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November 27, 2012 News
EKN Trackside: 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals – Tuesday Practice
Complete coverage can be found at EKN Event Page


Tuesday dawned cool and clear at the Kartodromo Internacional Algarve for the second day of on-track action at this year’s Rotax Grand Finals, but the drivers were all eager to heat things up following Monday’s lone practice session. For most, the opening session was used simply to learn the track layout and do some basic chassis and engine diagnosis. Today, it was all about finding speed, fine-tuning their chassis and determining where they sat in the overall order. After breaking things in on Monday, it got serious from the get-go this morning.

DD2

Team Canada’s DD2 line-up is stout, featuring two former champions in Ouellette and Cooper, although all four competitors have been in the top-15 in their respective groups. The squad should be very strong this weekend and will no doubt vie for the championship once again. While the past winners can never be counted out, Nicholas Latifi is also right in the thick of things as one of the leaders through today’s sessions. It’s great to watch the Canadians dialing in their programs, and it will be thrilling come Saturday when they’re all attacking the podium. The DD2 class drivers are running the Mach 1 FIA9 chassis, and most have needed time to get used to the unique characteristics of the kart and the sensitivity of the aggressive braking system.
 

Nicholas Latifi (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Nicholas Latifi
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Nicholas Latifi - #336
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Mechanic: Coy Arbour / Alex Vincenc
Fast Lap:
Session #2– 59.769 (2nd)
Session #3– 59.627 (3rd)

Notes:
Considering the pace he set today, it should be of no surprise that Nicholas Latifi likes this racetrack. The Toronto resident competed in the MOJO Cup event here in Portugal last month, so this additional track knowledge allowed him to hit the asphalt at full speed yesterday and today. Latifi really likes the fast flowing nature of this ‘driver’s track’. A 59.769 in the opening session was the second fastest time overall, and will put him in the conversations regarding who can win the DD2 crown this year. He’s becoming more comfortable with the Mach 1 and is adjusting to its ‘more deliberate’ reaction to steering input. Without the obvious time benefit of a draft tow, Latifi posted a 59.627-second lap in the afternoon practice to remain in the top-three.

************************

 

Pier Luc Ouellette (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Pier Luc Ouellette
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Pier Luc Ouellette - #343
Hometown: Terrebonne, Quebec
Tuner: Bolla
Fast Lap:
Session #2 – 1:00.277 (14th)
Session #3 – 1:00.021 (12th)

Notes:
As a former Rotax Grand Final champion, PLO is not overwhelmed by the stature of the event and, as usual, just goes about his business getting things dialed in. After working through a small engine issue, Pier Luc began the day with a focus on getting his Mach 1 chassis settled down. He said the kart was ‘nervous in entry’, especially into the faster corners, and he is also coming to grips with the unique characteristics of the braking system. He was 14th in the second DD2 group, running a 1:00.277, which was about a half-second off the quick time in the class. In the second session, Ouellette kept pushing to really work the braking zones, and was able to find a couple tenths, but he remained four tenths off the pace. Post-race, he and his veteran tuner Bolla took the Mach 1 over to the factory support tent to check the chassis, only to find that it was out by a couple millimeters on the right front. The team tweaked the chassis back, and also bled the brakes and changed the pads, which they did for all of the karts but Pier Luc, for some unknown reason. PLO is now excited to see if he’ll be dealing with a much more predictable kart tomorrow morning.

************************

 

Ben Cooper (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Ben Cooper
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Ben Cooper - #319
Hometown: Mt. Tremblant, Quebec
Mechanic: Gabor ‘Gaga’ Galas
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 – 59.925 (4th)
Session #3 – 59.737 (3rd)

Notes:
Like Ouellette, Ben Cooper has been here, and done that. The pressure is handled easily and the game plan followed closely. Cooper enjoys the track and believes that he has a great feel for the flow of the layout, but his primary focus during the opening sessions has been to quickly attack the chassis set-up to give him a working baseline. This meant two stops each session, which has held him from getting in a long run, which he believes he needs to get a rhythm for the track. They have been aggressive in finding a balance for the kart, and have moved the seat twice to find the sweet spot, including prep for the second session of the day. Cooper is on pace with the leaders, turning a 59.925 in the opening run to sit fourth overall. In the second practice of the day, he put in a longer run to settle into his cadence, and found a couple tenths of a second. While the official timing posted him with a 59.7, his data recorder logged a 59.5, which gives him great confidence going into tomorrow and the afternoon qualifying session.

