The stage is set for the twentieth annual Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals and Team Canada is ready to attack.
Ten drivers from British Columbia to Alberta to Quebec and Ontario have travelled to the Circuito International Napoli in the south of Italy to compete amongst the best Rotax racers from around the world. From Micro Max to Rotax DD2 Masters, in total there are 360 drivers and more than 60 nations represented.
Memories of the Sarno Circuit are very positive for Team Canada. When the event was hosted here in 2016, Team Canada won the Nations Cup trophy and celebrated a podium appearance by Thomas Nepveu in Mini-Max.
Canadian drivers qualified through the Canadian Open in Mont-Tremblant and the Western Canadian Karting Championship, which spread across three events in three different provinces. We will have representation in five of the six categories.
Once again Patrick Moreau of SRA Karting and Rotax Max Challenge Canada has ensured that all our drivers were all set to go and cruised through the registration process before today’s all-important chassis raffle, where the 360 brand new karts from BirelART, Praga, Sodikart and CompKart were distributed for use this week.
Back for his second chance at the Rotax Grand Finals in Mini-Max is Kieran Hartley. He defended his crown in the WCKC and was hungry to return to the Rotax global event after getting a taste and leaving an impression in Brazil last year. Hartley is the lone Canadian in Mini-Max, but that won’t slow him down from making his presence known this week in Italy.
We have a pair of Canucks in Rotax Junior this week and both have the potential to race their way onto the Grand Finals podium. Canadian Open winner Justin Arseneau from Quebec in familiar with the Sarno Circuit, driving to a fourth-place finish this summer in the FIA Academy race here. It is his second Grand Finals appearance after racing in Portugal in 2017 in Mini-Max. Second is BC’s Jason Leung, who has also scored a strong result in international competition. He was a race winner earlier this year in the X30 Euro Series. He raced his way into the A Final last year in Brazil and will be excited to watch this week. Our hopes are high in Rotax Junior.
Senior Max features two Canadian studs competing amongst the most competitive category to take to the track this week. Alberta’s Griffin Dowler and Quebec’s Patrick Woods-Toth have been very impressive in 2019, Dowler winning the WCKC and Woods-Toth taking the crown in the Canadian Open as well as the MotoMaster Ron Fellows Karting Championship, but winning at home doesn’t always translate to success at the Grand Finals. These two will need to work together and qualify well if they want their weeks to go smooth, but we’re confident they can keep their noses clean and stay ahead of the chaos. It’s been a while, but Woods-Toth does have a Grand Finals podium on his resume as he finished second in New Orleans in 2013 in Mini-Max. He also competed in Portugal in 2017 as a Junior, while Dowler is a rookie at the event.
Three drivers make up our Rotax DD2 contingent, led by Davide Greco. He’s been a busy driver in 2019 and recently just competed in the Rok Cup Super Final, also in Italy, as well as the Rotax Trophy in Le Mans, France. He is joined by fellow Ontario driver Isaac Marritt and Alberta’s Noel Dowler, both making their Grand Finals debuts. It’s a strong trio of drivers competing in a class that has witnessed a number of Canadian drivers have success.
Finally, we have an all-rookie lineup in Rotax DD2 Masters. Jared Freeston scored the title in the WCKC to punch his first ticket to an international event, while Alexandre Gauthier finished runner-up in the Canadian Open and openly accepted the ticket when race winner Etienne LaSalle had to decline. Both drivers will have their hands full this week and as they learn what it’s like to compete against the world’s best, but we know they are fast and hopefully can race their way into the main events.
Drivers will take to the track Monday and Tuesday for open practice sessions. Qualifying takes place on Wednesday, with heat races to follow on Thursday and Friday leading up to Saturday’s Grand Finals for all classes. Live streaming of the races will be available and can be watched here on CKN along with our update tracker.