After five complete rounds of practice on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday was reserved for one final warmup in the morning making way for qualifying just after lunch. With the ever-important qualifying session setting the grid for the heat race flights, the first wheel-to-wheel action of the 2023 Rotax Grand Finals would get underway later as the day turned to night and the lights illuminated the Bahrain International Karting Circuit (BIKC).
With a fresh set of tires for all classes except for Micro MAX heading into qualifying, times would drop in what could be the quickest sessions of the weekend. Here is where the Team USA drivers ended up alongside the international competitors that earned tickets through United States events.
Qualifying – Micro MAX
7th – Julian Rivera – 1:01.764
10th – Lucas Palacio – 1:01.784
Heat #1 – Starting seventh, Julian Rivera had a disastrous first lap as he lost several positions falling just outside the top-ten. Luis Palacio jumped from tenth to eighth in the opening circuit and gained another two positions one lap later to move into P6. Rivera rebounded moving from 11th back to seventh by mid-race distance while Palacio was making even more headway, up to fourth with three laps remaining. Sitting behind a trio of drivers from the United Kingdom, Palacio was aggressive as he completed lap four diving down the inside of turn one to take over the third position as Rivera was racing hard and back into the fifth position. As the leaders battled hard on the final circuit, Palacio took advantage of his momentum to slip by into second, while Rivera was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and crossed the line in seventh. Following the heat, the winner was removed from the results for a technical infraction giving Team USA’s Lucas Palacio the victory.
Heat #1 (A vs. B) – All three qualifiers from the United States would see action in the first Mini MAX wheel-to-wheel heat of the weekend as Matteo Quinto lined up 15th while Gage Korn was on the outside of row eleven in 22nd and Antoine Lemieux started 29th. Taking advantage of situations around him, Quinto quickly jumped into the top-ten to the eighth position while Korn was up five spots to 17th with Lemieux in 24th as all three competitors were able to gain multiple positions in the opening lap. However, it would be short-lived for Quinto as a loss of momentum dropped him from inside the top-ten down to 18th, one position behind Korn. With one lap remaining, Korn and Quinto had moved forward to 12th and 13th where they eventually finished, while Lemieux was able to battle hard and move forward to 22nd but was moved to 20th following post-race penalties.
Heat #1 (C vs. D) – It was Nixx Eggleston who was the biggest mover in the first Junior heat as he gained six positions early on and ran inside the top-five but fell to sixth a lap later. Francisco Paredes was on the other end of the spectrum and fell six positions early on but by three quarter race distance, he had gained three of his six lost positions back. Giovanni Santora, who started in the second to last row, was steadily marching his way forward gaining seven positions in the first six laps as he was aiming to just stay out of trouble and move forward as much as possible. Eggleston was battling hard at the front of the field and crossed the finish line in fourth for a strong result for Team USA while Paredes was P8 on the results sheet. Santora kept his nose clean gaining seven positions to finish 27th but an unfortunate post-race penalty relegated him back to 30th.
Qualifying – Senior MAX
60th – Eduardo Barrichello – 54.167 (D)
64th – Cooper O’Clair – 54.263 (D)
Heat #1 (C vs. D) – Starting deep in the field, the two Senior MAX drivers would roll off for their first wheel-to-wheel action of the weekend from 28th and 30th with Eduardo Barrichello one row ahead of Cooper O’Clair. The opening lap saw an improvement for both as Barrichello was up to P22 with O’Clair following suit up five positions to 25th. A short lap later, Barrichello was up another position with O’Clair gaining ground as the duo now ran 21st and 23rd taking advantage of some issues by others. O’Clair made some bold moves before the mid-race distance moving forward to 20th, just one position from Barrichello but throughout the remaining five circuits, some hard passes saw the duo fall to 23rd and 26th with O’Clair ahead of Barrichello when the checkered flag flew. With post-race penalties applied, O’Clair would rank 28th and Barrichello in 31st. The pair will be working hard overnight to find the necessary pace to move forward in heats two and three.
Heat #1 – With all four DD2 MAX drivers on track at the exact same time. Barrichello was the leader of the quartet in the top-ten with Derek Wang rolling off in P12. Ben Cooper, who had an issue in qualifying, started 20th with Billy Cleavelin back in 32nd. Cooper was making quick work in the first four laps as he was up eight spots to 12th and by the mid-race distance a lap later, was inside the top-ten. Lap five saw Barrichello move into fifth, but it was Cooper who was on a charge moving to seventh and was the fastest kart on the track. On the penultimate lap, Cooper was looking to get by Barichello and did so to cross the line fifth, gaining 15 positions. Barichello was able to hang on for sixth with Derek Wang in 17th and Billy Cleavelin earning his best official session result of the weekend in 29th. Cooper was also hit with a post-race penalty dropping him to 13th in the official results as Barichello moved forward to claim fourth. Derek Wang was officially classified 25th while Cleavelin moved forward one position due to another driver’s penalty and claimed the 28th position.
Qualifying – DD2 MAX Senior
15th – Gianluca Savaglio – 52.632 (C)
20th – Race Liberante – 52.689 (D)
(X) Designates Heat Race Grouping
Heat #1 (C vs. D) – Gianluca Savaglio started his first heat race of the weekend in seventh as Race Liberante slotted into the outside of row five in the tenth position. With the two drivers swapping positions in the first two laps, Liberante was up to seventh with Savaglio falling back to the tenth position. By mid-race distance, Savaglio was to the bumper of Liberante as the duo ran seventh and eighth. Another lap and it was another position for Liberante and while he was not the fastest driver on the track, he was doing what was needed to move forward as Savaglio fell back to ninth in the same lap. Finishing within 4.2 seconds from the leader, Liberante earned a P5 result when the checkered flag flew with Savaglio putting a pair of qualifiers from United States events inside the top-ten. Despite the valiant drive forward, Liberante was hit with a five-second time penalty following the race dropping him to 15th in the final tally as Savaglio was elevated to P8.
With Championship Saturday fast approaching, more heat race action will take place tomorrow. Use the links below to follow the Rotax Live Timing and Livestream all week long.
Where Did They Come From:
Julian Rivera – Rotax Winter Trophy
Lucas Palacio – US Trophy Final
Gage Korn – US Trophy Final
Matteo Quinto – US Trophy Final
Antoine Lemieux – Rotax Winter Trophy
Giovanni Santora – US Trophy Final
Nixx Eggleston – US Trophy Final
Francisco Paredes – Rotax Winter Trophy
Cooper O’Clair – US Trophy Final
Eduardo Barrichello – Rotax Winter Trophy
DD2 MAX Masters
Ben Cooper – US Trophy Final
Rubens Barrichello – Rotax Winter Trophy
Derek Wang – MAX Karting Group Canada Final
Billy Cleavelin – US Trophy Final
DD2 MAX Senior
Gianluca Savaglio – Rotax Winter Trophy
Race Liberante – US Trophy Final
While drivers compete in Bahrain, registration is open for the 2024 editions of the RMC Winter Trophy Series and US Trophy West Series.