By Nathan Kelly/CKN.
Friday was overcast and rain appeared off in the distance as drivers arrived early in the morning. With karts rebuilt from the prior day of racing, drivers took the to circuit for their respective warm up sessions on damp and cold tarmac. Tired faces walked though out the paddock as teams began to feel the stress and level of intensity of the Rotax Grand Finals. The Rotax Grand Finals is a race like no other Rotax event, the pressure and intensity is at a completely different level than what most drivers are used to. Lack of comfort in your own personal pit space and racing trailer combine with a massive cultural diversity exposes drivers to a unique experience which cannot be replicated. When you calculate the time change and different style of meals, it makes it very difficult for drivers to get in their normal routine as they would in their home countries.
As for the Last Chance Qualifiers, the Valencia weather added an extra element to the already intense final transfer race. Rain began to soak the circuit as Junior drivers scrambled to prepare for their opportunities to make it into Saturday’s races if they did not already do so. Drivers and mechanics panicked in the pits bolting on rain tires, adjusting chassis, and changing sprockets to get the best advantage for the wet conditions. It was pouring rain by the time the juniors hit the track and the circuit became electric as motors fired, with some stuck in Parc Ferme and not advancing to the Pre-Grid in time.
All North American drivers had very impressive drives today as everything was put on the line in attempt to obtain the best results possible. We cannot mention all of these without commenting on the Canadian DD2 drivers who all had very strong results today especially Ben Cooper who secured a victory in his respective heat. A standout drive came from Zachary Claman DeMelo who was spun in the opening lap of his heat race which sent him back to 30th position. DeMelo was able to recover and battled back through the crowd to 13th position. American Nick Neri who had a rough heat race started 13th in the LCQ and was able to battle his way to the 6th and earn the final transfer spot.
The drive of the day can only be given to one individual, he has had extremely bad luck throughout the entire weekend with a disqualification and today a motor malfunction. Team USA Driver Alan Rudolph has had better weeks at the race track and the DD2 Masters driver has had great success over the years as one of the top drivers in the class. With the support of motorsport lover Michael Dobbelsteyn, Rudolph has been aspiring to win a world finals event for quite some time. Valencia has brought nothing but adversity to the American, but in the LCQ Rudolph showed just exactly what he came here to do. The driver started in 24th position for the last chance qualifier. As many would see this as defeat, Rudolph did what any real racer would do and raced to have fun. With a total of eight laps Rudolph was able to pass a 18 karts and land himself in the final qualification spot in the pouring rain. This means that Rudolph will start dead last in tomorrows pre-final. If he can maintain his performance and repeat his accomplishment in the LCQ there is no reason why he is not a championship contender. We look forward to watching Alan in tomorrows races.
The Nations Cup sees team Canada standing in sixth position while the defending champions, the United States, are fifteenth. For both countries, this is not ideal as it has been a very challenging week for most of the North American contingent. It is great to have such fantastic support from back home and here at the track cheering on our Canadian athletes.
Closing out the day, BRP Rotax announced the new evolution in their product, the Rotax 125 MAX EVO engine package. Read the official announcement that will surely have everyone in the paddock talking tomorrow.
And for those that have made it to the equivalent to Super Sunday, but on Saturday, it’s Game Day. Let’s go chase the Rotax Grand Finals podium!