After two full days of practice, lap times finally mean something on Wednesday at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Italy. Qualifying hit the track after a short warm-up session for all classes to determine the all-important starting grids for the heat races.
It was tough for most of our Canadians as navigating the traffic, getting a tow and also having clear lap is very difficult on a track like Sarno. We watched a number of our drivers struggle just to find a place in line and thus, not able to put down their best time. It’s a struggle many first-time drivers have at the Grand Finals, but it catches some veterans out too. Here’s what 2010 Grand Finals winner Scott Campbell told us about the importance of Qualifying.
“After watching all the members of Team Canada in qualifying it shows how important qualifying is to set your position for the heat races. Most of the team members now have to battle from mid to back of the pack and try to avoid the carnage in the heat races. Hopefully, everyone can move up the grids and keep the noses clean. I will try to give everyone some helpful hints to try to make it through the heats.”
Unfortunately, only four Canadian drivers qualified in the top half of the categories, meaning they have some tough heat races ahead of them if they want to transfer to Saturday’s Grand Finals.
Jason Leung has been very fast this week and set the tone in Junior with the seventh quickest time. After topping a number of practice sessions, we know he won’t be happy with the result but will at least start from the second row for all his heats. Justin Arseneau was twenty-eighth overall, only four-tenths of a second off the pole position, which was set by Clay Osborne of New Zealand. Overall, the top-57 are within one-second.
In DD2 Masters, Jared Freeston continues to impress as he lapped fifth fastest in his group, but only fourteenth overall in the group. After battling with engine issues throughout both days of practice, Alexandre Gauthier seemed to have it all sorted out this morning but was still missing a little bit, ranking 54th overall and just over a second off the fastest time.
Kieran Hartley is right in the middle of the Mini-Max category, qualifying in the seventeenth. He was only three and a half tenths off the fastest time, showing he’s far from out of the one.
There was promise from our Rotax Senior drivers leading up to Qualifying but both Patrick Woods-Toth and Griffin Dowler had trouble getting a clean lap. Nearly the entire group waited two minutes on the grid and then went out in a flurry. With drivers constantly jockeying for position on track and a draft, many we caught out and to make matters worse, Dowler lost his fastest lap due to a nosecone violation. In the ranking, Woods-Toth is 51st while Dowler is 65th.
Wrapping up the ten Canadians is our trio in Rotax DD2. Isaac Marritt led our contingent with a thirty-fourth place showing, while Davide Greco was fifty-second. We’re not too sure what is going with Noel Dowler, but his sixty-second place ranking isn’t representative of his speed.
All of the classes except for Micro and Mini are now split up into four groups for the heats races. Following the third heat, the groups are reranked based on their points before two Super Heats on Friday will determine the final point totals and the 34 drivers who will advance to the Grand Finals on Saturday.
Update: We’ve updated the Rotax DD2 results following the official posting of results. It benefitted all three of our drivers.