************************

 

Zach Robichon (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Zach Robichon
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Zach Robichon - #346
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
Mechanic:
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 – 1:00.193 (10th)
Session #3 – 59.884 (12th)

Notes:
Like virtually everyone in the paddock, Robichon loves the track and believes that he now has a good handle on the layout. He’s feeling good on the brakes, but it’s the chassis that he’s focused on now. Considering the high speeds and deep braking that this circuit demands, balance will be key in the confidence that the drivers will have in making aggressive moves. On Tuesday, Zach began the day battling with a chassis that was quite unpredictable, giving different responses in the slow and fast corners. Still, despite the difficulty this is giving him in terms of his ability to react in each turn, he still posted the 10th quickest time of his group in the morning, a 1:00.193. After the second session, in which he turned a quicker 59.884, he told EKN that they had made some front end changes that were too aggressive and resulted in chassis performance that fell off quickly. As the grip continues to come in, Zach also admitted that he’s still making a number of mistakes on-track, which are primarily due to the fact that he has yet to develop solid trackside references for turn-in etc. He’s the least experienced DD2 driver on Team Canada, in terms of Grand Finals appearances and track time at this Portimao facility, so his performances thus far are actually quite remarkable as he currently maintains a position in the front half of the grid, overall.



DD2 MASTERS
The DD2 Masters drivers on Team Canada are all on the same wavelength, and are working very well together in an effort to push them all to the front of the class. They have been focused on sitting down for post-session debriefs on the performance Haase Edox chassis, and it’s paid off. All three gained speed in the afternoon session and were in the top-six of their respective race groups. The squad is showing extremely well in the DD2 classes and another World Champion from Canada could easily emerge from this trio.
 

Scott Campbell (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Scott Campbell
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Scott Campbell - #414
Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Mechanic: Dave Campbell
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 – 1:00.991 (13th)
Session #3 – 1:00.592 (4th)

Notes:
With all three Team Canada DD2 Masters drivers working together, there is great synergy in the paddock and Grand Finals veteran and former champion Scott Campbell is very much at ease. He knows how this event develops and he knows what to focus on with each session. Scott feels very comfortable with the track, which is going to allow him to key on the continuing chase for the best balance possible. During the first session, in which he posted the 13th fastest time with a 1:00.991, they made changes during their pit stop to dial more grip into the rear of the kart. He’s also coming to grips with the sensitivity of the Haase braking system, and made changes to the pedal set-up to slow down the action. They made a gear change for the afternoon practice session to find more pace, which they did, trimming four tenths off their fast lap. Right now, everything is going according to plan and he and father Dave are slowly dialing in the chassis and closely monitoring the track’s grip levels. With a minor push developing in a couple of the fast corners, they’ve made a small front-end adjustment for tomorrow and will continue to play with tire pressures. The slow and steady march to being in the hunt on Saturday continues.

************************

 

Stuart Clark (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Stuart Clark
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Stuart Clark - #417
Hometown: Campbellville, Ontario
Mechanic: Trevor Wickens
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 – 1:00.898 (8th)
Session #3 – 1:00.582 (4th)

Notes:
Learning a new track at a major international event like this is a daunting task, and Stuart Clark admits that his analytical nature compounds this issue. That said, when you can really dissect a track in detail, you are often able to draw more speed from your kart by truly maximizing racing lines and braking zones. Clark is pushing hard to accelerate this leaning curve, but the also knows that his baseline run this morning of 1:00.898 is a great place to start. This time put him eighth in the second group. He and mechanic Trevor Wickens did have to deal with a couple issues, including a clutch problem that was repaired by Rotax technicians. He also elected to install a smaller seat, as he was moving around too much in the initial seat. The adjustments paid off in the afternoon practice session, as Clark dropped over three tenths of a second. He’s pleased with his progress and believes there’s a combination, between driver and chassis, of at least a half-second still to find. The Clark-Wickens duo seems very relaxed following the day’s action, like their race plan is on-course.

************************

 

Luc Sauriol (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Luc Sauriol
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Luc Sauriol - #453
Hometown: Laval, QC
Mechanic: Denis Dubreuil
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 – 1:00.800 (6th)
Session #3 – 1:00.720 (6th)

Notes:
During today’s lunch break, Grand Finals veteran Luc Sauriol told EKN.ca that he’s 90% happy with where he sat at the time, sixth in the order in his morning session with a 1:00.800. There are two specific sections of the track that he currently finds extra challenging, and he is going through data to find the best way to approach these corners. Like many of the others, he is searching for more rear grip, but with the balance he needs. Luc made some aggressive changes to the rear of the kart and the grip was certainly there, enough that he needed to adjust how he drove the second half of the afternoon session. He was happy to see such a noticeable change, and will now actually be dialing grip out of the rear to return of the balance. It’s a good problem to have right now, as most people continue to chase rear grip.



SENIOR MAX
Team Canada’s Senior Max drivers had very different days: one maintaining a spot up front, one finding speed in the second session and the last working to develop the necessary pace in a steady fashion. Canadian National Champion Jesse Lazare was in the top-10 in both of his sessions and looks ready to fight for the win, while ECKC title winner Marco Di Leo made great strides today in terms of both his understanding of the track and the set-up on his Sodi Kart Celestre, which is the spec kart for the Senior Max class. WCC champ Bryce Choquer is methodically improving both his own driving and his chassis in hopes of finding the speed he needs to qualify for the main event.
 

