The Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals fires into life this weekend as drivers get ready for one of the biggest karting events in the World. Entered into the Senior class as ever are 72 drivers who have won tickets throughout this season and all racing on equal equipment supplied by Rotax and the relevant chassis partners gives all an equal chance at victory. In this article we will look at some ones to watch along with the driver I am predicting to win the event. We will also look at the British drivers taking part in the event.
Felix Warge – 4th at the 2016 Grand Finals – Predicted Winner
Similar to Denis Mavlanov last year I think Felix Warge is in the perfect form to go and win the Grand Finals this year. He impressed last year when he finished an impressive 4th place, he continued that form with a 2nd at the Winter Cup earlier this year with more good form in the Euro Challenge. Felix also raced at the IAME International Finals and showed good pace to eventually just miss out on a top ten finish. I have a feeling back in the more familiar Rotax that this could be his year for World glory.
Luke Selliken – Vice Champion in 2015 at Portimao
It was great to see that Luke Selliken was back for another go at the Grand Finals this year. Back in 2015 when the Grand Finals was last at Portimao the American drove a very impressive final to recover from a bad start to fight his way back through to 2nd place. From there Sellikan began to close down Alex in the lead but ran out of time to move any further forward eventually having to settle for 2nd. If he can reflect that pace once again in 2017 and keep a clean pair of heels throughout the heats there’s no doubt he’ll be fighting for victory come finals day.
Petr Bezel – Vice Champion in 2016
Petr Bezel is back for his seventh Grand Finals and has become quite the master of the event with his worst result being 11th in his last six attempts. The Czech driver always seems to keep himself in the fight and his impressive pace has taken him to a 2nd, 5th and 7th in his last three Finals. I don’t see any reason why things will be different this year with Petr having a proven track record at Portimao.
Enric Bordas Cotes – Impressive at IAME International Final
Up next is the Spaniard Enric Bordas Cotes. Another driver who was very impressive at the IAME International Finals was unlucky to end the final down in 19th considering the pace he had all weekend. Being based not too far from Portugal I imagine will mean Enric is going to be very well prepared for this event.
Zsomber Kovacs – 2nd at 2016 Finals in Junior Max
Last but by no means least is Zsomber Kovacs. The Hungarian was super impressive last year finishing 2nd at the Grand Finals behind Mark Kimber and took no time getting used to Senior Rotax as he finished on the podium at the Winter Cup just a couple of months later. Most recently Zsomber was at the BNL Rotax Golden Trophy event and showed brilliant pace in the final to comfortably take the fastest lap and finish 10th place. An impressive result considering he dropped to 24th on the opening lap of the race.
Others who could challenge…
Bradley Jenner’s last visit to the Grand Finals was back in 2015 when he rocked up to Portimao to represent Australia. Having driven well throughout the week a podium looked possible from 7th on the grid but Jenner had a tricky race and finished 17th. Expecting better things this time.
Arnaud Sarrazin – Top 10 in 2015
Arnaud Sarrazin could be one to watch this year. Finishing 10th in the Grand Finals back in 2015 he’s got a huge amount of experience in the sport dating all the way back to 1993. He’s raced F1 drivers along the way but the French men is yet to get his hands of a Grand Finals title.
Charlie Anderson – BNL Rotax Golden Trophy Winner
The 72nd and final ticket this year went to Swedish driver Charlie Anderson. Racing with World Champions KR Sport Charlie will be in good hands at the Grand Finals and that win at the BNL Rotax Golden Trophy will have given him some confidence heading to Portimao.
James Johnson qualified for this years Finals via the Rotax Festival at Clay Pigeon with an impressive victory in very diffcukt conditions. James has very much been a top ten runner in the Senior Max class at national level for the last few years and seeing a new opportunity to qualify this year he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. James’ European experience is fairly limited but this is a great opportunity for him to prove himself on a World stage. As long as he doesn’t put himself under too much pressure then I see no reason why he can’t be competitive.
Charlie has done just two races in karting this year having made the jump up to cars so when finding out he had a ticket to the Grand Finals he was surprised just as much as we were. Charlie did, like James Johnson, see the Rotax Festival as an opportunity to qualify to a race he had come so close to doing on so many occasions. Similar to Ravesncroft in Junior Max Charlie just missed out on a ticket and had totally forgotten about it all until a phone call told him he had qualified through after all. A last minute entry to the BNL Rotax Golden Trophy event gave Charlie his chance to prepare for the event but he is still going to be down on a recent experience compared to his competitors and I fear that will make his ride at the Grand Finals very tough indeed.
Brad Barrett is one of the rising stars in British karting at the moment especially on the European scene. A strong performance in this years Super One season saw him pick up a ticket after he finished 2nd in the championship to Tyler Chesterton. Barrett picked up victory at Kartmasters which certainly has given him a lot of confidence and on the European scene he put in some very impressive performances in the BNL Karting Series in the Senior Max class. He has the experience to do well, I think it’ll just be a case of staying of trouble in the heats.
Despite being a Rookie Rhys has been an outstanding performer in Super One this year finishing an impressive 3rd in the Junior Max class. He also had strong performances with two 3rd place finishes at Ostricourt. Jumping up to the Senior class Rhys has a tough task on his hands as he will be racing older and more experienced drivers than him. For that reason I’m struggling to predict a finishing space for him but sometimes not knowing or having any particular goals can work in your favour at the Grand Finals.
We all remember Brett’s heartbreak back in 2013 which saw him lose the win in Junior Max at the last lap last corner to Juan Manuel-Correa in New Orleans (USA). Even three years later when I properly met Brett for the first time he did not want to talk about it and you can’t blame him I guess. It’s great to see Brett back three years later for another crack at the event. He once told me if he’d win the Grand Finals he’d be happy to retire from Karting there and then. It would be an awesome way to bow out although he would be sorely missed from the sport. I can’t imagine they’ll be many drivers more determined to win than Brett he wears his heart on his sleeve and deserves to win an event of this magnitude. As a journalist it’s bad to say but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really routing for him to win this weekend deep down.
On paper Jordan is our most likely chance at a win this weekend. He won the Rotax Winter Cup and Rotax Max Euro Challenge and was the BNL Karting Series Vice Champion for a second year running. He’s also been strong in the X30 class and it’s hard to believe this is his first trip to the Grand Finals. However, I feel he’s timed his first ticket to perfection and is going to be a tough one to beat this weekend!
Previous Senior Max World Champions
2016 – Denis Mavlanov (RUS)
2015 – Alex (ITA)
2014 – Carlos Gil (ESP)
2013 – Oliver Hodgson (GBR)
2012 – Charlie Eastwood (IRL)
2011 – Ben Cooper (GBR)
2010 – Caleb Williams (RSA)
2009 – Luke Varley (GBR)
2008 – Ben Cooper (GBR)
2007 – Benjy Russell (GBR)
2006 – Ricardo Romkema (NED)
2005 – Luuk Glansdorp (NED)
2004 – San Ghalleb (FRA)
2003 – Christiano Morgado (RSA)
2002 – Mark Cronje (RSA)
2001 – Claudio Piazza-Musso (RSA)
2000 – Gavin Cronje (RSA)