This Friday, Nov. 30th, was already the penultimate day of competition at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2018 in Brazil. The drivers arrived at the Circuito Internacional Paladino this Friday morning excited but also maybe with a feeling of apprehension as to what Prefinals day will hold in store for them and their team.
Again, the sun was strong and even early morning when the first karts queued for Warm-up, the temperature was creeping into the 30 degrees. How the drivers have performed over the last two days will have determined their starting position in either Prefinal A or Prefinal B.
So, this Friday, they competed to do their absolute best for one last push to make the Grand Final and get the best starting position possible. The points from the Prefinals were added to their points from the heats and they were ranked in order. The first 36 drivers continue to the Finals this Saturday, whereas the bottom half has unfortunately finished earlier their journey and handed their equipment back.
The Prefinals promised to be a tale of drivers in one of two positions, those that had good heat results and were confident of making the Final but wanted to earn the very best grid spot to help achieve their goal of success. On the other side, there are those that were perhaps on the verge of not making it through to Sunday and wanting desperately to compete in the Finals. One thing was certain, every position would count.
The day started with a Warm-up session for each class and one last chance to try any set-up changes to find that last tenth of second without the pressure of losing positions in a race situation.
125 Micro MAX
Warm-Up: Mitchell Van Dijk – 58.667
Prefinal: With 36 entries in the Micro MAX class, every driver was assured to make it through to Sunday’s Final. However, the race still showed how determined and competitive these youngsters are. Pole-sitter Douwe Dedecker led the other Top 3 starters, Harry Hannam and Maksymilian Obst and pulled them away from the rest of the pack to make it a three-driver fight for the win. Harry Hannam then made a move on the Belgian driver with three corners to go and was unchallenged until the line. Obst, who finished 4th in 2017, was unable to capitalise on this action and crossed the line in 3rd so the final grid tomorrow will be Harry Hannam on Pole, Dedecker, Obst, Brent Crews for the USA and Mitchell Van Dijk who made his way up from outside the Top 10 to be well within fighting distance for the Final this Saturday.
125 Mini MAX
Warm-Up: Costa Toparis – 56.030
Prefinal: The Mini MAX field is also made up of 36 drivers so whilst they didn’t have to worry about not making it through, the importance of the starting position for tomorrow finals showed. When the race got to the vital
125 Junior MAX
Warm-Up: Odd Numbers – Masson Esteban – 52.704. Even Numbers – Jaiden Pope – 52.506
Prefinal A: Australian Jaiden Pope continued to show his performance all week and indeed last year at the Grand Finals was not a one-off by storming away from the field in Prefinal A. He would have to see how his main competition goes in Prefinal B later to know if he has secured pole position, but he couldn’t do
Prefinal B: Team Netherlands achieved a Team 1-2 in the Junior Prefinal B with another light to flag victory by Robert De Hann who won over Mike Van Vugt. However, this was not the order they finished on track as Esteban Masson from France received not one but two-time penalties resulting in him gaining a total of eight seconds onto his race time. This dropped him to P9, still one place higher than he started but he will have a harder job in the Final now. Lewis Gilbert was promoted to 3rd for Team UK and Kobe Pauwels (BEL) to 4th.
If the racing did not show how close the competition is in the Junior category then the Final Grid positions do. Jaiden Pope and Robert De Haan tie on points after the Qualifying Heats and Prefinals resulting in the decision going back to the fastest lap-time posted in the Prefinal. De Haan wins this with a 52.865 over Pope’s 52.933.
Warm-Up: Odd Numbers – James Lowther – 52.001. Even Numbers – Benjamin Jurczak – 52.179
Prefinal A: Hannes Morrin couldn’t be blamed if he thought he may get another relatively easy win in his Prefinal and he did indeed lead every lap before Senna Van Walstijn from the Netherlands came past him with a last-corner move. Team Australia had a good showing with Benjamin Jurczak coming 3rd with Great Britain’s Rhys Hunter 4th and Bastien Borget from France 5th.
Prefinal B: The first seven laps belonged to Petr Bezel as he
125 MAX DD2 Masters
Warm-Up: Odd Numbers – Matthew Hamilton – 52.416. Even Numbers – Antti Ollikainen – 52.200
Prefinal A: Although he has won the Grand Finals four times previously, Cristiano Morgado could not have thought that his Prefinal would be easy. However, it looked exactly this when the drivers behind him started to battle from the first lap and let him pull out and manage a 4.124-second gap when he crossed the line. Michael Stephen eventually fought his way back up to 2nd after losing this position at the start. He was almost gifted this however as he was sat in 3rd before Finland’s Antti Ollikainen suffered some mechanical issues and dropped down the order to finish 5th. This promoted Lucas Zacante Souza and Slawomir to 3rd and 4th.
Prefinal B: The DD2 Masters’ race again saw a nation come home with a 1-2 due to a drop-down nose cone penalty. New Zealand saw Fraser Hart battle all race with the P
125 MAX DD2
Warm-Up: Odd Numbers – Daniel Formal – 51.812. Even Numbers – Mariano Pires – 51.681
Prefinal A: Poleman Xen De Ruwe had a dream start to Prefinal A and with the two Italians Claudio Pagliarani and Cristian Trolese trading places on the first two laps, the driver from Slovenia was able to build the largest lead we had seen in racing all week. He continued to post fast and consistent times and eventually won by over five seconds. The rest of the pack switched places almost continuously through the 15 laps but it was Frenchman Paolo Besancenz that grabbed 2nd place ahead of Ryan Wood who continued his run of 3rd place finishes. The Italian Claudio Pagliarani and Jakub Bezel were 4th and 5th.
Prefinal B: Daniel Formal made sure that the DD2 Final this Saturday will certainly be one to watch when he equalized Xen De Ruwe’s performance in his Prefinal by leading every lap and taking the win. Although, it wasn’t with the same dominance with the lead he had at the end of the race it can be said that the racers behind didn’t make it as easy for him. Taylor Greenfield lost his 2nd place at the start but made his move and gave chase on the leader. Arnold Neveling improved one position form the start as the overall quickest in qualifying on Wednesday, Ryan Kennedy, seems to be struggling with race pace as he dropped to 4th.
DEKM RGF 2018
Warm-Up: Philipp Britz – 55.319
Qualifying Practice 2: With a second chance to gain the Pole position for the Prefinal, all of the drivers, apart from Lukas Hortsmann who set the fastest time in Qualifying Practice 1 on Thursday, took to the track. Roberto Da Silveira was back at the top with a 55.541 but this was a long way off being fast enough to beat the time already set. The Brazilian mixing it with the experienced German drivers would start 2nd with Lauren Clevert 3rd.
PreFinal: It was in fact Philipp Britz who showed pace in Qualifying Practice 2 that would have a fantastic start to the race and battle his way through the top 5 to make his move for the lead on Lap 5. Roberto Da Silveira came home 2nd ahead of the pole man Lukas Horstmann. One of the other guest drivers from the Americas Series that qualified for this championship earlier in the week finished 4th in the form of Juan Jose Diaz Rodriguez. After the race, the winner received a five-second penalty that promoted Da Silveira to Pole for tomorrow’s Final and Britz to 4th.
After a tense day of racing, drivers will now feel one of two emotions. Excitement and happiness that they have made it through to the Grand Finals schedules this Saturday from 12:00 am (4:00 pm European central time), or disappointment that they will now be handing back their equipment to the Rotax and the Chassis partners.
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Info: RMCGF 2018 Communications
Editing: Guillaume Alvarez