Team pslkarting.com began its quest toward the 2011 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals recently as RMC competition began at PKRA’s Formula K Raceway in Glendale, Arizona. The opening round of the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas was the Series, and though PSL had just four drivers on hand for the West Coast event they certainly left a mark in securing four poles, three wins and five total podiums from the two-day competition. Both Nicholas Latifi and Austin Versteeg produced double-podium runs, with Versteeg sweeping Mini-Max on Sunday after Latifi had turned the trick Saturday. It was a fantastic start to the season for the CRG squad, and Latifi especially, as the Canadian teenager was making his race debut in DD2.
“Sweeping Saturday felt amazing,” he said afterward. “We worked really hard in the limited time we had and it couldn't have gone any better. We made many changes to the kart and got dialled in pretty quickly to the track. It was very fast and flowing. It was all about carrying speed through the corners. You really had to be smooth. I really have to thank my mechanics, Jean-Francois and Coy, my coach David, Critical Zone Racing, PSL Karting and of course my parents for all their support.”
Latifi backed up the debut effort with another win on Sunday, but the days were much different according to the driver. “I was fairly calm throughout the whole day Saturday due to the speed we had over the other drivers,” he said. “But Sunday was a little bit harder on us. It wasn't at all like Saturday where we were always fastest and finished the races with big leads. We lost some speed and the other drivers found some. For both races the second place driver, Derek Wang, was always on me. I was under constant pressure from him in the last few laps but I kept my cool and drove to victory.”
After beginning Sunday from off-pole, Latifi won the prefinal before winning an epic final showdown that included multiple swaps for the lead in the closing laps. Saturday had come with pole and fastest lap in both races, and a pair of big wins - the final nearing ten seconds. It certainly has Latifi fond of his new class, and looking forward to a busy season ahead that focuses on a return to the RMC Grand Finals.
“The DD2 is a lot more fun to drive and it makes for better racing,” he said of his new mount. “I am also racing against different people, who are much older than me, so it makes for great, competitive, competition. Earning a spot to the Grand Finals this year is the main goal, for sure. I had such a great experience last year and I really want to go back. Along with Gatorz, I’ll be running with PSL in the Florida Winter Tour, Pan-American Rotax Max Challenge and the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship, which all give spots back to the Grand Finals.”
For his part, Versteeg swept the field on Sunday after starting from pole, winning the prefinal with fastest lap and winning the main by the slimmest of margins - 0.078 seconds! It was similar to the day the he’d had on Saturday, with a much better finish for the Utah racer. After starting the day from off-pole and winning the prefinal, Versteeg was part of a three-kart fight for the win when he was tripped up in lapped traffic. He rescued a podium finish and had the fastest lap in the field as well.
Felipe Fraga produced the fifth PSL podium, his coming in Rotax Senior on Sunday after he was robbed of a win on Saturday. Fraga had taken pole and the prefinal in race one and was leading halfway through the main when contact knocked him wide and off-track. He had to settle for fifth afterward, but was right back on pole Sunday morning. Day two saw the Brazilian cross second in the prefinal before once again dicing for the win early in the final before cruising to second.
The Gatorz Challenge resumes February 18-20 at CalSpeed Karting Centre in Fontana, California. It concludes March 18-20 at Jim Russell International Karting Center in Sonoma, California. For more information on the worlds #1 CRG dealer, please visit pslkarting.com
PSL Karting Results from Gatorz Challenge of the Americas - Glendale, Arizona
Nicholas Latifi - 1st, 1st
Felipe Fraga - 5th, 2nd
Sabre Cook - 21st, 16th
Austin Versteeg - 3rd, 1st