ORANGE, CA (April 10, 2014) –The 2014 Rotax Challenge of the Americas season came to an end with the final two rounds of the six-race series returning to the picturesque Simraceway Performance Karting Center located in Sonoma, California. Battling with rain showers during the official practice day, the skies cleared with the sun shining for the remainder of the weekend to offer perfect racing weather. Over 100 drivers contested the seven Rotax Max Challenge categories in Sonoma, providing dramatic conclusions to the championship chases. Gavin Reichelt, Alan Rudolph, Phillip Arscott and Austin Versteeg left Sonoma as champions, earning tickets to the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals as part of Team USA. The three remaining class title winners - Donald Durbin Jr., Dylan Tavella and Jak Crawford - score a paid entry to this year’s United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals.
Holeshot Drive Systems Senior Max
The first day of racing looked to belong to former Junior Max series champion Louie Pagano. The California racer was the driver to chase from the beginning, earning the pole position by a comfortable two tenths of a second ahead of fellow championship contender Jake Craig. Pagano went on to lead every circuit of the 17-lap Prefinal, scoring the win ahead of point leader Phillip Arscott and 2013 Rotax Grand Finals DD2 runner-up Joey Wimsett. The main event was another memorable and wild affair. Arscott set the pace early and took the lead away from Pagano at lap 13. The two continued to battle, with Arscott sliding wide at one point and losing ground to Pagano. He fought back and the two went wheel-to-wheel for the final circuit. Pagano reached the checkered flag first with Craig trailing and Arscott third. A post race two-position penalty was handed to Pagano for aggressive driving, taking the win from him and awarding the Round Five victory to Craig, his third of the season. Pagano was dropped to third, but then promoted after Arscott’s engine was deemed illegal in technical inspection. That advanced Senior rookie Luke Selliken to his first podium, with Blaine Rocha and Matt Johnson completing the top-five.
Sunday began with two class rookies clocking in with the fast times in qualifying. Selliken and Rocha laid claim to the front row in qualifying with championship contender Arscott in third. Selliken used his pole position to drive away to his first ever Prefinal win, leading all 17 circuits in the process. Arscott had fallen back earlier in the race after a botched attempt at the lead, but rebounded to finish second. The results set up for a three driver battle for the title between Pagano, Arscott and Craig. Arscott did the best he could do, climbing up the order into the lead and driving away for his third victory of the season. Craig could only muster a third place result, after losing a battle with Selliken, thus coming in two points shy of Arscott. Pagano fought for the fifth position for much of the race, but was running sixth in the final laps. A charging Matt Johnson completed a last lap pass to move him to the seventh position, which took away five points for the title contender, dropping him from first to third in the final standings. Arscott was crowned the champion over Craig and Pagano, with only three points separating the trio. On-track, Wimsett and Senior rookie McKay Snow completed the top-five.
Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
The Junior Max field was the largest of the weekend in Sonoma. At 34 drivers, the field was not only large, but it was deep in talent and experience. Through four rounds of racing the class of the field has been a pair of talented Junior drivers. Christian Brooks entered the series finale as the point leader ahead of Austin Versteeg by just over 20 markers. Versteeg made his presence in the championship fight known at the start of the weekend. Versteeg bested all challengers in qualifying, and went on to win the Prefinal scoring maximum points through the first two sessions. Versteeg and Kyle Wick hooked up and ran 1-2 for the first 10 laps of the final, but eventually Brooks broke through and put himself into the lead. From there, he never looked back to earn his third victory of the series. Wick and class rookie Sting Ray Robb completed the podium as Versteeg finished fourth and Canadian Jeff Fulham in fifth.
