Scott, and the Netherland's Jordi Van Moorsel, all of which were in the first group. The top Team USA racer was DeLaO in 10th, in front of Pagano in 21st, Beasley in 27th, Formal in 31st, and Palmer in 60th.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Phil DeLaO - #227
Hometown: Peoria, Arizona
Mechanic: Tim Lobaugh
Session #4: 1:01.829
Qualifying: 1:01.339 (9th-odd)
DeLaO ended the day as the top American in the Senior Max category, posting the 10th quickest time in qualifying. The Challenge of the Americas champion was 15th in his group for the final practice session, and continued to improve on the chassis and engine through each session. Phil and his tuner Tim Lobaugh found more speed in their kart before qualifying to move up to ninth in his group. Only one driver in the second group was able to better his time, which kept him in the top-10. He’s looking forward to seeing what the racing will offer up tomorrow, as he starts from row three in Group B. Only minor changes to both the engine and chassis are on tap for tomorrow.
Driver: Sam Beasley - #217
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Mechanic: Ben Beasley
Session #4: 1:01.906
Qualifying: 1:01.545 (19th-odd)
Beasley continues to improve his race package, and is now focusing on getting the most out of his Rotax powerplant. The Ohio pilot gained four tenths in qualifying on his final practice time to stand 27th overall. While he is in the hunt, and he’s comfortable with the chassis, he’s still not satisfied with the engine that he drew. Following qualifying, he took his kart to the Rotax tech officials for inspection, and the kart had not returned to the paddock before the pits were closed. More information on his situation will come tomorrow, but nonetheless, he starts on row seven within Group C.
Driver: Danny Formal - #230
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Mechanic: Donald Formal
Session #4: 1:01.889
Qualifying: 1:01.597 (10th-even)
While he ended the day in 31st overall, Formal is not happy with the final result. The qualifying session was not his best of the event, as he was not able to get a solid draft on the long straight. His data showed great speed in the infield section of the track, but they still took the engine to have Rotax to review it. The result was broken reeds, possibly from the final practice before qualifying. The reigning U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals champion will be going to a lower gear ratio as they head into the heat races tomorrow, starting row eight in Group C.
Driver: Louie Pagano - #254
Hometown: Camarillo, California
Mechanic: Chris Lobaugh
Session #4: 1:01.939
Qualifying: 1:01.504 (7th-even)
Just like most of the Senior Max roster, Pagano also improved his pace to end up 21st in qualifying. They replaced the packing in the exhaust after yesterday’s practice, and began improving on their lap time in the final session this morning. Knowledge pulled from the data indicated that he was over-driving the kart, so Louie backed down the driving a little and performed his best on the week thus far. Tomorrow, the changes will focused on lowering the front end and leaning out the carburetor settings to get the engine to run a little better.
Driver: Andrew Palmer - #272
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Mechanic: Justin Stefani
Session #4: 1:01.690
Qualifying: 1:02.078 (28th-even)
Qualifying was a rough session for Palmer, as when combining the fact that he had no drafting help and a few errors behind the wheel, the end result was 60th overall. They are returning back to the drawing board, with some big changes in store as they head into the heat races. Grip level is the major concern, mostly in the rear of the kart.
| In his first Rotax Grand Finals appearance, Alan Rudolph qualified 13th in the DD2 Masters category|
The highly anticipated fight for the DD2 Masters title commenced with the odd numbered karts qualifying session. Unlike the two previous groups, a large portion of the field immediately set about going after some fast laps. That being said, Team USA once again held station in the pitlane. When they did start after some fast times had been laid down, Rene Martinelli and John Crow were among the top-10 after just one lap. Johnny Blair soon began making his presence felt as well, joining the fight for positions among the top-10. As expected, the final order was not resolved until the final few tours. Leading a French one-two at the top of the timesheets, Florent Lambert was quickest ahead of his teammate Guy Pansart. Blair ended his strong run in P8, just in front of Martinelli in 12th and John Crow in 16th. Bill Lester completed the contingent in 24th.
