|Day 2 – Heat racing gets underway at the Rotax Grand Finals.|
WET CONDITIONS CHALLENGE THE COMPETITION IN JUNIORS
Slippery conditions after morning rain showers saw the launch of the new MOJO W2 wet weather tyre for the morning warm-up. The greasy track left some of the front row drivers in race one sidelined temporarily on the first corner and having to rejoin further down the order, but as the track dried out, the option by several drivers to go for slicks in Junior Max went their way in the second qualifying heat.
Argentina’s Facunda Chapur dominated both his races from row 2, taking advantage of front row drivers Dylan Lahaye and Axcil Jefferies spinning out in the opening heat of the 2008 Grand Finals Friday morning. In race two, a rollover on the first corner resulted in a red flag and Phil De La O was the unlucky driver having to watch the race then, but he got an encouraging applause as he walked back the pits after taking the tumble. With the restart, Josh Demaio of Australia literally ran away with the win by more than 8 seconds on slicks, as the track dried during the 8-lapper. Rio Haryanto flew the flag for Indonesia by taking 2nd place, as he did once again in his next heat in the afternoon.
Heat three in juniors went to Jo Riley (UK) who started off on grid 2, having made up for losing positions in the previous race when he finished 6th. With the pacesetters not necessarily the leaders in each race, the finals are certain to turn on a repeat of last year’s exceptional Grand Finals racing. Rounding out the top three in Junior Max were also Aavo Talvar (EST), Edward Jones (UAE), Paul Fourquemin (FR), Toni Alarcon (SP) and Vincent Jewell (BEL).
EXCITEMENT PLUS IN SENIOR MAX RACING
Senior Max provided some fantastic competition for the race fans filling the stands at La Conca. Former European champion Ben Cooper (UK), who comes into the event as one of the definite favourites, didn’t have the win so easy in his second qualifying heat today, having to fight to the line with one of the 2007 Grand Finals DD2 podium place-getters Morgan Riche (FR). The crowd went wild as the rain became torrential and the pair battled in the final laps of the race for the narrowest margins, as they took the chequered flag.
Cooper claims it was one of the best races he’s had, which he totally enjoyed. “I knew he [Riche] was close and would have a go for the lead on the last lap. I was thinking about where I should try to take it back and it was a great race between us.” The French driver however set the best lap of the race.
Riche had also won his opening race in the morning, so it appears he and Cooper will be likely contenders for another front row start if all goes well in Saturday’s heats. Swedish driver Jesper Rossler was the winner of the remaining heat, with fellow Swede Michael Andersson and Sebastian Villamil of Columbia leading the field home in the drenching conditions. The Grand Finals is always unpredictable, as drivers come together from so many countries with the same equipment on a circuit unknown to many of them. The 9th edition is proving to be no exception. Recently crowned Euro and British champion Chris Lock is not to be overlooked either, having qualified outside the top 20 but ending the first day of racing with a 3rd and 5th place. Finishing in the first three in each heat were also Joey van Splunteren (NL), Sotaro Mimura (JP) and David Sera (AUS).
DD2 HEATS UP IN THE QUALIFYING RACES
The Max Challenge DD2 winner Damien Vuillaume took victory in both his qualifying heats, with the closest racing giving spectators some nail-biting laps to keep everyone on the edge of their seat. Maik Barten (NL) and Leeroy Poulter (RSA) came closest to stealing his glory, but failed to do so in the last moments. The final event of the day was concluded under lights, which saw Vuillaume capture the support of the dedicated fans, taking the lead on the last corner for the win.
Defending champ for the Grand Finals title Pier-Luc Ouellette (CAN) almost looked like taking double honours, but New Zealand’s Ryan Urban stole his thunder in one of the DD2 races. Ouellette was in fact the fastest in the first heat but outshone in the rain by Henrijs Grube who was 2nd to the Canadian in the next race and 4-tenths quicker. The field is definitely competitive with different drivers filling the top places in every race, made even more obvious when the heavy storms moved across from the coast. Also making an appearance in the first three positions, were Mirco Rossi (IT), Denis Thum (GER), James Tumulty (IRE) and Dennis Ladefoged (DK).
Tomorrow more action at La Conca for the final heats. Stay tuned for more!