|It’s Sunday, the 21st of November at the La Conca International Circuit. This is the final day of racing for the 2010 Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals. We have another beautiful day for racing here in Southeastern Italy. The weather is cool but clear, just the perfect conditions for fast times around the track.|
Today is a happy, if stressful, day for the competitors that will race in the finals. All their hard work has paid off and they are now set to race the biggest race of the year. For those that didn’t make it, today is a day to reflect on their experience and cheer on their teammates. To be quite honest, it’s never fun to walk through the pits on Saturday evening and see all the drivers and mechanics with their karts torn down, ready to be turned back in because they are no longer taking part in the event. However, it goes to prove what a deep level of competition attends the Grand Finals when you see national champions from all over the world whose week has come to an end.
For those still in it, the morning started early with three separate drivers meetings which kicked off promptly at 8:00 AM. The short briefings preceded the 10-minute warm up sessions for all classes. After the warm ups, it was time to get the official finals races underway. The four classes were to be led to the green flag by the drivers who scored the most points in their heat races. For Junior MAX, the top scoring driver was Jack Aitken from the United Kingdom. In Senior MAX the highest point scorer was Edward Brand, also from the U.K. Belgium leads the way in Senior MAX with Maik Barten and Dennis Kroes of Holland is in the top spot in DD2 Masters.
In the Junior MAX Pre-Final, the field took a few attempts to get going after a few drivers had some issues, but eventually they took the green. There were only a couple minor incidents at Jack Aitken (UK) lead from Julian Wagner. The two youngsters traded the top spot a few times while Estonia’s Martin Rump, the fastest Junior MAX driver in qualifying, came charging up towards the lead. With two laps to go Rump was in third and made a move for second on Wagner. The ensuing contact sent Wagner through the grass in a long 360 spin that the Austrian was able to control and get straight back on track, albeit after losing several positions. At the flag it was Aitken over Rump followed by Ashley Hand (UK).
Top five places in the Junior MAX Pre-Final:
1 Jack Aitken (United Kingdom)
2 Martin Rump (Estonia)
3 Ashley Hand (United Kingdom)
4 Dave Blom (Holland)
5 Jack Barlow (United Kingdom)
Just as they had done in their heat races, the DD2 MAX masters put on a fantastic show, proving that you don’t have to beat and bang on each other real hard to have good racing. The Master’s Pre-Final had Dennis Kroes (HOL) and Hamish Cross (NZL) on the front row. However, it all came to tears for the New Zealander as his kart suffered problems before the race could even get under way. Once the race did start the battle for the top spot was hotly contested betweem Dennis Kroes (HOL), Scott Campbell (CAN) and Jim Busby (USA) with Martin Victorsson (SWE) threatening to join the front runners. The front running battle changed positions many times with most drivers getting a strong run down the main straight or passing into the turn three hairpin. Although Campbell held the lead as the one lap to go board was given, it was Dennis Kroes pulling off a pass for the lead on the last lap to take the win.
DD2 Masters Pre-Final top 5 were:
1 Dennis Kroes (Holland)
2 Scott Campbell (Canada)
3 Martin Victorsson (Sweden)
4 Jim Busby jr. (United States of America)
5 David Griffith (United Kingdom)
The Senior MAX Pre-Final got underway at 11:20. Unfortunately for pole-sitter Edward Brand (UK), it was over before the end of the first lap as he went off in the backside chicane. It had to be heart-breaking for the young driver, but we’ve seen storming drives from the back before, we’ll see what Edward can do in the final from the back of the grid. With Brand’s demise, New Zealand’s Joshua Hart took over the top spot until lap four when Daniel Formal (USA) took it off him. Formal was able to lead Hart for the next 10 laps until Hart got a good run down the main straight and retook the lead. In the end it was Hart just crossing the line half a kart length ahead of Formal with Canadian Pier-Luc Ouellette just behind. After the race the stewards gave Daniel Formal a penalty for incorrectly lining up before the start which dropped him back to fifth.