Realizing the conditions were steadily deteriorating , virtually all the DD2 Masters racers in the even numbered group went right upon the green flag waving. Texas veteran Mike Jones wasted little time posting a good lap, sliding into the top-10 early on. It was, however, Alan Rudolph who made the biggest impression among the Team USA contingent, taking over second place with his first true quick lap. Unfortunately as the session progressed, both Rudolph and Jones were unable to get the benefit of a draft, resulting in them falling down the order. In the end, Rudolph held on to 10th place, while Jones was 24th. Argentine Henry Martin led the session, besting Australia's Hamish Leighton.
When the DD2 Masters groups were combined, Martin earned the pole position, in front of ahead of Lambert, Pansart, South Africa's Cristiano Morgado, and Leighton. Rudolph led the Team USA contingent in 13th, ahead of Blair in 26th, Martinelli in 35th, Crow in 39th, Jones in 40th, and Lester in 49th.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Johnny Blair - #413
Hometown: Puyallup, Washington
Mechanic: Eric Armstrong
Session #4: 1:01.488
Qualifying: 1:00.637 (8th-odd)
In just his second time in a DD2 machine, Blair continues to improve in each and every session that he hits the track. After a solid final practice, the 2012 U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals Masters champion gained another eight tenths in qualifying to sit a solid 26th overall, and the second best Team USA member. As the session continued, he proceeded to get faster and posted his best lap on the final circuit. Heading into tomorrow, more grip is on the order to help him move up the order.
Driver: John Crow - #419
Hometown: Long Beach, California
Mechanic: Brian Robson
Session #4: 1:01.038
Qualifying: 1:01.050 (16th-even)
Beginning the event as one of the quick drivers for Team USA, Crow is slowly moving backwards. He’s leveled off around the 1:01 mark for lap times, no matter the change to the kart or the engine. He ended up qualifying 39th overall, starting row 10 within Group C. The Challenge of the Americas champion is looking to go back to the basics on the chassis and engine settings to see if that will improve his pace going into the heat races.
Driver: Mike Jones - #428
Hometown: Sachse, Texas
Mechanic: Yonny Alberto Pena Hernandez
Session #4: 1:01.806
Qualifying: 1:01.081 (24th-even)
Jones continued to have issues throughout Wednesday’s action, as he was not able to improve up the time sheets. The engine continues to cut out down the long straight, while his data shows him to be among the quickest on the infield portion of the track. A full second off the fast lap, the Pan American Challenge champion is classified 40th overall, but still has a shot at making the main event on Saturday with some solid heat race results.
Driver: Bill Lester - #435
Hometown: Windermere, Florida
Mechanic: Cale Wyse
Session #4: 1:01.488
Qualifying: 1:01.573 (24th-even)
Lester continues to learn at his first Rotax Grand Finals, as he ended up 49th in qualifying. After strapping on new MOJO tires, he was a tick slower than his practice time, as he continues to still suffer from a loose rear end of the kart. The engine package is good, and they are concentrating on getting more grip in the kart as they head into the heat races.
Driver: Rene Martinelli - #437
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Mechanic: Brian Fletcher
Session #4: 1:00.698
Qualifying: 1:01.000 (12th-even)
The qualifying run for Florida’s Rene Martinelli was a bit of a disappointment for the talented pilot. Ending the final practice session as one of the fastest under the Team USA tent, they went the wrong direction for the qualifying session and simply got slower. The engine was cutting out a little down the front straight and the RPMs were much lower than previous sessions. The engine temp also seemed to be much lower than normal, and they will examine these symptoms when they hit warm-up tomorrow morning.
Driver: Alan Rudolph - #448
Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona
Mechanic: AJ Whisler
Session #4: 1:00.665
Qualifying: 1:00.365 (10th-even)
The top Team USA driver in the DD2 Masters class is Florida Winter Tour and U.S. Grand Nationals champion Alan Rudolph. The Arizona pilot ended up 13th overall in the qualifying session as he and A.J. Whisler continue to work well together. Track position was key to Rudolph’s session as he battled to find a good spot within his group. They are looking to gain a little more speed on the bottom end, but feel the have a strong package to compete in the heat races.
