|Thursday, 27 November, 2008 |
Day 1 – Qualifying at the Grand Finals in La Conca, Italy
The opening qualifying sessions for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals was Juniors in the competitive field of 72 drivers. As the temperature dropped and the gusty winds picked up, the eventual pole position was decided following the two 15-minute timed practices. It was Belgium’s Dylan Lehaye who claimed first after topping the time sheet in his group (50.697). Axle Jefferies of South Africa was equal 2nd overall, as the fastest in group two, but he was also matched by Jo Riley of the United Kingdom.
Another Belgian driver who had already showed his form by being quickest in an earlier free practice session was Vincent Jewell, who had 4th fastest time. 5th belonged to Matthias Bäurle (GER), then came Facundu Chapur (ARG), Tadeus Simecek (CZ), Indonesia’s Rio Haryanto, Edward Jones (UAE) and the first kart not under the 50-second mark Shaya Kose of Japan rounding out the top 20.
Defending Junior Max champion Kevin Korjos just missed out on making it into the first 10, although he’s been fast in the lead-up. It was also disappointing for Denmark’s Mads Thomson who had been within the top 5 in his timed session, together with Euro Challenge rookie of the year Peter Hoevenaars, when both youngsters were relegated to the rear of field due to technical issues. They were considered likely front-runners for the finals come Sunday.
The difference 20 minutes made between the Senior Max qualifying sessions was enough to change the outcome of the heat racing start grids dramatically. It must also be considered that seniors are running on the later MOJO D2 tyres, while juniors in the two sessions before remain on the MOJO D1. Although the 2009 polesitter David Sera set the pace in the first Max group, it would only see him qualify 11th in the standings. Instead it was Martin Pierce racing for Ireland, back for his for his 4th Grand Finals event, who secured the number one position for Saturday’s racing.
Local driver Ricky De Donno and former European title holder Ben Cooper fought it out closely in group two, with the Italian securing 2nd to lineup on the front row for the qualifying heats. Sataro Mimura of Japan was 4th fastest ahead of Troy Woolston (AUS), Tönis Liigmann (EST), and 7th placed Josh Hart (NZ). Columbia joined the multi-national results list when Juan Sebastian Villamil Moreno went 8th quickest, followed by Hannes van Asseldonck (NL) and Jesper Rossler (SWE) rounding out the top 10. Current Euro and British title holder Chris Lock failed to hold onto the pace he showed in the practice sessions, slipping back to P23 in the 71-kart field.
The reigning World number one Pier-Luc Ouellette of Canada stamped his authority immediately to show why he’s the one to be beaten in the Rotax DD2 class. He was quickest in the first group out on track for the 15 minute session, however Dutchman Maik Barten came close topping the next group to be just 0.006 seconds slower. The 18-year old was 2nd fastest overall, followed by Denis Thum (GER) and 2008 European champ Leeroy Poulter (RSA), who is expected to throw out the challenge to Ouellette as well. Italy’s Mirco Rossi was 5th best in the qualifying, followed by national superkart champion Ryan Urban of New Zealand, another South African Ralph Odendaal was 7th, then Damien Vauillaume (FR), Stuart Marsell (USA) and a familiar competitor from the Grand Finals over the past years through the junior and senior ranks, Christophe Boisclair (CAN).
With the Rotax DD2 running on the latest MOJO D3 tyre which has been launched at the prestigious event in Italy, it will be interesting as the teams look for the ideal set-up with very little separating the fastest drivers on the circuit at this stage.