The joint event between the US Rotax Grand Nationals and the US Open of New Jersey officially kicked off on Friday at New Jersey Motorsports Park with Qualifying and the first round of heat races. It was a wet morning with on and off showers but the clouds lifted during the lunch break and when it came time for official action, the track was dry and the temperatures were turned back up.
110 Rotax Max drivers are in attendance from mainly the United States and Canada for what will be their best chances to qualify for and represent their country at the prestigious Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. New for the event was the raffling of engines for the Rotax Micro-Max and Mini-Max classes, giving each driver an equal opportunity when it came to power as Rotax Max supplied new engines for the racers to utilize.
The New Jersey Motorsports Park track is a whopping 1-mile in length, producing lap times well over the one-minute mark. Drivers are really tested on the track but have given it a big thumbs up through the first two days of the on track action.
27 drivers make up the Rotax Senior class making it the largest this weekend and it was Michael d’Orlando (PSL Karting/BirelART) who topped the speed charts in Qualifying. Racing with the BirelART race team in Europe has really helped the young driver who is a rookie in the Senior category this year. He was just under a tenth of a second quicker than Luke Selliken (RPG/Kosmic) with Canadian Ryan MacDermid (REM/Kosmic) third. Mathias Ramirez (Anderson/BirelART) and Stephen Malozzi (PSL Karting/BirelART) were third and fourth with the chassis brands BirelART and Kosmic claiming top-five positions.
New York driver Dylan Tavella (Iron Rock/TonyKart) is off to a great start in defense of his US National title as last years winner in Rotax Junior qualified on the pole-position over Canadian Thomas Nepveu (PSL Karting/BirelART). Hannah Greenemeier (RPG/Kosmic) was just barely quicker than Speed Concepts Racing teammates Tyler Maxson (SCR/TonyKart) and Tyler Gonzalez (SCR/TonyKart) with all three drivers in the 1:08.8 bracket.
Josh Pierson (RPG/Kosmic) laid down a blistering lap in Mini-Max qualifying, using the perfect draft to better his competition by four-tenths of a second! Second went to Santiago Trisini (BENIK/BENIK Kart) while Chloe Chambers (Iron Rock/TonyKart) was third. Luca Mars (Positive Motorsports/Energy Kart) and Karsten Defonce (REM/Lenzo Kart) completed the top-five.
A new face topped the charts in Micro-Max qualifying as Sam Avrutsky (BirelART) was quickest over Brent Crews (Nitro Kart), Jack Jeffers (BENIK Kart), Miguel Costa (BENIK Kart) and Alex Powell (Energy Kart).
In the combined Rotax DD2 and DD2 Masters, Canadian Davide Greco (PSL Karting/BirelART) was well out front in the timed qualifying session bettering DD2 Master driver Ariel Castro (PSL Karting/BirelART) by a half-second. Australian driver Scott Howard (PSL Karting/BirelART) was third quickest followed by Michael McCarthy (Anderson/BirelART) and Rafita Maro Loco (SVK/BirelART). We expected Ethan Simioni (Prime Powerteam/BirelART) to challenge Greco for the top spot, but he was unable to complete a lap in the qualifying session.
Finally in Masters Max, Adam Petitt (Solokart) was only 0.09 seconds quicker than John Bonanno (CompKart) with Derek Wank (BBR/FA Kart), Chris McGinley (TonyKart) and Scott Roberts (SCR/TonyKart) finishing up the top-five.
The first round of heat races were also completed on Friday afternoon setting the tone for two more heat races on Saturday morning to set the grids for Saturday afternoons Prefinal races.