After two days of practice and qualifying it was finally time for the drivers at the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Valencia, Spain to go wheel-to-wheel racing. Thursday was another cool and overcast day with rain threatening for most of the afternoon but failing to fall.
Rotax Junior A vs B:
Up first was the Junior heat of Group A vs B. The starting lights went out and the first round of racing was underway. Drivers poured into the first turn as you could feel the excitement at the circuit. Drivers Rokas Bacluska (Lithuania) and Mick Wishofer (Austria) put on an amazing show as they took the lead early on and pulled a significant gap. As the drivers started to battle Belarus driver Dzianis Slavinski pulled closer in third place. Drivers were nose to tail in the final lap but it was Bacluska who was able to take home to victory in the first heat of the Grand Finals.
In this heat there were a total of five North Americans, all of which finished very close together around mid pack. In sixteenth, Ryan Norberg (USA) found himself comfortably leading the North American charge to the front, although falling back after a great start. He was followed by Canadian Gianfranco Mazzaferro. Clay Van Eerd (CAN) was eighteenth followed by Austin Versteeg (USA) in nineteenth. Austin Garrison (USA) rounded out the North American Finishes for Heat 1 in 29th.
Rotax Junior C vs D
The second heat of the day was Junior groups C vs D. This heat saw Thomas Preining of Austria taking a huge win after those behind fought hard for second. The action was tight as drivers pushed their Sodi karts to the limit. As for the North American Contingent, American String Ray Rob was able to push hard and secure a twelfth place finish. Fellow teammate Christian Brooks finished fourteenth while Canadian Samuel lupien recorded a 26th position after falling being pushed wide in lap one and having to play catch up.
Rotax Junior A vs C
The second round of Junior Max heats took place after lunch with drivers itching to hit the track for a second time. The nerves were gone this time as drivers had a better feel for the level of competition that they would be facing. Groups A vs C were the first to hit the track after the lunch break. Wishofer was able to up his previous second place finish with a victory over Rokas Bacluska. Drivers raced very hard and the action was none stop all over the circuit.
For the North American’s this heat contained all of the Canadian junior drivers as well as one team USA driver. Sting Ray Rob was able to capture a tenth place finish while Canadian Mazzaferro was able to improve his previous results with a thirteenth finish, followed by his teammate Samuel Lupien drove to fourteenth place from twenty-ninth on the grid. Van Eerd was able to pull of a 21st place finish respectively.
Rotax Junior B vs D
The next heats took place between groups B and D. It was Jordan Sherratt (South Africa) who was able to edge out the victory over Maciej Chrupek (Poland). Close racing and some wild passing made the racing very exciting to watch. This race contained no Canadian drivers but Team USA added much excitement and gave North Americans a race to be proud of. Christian Brooks was able to pull off a thirteenth place finish while his teammate Austin Versteeg claimed a sixteenth place finish. Austin Garrison edged out a twentieth place finish while it was Ryan Norberg who finished in thirty-first position following a couple of incidents in the race.
Friday morning the Rotax Junior drivers will hit the track for their third and final round of heat races. Those placed within the top-28 advance directly to Saturday’s Prefinal while the remainder will have to race their way in via the Last Chance Race where only the top-6 survive.