Tough Day for Team USA at the Grand Finals
Hello and welcome from Al Ain Raceway and the 12th running of the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals. Today was the last day of heat races to set the grid for tomorrow morning’s Pre-Final. If a drive does not advance through today they are done. Or, to put it another way, for those on the bubble, its crunch time!

The way BRP-Powertrain calculates who gets to race in the Finals is a system of awarding points to a driver’s finished throughout the heat races. The 28 top points scorers in each class go straight to the Finals. For those that are outside the top 28, there is a Second Chance Race that is run Friday afternoon and the top six finishers in that race survive to race another day.

In some ways the evening here on this day is a rather sad visual. Well into the darkness there will be long lines of people with their karts already torn down, waiting to turn them back in at the manufacturer’s tents. for that matter, Saturday morning seems a bit off when you walk into the pit pavilion and see dozens of empty pit stalls. For those that survived today, there is a lot of joy since just making it to the Finals at the Grand Finals is an accomplishment in itself.

In our Junior division, in Race #17 Jake Craig was looking to expand on his great runs so far. On the third lap he was in third but tried to pass Japan’s Ukyo Sasahara and it all went wrong. By the end he was back to 18th but had no problem making the Finals. Dalton Sargeant finally got the good finish he was looking for all week and came home 4th in Race #18. Oliver Askew went into his last race with a mind set on moving up. However, those behind him and the same thought and after getting punted around a few times he ended up 31st.

So, after the heats had been run, Jake Craig was safe an onto the finals in 11th position. Dalton Sargeant benefitted from his excellent run in the morning but still had to go to battle in the Second Chance Race as will Oliver Askew as the two finished 40th and 42nd respectively in the points.

In the Senior MAX division, Stepanova Nekeel finished tenth in his last heat race which moved him up to 16th in the Senior standings. Kiel Spaulding came in 22nd in the points after a 19th place finish in the morning race. This makes them both safe and onto the Pre-Final where they will be gridded in the position the came in in the points.

For Sam Beasley, the week started out so promising with him being in the top three in his practice sessions. However, qualifying and the heat races have gone the other way and with the DNF from the first heat, the young driver from Ohio found himself 39th in points and would start the Second Chance race in 11th.

Our DD2 Masters drivers had solid races, but were just lacking a bit of pace. And, at this level just a little pace can see you finishing several positions back, even if you have the leader in sight. Erik Jackson has put in a very solid week and ended the morning heat in  eighth. This puts the driver from California 12th on the grid for the Pre-Final and gives him the afternoon off. Rene Martinelli also qualified on points for the Finals but Todd Ulmen was faced with having to race his way in through the Second Chance Race.

In DD2, both Derek and Kristina were set to start in the last race, Race #24. Good initial starts by both drivers gave a bit of hope to the team but the cage match style of driving here nullified any gains they were making. Move up, fall back, move up, fall back was the order of the week for these two and in the end it was 22nd for Kristina and 24th for Derek. This put Kristina 49th in the heat ranking points, slating her to start the Second Chance race 21st.

For Derek Wang, things were even worse. After a week of mechanical issues and getting caught up in other driver’s crashes, three poor finishes left him 64th in the heat rankings which is two spots out of making the Second Chance Race. This is tough luck for the likable Californian who was voted team captain earlier in the week. At least he’ll have some great runs in practice and the honor of carrying the flag in the drivers parade tomorrow as positive memories of the event.

Going into the Second Chance races, Team USA had six drivers in the four classes to fight for the last transfer spots to go into tomorrow’s Finals. In Junior MAX, Dalton Sargeant and Oliver Askew found themselves in spots they never thought they’d be in in the beginning of the week. In Dalton’s case, just two days before he’d led all Junior MAX drivers in the last practice before qualifying.

Likewise, in Senior MAX, Sam Beasley had to be going to the Second Chance grid wondering how this could happen. Like Dalton Sargeant, just two days ago he was near the top of the timesheets in practice and was looking very strong.

In DD2 Masters, Todd Ulmen was ready to fight for a position on the Finals so he could join his teammates Rene and Erik. And in DD2, with Derek gone it was down to Kristina to fight to keep Team USA in the DD2 championship.

As the Second Chance races begun, there was standing room only around all the best places to watch the circuit. Interestingly, there are many timing screens placed around the pits that are very popular places for people to congregate during practice, qualifying and the heat races. Yet, for the Second Chance Race, nobody was even looking at the screens. Top six go on, seventh and the rest go home. It’s as simple as that.

With many Team USA members trackside cheering on their teammates, our drivers gave it their best shot. Unfortunately none of them were able to transfer to the Finals tomorrow. This leaves Team USA with only five drivers to fight for the Grand Finals trophies tomorrow.

Keep in touch with Team USA through our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GoRotax or through our website at GoRotax.com. Be sure to “like” our facebook page for updates and photos.

Heat race Results from Friday:

Race 17: Junior MAX A vs. D
1    Sasahara, Ukyo    Japan
2    Singleton, James    United Kingdom
3    Barlow, Jack    United Kingdom
4    Borlido, Bruno    Portugal
5    Morin, Philip    Sweden

Team USA:
18    Craig, Jake    United States


Race 18: Junior MAX B vs. C
1    Mawson, Joseph    Australia
2    Makino, Tadasuke    Japan
3    Harrison, Nathan    United Kingdom
4    Sargeant, Dalton    United States
5    Kooijman, Finn S.C.    Netherlands

Other Team USA
31    Askew, Oliver    United States

Race 19: Senior MAX A vs. D

1    Riener, Stefan    Austria
2    Kancsar, Ferenc    Hungary
3    Sasaki, Hirotaka    Japan
4    Sekioka, Toshiki    Japan
5    Babington, Sean    United Kingdom

Team USA
14    Beasley, Sam    United States

Race 20: Senior MAX B vs. C

1    Sera, David    Australia
2    Dabski, Karol    Poland
3    Cooper, Ben    United Kingdom
4    Friedrich, Christopher    Germany
5    Al Rawahi, Sanad    UAE

Team USA
10    Nekeel, Stepanova    United States
19    Spaulding, Kiel    United States

Race 21: DD2 Masters A vs. D

1    Morgado, Cristiano    South Africa
2    Brand, Danny    Belgium
3    Kroes, Dennis    Netherlands
4    Matsuya, Takao    Japan
5    Clark, Stuart    Canada

Team USA
8    Jackson, Eric    United States

Race 22: DD2 Masters B vs. C

1    Campbell, Scott    Canada
2    Matis, Andreas    Germany
3    Adams, Christophe    Belgium
4    Mukhin, Igor    Russia
5    Berteaux, Guillaum    France

Team USA
12    Martinelli, Rene    United States
15    Ulmen, Todd    United States


Race 23: DD2 A vs. D
1    De Ruwe, Xen    Belgium
2    Ouellette, Pier-Luc    Canada
3    Laiho, Miika    Finland
4    Ward, Damian    Australia
5    Jensen, Andreas    Denmark

Race 24: DD2 B vs. C
1    Pringle, Jason    Australia
2    Murray, Marc    South Africa
3    Nelson, Brendan    Australia
4    Herder, Kyle    Canada
5    Kolarov, Vasil    Bulgaria

Team USA
22    Vorndran, Kristina    United States
24    Wang, Derek    United States