Thursday at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in New Orleans, USA was race day, as drivers finally got to hit the track for wheel to wheel action. On deck for the day was two of the three rounds of heat races for each class, all to help set the grid for Saturdays main events. The very race-able NOLA Motorsports Park provided some great action for drivers with Canadian drivers doing very well overall.
In Rotax DD2 Canadian Ben Cooper started from the outside of row one in the A vs B heat race. A tough start would see him fall back to third initially, but he returned to second by the end of the first lap and set his sights on the leader, American Daniel Formal. Also in this heat was Marco Di Leo and Alessandro Bizzotto, who found themselves right in the middle of all the action. By lap four Cooper had caught and passed Formal for the lead, but the American returned to the lead down the long back straight. But Cooper would make his move to the lead on the following lap and this time it was for good. Although Formal was able to hang with him the defending Grand Finals champion, a late race mistake allowed Cooper to cruise to the heat win. Di Leo scored a solid seventh while Bizzotto was able to hold on to finish 18th.
Next up had Pier-Luc Ouellette on the pole-position for the C vs D heat. Ouellette got off to a great start but would find his hands full with his PSL Karting teammate Xen de Ruwe (Belgium) on his heels. The two would trade the lead often in the heat with De Ruwe taking the win and Ouellette second. Tough luck for Brendon Bain saw him crash in the opening lap, but return to finish 22nd.
To cap off the days action two more DD2 heats hit the track. First it was A vs C, or Formal vs Ouellette. The two had a great battle with the addition Sean Babington (UK). Trading the lead back and forth it was anyones race. Crossing the line first would be Babington ahead of Formal while Ouellette got hung out and would fall to fourth. Alessandro Bizzotto enjoyed another great run, this time finishing 15th with battle beaten go-kart.
The final heat of the day started off very positive for Team Canada, until the wheels completely fell off. Cooper got off to a great start to lead the way, but coming through the final section of the track, Coopers CRG kart would break a kingpin and send him directly into the pit lane, race over. Next, Di Leo and Bain both had great starts with Di Leo up to seventh and Bain eleventh, but lap three saw Di Leo caught up in a accident and Bain with nowhere to go. The result saw Di Leo on the sidelines and Bain at the tail end of the field. Bain would finish 30th, Di Leo 33rd and Cooper 35th. All three drivers need huge rebounds tomorrow.