Day 2 of Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals heat race competition is now in the books. With two heats races complete in all categories today, we got to see the true strength of all the drivers. Qualifying can show speed, but the heat races remind us why we are all here. Well there was no shortage of action today as Heats A vs B, C vs D, A vs C and B vs D really gave us a variety of results. Some drivers wanted to prove their point with aggressive scare tactics, while others may have looked a bit more relaxed only wanting to score consistent conservative results that would not risk their heat race points tally to determine their Pre Final starting spot.
In the Rotax DD2 A vs B heat race, Nicholas Latifi utilized his inside row two starting position to move into second on the start. After trading the position with American Cody Hodgson in the opening stages, Latifi would hold on and take second at the checkers. A crash at the start of the heat for Zacharie Richard Robichon put him about a half track behind, and with no other retirements, he would finish in 31st.
A brilliant start by Ben Cooper would see him pass for the lead in the hard braking outside of turns two and three to grab the lead. From there, Cooper put down a pace that was unmatched by his competitors to take the heat race win. For Pier-Luc Ouellette, his terrible run of lack at this years Grand Finals continued as hard contact on the opening lap put him out of the race with a bent axle.
Heat race A vs C consisted of a wild start and a hard crash in turn one. Unfortunately for Ouellette, he was involved in another wreck. A destroyed kart would force him to the sidelines and bring out a full course caution and safety car for three laps. Ouellette has definitely had no luck from the moment he arrived in Portimão. With the restart, Latifi was our only remaining hope in this heat and he certainly had the speed to do it. Battling hard in the lead pack and taking the lead for a lap, Latifi, was able to convert his fourth starting spot into a third place finish. Two top-three finishes for Latifi has given him a great points tally so far.
The last race of the day was heat race B vs D. Cooper and Robichon took to the track to remind the world of Team Canada’s strength. Cooper had a conservative start dropping from second to third, but was quick to regain second. It appeared that Cooper was waiting for his tires to come to full temperature before he made his move for the lead. On lap five, his time had arrived and the pass was made into turn three. From there Cooper never looked back and was able to set a pace that the following drivers could barely match. Meanwhile Robichon had maybe one of the best runs of his life and really proved why he deserves to be here. Starting nineteenth, he cut his way through the field to finish ninth. A strong top-ten.
Tomorrow is the third and final heat race, Cooper and Latifi are pretty much guaranteed to transfer directly to the pre final. Though Robichon will need one more respectable heat finish to do so. Then our 2 time World Champion, Ouellette has a poor points tally now after crashing out in 2 heats and will need a miracle to even have a decent starting spot in the LCQ. Heart breaking. For now, we keep our chins up and stay positive. Good luck Team Canada!