The 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals is just around the corner and for the first time in Grand Finals history, the event will be held in North America. The beautiful and brand new NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA will host 280 of the worlds best Rotax Max competitors, plus an additional 72 racers in the Micro-Max and Mini-Max Invitational races as this years event will boast a RMCGF record number of competitors.
Canada will send 14 drivers to compete in the four headline classes (Jr, Sr, DD2, DD2 Masters), with an additional 20 drivers in the invitational classes.
Breaking down the drivers in each class, CKN will provide class-by-class previews, starting today with our powerhouse Rotax DD2 lineup.
2013 Team Canada Driver Stats:
- 34 Drivers from 5 different provinces
- Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan
- 7 Different Qualifying Series
- ASN Canadian Nationals, Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, Western Canadian Championship, Rotax Euro Challenge, Rotax Can-Am Karting Challenge, Rotax Pan American Challenge, Florida Winter Tour
- 6 Grand Finals Titles
- Ben Cooper (3)
- Pier-Luc Ouellette (2)
- Scott Campbell (1)
- 7 RMCGF Rookies (not including Micro & Mini)
- 29 Combined RMCGF Past Appearances
- 13 Drivers raced at Rotax Pan American Challenge at NOLA
- Three on the podium with 3rd place finishes (Latifi, Ouellette, Kingsley)
Rotax DD2 Max
Team Canada drivers have won a total of five Rotax DD2 Grand Finals titles, including the past three with three different drivers. Needless to say, the bar is set very high for Team Canada, even if the last two Champions are back on the roster this year.
Four drivers make up Team Canada this year in DD2, led by Ben Cooper and Pier-Luc Ouellette, both from the province of Quebec. Cooper is three-time RMCGF Champion and defending Champion, while Ouellette has two RMCGF titles to his name. Completing the team are Ontario drivers Marco Di Leo and Brendon Bain.
The Rotax DD2 class will race aboard identical CRG chassis.
Ben Cooper, Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
Qualifying Series: Rotax Max Euro Challenge
2013 Stats: Rotax Euro Challenge DD2 Champion, Florida Winter Tour DD2 Champion, Eastern Canadian Karting Championship DD2 Champion
Ben Cooper has been on a roll for over three years now, scoring two Grand Finals titles as well as countless race wins and and national and regional championships. The British karting pilot that now calls Mont-Tremblant home has also spent a massive amount of time training karters at the Jim Russell Karting Academy, developing Canada’s future talents.
While Cooper was forced to the sidelines and missed the Rotax Pan American Challenge at NOLA with a broken hand, only time will tell how it will effect him in New Orleans.
“As always I will be going to the Grand Finals with the same approach as the last two years. We normally have a structure of how we will work throughout the test sessions and heats. Hopefully during all of this we can achieve a good result to put us in contention for the main event.
With the partnership I have with P1 Fitness and the Jim Russell Academy I will be working on my fitness leading up to the Worlds with a personalized programme. It’s been a little bit harder this year due to my hand injury as I haven’t been able to do much fitness at all. A few one-handed laps around the track in Tremblant in the Enduro karts is about the best I can do driving wise leading up to the event. But even if I am in some pain for the race it will have to be put to the back of my mind as this is the race of the year.”
-Ben Cooper on his preparation for this years Grand Finals
CKN Prediction: While we are concerned about his hand, we have witnessed just about everything from Cooper in the past two years since moving to Canada, still making him an obvious title contender. The competition is stacked this year in DD2, and therefore Cooper will have his hands full with fellow countryman Ouellette, along with the Belgian Xen De Ruwe, American Danny Formal, Hungarian KMS teammate Ferenc Kancsar among many others.
Qualifying Series: ASN Canadian National Karting Championship
2013 Stats: ASN Canadian National Rotax DD2 Champion, ECKC and Coupe du Quebec race victories, Rotax Pan American Challenge 3rd place
After it looked like Ouellette was going to take the 2013 season off, he returned to the powerhouse PSL Karting operation after the opening round of the ECKC to compete in a select number of events, racking up some impressive numbers.
With last years Grand Finals one to forget, Ouellette will truly be on a mission this year seeking redemption and a return to the top of the Grand Finals podium. Using the Pan Am to prep, Ouellette was very quick out of the box, something his competitors took notice of. It will also be a benefit to Ouellette that the spec chassis is a CRG, and he has won his two titles aboard the black beast.