Senior MAX Pre-Final top 5 were:
1 Joshua Hart (New Zealand)
2 Pier-Luc Ouellette (Canada)
3 Ferenc Kancsar (Austria)
4 Kasper H. Jensen (Denmark)
5 Daniel Formal (United States of Amerca)
After the DD2s showing their rougher side all week, they went from leather to lace and played nice for most of their Pre-Final. Maik Barten (BEL) held the lead from pole position over Damian Ward (AUS). On lap five Lithuanian Simas Juodvirsis took the top spot and lead until one lap to go when Maik put on an amazing overtaking move coming out of turn six on the last lap. Joudvirsis refused to give up and out-broke Barten into the final hairpin. From there Maik tried to overtake again coming onto the main straight. But, when that seemed no possible he showed his situational awareness and slowed down just enough to let Georg Vann (EST) by for second. So that he could start on the preferred inside line on the grid. Rotax officials were wise to the move however, and put him back on the outside line for the final.
At the end, the DD2 Pre-Final top 5 were:
1 Simas Juodvirsis (Lithuania)
2 Georg Vann (Estonia)
3 Maik Barten (Belgium)
4 Matthew Hamilton (New Zealand)
5 Patrick Pearce (United Kingdom)
After the Pre-Finals, there was a break in the action filled with the parade of drivers. This is always a popular event as all drivers appear in their country’s uniforms carrying their flags. Once everyone is lined up the track is abuzz with the sound of shutters clicking and cheers from the crowd.
After the parade of drivers had concluded the Junior MAX final was set to take place. This race had everything in it. In the 20 laps that the Juniors were running, the crowd was entertained with every type of pass, re-pass, block, bump, and spin anyone could imagine. It started with Jack Aitken (UK) taking the lead followed by Martin Rump (EST) then Julian Wagner (AUT). Wagner took the lead on lap 10 then two laps later Ashley Hand (UK) and Aitken touched, leaving both talented drivers far away from a podium. This left Julian Wagner in the lead followed by Jack Barlow (UK).
The two of them raced fast and clean to pull out a lead over the battle for third until two laps to go. At that point the top two began to squabble over the lead allowing the pack behind to catch up. Going into the final lap Wagner and Barlow swapped places a couple times and touched hard on the far side of the track and all of the sudden, it was if the top eight drives all went into a scrum over the lead, Emerging on top were Joel Affolter (NED) and Alvaro Otero (ESP) who battled into the final hairpin. Contact sent Otero onto the grass and slowed Affolter. Taking the lead was Estonian Martin Rump, signaled by a huge cheer from the blue and white section of the grandstand.
So Martin Rump ran out the Junior MAX Grand Final Champion over Jordi Van Moorsel (NED) and Joel Affolter (NED). After an emotional victory celebration and podium celebration, it turns out the drama wasn’t over. About 45 minutes later, just after the podium celebration for the Senior DD2 Masters class, it was announced over the PA system that we had had a change. Martin Rump had been disqualified from the event for running his seat struts in an unapproved manner. In the blink of an eye, the young Estonian had lost the Grand Finals just as quickly as he had taken the lead on track. It was a disappointing turn of events for the Estonian team. But, decisions like this have to be made to keep the playing field as level as possible. The DQ gave the top two positions to Holland and elevated Pierce Lehane of Australia to third.
One last aspect of the Junior MAX standings that makes them truly unique; Van Moorsel actually had to make it into the finals by racing his way in during the Second chance race Saturday evening. This is the ultimate proof of the old saying “it’s never over until it’s over.”
The final top 5 in Junior MAX for 2010 are:
1 Jordi Van Moorsel (Holland)
2 Joel Affolter (Holland)
3 Pierce Lehane (Australia)
4 Jack Barlow (United Kingdom)
5 Nick Neri (United States of America)
Next up on track were the DD2 Masters. What could they have in store? The more experienced drivers have shown all week that they have been able to race clean and close without all the beating and banging of the younger contemporaries. It appears that was only to last until the start of the Final as into turn one Hungary’s Gerry Hargatai got knocked out of the way and South African Gary Marias got tagged and went for a 360 spin right in the middle of the pack. The action wasn’t quite over as in turn three we had another pile up, this time involving five karts. After the misdeeds of the first few moments the DD2 drivers settled down and started racing each other well and Dennis Kroes of Holland assumed the lead.
