Al Ain - The Junior Max Pre-final saw some bad luck for Mats Van den Brand who started on the first row, when he dropped back to 8th as a result of being on the outside. He failed to recover and maintained his position. Takamoto Katsuta off pole claimed the early lead but was overcome by Kevin Korjus and Daniel Rochford on lap three, seeing the pair then swap places to head the field until Korjus was able to hold on for the win by the end of the 11-lapper. 3rd went to Jack Swinkels ahead of William Bamber and pace-setter Caleb Williams of South Africa.
After completing an additional formation lap, Korjus took the early race lead in the Final until Williams passed him a few laps later, but Korjus got it back closer to half-race distance. Swinkels found himself shuffled back from 2nd, as Rochford got a little too close and received the unsporting behavior flag. The Australian ran wide going down the order to 9th, as Van den Brand setting the quickest lap of the race worked his way up to P2. He spun however in the latter stages after overtaking Kazuki Hiramine and was then well out of contention.
With five laps remaining, Rochford worked his way back through to take the lead from Korjus who had been battling the 13-year-old Japanese Junior champ Ryuya Fujie over the previous laps. Rochford again suffered the fate of being squeezed out at turn one, losing some positions while Korjus made the most of it to resume the lead until the chequered flag. Williams look certain for 2nd but was surprised by Fujie in the last moments of the race, having to settle for 3rd ahead of Swinkels and Hiramine. Rochford was penalized 10 seconds, dropping him to 25th after having started the pre-final on row one. In an amazing effort, all four junior Japanese drivers finished in the first 11 across the line while William Bamber only completed 11 laps after being so competitive this week.
Many people were saying after the final that it was one of the best junior races they have ever seen. Kevin Korjus admitted he still had to get used to the fact that he has taken the Junior Max title to become the 2007 champion but naturally was extremely happy with his results, saying “I wasn’t the fastest on the track but I tried to stay at the front and I was lucky to keep out of any incidents that happened behind me. It was really the best feeling to know that I had won.”
Michael Simpson led the senior Pre-final from start to finish off pole position to take a comfortable win of almost three seconds. European champion Ben Cooper saw his title chances disappear when he fell back from the front row immediately, retiring into the pits due to a deflated tyre. South Africa’s David Perel couldn’t stop Imre Birizdo of Hungary from claiming 2nd followed also by the defending 2006 winner Ricardo Romkema who took 3rd, with nothing separating the group chasing the leader. 5th went to Benjy Russell, who was making up ground following a 10 second penalty when he had an anxious moment with Mike Simpson during the last of the qualifying heats Friday.
The Final turned on some excellent racing for the jam-packed viewing area along the start-finish straight, as Simpson’s lead was short-lived when Romkema slotted up the inside on turn one in the second lap. The Brit was relegated back to 5th when he went offline through the corner, as the drivers went four and five karts wide in the early minutes of the 21 laps. Portugese pilot Tiago Ribeiro was the fastest driver on the circuit in both finals, however he was pushed off to have to rejoin ROF.
With four laps to go Russell came within striking distance of Romkema and took victory in the last lap with the finish line in sight after the Dutch driver tried desperately to cover his line coming into the last corner. Simpson narrowly missed out on stealing 2nd as well as the pair lunged for the line. Birizdo was also there but couldn’t make any gain on 4th ahead of Kevin Reichard of Austria.
Colin Davis was awarded the Max Masters trophy, having been the only over 32-years driver that qualified for Saturday’s Max final at this event. The second chance race was the limit this weekend for Jerome Bourquard and Luc Sauriol, but they still finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the class.
Canada’s Pier-Luc Ouellette basically dominated the Rotax DD2 class taking victory in Saturday’s Pre-final by an easy 4.8 seconds ahead of the French champion Morgan Riche, who assumed 2nd place after several laps from DD2 rookie Tom Williamson of Australia. It was a brilliant battle between Germany’s Denis Thum and defending ’06 champ Aussie Ben George (racing for Austria) for 4th and 5th, with George settling for 5th for an inside starting grid for the title decider that afternoon.
Although Polish driver Seweryn Szczepanik was clearly the quickest in the Final (56.063), he wasn’t able to advance on his 7th position by the end of the 21 laps. Pier-Luc Ouellette made it virtually impossible to be beaten taking the lead from the start and continually pushing to extend the gap over the chasers. Tom Williamson was eventually caught by, Morgan Riche as they swapped places dicing for 2nd and 3rd, joined also by Kubo Makoto of Japan taking on the challenge for a podium place. A disappointed Denis Thum fell back to rear of field after an early incident, while American Joey Collins and Ben George came into play. With every lap the slightest opportunity was taken for the passing move within the top 6, turning on some incredibly close racing for the encouraging spectators cheering them on.
Crossing the line, it was an ecstatic Ouellette who proved too good this year, after almost sealing the win at the last Grand Finals in Portugal and no doubt the deserved 2007 Champion based on his impressive performance in Al Ain. The Vice Champion’s trophy went to Riche, who fell back to 5th at one stage, only to regain his momentum to fight back for the place. Makoto held out Williamson and George for 3rd, as the pair had been having their own private battle in the latter stages of the race. Just missing out on the top 5, Collins did the US proud claiming 6th which was lost by Denmark’s current Max and DD2 champion Dennis Ladefoged some laps earlier when he was sent spinning off the track by Szczepanik, who received the driving standards flag as a result of the altercation. Recently crowned Euro winner Pieter Scheefals of the Netherlands drove hard to finish 8th, gaining 8 places during the race.
Having just won the Super Nationals XI in Las Vegas two weeks before, Pier-Luc Ouellette had already qualified for the 2008 Rotax Grand Finals in the Senior Max category but will now return to defend his title at the next event as the DD2 champion. The young Canadian couldn’t be happier! As happy was Belgian Christophe Adams. He won the DD2 Masters class.
To celebrate and commiserate the results, the organizers hosted a fantastic outdoor dinner party that evening at the Intercontinental Resort complete with a live band and ice carving of a giant trophy for all the competitors, teams and supporters. BRP-Rotax thanked all who attended for creating some of the World’s best karting competition to be found, also presenting every driver with a commemorative medal for their attendance. The venue for the 9th annual Grand Finals is yet to be announced.