Friday marked us one step closer to Grand Finals Saturday where the 2023 Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals Champions in six separate classes will be crowned. First competitors from around the globe would need to get through their respective prefinal races and earn enough points to have the opportunity to compete on Saturday. With the day reserved for a warmup session for all classes, a break for opening ceremonies shifted the focus to the prefinals that would take place under the lights at the Bahrain International Karting Circuit.
- Lucas Palacio – 2nd
- Julian Rivera – 5th
Micro MAX Prefinal
With all Micro MAX racers in one prefinal, US Trophy Final qualifier Lucas Palacio held the best chance for Team USA starting on the outside of the front row while Rotax Winter Trophy ticket winner Julian Rivera started on the inside of row three in the fifth position. Both drivers successfully made it through an incident-filled opening lap to run third and fourth but on lap two, Palacio took the lead with Rivera moving into the third position. Lap three saw both Palacio and Rivera fall a position each as the passing in Micro MAX was plentiful. Fighting for not only the prefinal win, but the main event pole position, the front ten competitors ran nose to tail with no passes on lap four. Palacio had pushed the driver from the UK away from the group behind as with four laps to go, the front duo had opened a nearly one-second gap. With two laps remaining, the gap had opened to 1.4 seconds to the third-place driver as Rivera fell to sixth on track. It was a 1.7-second gap at the start of the last lap with Palacio still in the second position and just setting the fastest lap of the race. In a last corner pass, Palacio went on to take the prefinal win by a scant .006 with Rivera in the fifth position.
Lucas Palacio will start his quest for Grand Finals glory on Saturday from the pole position with Rivera rolling off the grid in fifth.
- Matteo Quinto – 21st (Pre-final A)
- Gage Korn – 38th (Pre-final B)
- Antoine Lemieux – 50th (Pre-final B)
Mini MAX Prefinal A
Earning his ticket from the US Trophy Final event at New Castle Motorsports Park, Matteo Quinto lined up on the inside of row six in the 11th position. With the sun set and the track once again illuminated by floodlights, the first prefinal of the weekend was about to get started. Too fast during the first attempt, the first start was waved off but the second time it was perfect, the lights were out, and we were racing. Three, four, and five wide at the start, Quinto was already up a pair of spots and inside the top-ten in the ninth position. Holding station for lap two, Quinto dropped three positions on lap three as he ran in the 12th position. With the field settling down just after the midrace point, Quinto maintained his position in 12th. In a race that got a little more aggressive on the final two laps, one of the leaders spun and fell well down the running order, much to the benefit of Quinto who was able to cross the line in the tenth position but improved to eighth after post-race penalties to strengthen his starting position for Saturday’s main event. Matteo Quinto will start tomorrow’s Mini MAX main event from 17th on the grid.
Mini MAX Prefinal B
After the competition of the heat races, US Trophy Final ticket winner Gage Korn was ranked in the 38th position while Rotax Winter Trophy qualifier Antoine Lemieux slotted into the 50th position. Starting the Prefinal B in 19th and 25th respectively, contact on the first lap for Lemieux dropped him to the tail of the field in P36 while Korn was able to jump one spot to 18th in the opening lap. A few laps later, Korn was able to move to 16th and was looking good for a strong finish until contact dropped him down the running order to P36, just behind Lemieux in 35th. When the checked flag flew, it was Korn who had crossed the line in the 26th and Lemieux in the 33rd positions. Both drivers gained two positions after post-race penalties but unfortunately, both have been eliminated and will not have the opportunity to race on Saturday.
- Francisco Paredes – 15th (Pre-final A)
- Nixx Eggleston – 28th (Pre-final B)
- Giovanni Santora – 60th (Pre-final B)
Junior MAX Prefinal A
Ecuadorian driver and Rotax Winter Trophy Champion Francisco Paredes lined up eighth in Prefinal A and with the speed seen in the heat races, had a great opportunity to better his starting spot for the main event. With the Junior field being one of the toughest here in Bahrain, Paredes fell one position in lap one and another in lap two before settling into the tenth position in the 11-lap prefinal. Despite his best efforts to defend, Paredes fell to 15th by the end of lap four but contact between a few drivers in front of him brought him back forward to P11. Contact on lap eight and evasive action pushed Paredes down to 18th before a lap later, he was able to gain three positions and move back to the 15th position. Eventually crossing the line in the 14th position, competitors would wait for official results following post-race penalties to see if they have advanced to tomorrow’s main event.
Junior MAX Prefinal B
With Prefinal A done and dusted, it was time for Prefinal B which saw the likes of US Trophy qualifiers Nixx Eggleston and Giovanni Santora battle for the necessary points to make Saturday’s main event. Starting 14th and 30th, Santora made a nine-position gain on the opening lap to move forward to 21st while Eggleston gained two positions on lap two to run 12th. Both drivers gained another position each on lap four as Eggleston was now just outside the top-ten with Santora into the top-20. With three laps remaining in the 11-lap race, Eggleston was still in the 11th position while Santora was slowly picking up positions, now in 17th. When the checkered flag flew, it was Eggleston who crossed the stripe in 11th with Santora falling back on the last lap to 28th but elevated to 25th after post-race penalties.
Francisco Paredes will start Saturday’s main event from 21st while Nixx Eggleston will be 22nd.