In the action at the start Scott Campbell (CAN) fell back to fifth, but the seven-time Grand Final competitor quickly set about getting back to the front. By lap six the Canadian was in the lead and looked set to take his first Grand Finals victory. Dennis Kroes was having none of it though and stayed right on Scott’s bumper until the final lap when he dove under Scott to take the lead. Throughout the entire last lap the two experienced racers fought hard for the lead only just ahead of Sweden’s Martin Victorsson and Stephane Picque of France. One corner Kroes held the advantage, the next it was Campbell. In the end, Scott won the race back to the line and celebrated a very popular win.
The 2010 DD2 Masters Grand Finals top 5 are:
1 Scott Campbell (Canada)
2 Dennis Kroes (Holland)
3 Martin Victorsson (Sweden)
4 Stephane Picque (France)
5 Jesus-Perez Santander (Spain)
Senior MAX followed the DD2 Masters and had all the makings of a tight battle. All week long the drivers had been running at the limit in their CRG chassis. Starting on pole after winning the Pre-Final was New Zealand’s Joshua Hart. Going into turn one American Daniel Formal got hit from behind and many karts in the pack scattered to avoid contact, with some actually managing to do so. Coming from the back in a big charge was top qualifying Edward Brand (UK) who went from 33rd at the start to 17th at the end of the first lap before crashing back into the pack again. On a bigger move was South Africa’s Caleb Williams who went from 32nd at the start, to 11th at the end of the first lap, then ninth and up to seventh by the end of lap three.
During all this it was Canadian Pier-Luc Ouellette leading until lap seven when Joshua hart (NZL) took back the top spot he had lost at the start. On lap 15 Caleb Williams, the defending DD2 champion from Sharm el Sheikh, completed his ascendance by taking the lead after his start in the back of the pack. Also on the move was Daniel Formal (USA) After getting punted off on the first lap and falling back to 20th, he went about a steady recovery to bring himself back into the top ten, eventually passing three karts on the last lap to finish fifth. But, up front it was South Africa again celebrating their ninth Rotax MAX Grand Final championship, an astonishing record from a country with such a relatively small karting community.
The top 5 finishers for 2010 in Rotax MAX Senior were:
1 Caleb Williams (South Africa)
2 Joshua Hart (New Zealand)
3 Ferenc Kancsar (Austria)
4 Kasper H. Jensen (Denmark)
5 Daniel Formal (United States of America)
So far the 2010 version of the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals was shaping up like never before. We’d already seen things that had never happened before. As the sun started to set behind the trees, the DD2 final got underway and we were on the final race at La Conca for 2010. At the end of the first lap Lithuania’s Simas Juodvirsis held his lead from pole position, but lost it to Estonian Georg Vann on the next lap. Vann held the lead with Belgian Maik Barten right behind for the next several laps.
On lap 13 Maik made his move for the lead and about that time Georg fell back to fifth before dropping out of the race. By this time, Canadian Daniel Morad had made his way to second after coming across the line in ninth on the first lap. Although the top karts were racing close, Maik Barten still held the lead and looked like he was in control for the victory.
With two laps to go, Barten and Morad had pulled out a small lead over Matthew Hamilton (NZL) and Simas Juodvirsus (LTU) and looked set to settle the championship between themselves. With one lap to go Morad had assumed the lead only to have Barten fight back. The lead changed hands on the last lap with both drivers having the top spot at some point. Coming out of the final hairpin Morad had the inside line and was ahead but Maik Barten had more momentum. As the two drivers screamed to the finish line they were almost side-by side. Crossing the stripe is was the Canadian Morad just barely in the lead for an amazing victory.
Unfortunately, in his spontaneous celebration he caught his left shoe on his brake pedal and accidentally jerked his kart to the left, right into the kart of Barten. The two drivers careened off the track and into the barriers in a frightening looking accident. Fortunately, it looked worse than it was and both drivers walked away and headed to the podium to celebrate their runs.
The top 5 for the 2010 DD2 Championship were:
1 Daniel Morad (Canada)
2 Maik Barten (Belgium)
3 Matthew Hamilton (New Zealand)
4 Simas Juodvirsis (Lithuania)
5 Andre Huber (Germany)
That ends the on track action for the 2010 Rotax MAX Grand Finals. As always the podium celebrations were full of cheer. This year’s Nation’s Cup went to Spain with Estonia in second place and Australia third.