Big day for Team USA as Formal earns a front row seat for the Sunday Senior Max Prefinal and eleven USA drivers make it into the Sunday program.
On the warmest and sunniest day so far, drivers ran the final of three heat races and several headed in the Second Chance Qualifier for one last dash at Sunday glory. The ribbon of black laid down by the 21 heat races that pounded 264 laps of racing over the two days became thick and black. The final heat races would see the top 28 ranked drivers head straight to the Sunday morning prefinal. The next 34 drivers headed into the Second Chance Race looking for one of six transfer spots. Even before the SCR, 8 drivers in each class will head home, their weekend done, karts returned and memories created. The track is covered in all things Rotax with several displays and vendors offering new and unique products. Sniper is on site with their new laser tool, the Inox System. Lucky Design is set-up with the latest Euro design helmets on display and shields for sale. Each group completed a nice round of morning warm-up on a clean, dry and warm track surface courtesy of the morning sun rising over the Adriatic Sea to the east.
The racing action would begin with Junior Max pilots who were up first with A vs. D that had only one Team USA driver in the field with Dore Chaponick going from outside row nine. The young Florida driver was 14th after the first lap and running well with the field. Contact early in the session sent him back in the order and he was only able to cross in 35th after eight laps. The second race featured five USA drivers in the mix with America’s own Nick Neri on pole for the exciting start. Further back in the order, Louie Pagano was in the eighth row with Ethan Ringel and Andrew Palmer sharing the 10th row. Young Ashley Rogero slotted into the 14th row. Neri led most of the race in a good battle at the front with Jack Aitkin of the UK as the two looked to gap the field. Neri would cross the line in second with Ringel pulling together a nice 14th place finish to improve his stock along Palmer crossing in 20th, Rogero in 27th and Pagano closing out in 34th.
Making it through directly into the Sunday prefinal was Neri and Ringel as they ranked 11th and 14th respectively after the three-heat points tally. Heading into the Second Chance Qualifier was Palmer (42), Pagano (46), Rogero (55) and Chaponick (57). A tough race to get completed for any driver it was Palmer crossing in fifth for the only USA driver to transfer to the prefinal. Rogero crossed in 21st, with Chaponick in 25th and Pagano in 30th.
The Senior Max drivers were stoked and ready to race. First up was A vs. D that had Jesus Rios Jr. in the outside row four spot and Victor Pedrosa inside row 12 and Beasley on row 18. At the line it was Rios with another great finish taking 6th at the line followed by Beasley with a nice drive to 27th from 36th and Pedrosa closing out in 29th. Then came the Senior B vs. D that headed on track with Danny Formal in pole position joined by Stepanova Nekeel on row seven. Formal lead the opening laps from the start and began to gap the chase pack. Canadian Pier-Luc Ouellette, who beat Formal at Ocala Gran Prix for the 2010 FWT Senior Max title, passed the young driver in the closing laps as he began to fade. Formal would cross in 4th with Nekeel taking 13th.
Making it through directly to the prefinal was Formal who is ranked 2nd earning a front row start for the prefinal. Joining him is Rios who ranked 13th overall and set himself up for a solid day of racing on Sunday. Nekeel ranked 29th and will go from pole in Second Chance Qualifier race with Pedrosa ranked 50th and looking to make it to the Sunday show. Beasley’s tough weekend sees him ranked in 66th and done for the event. In the SCQ it was Nekeel in a huge battle up front to cross in 3rd for a transfer to the prefinal with Pedrosa finish an amazing seventh, but one short of transferring to the prefinal ending his weekend early in heart break.
Masters has turned into a great class with some great racing from the seasoned drivers. All three were ready to go with Jim Busby Jr. looking to keep his momentum going from the fourth row. Mike Daniel would go from his inside row eleven spot with Todd Ulmen in row 14. Busby kept up his string of top tens going taking 8th after 12 laps. Busby was followed through by Daniel in 18th spot and Ulmen in 35th place. With all the heats tallied was good for Team USA with Busby in 6th spot for an outside row three start for tomorrow’s prefinal along with Daniel who ranked 18th and Ulmen in at 27th. With just 36 drivers in the field all transfer to the Sunday event.
DD2 would enjoy a very rubbered track as they headed out for their final two heat races. First up was the A vs. D with Troy Castaneda on the outside of row one. Castaneda was joined by Derek Wang, who would go hot from inside row seven. Castaneda ran a solid race battling at the front from the drop of the lights. He was pushed wide off the start and had to get in line through the right/right/right first three turns. Castaneda held on for 6th at the line followed by Hodgson who jumped up to finish in 12th from his 21st starting spot. Wang fell victim to contact on the last lap and was classified in 34th place. The final race of the heats was DD2 B vs. D that had Andy Dunne on row seven with Nathan Mauel on row 12 and James Carey on row 15. Mauel led the way with a 21st place finish followed by Dunne in 24th place. Carey was unable to make a lap getting taken out in the corner one melee.
Castaneda would rank highest of the Team USA drivers in 6th with Dunne also going straight into the Sunday show in 25th spot. For Mauel (36), Wang (41), Hodgson (45) and Carey ( 51) it was into the SCQ. With a total of four drivers headed to the Second Chance Race team USA was hoping for some more drivers to transfer into the Prefinal. Hodgson got up 9th at the line and fell short of the prefinal grid. Wang was 17th with Mauel in 21st and Carey in 31st out after seven laps.
Tomorrow is Finals Sunday that starts with the prefinals in the morning followed by the Parade of Nations. The 62 (60 depending on how you count a couple of countries) Nations represented in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals hit the track as all 250 drivers show off their national pride. Then in the afternoon the finals begin and Grand Finals Champions are crowned.
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.