RMCGF Portimão 2017

Columns: 100cc Racing & Co
This is just a summary of the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals, now at its 18th edition and still continues to grow. The winners this time were French drivers Iglesias (Micro) and Armand (Mini), Holland’s Van der Helm (Junior) and Britain’s Ward (Senior), Australians Gillis (DD2) and Woolston (DD2 Masters).


Al Azhari penalised, Iglesias rejoices

After Keanu Al Azhari from the United Arab Emirates let off steam in the free practice, in the official qualifiers it’s Dani Van Ruiten from Holland and Croatian Leon Zelenko who stand out, both of them stopping 1:08.759. Adrian Malheiro from Portugal is third in qualifying, since the first heat it was evident that he knows his home track well when he beats his American rival Brent Crews and Van Ruiten. During heat two, Al Azhari gets his own back and leads on Crews and Malheiro. During the prefinal, on Friday, it’s still Al Azhari who sets the pace with Mahleiro following behind. The two pull away from the group led by Brent that was following behind pulling a 6 second gap. As the race draws to an end, Mahleiro overtakes Al Azhari and gets final pole grid. During a very heated start the inexperience of these young drivers is evident. Al Azhari is off to an early start and ends up with a 10” penalty, Malheiro is off to a bad start and gets tied up with the group and also Japan’s Horachi is involved in a crash. Despite being among the favourites, the Portuguese driver’s race for final victory is compromised. While Al Azhari makes the most of his “fake” lead, French driver Luis Iglesias, Jeremy’s nephew, first comes through winning a duel against Leon Zelenko and Maksymilian Obst and then manages to grab second. A second place that changes into a win due to penalty given to Al Azhari. A worthy note goes to Horachi’s race, involved in a contact at the start with Malheiro but comes up to get podium place chased by Obst in fourth.

French success Amand doubles

Also in the Mini free practices it was clear to see who the protagonists of this event would be. In heat one, Jamie Day beats Wharton and Amand, with Pierson following in fourth. In heat two, Day overtakes to lead and tries to pull away, but James Wharton catches him and overtakes and goes on to grab win with Russia’s Iakov Sokolov and Josh Pierson following behind. There’s a crash at prefinal start involving the middle group, while Leyton Daniel Fourie from South African Republic leads on Marcus Amand who gets the lead back after a few laps and heads for the chequered flag. Jamie Day catches up with Fourie and overtakes getting front row grid for final start. A grid that Day is unable to make the most of at the lights as he drops back to fourth, while Amand leads ahead of Fourie and Theo Kekati. Day manages to gain places and overtakes Kekati on lap eight  and Fourie two laps later. Amand leads on the pack and leaves little chance for his rivals to catch him. So he grabs an unchallenged win and with it the title. Day and a determined James Wharton join him on podium places

Van der Helm, noses and penalties

Finland’s Axel Saarniala and British driver Clayton Ravenscroft, swapped the lead during the various Junior Max free practice sessions until Holland’s Tijmen Van der Helm beats his rivals stopping less than one minute in the official qualifiers. His fellow countryman, Senna Van Walstijn and Tommy Foster followed. During the heats and prefinal it’s always the Dutch duo who sets the pace, leading both in prefinal A with Van Walstijn and prefinal B with Van der Helm. During the final though, it’s the British driver, Foster who tries to attack the “orange” drivers. The trio puts up an exciting show that helps Australians Jac Preston and Jaiden Pope get closer and soon step in with the fight for the lead. On lap 12 Foster and Preston duel hard and there’s a contact leaving Pope alone to deal with the two Dutchmen. In the meanwhile, Pope has to keep a close eye on American Tyler Gonzalez, on lap fifteen, the two crash. Tosei Moriyama takes advantage of the situation and climbs up into second place, he was the only one who could gain from the situation. Van der Helm leads on Moriyama and Van Walstijn over the finishing line, but this exciting final has more in store, penalties for front bumpers being out of place after so many contacts that occurred. Van der Helm is the winner and Sami Meguetonif and Belgian Luca Leistra followed in second and third.

Ward photo-finish final

Britain’s Brett Ward is outstanding from the free practice, even if his fellow countryman Jordan Brown-Nutley ends up getting pole start leading on Canadian Ryan Macdermid and Germany’s Tamino Bergmeier. The heats help the skill of Belgian driver, Felix Warge, to emerge and confirm the two Brits Brown-Nutley’s and Ward’s leadership. There are five drivers in prefinal A fighting for win, and on the last lap, Warge gets the better of Brown-Nutley and grabs first. 
Third place goes to Spaniard Filip Vava. In the second group, it’s Frenchman Jean Nomblot who wins with three tenths margin over Japan’s Koki Mizuno who leads on Ward. After the title he won with Evolution team in the X30 Euro Series, England’s Brett Ward hasn’t had enough yet and wants to end his season in the best of ways with the most important win in his career. At the final lights Jordan Brown-Nutley leads the pack with Warge and Ward tailing him. 
The trio fight and this gives French driver, Nomblot a chance to come up and overtake Brown-Nutley, the slower one out of the three. On lap 19 Warge overtakes Nomblot from the outside slowing down the transalpine driver and giving Ward a hand, the latter takes advantage of the situation. The Belgian tried to attack and get the lead back before reaching the chequered flag, but to no avail. 

Gillis lone ranger

Despite Finland’s Ville Viiliaenen good start in the free practice, it’s Nikolai Stien who grabs pole leading on Mads Thomsen and Cody Gillis. The latter gained three heat wins and dominated prefinal A with De Ruwe and Cosimo Durante, he’s the man to beat in the final… In group B Christian Sorensen and Mads Thomsen, both from Denmark, lead on Italy’s Cosimo Durante. As expected, during the final Gillis pulls away, while De Ruwe has to duel with the Danish duo. Further back comes Thomsen who gets the better of his fellow countryman Sorensen, while De Ruwe just misses podium.

Woolston wins in the field

Official qualifiers overturns odds proposed in free practice that looked to Gabriel Zughella and the Finn Antti Ollikainen. Derek Wang from USA is the fastest followed by Japanese driver Tomokazu Kawase. In heats Ollikainen and Woolston get two wins each. 
In prefinal A, Frenchman Charly Hipp leads the race followed by Ollikainen, who doesn’t stand for it and after overtaking his French rival, he pulls away finishing with about 6 seconds of advantage. In prefinal B Argentinian Zughella says goodbye to his rivals and heads for win with 1.4” advantage on his Australian rival Woolston. At final start it’s the South American who storms off to lead with Ollikainen tailing him, while Woolston is further back. Woolston presses hard and and draws closer to the leading duo and an exciting battle starts between the leading trio. Woolston gets the better of his rivals, Zughella and Ollikainen and manages to grab flag first, but the Argentinian gets a penalty for advanced start, so tird podium step goes to Charly Hipp.


Created by: cggiuliano - 25/11/22

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