The 2013 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals is just around the corner and for the first time in Grand Finals history, the event will be held in North America. The beautiful and brand new NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA will host 280 of the worlds best Rotax Max competitors, plus an additional 72 racers in the Micro-Max and Mini-Max Invitational races as this years event will boast a RMCGF record number of competitors.
Canada will send 14 drivers to compete in the four headline classes (Jr, Sr, DD2, DD2 Masters), with an additional 20 drivers in the invitational classes.
Breaking down the drivers in each class, CKN will provide class-by-class previews, we continuing today with our Rotax Mini-Max lineup.
2013 Team Canada Driver Stats:
- 34 Drivers from 5 different provinces
- Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan
- 7 Different Qualifying Series
- ASN Canadian Nationals, Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, Western Canadian Championship, Rotax Euro Challenge, Rotax Can-Am Karting Challenge, Rotax Pan American Challenge, Florida Winter Tour
- 6 Grand Finals Titles
- Ben Cooper (3)
- Pier-Luc Ouellette (2)
- Scott Campbell (1)
- 7 RMCGF Rookies (not including Micro & Mini)
- 29 Combined RMCGF Past Appearances
- 13 Drivers raced at Rotax Pan American Challenge at NOLA
- Three on the podium with 3rd place finishes (Latifi, Ouellette, Kingsley)
Last year saw the Rotax Micro-Max class included at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals for the first time in history, as 30 Portuguese drivers hit the track in an invitational special event. The addition was a success and once again the Micro-Max racers will be back at the Grand Finals, this year from North America with drivers representing Canada, the United States of America and Mexico.
The addition of the class at the Grand Finals spiced things up in Canada as numbers continued to grow across the country in the youngest Rotax division. For Canadians, there was three opportunities to qualify at home, plus some additional International competitions.
When all was set and done, 11 drivers will wear the maple leaf in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Three drivers from each of the ASN Canadian Nationals, Eastern Canadian Karting Championship and Western Canadian Championship, plus a driver from the Rotax Can American Challenge and one from the Rotax Pan American Challenge Finals. Spanning from four different provinces, the team looks very promising to be battling for victory all week long.
The class will be aboard spec OK1 chassis in New Orleans as IPK continues to support the class after providing Praga Karts last year. Unlike the Mini-Max class, the chassis size is the same in the USA as it is in Canada, so no drivers will be at any chassis disadvantage.
Breaking down where each driver qualified, here is Team Canada in the Micro-Max category.
Rotax Pan American Challenge
Matthew Latifi, Toronto, Ontario
Matthew Latifi was one of the most impressive Micro-Max karters in 2013 as he competed in just about every race he could. Kicking things off at the Florida Winter Tour, Latifi got faster every race, scoring a victory in the final round. He then returned home to secure the ECKC crown, and vice-championship at the Canadian Nationals after an excellent battle with winner William Chayer. But he wasn’t done there as he then travelled to New Orleans for the Rotax Pan Am where he qualified Pole and looked like he had what it took to win, but ultimately had to settle for third.
Latifi will be very interesting to watch in New Orleans. His mechanic Steven Chapmann has won the Grand Finals before (Daniel Morad, 2010) and knows what it takes to get up to speed quickly. The duo work very well together and that makes Latifi a real favourite to win.
Rotax Can-American Challenge
Marco Kacic, Kelowna, British Columbia
Another driver who travelled often in 2013 was Vancouvers Marco Kacic. Although he didn’t make it out to the east coast, he was very active in western North America. Kacic earned his first ticket to the Grand Finals via the Western Canadian Championships, finishing runner-up, but then secured a second ticket at the Can-Am Challenge, championship runner-up, ultimately inviting another driver from the WCC to the team.
Kacic was in action at the Pan American Challenge last month and was quick, but seemed to find a lot of trouble. He will need to avoid that trouble at the Grand Finals if he wants to have a shot at running with the leaders.
ASN Canadian National Karting Championships
William Chayer, Repentigny, Quebec
It was a weekend he explained as magical when William Chayer was able to out-duel Latifi for the victory and the Canadian Title. Chayer has been impressive all season long and was always a threat to win in ECKC and Coupe du Quebec competition.
It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the NOLA track as well as the OK1 chassis, but he does have the support of three-time Grand Finals Champion Ben Cooper and that should help him get up to speed. However not competing at the Pan Am will be a major disadvantage to this youngster.
Xavier Harris, Toronto, Ontario
In his final season of Micro-Max competition, Xavier Harris definitely turned some heads. He impressively earned a pole-position at the Florida Winter Tour to start the season, and then came back to Canada full of confidence. His third place run at the Canadian Championships was great having raced on a Praga and OK1 this year definitely helps him.
He was quick at the Pan American Challenge, ultimately improving his position every session he hit the track. He should be very interesting to watch this week, that is for sure.
Patrick Woods-Toth, Milles-Iles, Quebec
After a heartbreaker at the ECKC finale excluded Patrick Woods-Toth from earning a ticket to New Orleans, he focused everything he had on the Pan Am. He was fast, but just not quite fast enough to challenge the leaders in the end, but with fellow Canadian Latifi standing on the podium, this offered Latifi’s Nationals ticket to fourth-place Woods-Toth.
We will keep an eye on him at NOLA as he did show flashes of speed at Pan Am that could just bump him up to running with the leaders.
Western Canadian Championship
Thomas Nepveu, Oka, Quebec
Travelling west for the WCC Finals, Quebec’s Thomas Nepveu took control of the event right from the get-go. Simply dominating his competition, Nepveu easily cruised to victory. Back east, Nepveu was very fast in ECKC and Coupe du Quebec competition, finishing third in the ECKC championship.
This youngster is very fast and doesn’t seem to have any issue getting up to speed in any situation and that should work well for him at the Grand Finals.
Jordan Novota, Maple Ridge, British Columbia
In a great battle for second place, Jordan Novota pushed Marco Kacic all the way to the finish line but ultimately settled for third and confirming his ticket to New Orleans. Novota has been very quick all year, and even made an impression at the Pan American Challenge.
His experience from Pan Am should help him get up to speed relatively quickly.
Ryan Dezell, Okotoks, Alberta
The third and final member to join Team Canada from the WCC is Ryan Dezell. Courtesy of Marco Kacic earning his ticket at the Can Am Challenge, fourth place finisher Dezell earned the opportunity to race in New Orleans.
Eastern Canadian Karting Championship
Alexandre Légaré, St-Jean-sur-Richelieur, Quebec
With all three drivers on the ECKC championship podium already qualified, this opened up the door for few extra drivers to join Team Canada. Alexandre Légaré had a strong ECKC campaign to end up fourth in the championship and clinch his ticket to the Grand Finals. He will be fun to watch in New Orleans.
Joshua Cunha, Toronto, Ontario
Next up in the championship rankings was Joshua Cunha, a rookie in the Micro-Max division. He took the opportunity to race at the Pan Am Challenge, and already racing aboard the spec OK1 chassis has got to be a benefit for him.
Jeremy Tallon, Sharon, Ontario
Last but not least on Team Canada is Jeremy Tallon. It was a very up and down season for Tallon who showed flashes of potential while still learning the ropes of his Micro-Max machine. We must also remember that Tallon started the season on an OK1 and that he raced at the Pan Am Challenge, albeit having a tough weekend in New Orleans.