The Rotax Grand Finals took place in picturesque Portugal at the end of November and beginning of December. The championships went to Ben Cooper (Canada – DD2), Charlie Eastwood (Ireland – Senior), Harry Webb (UK – Junior), and Cristiano Morgado (South Africa – DD2 Masters). With 53 nations represented, more than any other karting event, the Grand Finals is one of the largest and most prestigious karting events on the calendar each year. Each driver is on identical new karts (different brands in different categories), providing for incredibly close and fair racing.
The best final result of the drivers that regularly take part in the Rotax Max Challenge Asia series was Indonesian driver Senna SN (2nd place in 2013 in RMC Asia), who had a strong race in the final starting from 27th and ending up in 23rd and ahead of Sean Babington (Euro Max Champion 2012), whom he had a race-long battle with. Congratulations to Senna on his performance. 23rd may not sound like much, but just making it directly through to the finals (top 28 of 72 after the heats), is an accomplishment in itself, as is fighting it out with one of Europe’s fastest Rotax drivers. Unfortunately his countryman and Rotax Asia Senior champion Zahir Ali never made it to the Grand Finals having missed his flight. His seat went to a standby driver from Portugal.
Malaysian champion Nik Azri had a weekend to forget not really having found the pace, and on top of that he seemed to be a magnet for bad luck making things worse.
Japanese driver Ukyo Sasahara, who isn’t a complete stranger to the Malaysian tracks having taken 2nd place in the 2011 Rotax Invitational in the Junior category, won the Senior Pre-Final but had to settle for 10th in the final after two Grand Finals wins in the Junior Category.
Silvano Christian (Indonesia) and Yoshito Matsumoto (Japan) were both in the Senior 2nd chance race but didn’t make it through. Silvano wasn’t happy with his weekend, having had stronger Grand Finals performances in the past, and Matsumoto was unlucky not to have made the final directly as there was confusion in one of the heats with a total of 10 drivers not making the starting grid because the gates closed earlier than mechanics/drivers had anticipated. His event ended in more bad luck with a startline crash sending him into the water barriers putting him to the back of the field with a damaged kart.
Marino Sato, who won round 4 of the Asia Challenge this year, was flying all weekend in the Juniors, but after having briefly led the Junior pre-final, he made a mistake in an effort to retake the lead that dropped him down the field, and had more racing incidents in the final seeing him end his week in 28th with a damaged kart. Awesome job getting to the front of the field, even though it didn’t last! Better luck next year to Marino if he makes it to the Grand Finals in 2013. Malaysian Juniors Daniel Woodroof and Syazwan Mohd Noor had a tough time, missing out on the final stages. For Woodroof, who was 36th of 72 after the heats putting him 8th on the grid for the 2nd chance heat (top 6 make it through to the final), it was a case of what might have been after he got hit from behind on the warm-up lap dropping him down the field and damaging his kart before the race even started.
In DD2 the Malaysian champ Chen Jet Choong had a respectable outing in his Grand Finals debut, having moved further up the field in terms of pace, and starting the 2nd chance near the back he finished in 21st after a solid drive, putting him 49th overall out of 72 drivers at the toughest DD2 race of the year. Indian driver Ameya Bafna was close in 23rd, while compatriot Mithun Ganatra failed to start a race, having only taken part in the practice sessions and qualifying.
The mixed results go to show just how tough the Rotax Grand Finals can be, and that drivers that do well in Asia can also run right up the front in the Grand Finals, or they might be in for a surprise and struggle to get out of the bottom 15! Getting a great result requires everything to fall into place, and it gets tougher every year as the level of Rotax racing around the world continues to improve.
Picture here are by Mikko Nassi. For more pictures check the KartingAsia.com facebook page.