Sunday began the way Saturday did with Versteeg earning his second pole position of the weekend, pacing quicker than Robb. Versteeg began the race with the lead, but a hard-charging Brooks coming all the way from 11th on the grid, took over the position up until the final lap. A great move by Sting Ray gave him the lead and the win, dropping Brooks to second and Versteeg fourth. Needing a win to have a chance at the title, Versteeg stepped up to the challenge. The Utah driver was into the lead by lap seven, and then broke away from the field with Phillippe Denes and Enzo Prevost - both looking for their first series win. After jostling for position, Versteeg positioned himself as the leader in the final stages of the race and crossed the line first to earn his third victory of the season. Prevost edged out Denes for third, but Phillipe was removed for an improper engine part. That promoted Brooks to third, however, it was not enough as Versteeg claimed his first Challenge championship by three points, along with the Rotax Grand Finals ticket. Michael Avansino finished fourth in the race with Robb fifth.
Energy Corse America DD2
Championship leader Gavin Reichelt gained five critical points early Saturday as the top qualifier over title contender Sabre Cook. An epic Prefinal race saw the lead exchange a number of times with Cook earning the win. Sabre’s hopes of winning her second straight feature race were dashed sadly with an electrical issue lap six, leaving the remaining three drivers to fight for the win. It turned out to be a dual, as Reichelt and Andy Lee fought lap after lap for position. Lee made a well-calculated and successful move on the final lap to take the lead from Reichelt, holding the point leader off at the line for his first series win. Reichelt was second with Christian Bird completing the podium.
Bird came off his podium performance hungry for more in Sunday’s qualifying session, posting the fastest lap of the weekend for the pole position. Reichelt, who arrived late to the pre-grid for qualifying and was not allowed on-track, won another hard-fought 17-lap Prefinal. He along with Cook and Lee shuffled Bird back early, with the point leader scoring the win over Cook. They continued on into the last main event of the series, this time with Cook emerging as the victor. Cook and Reichelt went back and forth, just as they have done all season, with Cook assuming the lead on lap 22. Sabre drove to her second win of the series, with Reichelt coming home second and Bird earning another podium finish. Reichelt was crowned the DD2 champion, as the class rookie earned his ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals as part of Team USA for the first time.
CRG-USA DD2 Masters:
Mike Urban scored his first series win at the Challenge in the DD2 Masters category, as championship leader Alan Rudolph was forced to miss Saturday’s racing due to a work commitment back in Arizona. Urban ended Rudolph’s nine-race win streak in the series, but was not close enough in the standings to challenge for the title. Rudolph returned the next day to close out the series in style, sweeping the day over Urban for his fifth win of 2014. Rudolph will once again be part of Team USA thanks to his championship and ticket to the Rotax Grand Final.
Nash Motorsportz Masters Max
Donald Durbin scored two victories prior to arriving in Sonoma, leading the championship standings. Durbin had a terrific day to open up the weekend, sweeping the action for Round Five. He was the top qualifier in the timed session, using that to score the win in the Prefinal, and ended by leading all 25 laps to the main event win. Scott Ripslinger drove to a second place finish while Tyler Brooks rounded out the podium. Brian Phillipsen and Ken Maxfield completed the top-five.
Sunday saw the end of Durbin’s domination, and the rise of Tyler Brooks. Securing the pole position in qualifying by two tenths, Brooks led the way early in the Prefinal. A slight bobble dropped him back to fourth, allowing Durbin to take the win over Stephen Gaudreau and Maxfield. The quartet of Durbin, Brooks, Maxfield and Gaudreau were the drivers to watch in the main event. Maxfield led for a while before relinquishing the lead to Durbin. Maxfield and Gaudreau took the position away from Durbin a lap later as the race was filled with numerous lead changes. Eventually, Brooks found his way to the lead, and never gave it back for his first win of the season. Durbin locked up the class championship with a runner-up finish. Gaudreau and Maxfield were removed from the results following tech, promoting Phillipsen to the third step of the podium as Kurt Fisher and Justin Peck rounded out the top-five.
