By Nathan Kelly/CKN
Saturday morning in Valencia brought something that had been notoriously long awaited all week. Drivers arrived at the circuit in a heavy downpour and there was no sign of it letting up anytime soon. The positive of this is that mechanics could fully set their karts up for the wet, as the PreFinals were scheduled to begin at 10:50am. Rain fell quite hard for morning warmup sessions and drivers took their time to learn the circuit as best possible in the wet. As the Junior Max class arrived on the pre-grid, the rain began to hit harder.
Lines of umbrellas protected dedicated fans could be seen lining the track as the Juniors took to the track for their PreFinal after a 30 minute weather delay. Karts could not be seen in the warmup laps as they were lost in trails of water spray. The green flag was given and drivers screamed towards the first corner with zero visibility. By the time drivers hit the river in turn 7, more than half the field was missing. Race officials immediately made the call to throw a red flag stopping the racing action.
It would be deemed that the conditions were unsafe to drive in and drivers were sent back into the paddock. An accouncement came on at 11:30 that all PreFinals would be cancelled in the interest of time and that the Grand Finals would begin at noon with the Junior Max class. Drivers would start the Final in the position which they earned from their previous heat race results.
With rain still pounding, the drivers hit the track for the all important championship race.
Chaos was the only way to describe the wet conditions as the first corner still had zero visibility and it was just a matter of getting through as safely as possible. This made the racing very difficult for the drivers and became a show case for skill in the rain. Fans could not have asked for more excitement however, as each lap was unpredictable and anything was possible as drivers navigated the soaked Valencia circuit. Tight sections of the circuit were not setup well for drainage as rivers and puddles were flowing across the track adding an extra element to the race. Drivers who went off the circuit would drag clumps of clay back onto the tarmac making the track more of a Rallycross circuit than a karting track. Track workers were extremely good at keeping the track clean however, but it proved to be quite a challenge in the weather. And when the sun came out for the DD2 Masters and DD finals, portions of the track began to dry up while others were still very much soaked.
As for North Americans the day was filled with ups and downs. Canadian Ben Cooper had a consistent drive in the wet and was able to lock down a second place finish. His teammate Fred Woodley had a very strong final finishing in fourth position. Team USA captain Alan Rudolph once again had the crowd on their feet as he passed twenty one drivers in the opening lap of his Final, and was able to lock down a fifth place finish in the Grand Final after starting 34th. The Senior Max class had some fantastic racing. North American’s Zachary Claman DeMelo and Oliver Askew collided in the final which resulted in Askew going wide off the track. Wet conditions made it very difficult to have precise control at speed which lead to the racing incident. DeMelo was able to hang on and score a third place while Askew found himself in sixth position.
Overall the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals was a superb event. The venue contained incredible scenery and made for some outstanding photos. The track was very well kept and upheld the prestigious reputation of all Rotax Grand Finals circuits. There were many challenging sections with an incredible diversity that made learning the track quite difficult for drivers to learn and mechanics in regards to setup. The staff of the Kartodromo Internacional Lucas Guerrero circuit were kind and kept the facility very clean throughout the entire week. Officials conducted themselves in a professional manner and the structure of the event ran very smoothly despite uncontrollable weather conditions. In closing this was a spectacular event to be apart of, and we look forward to providing coverage for 2015 of the Grand Finals.
We would like to take this time for thanking race fans for tuning into CKN for complete coverage of the Grand Finals. This would not be possible without your support!