Team USA takes to the track to shake down their karts, build a bank of track data and begin to gain pace on the super fast LaConca Circuit
For the second day of official activities Team USA drivers headed into the La Conca circuit located just a few minutes from the SuperStrata 613 that links several cites in the south eastern region of the country. The seaside city of Otranto is the direction off the highway you take that leads to the track located amongst the small rock wall lined fields. Bright sunshine and a warm breeze was on the tap for the day as drivers did their first circuits on their new mounts. The warm temperature gave way to cool winds in the afternoon as the clouds rolled in after lunch. A very light shower hit the track between the Junior sessions in the afternoon but had no effect on the even number drivers. The track continued to gain speed throughout the day as the 252 sets of MOJO tires pushed rubber into the super fast flowing finish of the LaConca track. No official timing took place today and the chatter within the paddock came from the quick-fingered tuners and nervous parents. The day was completed with little contact and no drama as would be expected. The focus for the first session is engine break in and chassis feel and drivers are required to run the gear and jetting that the kart comes with when delivered at the Kart Draw. It’s a long session at 20 minutes and many drivers take advantage of the hot pit to make a quick change and return to the track.
Classes are split into odd and even with juniors up first. The odd numbered Juniors hit the track first doing the usually installation lap surface cleaning. This group featured Louie Pagano and Ashley Rogero as they made the Team USA colors debut. The rest of the Junior field hit the track nearly a second quicker and included Dore Chaponick, Nick Neri, Andrew Palmer and Ethan Ringel. Of the six Juniors, Neri and Ringel were in Egypt last year and bring excellent experience to the group. Three of the Team USA Juniors are 16 years of age (Pagano, Palmer and Ringel), two are 14 (Chaponick and Neri) and one is 13 years old (Rogero). All faired well in both sessions, completing the laps and getting a feel for the track.
Next up was the Senior Max drivers with the first session of odd numbers that included Victor Pedrosa back for a second straight Grand Finals and Jesus Rios Jr. making his second trip to LaConca. The even numbers were up next with Sam Beasley joined by Danny Formal and Stepnova Nekeel. Of the five Seniors in the field, Pedrosa and Nekeel were in Egypt last year while Rios Jr. was in Italy in 2008. A young squad by Senior standards, one driver hits the chart at 22 years of age (Pedrosa) while one is 18 (Nekeel), one is in at 16 years old (Rios Jr.) and one is in at a very young 14 (Formal). Each driver was able to pace well in their sessions and worked through the changes needed to meet the changing track conditions.
Up next was the DD2 Masters who all headed out on track as one group of 36 and so don’t need the odd/even split. Running in the session was Todd Ulmen, Mike Daniel and Jim Busby Jr. Only one driver has a Grand Finals experience and that came last year in Egypt with Mike Daniel. Two drivers are in at 44 years old (Busby Jr. and Ulmen) while one is in at 51, the oldest in the entire field (Daniel).
The final group of the day was the DD2 class as the two speed group look to make their mark in this fast growing class. In odd number group for the two speed racers was Troy Castenada, Andy Dunne and Nathan Mauel. In the even group was James Carey and Cody Hodgson. In DD2 there are two drivers (Castaneda and Hodgson) from Egypt and one driver from (Egypt in 04, Malaysia and Portugal) in Mauel. This group carries in some solid experience and given the US penchant for out right speed this group is in great shape for the days ahead. The youngest is set at age 15 (Dunne) with another in at 16 (Carey). The next oldest is checked through at 18 (Hodgson) with one at 21 years of age (Castaneda). 26 is the next age mark on the list (Mauel) with the final and oldest member tipping the scales at 32 (Wang).
The entire Team USA squad worked well all day sharing data and comparing notes as Team USA Manager Marshall Martin keeps the team focused on the top prize. With no fewer then two drivers in every session the US squad was in great shape to compare laps times and build a plan quickly in the very limited schedule.
We again took the chance to meet and talk with several of the drivers before the business of racing moves up a notch tomorrow.
“Today went well and we went in very confident. We got the data we needed in our two sessions. I am definitely ready for tomorrow. The track is very flowing and fast. Different from what we see in the States. Great track.”
Andrew Palmer, 16 from Chicago, Il
“Today went pretty good. We had a couple of issues that we got fixed after the first session. It feels great to be back here in Italy for a second time. I really hope to do better this time out. Maybe the fifth time will be the charm. There is some pressure from being the most experienced on the team and I get the responsibility that goes with that.”
Nathan Mauel, 26 from Broken Arrow, OK
“Being the oldest driver personally makes really good to be competitive at the world level. It was last minute and that’s very exciting. I am glad to be part of Team USA for a second time. The experience in Egypt was huge and will help a ton this time out.”
Mike Daniel, 51 from Newburg, OR
Drivers hit the track for a very busy day of on track activities that includes two timed sessions of free practice in the morning of 15 minutes in length. The mornings work will be followed by official qualifying in the afternoon. Fans can tune in to all the Live Timing action at www.maxchallenge-rotax.com. Keep in mind the 6-hour time difference (9 AM local is 3 AM EST)
Official Coverage of Team USA is brought to you by G7 Motorsports of Brookville, New York. G7 Motorsports, along with team driver Anthony Gangi Jr., captured four major US titles in 2010 including the 2010 Rotax Grand Nationals Micro Max Championship, Florida Winter Tour Rotax Micro Max Championship, the Northeast US RMax Challenge Micro Max Championship and New York State Micro Max Championship. G7 Motorsports is proud to support Team USA and the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals Program. Best of luck to all Team USA drivers.