| Among the contenders since Monday, Cody Hodgson was sixth in the final classification for DD2 qualifying|
Qualifying concluded in Portugal with the DD2 drivers going on-course with the odd numbered karts out first. As expected, a good portion of the field elected to sit and wait when the green flag waved. While select karts went out in the opening five minutes, it wasn’t until just before the halfway mark of the 15-minute session that any of Team USA drivers rolled on-course. Setting the stage for what would be a strong run, Cody Hodgson was immediately among the leaders, going P3 on his second lap, and P2 on his third lap. Joey Wismett followed suit, joining the top-10 on his third tour. While fellow American Kristina Vorndran struggled to find the pace she'd displayed in practice, Hodgson and Wismett steadily got quicker, remaining part of the top-five until the checkered flag waved. When starter signalled the end of the session, Belgian's Xen De Ruwe had gone quickest over Canadian Ben Cooper, while Hodgson was third, and Wismett was fifth. Vorndran was classified 28th.
The last session of the day started with a mix of DD2 drivers immediately going on-course in search of a quick lap and those sitting in pitlane content to wait it out. For Team USA's Fritz Leesmann, the session proved to be a frustrating affair. Unable to make the most of a draft, he was well down the order from start to finish, never showing his true speed. In the end, Leesmann posted an unrepresentative 22nd best time. With rain beginning to fall as the final checkered flag of the day waved, Austrian Simon Wagner was fastest, ahead of Great Britain's Shaun Slavin. In combining the DD2 groups, De Ruwe scored the pole position, besting Wagner, Slavin, and Cooper, and Latifi. Cody Hodgson ended up sixth overall, ahead of Wismett in 11th, Leesmann in 43rd, and Vorndran in 56th.
EKN Team USA Driver Paddock Pass
Driver: Cody Hodgson - #329
Hometown: Escalon, California
Mechanic: Alex Speed
Session #4: 59.693
Qualifying: 59.375 (3rd-odd)
Securing the best qualifying result for the entire Team USA squad is a big motivator for Cody Hodgson, a Grand Finals veterans. The Californian, making his third start at the Rotax Grand Finals, laid down the sixth best lap in the very competitive DD2 qualifying session. He saw near similar lap times in the draft as he did when running solo, and expects to have a solid race kart for the heat races. He and mechanic Alex Speed are still searching for a little more balance in the kart, and will also look to dial in slight adjustments to the engine before moving into the heat races.
Driver: Fritz Leesmann - #338
Hometown: Elk Grove, California
Mechanic: Neil Hodgson
Session #4: 1:00.080
Qualifying: 1:00.178 (22nd-even)
Each day has brought on a new challenge for Leesmann as he competes in his first Rotax Grand Finals. After a seized piston on Tuesday, today was not any better after qualifying. He posted just the 43rd quickest lap of the session, and was not seen for much of the night as he sent his kart to the Rotax trailer for observation. We’ll have more updates on Fritz in the Official Forum Thread tomorrow morning and in report for Thursday’s action.
Driver: Kristina Vorndran - #359
Hometown: Dudley, Massachusetts
Mechanic: Wes Phillips
Session #4: 1:00.710
Qualifying: 1:00.429 (28th-odd)
After dealing with troubles over the first two days, Vorndran continues to make strides as they now have a baseline from which to work off. While Kristina ended up 56th in the qualifying session, it was without a draft, which is encouraging for Thursday’s heat races. Her lap times are consistent, within the hundredth of a second for a number of laps. Kristina will pour over the data through the evening to find some more speed heading into the heats tomorrow, and will focus on staying out of trouble to work her way up the heat race point standings.
Driver: Joey Wimsett - #361
Hometown: Beavercreek, Oregon
Mechanic: Mike Rolison
Session #4: 1:00.099
Qualifying: 59.558 (5th-odd)
The final practice session went in the wrong direction for Wimsett this morning ,as he did not improve on his pace from Tuesday. Wimsett and mechanic Mike Rolison went back to what they were doing on Tuesday, setup-wise, and this propelled him from 20th in his group to fifth, placing him 11th overall in a tight DD2 field. His qualifying laps were done solo, with no draft help. Had Joey received any type of a draft up the front straight, he may have been able to gain two or three tenths, which would have moved him into top-five overall. Wimsett feels that the kart is going to be great for the heat races and he is looking forward to staying out of trouble in hopes of a top-five starting position on Saturday.