- Eduardo Barrichello – 44th (Pre-final B)
- Cooper O’Clair – 48th (Pre-final B)
Senior MAX Prefinal B
Sitting just outside of the transfer position to Saturday’s main event, Rotax Winter Trophy Senior MAX Champion Eduardo Barrichello and US Trophy Final podium winner Cooper O’Clair would start close to one another in 24th and 26th. It was a five-position gain for O’Clair in the opening three laps as he was able to jump to the 19th position while Barrichello fell two positions to 24th. In a much tamer start to Prefinal B than that of Prefinal A, battles were not as intense in the first half of the race. As the 14-lap prefinal wore on, O’Clair and Barrichello both gained one spot each on lap seven with O’Clair up another position one lap later. With five laps remaining, action started to pick up near the front of the grid as several drivers were getting more aggressive and assertive with their moves. In P16 but less than 3.5 seconds behind the leader, O’Clair was looking racy in the final Senior wheel-to-wheel action of the day. With two laps remaining, Barrichello was 23rd on track with O’Clair six positions further up the order in 17th and it managed to be a ten-position gain over the 14-lap race to finish 14th when the checkered flag flew while Barrichello was 22nd on track. Both O’Clair and Barrichello claimed multiple positions post-race due to penalties with O’Clair in ninth and Barrichello in 16th.
With the results, Cooper O’Clair will race on Grand Finals Saturday starting the main event in 31st. Eduardo Barrichello’s Grand Finals have unfortunately come to an end.
- Rubens Barrichello – 3rd
- Ben Cooper – 8th
- Derek Wang – 13th
- Billy Cleavelin – 29th
DD2 Master MAX Prefinal
Similar to the youngest drivers at the RMC Grand Finals, the Micro MAX racers, the elder statesmen in the DD2 Master MAX competitors would also all compete in one prefinal. Despite an issue in qualifying and a penalty in the first heat race, Canadian and US Trophy Final Master MAX winner Ben Cooper was able to improve on his 20th place qualifying effort to start the prefinal on the outside of row four. Ahead of him, Rotax Winter Trophy champion Rubens Barrichello had a terrific set of heat races and lined up third on the grid as Derek Wang, who earned his ticket from the MAX Karting Group Canada Championship, put a trio of drivers inside the top-15. Billy Cleavelin, courtesy of his US Trophy Final result, was competing at the Grand Finals for the very first time and started his prefinal from 29th on the grid. Barrichello made a bid for the lead in turn four but was collected with a trio of karts in a scary incident that forced him to the sidelines. Cooper was up three positions to fifth as he was looking good early on. Behind Cooper, Wang found himself inside the top-ten with Billy Cleavelin in 24th. Cooper set the fastest lap of the race on lap four as he was half a second faster than the three drivers in front as he moved into the fourth position, and then third a lap later as Wang advanced to ninth. Cleavelin was having his best run of his first Grand Finals experience as he had advanced to 23rd at the mid-race distance. On lap nine, Cooper moved to the point to assert himself as the driver to beat, and on the same lap, Wang lost momentum after slight contact to fall to P15. On the penultimate lap, Cooper lost a pair of positions going from first to third, but back to second a few corners later. Cooper perfected the crossover move in turn six to retake the lead but was unable to hold his competitor at bay. Cooper crossed the line second as Wang had worked his way back up to his starting position of 13th. Cleavelin had his best result of the weekend finishing 22nd. Following the race, Wang was bumper to tenth due to post race penalties while Cleavelin moved to 16th.
Ben Cooper will start his quest for a fourth Grand Finals victory from the outside of row one with Rubens Barrichello in 11th. Derek Wang will start 13th on Saturday as Billy Cleavelin has steadily moved forward to begin the main event from 24th.
- Gianluca Savaglio – 13th (Pre-final A)
- Race Liberante – 14th (Pre-final B)
DD2 MAX Prefinal A
It would Rotax Winter Trophy qualifier Gianluca Savaglio who ranked 13th after the heat races that would see action in Prefinal A as he started his quest to better his result from the seventh position on the grid. A false start on the first time by saw the DD2 MAX prefinal A take the green on the second attempt with Savaglio getting a great start and maintaining his position. The race quickly settled down with Savaglio continuing in P7 until the end of lap six, where he was able to move forward and dispose of a fellow competitor. Just over one second behind the fifth-place runner, Savaglio would be forced to defend a little to keep sixth on back behind him. Doing a good job and being able to open a gap, the race was spread out as drivers looked to save some of their Mojo tires for Saturday’s main event. With two drivers battling in front, Savaglio was able to close the gap on fifth with three laps remaining. Starting the final lap just over two-tenths of a second behind the driver in front, he was unable to make a challenge and settled for sixth to safely make Saturday’s Grand Finals.
DD2 MAX Prefinal B
Qualifying through the Rotax Winter Trophy and ranked 14th after the heat races and starting seventh in the prefinal, Race Liberate was the sole Team USA combatant in DD2 MAX Prefinal B. However, a big crash on the opening lap in the fourth corner collected Liberante and took him out of the race. Ranked 14th after the heat races and scoring a 28th place result in the prefinal, Liberante will live to race on Saturday, but in a position much further down the running order.
Gianluca Savaglio will start the main event from the tenth position while Race Liberante will roll off P28.
Tomorrow is the final day of the 2023 Rotax Grand Finals and new Champions will be crowned. Use the links below to follow the Rotax Live Timing and Livestream to cheer on your favorite country and driver.
While drivers compete in Bahrain, registration is open for the 2024 editions of the RMC Winter Trophy Series and US Trophy West Series.