The action is moving along quickly at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals as Thursday featured the completion of the heat races, determining the ranking and the starting grids for Fridays PreFinals. It was a hectic day with each category completing two races, with the exception of Micro and Mini Max, which only had one.
There has been some confusion on how to advance to the main event this week and so here is how we understand the breakdown, which is new this year. After the heat races, all of the drivers in each category are ranked based on their point totals. This determines their starting spot in the PreFinals, with the odd ranked drivers in PreFinal A and the even ranked in Prefinal B. Following the Prefinal, the finishing position is then added to the heat ranking to create a total. From there, the 36 drivers with the least amount of points in Junior, Senior, DD2 and DD2M will advance to the Grand Finals on Saturday.
This would have really helped a driver last year like Ryan MacDermid, who sat on the pole position for his Prefinal, only to have a rain shower during his race, completely messing up what was a great week when he finished outside the top-17 transferring spots.
But back to today’s racing.
Patrick Woods-Toth had an up and down day in Junior Max. In his morning heat, he was running inside the top-ten until a driver overtook him in the double-left turn 7 and 8. Upon exit, the driver sideswiped Woods-Toth as he tried to get back in line, sending him wide and down a few spots, eventually taking 14th. His afternoon heat was a disaster as Woods-Toth needed to take the escape route in turn three early on. Pat ranks 35th overall and will need to ensure he only moves forward in his Prefinal to make it to the main.
It wasn’t an enjoyable day for Jason Leung as he earned a bumper violation in his morning heat and a better but still rough go in his afternoon heat to earn him plenty of points. He ranks 61st overall and doesn’t appear he can make the Final.
In Rotax Senior Max our Canadian lads are doing very well. Ryan MacDermid led the way in both of his heat races today but slipped back by heats end to finish seventh and fifth. Marco Signoretti pushed forward in both his heat races, showing tremendous race speed, posting eighth and four place result while Kellen Ritter also advanced in his heats, although a top-ten in his morning run was ruined by a nosecone violation. All three rank inside the top-25 with MacDermid seventh, Signoretti eleventh and Ritter twenty-second.
On the flipside, it was a disastrous day for Logan Cusson. Trouble continues to find him on track and he was forced into a lap 1 DNF on the morning and 32nd in the afternoon with a nosecone violation. He is ranked well down in 65th and is a stretch to make the main.
Joe Crupi kept all four wheels on track on Thursday and found himself battling hard for good position, even as his continues to battle issues with his gearbox. His morning run saw him move up to seventeenth at the finish and he was in a similar spot in the afternoon, only to receive a nosecone violation that put him down in twenty-sixth. His heat ranking has him just on the outside looking in as he is 41st. Needing to make up ground in his PreFinal, Crupi will be pushing on Friday.
There have been a number on nosecone violations this week, and honestly more than we’ve expected, but the racing has been pushing to the limits in every category and with high-speed straights followed by tight corners, contact is bound to happen and it’s caught a number of drivers off guard so far.
In a category that Canada normally shows very strong in, Rotax DD2 has not been nice to Team Canada this week.
Tyler Kashak continues to fly the Maple Leaf in the top-half of the grid, duking it out hard in his two heat races to keep his spot inside the top-20. Seventeenth in his morning heat and sixteenth in the afternoon has helped place Kashak twenty-ninth in the heat rankings and currently in a transfer spot. He will need to ensure that he moves forward in the PreFinal to maintain that starting spot.
A pair of nosecone violations has really hurt the point total for Ethan Simioni, who has placed well at the checkered flag each time. He sits 49th overall and needs a great PreFinal result and some luck if he is going to advance to the Final on Saturday.
For the remaining three it has been a troubling time in Portugal. While Zachary Claman DeMelo, Davide Greco and Natael Cantin have shown they have the speed to be much further up the grid, luck has not been on their side this week and it appears they don’t even have a chance to make the Final. They rank 54th, 56th and 60th respectively and will all race in PreFinal B hoping for a miracle to change their week around.
With only one heat race on their Thursday agenda, it was a quiet day for Micro and Mini Max. Marcello Paniccia fought to place twenty-fourth in his heat and will start the PreFinal from row 13 in the twenty-sixth position.
Justin Arseneau bounced back in his Mini-Max heat, taking the early lead of the race, but ultimately falling back to sixth at the finish line in what was a very intense ten-kart battle for the lead. The Mini’s have been really exciting to watch this week and shouldn’t disappoint in the PreFinal and Final. Arseneau will start the PreFinal from thirteenth on the grid after yesterdays accident.
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