The west coast kicked off their annual winter Rotax karting championship this past weekend as the Challenge of the Americas (COA) rolled into a very chilly Tucson, Arizona for the first of three championship events. Similar to the Florida Winter Tour, the COA is an opportunity for Canadian drivers to not only travel south and get their season underway early, but also a chance to stamp their ticket for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals as a series champion.
In the Rotax Senior category, a pair of Canadian drivers ensured the COA first place trophies travelled back to Canada as BC’s Kellen Ritter and Alberta’s Matthew Taskinen took home the victories and in both races BC’s Bryce Choquer crossed in second. A great result for the Maple Leaf.
Entering his sophomore season, Ritter settled in nicely at Tucson and had it not been for a flat tire in the Sunday Final, he would have been battling for the weekend sweep. Taskinen on the other hand, surprised many as he made his debut in Senior. A victory for him is a great start while it was great to see Choquer back in a kart after a short hiatus and quickly returning to the front of the grid.
Alberta’s Noel Dowler was in the thick of the action as well, finishing fifth and sixth on the weekend.
Ontario’s Ryan MacDermid made the trek west in search of a position on Team Canada and he got off to a great start, dominating the weekend in Rotax Junior. MacDermid took home the victory on both race days to build up and early championship lead. In Sunday’s race, MacDermid was challenged by Alberta’s Griffin Dowler who crossed the finish line less than a tenth of a second back in a drag-race to the finish line. It was a great rebound for Dowler who failed to finish the Saturday final.
Other Canadians in the Junior Max class included BC’s Marco Kacic, who ranked sixth on Saturday, but was a DNS on Sunday and Colby Wallace of Alberta, who finished ninth and nineteenth.
In Rotax Masters, Blake Choquer stood on podium Saturday with a third place effort while he was only able to muscle a fifth on Sunday.
New for 2017 at the COA is a Briggs & Stratton LO206 category where three Canadians opted for double-duty. Running three heat races and only one Final, it all came down to the main event on Sunday. Taking the victory was Nick De Bruijn of the Nederlands while Bryce Choquer and Griffin Dowler completed the podium. Unfortunately for Noel Dowler, his race ended six laps early.
Round two of the Challenge of the Americas will stay in the state of Arizona as the series shifts to Phoenix and the PKRA facility in a months time. Hopefully our Canadian contingent can once again do their diligence and dominate the event.