Not many kart racers can say that they have represented their country in an international championship race. Very few teams can claim that they’ve consistently developed and helped racers reach the pinnacle of the sport. For the 2009 Rotax Grand Finals held in Sharm El-sheikh, Egypt, RPG will be making its fourth appearance in five years in the invitation-only international race.
The Rotax Grand Finals is the culminating point of the Rotax Max Challenge championships held in over 60 countries. No other karting series is held in as many countries under the same set of rules. Each year, top Rotax racers from each country are selected to compete for the International crown at the Grand Finals.
Arguably the most successful team in Rotax competition in the US, RPG will have no less than three past and present team drivers racing in the Grand Finals this year. Joey Wimsett and Stepanova Nekeel will represent USA in the Senior class while Mike Daniel will race in the DD2 class for Team USA.
Hometown: Beavercreek, Oregon
Joey is the current number one in the eKarting News TaG Driver Rankings. The Champion Racing/Intrepid USA sponsored driver has been a front runner on the national scene after his breakout season in 2007 during his rookie Senior year. Turning his focus to Rotax competition in ’09, Wimsett went full-force by battling for the Challenge of the Americas title in the early months of the season before securing a Northwest Gold Cup regional title with Team RPG in the summer. At his first Rotax Grand Nationals, Wimsett was best in the timed qualifying sessions, edging out fellow Oregonian Phillip Arscott for the honor. After a runner-up to Arscott in the opening heat race followed by two heat wins, Wimsett started alongside on the front row. A great wet weather race between the two saw the two hold their front row positions for the main. A slow start cost Wimsett an early chance at battling for the win, instead battled for the second until settling for third. Wimsett has competed on the international scene, running at the IAME International Challenge two years straight.
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Stepanova earned his spot on the America’s Team through his strong finish with Team RPG in the Challenge of America series. After winning the Northwest Gold Cup regional title with the team in 2008, Nekeel ran second to Wimsett in the Northwest Gold Cup in 2009 aboard the German-manufactured Mach 1 chassis. The privateer was among the quickest at this year’s Grand Nationals, running inside the top-five for the majority of the event. Starting the Prefinal fifth, Nekeel was shuffled back to 11th but was able to work back up to seventh in the Final. Having also raced for the Mach 1 factory team in Wackersdorf, Germany earlier this summer, Nekeel is looking for a strong finish in his second international race in Egypt.
Hometown: Dundee, Oregon
Mike brings a vast amount of experience to the America’s Team competing in Egypt. Having won the Rotax Summer Shootout race in Oklahoma in August, Mike repeated his strong finish by winning the Masters National Title at the Grand Nationals with Team RPG. As the Masters category will not be offered in the Grand Finals, Mike will race aboard an unfamiliar DD2 two speed kart. The National Champion is relishing the opportunity to battle against international competitors a fraction of his age and will certainly use his wisdom to his advantage during the winner-takes-all race.