We conclude our Six Years of the Grand Finals feature with a look at last year’s’ Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals which made it’s way back to Portimao.
Junior – Venturi takes emotional win
The Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals unfortunately coincided with tragic events in Paris and I wonder if that gave Venturi extra determination to go on and do the business if the final? Harrison Thomas (or Thomas Harrison as the commentator refers to him as) and Scott Symons were continuing to prove KR Sport are big players at this event being dominant throughout qualifying and the heats. However, come the final there were new players in town in the shape of Caio Collet, Mathias Ramirez-Barrero and Axel Charpentier.
The final itself saw Venturi, Ramirez-Barrero and Collet escape up the road before they were chased down by Thomas, Symons, Roope Ropanen and Charpentier. Venturi was under a lot of pressure and defended valiantly to take what was a very emotional win for him, which he dedicated to his home country. Symons and Thomas fighting amongst themselves allowed Collet to sneak a podium on the last lap.
A shout out must go to Jack McCarthy, 8KG overweight he qualified 9th for the Pre Final before being taken out in a monstrous crash at turn one!
1st Florian Venturi (FRA)
2nd Mathias Ramirez-Barrero (USA)
3rd Caio Collet (BRA)
4th Scott Symons (GBR)
5th Harrison Thomas (GBR)
7th Axel Charpentier (GBR)
18th Fin Kenneally (GBR)
23rd Jack McCarthy (GBR)
24th Dean MacDonald (GBR)
Senior – Alex becomes first Italian Champion
If you’ve been following this feature you wouldn’t have seen Ed Brand’s name mentioned a lot and I genuinely thought this was his time. He’s been so close to winning a World Final on more than one occasion and when he lined up on the front row for the Pre Final I remember being sat by my laptop thinking surely this is it. However, the Karting Gods certainly felt otherwise and his chances came cruelly crashing down once again in Portimao.
At the sharp end Alex was on pole and led from the start with Jordan Sherratt in no mood to pass him. Lucas Sellikan was the most impressive of all. The American came charging through and had the Italian fans very nervous indeed. But Alex did just enough to hold on and become the first ever Italian to win a Grand Finals. I know I didn’t believe it either!
Event favourite Pierce Lehane suffered cruel luck in the final as did Berkay Besler who deserved nothing less than a podium. British champion Sam Marsh didn’t have the equipment underneath him to contend for a win, but battled hard for his 13th place.
1st Alex (ITA)
2nd Lucas Selliken (USA)
3rd Jordan Sherratt (RSA)
6th Ed Brand (GBR)
13th Sam Marsh (GBR)
DNQ Luke Knott (GBR)
DD2 – Kancsar takes well earned victory
What a year it had been for Hungarian, Ferenc Kancsar, on arrival to the Grand Finals he had won the BNL Karting Series, Rotax MAx Euro Challenge and won in Vegas too. He was in the form of his life so it was no surprise when he disappeared up the road in the final to top off what had been a dream season and become the Karting magazine European Driver of the Year!
The biggest news of all though, was that former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello was going to take part. He started the final in 20th place and drove the race of his life to come through and finish 4th, he celebrated even more the Kancsar did, but then again anyone who knows Ferenc wouldn’t be surprised to hear that. It’s worth noting his mechanic was Brit, Craig Boyd.
There World Final heartbreaks in DD2 came for Luke Varley and Luka Kamali, two podium contenders who came to a halt half way through the race.
1st Ferenc Kancsar (HUN)
2nd Andreas Backman (SWE)
3rd Mads Thomsen (DEN)
DD2 Masters – Desperation gets the better of Ollikainen
The best race of the Grand Finals came from the Masters class. It had everything, close racing, a growing lead group and a dramatic moment which completely charged the race.
The battle for the lead contained six to seven drivers including Michael Stephen, Ryan Urban, Jim Ringelberg, Antti Ollikainen, Luis Schiavo and Fernando Guzzi. With Stephen becoming a very tough nut to crack most of the changing was happening behind with drivers trading positions almost on every lap.
The big changing point in the race came just as Stephen and Ollikainen had escaped down the road. The latter was desperate to pass and his patience wore slightly too thin when he tried an over ambitious move at a flat out left hander ending both their chances of glory. It left Urban and Schiavo out front and Urban went on to become the first Kiwi to ever win a Grand Finals.
Schiavo received a post race penalty which moved Ringelberg up to 2nd and Gabriel Zughella to 3rd.
1st Ryan Urban (NZL)
2nd Jim Ringelberg (NED)
3rd Gabriel Zughella (ARG)
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images courtesy of BRP Rotax