BBR Karting Mini Max
Sebastian Alvarez of Mexico was the only Mini Max racer to get below the 57-second mark in Saturday’s slick qualifying session, earning his first pole position. Connor Wick fought back at the end of the Prefinal, stealing the win from Alvarez with Dylan Tavella third. Tavella and Alvarez hooked up after Wick retired early in the main, as they pulled away with Tavella riding shotgun. He would not make a move until the final lap. Tavella pulled alongside Alvarez as they raced to the checkered flag, with Tavella crossing the line first by 29 thousandths. Canadian Marco Kacic joined Tavella and Alvarez on the podium with Tomas Mejia and Trey Brown finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
Building off the success from Saturday’s top-five finish, Trey Brown kept things rolling Sunday as he won his first pole position of the year. Brown was on point in the Prefinal, leading the first eight laps before Alvarez moved into the lead. Brown fought back to take the position and the win ahead of Wick with Alvarez spinning off on the final circuit. Brown led the opening 10 laps of the final before losing the lead to Mejia. Niemkiewicz and Brown fought for the second spot, allowing Mejia to pull away for his first Challenge victory. Niemkiewicz held off Brown for second with Kacic fourth and Hannah Greenemeier as series best fifth place result. Tavella scored enough points in the first five rounds to lock up the championship, as the Mini Max rookie earned the title in his Challenge debut along with a paid entry to this year’s US Rotax Grand Nationals.
Black Flag Racing Micro Max
Jak Crawford entered the weekend with four feature wins in four rounds of racing. The Texas driver did the unthinkable in the competitive Micro Max division, earning a perfect six for six on the year to claim the series championship. Josh Pierson locked up the pole position for Round Five, just ahead of Crawford. A wild start to the Prefinal removed title contenders Crawford and Arndt from the top-five in the first corner as Pierson fended off challenges from Diego LaRoque to earn the Prefinal win. Crawford, as he had done before this year, fought his way forward for the win. Finishing the Prefinal in 12th, Crawford was able to run down Pierson, Ethan Arndt and Tait Blum in the final few laps. On the final circuit, Crawford made his move. Pierson and Crawford raced side by side to the checkered flag, with Crawford crossing the stripe six thousandths of a second first. Blum and Arndt were removed from the results after tech, promoting Sebastian Davis to third with LaRouqe and Dustin Salaverria completing the top-five.
The final day of racing belonged to Crawford, finishing the championship with a perfect score. Crawford was quickest in qualifying, and fought his way back to the win in the Prefinal. He led all 14 laps of the main event to celebrate his championship in style. Max Wright finished second but failed post race inspection, moving Cole Keith Cotham to the runner-up position and put Grant Langon on the podium. Austin Torgerson was fourth with Tait Blum fifth.
#GoRotax Hard Charger Award winners
MAXSpeed Group, the United States distributor for all Rotax products, offered up a hard charger awards for each main event on the weekend. The following drivers earned a free set of Mojo tires.
Senior Max: Jake Craig, Joey Wimsett
Masters Max: Tyler Brooks, Brian Phillipsen
Junior Max: Callum Smith, Horatio Fitz-Simon
Mini Max: Payton Durrant (twice)
Micro Max: Jak Crawford, Grant Langon
Miller Motorsports Park also provided the winner of the Senior Max and Junior Max main events on Sunday with a paid entry to the Rotax Summer Shootout on June 27-29, with Phillip Arscott and Austin Versteeg earning the entry fee for Friday practice along with Saturday and Sunday racing (does not include fee for tires, oil/gas).
For a complete recap of the action at the Simraceway Performance Karting Center in Sonoma, California, view the new Digital Magazine at RotaxChallenge.com. The Rotax Challenge of the Americas would like to thank Ribtect, Acceleration Kart Racing, K1 Racegear and Precision Karting Technologies for their support in the podium ceremonies and prizes during the drivers meeting.
Be sure to watch www.rotaxchallenge.com for updates on information regarding the 2015 Rotax Challenge of the Americas, along with their Facebook page.