“The drivers at the Grand Finals are better every year and I dont think that its a big thing that I raced a CRG all season because at this level we all get used to it very quick. For sure I will be confortable quickly compared to others on a different chassis, but when it will be time to go green for the Final, we are all going to be comfortable and fast. The DD2 class is stronger every year and I cant wait to go back there after the result of last year, I cant wait to prove to everyone that I can come back stronger than ever.”
– Pier Luc Ouellette on racing a CRG chassis all season long
CKN Prediction: Ouellette was very fast at the Pan Am Challenge, and he has been very focused in 2013 since returning to the seat. Like his teammate Cooper, Ouellette is an immediate threat for the top of the podium and we see him fighting all the way to the finish line for another Grand Finals title in an all out DD2 Battle Royale.
Marco Di Leo, Stouffville, Ontario
Qualifying Series: Florida Winter Tour
2013 Stats: Florida Winter Tour Vice-Champion, ASN Canadian National Karting Championship Vice-Champion
The third member of Team Canada made the switch to the two-speed DD2 class this year and took it in stride. Racing against some of the deepest DD2 fields in North America, Di Leo was always competitive, finishing second in the Florida Winter Tour, second at the Canadian Championship and a handful of podiums in ECKC action.
While this is Di Leo’s first time racing at the Grand Finals in the DD2 class, he has raced the DD2 machine before at the Grand Finals when the RM1 was the headline class in Egypt 2005.
Team Canada 2014 is full of talented drivers and the DD2 squad looks very competitive and promising for yet another world title. I know PLO very well on the track and we’ve spent many years racing each other in Sr Max. This year I raced against Bain and Cooper and both have shown signs of amazing speed, it will be great to feed off Coopers experience at an event like this.
-Marco Di Leo on his DD2 teammates this year
CKN Prediction: While Di Leo has done very well this year, he just wasn’t on the same pace as Cooper or Ouellette. We still think he will hold his own through the heats and make the main event, with a solid top-15 result.
Brendon Bain, Oakville, Ontario
Qualifying Series: Eastern Canadian Karting Championship
2013 Stats: Eastern Canadian Karting Championship DD2 Vice-Champion
Last but not least, Brendon Bain completes an all-star Canadian DD2 roster. While he may be the least experienced driver of the group, he deserves this opportunity to compete at the Grand Finals and turn some heads. Bain has been incredibly fast all season long, but competing against names such as Cooper, Ouellette and Di Leo on a monthly basis makes scoring a victory very challenging in the DD2 category.
Nonetheless, Bain has worked very well with the support of Trevor Wickens this year and deserves this opportunity to race at the Grand Finals.
The way I see it is I am the underdog of the drivers in the DD2 class. This is my first world finals, whereas my teammates have been and succeeded multiple times before. Therefore I believe it will be up to me to insert myself as a respected and helpful teammate. I know all of my teammates quite well, having raced against all of them for a couple years. We all have had some instances where we feel some of the racing with each other was a little dirty; however we are all very mature drivers and can say it’s simply a racing incident. I respect all of my teammates and therefore I believe we can all work very well together to make sure we are the fastest team on track.
-Brendon Bain on being the underdog on the team
CKN Prediction: If Bain can hit the ground running and get off to a good start to the event, he shouldn’t have any issues qualifying well, racing his way through the heats and making it to the main. If there is one thing Bain has proven this year is that he can race with the best, and that gives us great hope in this talented youngster.
Alessandro Bizzotto, Montreal, Quebec
Qualifying Series: Rotax Pan American Championship
2013 Stats: Coupe du Quebec Race Winner, Rotax Pan American Challenge Rotax DD2 5th-place
A last minute addition to Team Canada saw Alessandro Bizzotto get an invite based on his fifth place finish at the Rotax Pan American, the highest finishing driver not already qualified for the Grand Finals.
It was a roller coaster season for Bizzotto that saw him come on very strong in the closing races. This bodes well for the driver from Montreal as he has little to no time to prepare for the Grand Finals.
“My expectations will be the same like every other race that I’ve competed in, and thats to do the best I can, and constantly improve throughout the week. This is the highest level of competition and so just o the bale to complete in the final day of racing is something that I would be extremely proud of!”
– Alessandro Bizzotto on his personal expectations
CKN Prediction: He was very impressive at the Pan American Challenge in earning a top-five result in the internationally stacked DD2 class. However, the Grand Finals will be a major challenge for Bizzotto. But having the support of his fellow teammates could go a very long way in helping him have a shot at making the Final.