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.
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The penultimate day of the Grand Finals came to a close yesterday, with just 34 of the drivers in each category through to the finals today. The most dominating performances in the heats came from Pierce Lehane in Seniors and Ben Cooper in DD2. They both won all 3 of their heats. Bruno Borlido in Juniors won his first two heats, and was 2nd yesterday, saying he didn’t want to risk anything because he knew 2nd would be enough to secure pole for the pre-final. The weather forecast is for a dry track today, unlike yesterday which had most heats run under wet conditions. Ben Cooper was particularly impressive in the wet, but also seemed to have a slight edge on his rivals in the dry.
Indonesian driver Senna SN made it to the senior final this year after crashing out of the 2nd chance race at last years Grand Finals. He will start the pre-final in 27th position. His compatriot Silvano Christian never found the pace to challenge for a place in the final stages, and had an unlucky start to his 2nd chance race which ended any chance of getting through.
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Today was the first of the race heats at the Grand Finals, with each category completing a total of 4 heats, with 2 heats per category remaining tomorrow and the 2nd chance heats. Ben Cooper took control in his DD2 heats despite starting both in 2nd place. He is set to take pole for the pre-final with a decent result tomorrow because Kevin Lüdi and Xen De Ruwe, the other two DD2 winners today only managed 8th and 4th respectively in their other heats.
3 other drivers managed to win both their heats today, and are thus favorites to take pole in the pre-final in their respective categories. Scott Cambell (DD2 masters), local star Bruno Borlindo(Juniors), and Pierce Lehane (Seniors) were the other double winners.
Malaysian driver Daniel Woodroof has a good chance of making it directly through to the Junior finals with a top 12 result in his heat tomorrow after 16th and 17th today. Indonesian driver Senna SN is in a similar situation and needs a very strong result tomorrow to skip the 2nd chance Senior race.
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Australian driver Pierce Lehane qualified 1st out of 72 drivers today in the Senior category at the Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal. Besting an equivalent number of competitors to set the fastest qualifying time in their respectice categories was local driver Bruno Borlido (Junior), Xen De Ruwe (DD2), and Henry Martin (DD2).
The final qualifying session of the day ended a few minutes early as all the drivers aborted their effort when the track got slippery from a quick shower, but all categories managed to set their times on a dry track. The Junior and Senior sessions were the closest with the top 28 and top 29 qualifiers respectively fitting within half a second.
The Indonesian duo of Senna SN (39th) and Silvano Christian (43rd) were both slightly disappointed with their qualifying performance in the Senior category, and need to move up the grid a few spots in their heats if they want a direct route to the final stages. Japanese driver Yoshito Matsumoto has raced with both in the Rotax Asia Challenge, and set a similar time, putting him 41st overall. Malaysian driver Nik Azri had a tough time setting the 64th best time, and will need to make large improvements to challenge for a spot in the final.
The racing gets underway tomorrow with a total of 16 heats scheduled, and the MicroMax category gets their first taste of the track this week.
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The 2nd and 3rd practice sessions were run today, with two 15 minute session for each category. With qualifying being run tomorrow the sessions were crucial in fine-tuning the setup. The full results from today can be viewed on.
The pacesetters today were Otero Perez Alvaro (Juniors), Alexandre Finkelstein (Seniors), Xen De Ruwe (DD2), and Christophe Adams (DD2 Masters). As an indicator of how close the fields at the Grand Finals are – the Senior practice 2 for even numbers had the top 34 out of 36 drivers covered by less than one second!
Indonesian driver Silvano Christian started the day poorly with 33rd in practice 2, but improved massively for practice 3 by setting the 16th fastest time. A seat change and driver improvement were reported to be the cause of the improved pace.
Daniel Woodroof wasn’t happy with his gearing in practice 2, which was improved for practice 3 which increased his pace but there’s still a lot of time to be found after being only 28th fastest in his group. He hopes to find improvements in his driving as well as chassis and carb settings to move further up the field.
Marino Sato waS thrilled with his pace in practice 2 after clocking the 3rd fastest time. Practice 3 saw him drop to 7th fastest, and Marino said he’s looking forward to a strong performance in qualifying tomorrow.
View the full results here.
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The first on-track action got underway yesterday, with one 20-minute session for each group. No transponders were on the karts yet so the only timing comparisons were from hand timing and asking around. Transponders were handed out this morning and the live timing will be up on the official Rotax website.
More pictures from yesterday on the KartingAsia.com Facebook page day 3 gallery.
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