Jesse Lazare (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Jesse Lazare
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Jesse Lazare - #240
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
Mechanic: Steven Chapman
Fast Laps:
Session #2 – 1:01.859 (8th)
Session #3 – 1:01.487 (4th)

Notes:
Lazare was quick out of the gate today, turning the eighth quickest time of his group with a 1:01.859 that put him in the top-20 overall. Jesse has a good ‘feel’ for the track and believes he has the flow and rhythm down. “It all connects” is what he told EKN. In discussing the Sodi Kart chassis that the Seniors are using, he said that the ‘soft’ nature of the chassis, which features 28mm perimeter tubing and 30mm cross-members, is the reason for the handling issues that everyone is chasing. In an effort to improve mid-corner grip, they made a seat position adjustment for the second session of the day, and it paid off as Jesse was able to roll much more easily through the fast corners. He also commented that the track was better than the morning, as the grip continues to be laid down, albeit not as quicker as much would have anticipated.

************************

 

Marco Di Leo (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Marco Di Leo
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Marco Di Leo - #278
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Mechanic: Leonard D’Arrigo
Fast Laps:
Session #2 – 1:02.177 (23rd)
Session #3 – 1:01.398 (2nd)

Notes:
Admittedly, Marco Di Leo told EKN early today that his biggest issue has been his lack of track knowledge. The speeds and layout characteristics here in Portimao are very unique and they are not like anything in Canada. Marco’s a champion though, and we expect to see him get a handle on this quickly. The chassis is also giving him some issues, as he and his mechanic are now working to get the kart to jack more weight, as it’s running ‘flat’ through the turns, which is resulting in low mid-corner grip and poor exit speed. Heading into the second practice session, they elected to go to work dialing in front grip. A pit stop in the middle of the afternoon practice paid off as Di Leo elected to further soften the front platform, which helped the kart come alive. Marco continued to detail his improving comfort level with the track, stating that he now has a better understanding of how to put together a good lap. He thinks that this will be particularly important come qualifying.

************************

 

Bryce Choquer (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Bryce Choquer
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Bryce Choquer - #222
Hometown: Langley, British Columbia
Mechanic: Don Choquer
Fast Laps:
Session #2 – 1:02.300 (26th)
Session #3 – 1:02.116 (28th)

Notes:
Like Di Leo, Bryce was battling with mid-corner grip and made some minor adjustments to get the kart to rotate at apex. They don’t want to be too aggressive with adjustments as they expect that the track will continue to build grip as the rubber goes down, which will help in getting the kart to jack weight on entry. Choquer is also continuing to find speed in himself, and he was quite honest that he needs to ‘man up’ in a couple of the quicker corners. He’s trying to push his limits in turn 10, a fast downhill right hander in which he knows he needs to carry much more speed. Part of the final complex is also giving him some trouble, as he said he needs to be more precise at the apex to put him in the right place on the exit of the corner. Heading into the second practice of the day, Choquer pushed his own personal limits and improved on his cornering, although he is still dealing with a kart that runs ‘flat’ and lacks enough weight transfer to jack the inside rear when driving hard to the apex. He and his father continue to work on developing front grip, which they believe will help bring on the desired handling characteristics.



JUNIOR MAX
Utilizing the Birel RY30, Team Canada’s Junior Max squad looks to be in the hunt for a podium here this weekend, if things continue to go in the right direction. There’s obviously a long way to go still, but the pace is coming and the direction of improvement has been set. The drivers used the day to dial in their chassis and learn the track even more, so they should be ready to make continued improvements come Wednesday morning as they prepare for afternoon qualifying.
 

Parker Thompson (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Parker Thompson
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Parker Thompson - #163
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Mechanic: Chris Freckleton
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 - 1:03.039 (4th)
Session #3 – 1:03.045 (16th)

Notes:
Parker opened the day on a high-note running in the very first session, posting the fourth fastest time in his Junior Max group with a solid 1:03.039. He felt more comfortable with the track itself, although as the opening class of the morning, the track was still pretty loose. As rubber continues to go down, the track will pick up grip and like many, he and mechanic Chris Freckleton will continue to search for exit grip and improved balance. From these initial sessions, Thompson believes that the draft is going to play a very important role all weekend, especially in qualifying. In the second session, the plan was for Thompson to pair up with Scalzo to get some draft experience ahead of qualifying, but this didn’t go as planned. Left to run alone, Parker set about turning quick laps on a track that was surprisingly slippery, as he expected more grip to have developed after a full run through the class line-up. The chassis was good and while the kart was still a little loose, he was happy with it. Parker’s primary concern is with the motor, which he believes is a little off right now.

************************

 

Zacharie Scalzo (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Zacharie Scalzo
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Zacharie Scalzo - #161
Hometown: Montreal, QC
Mechanic: Zolton ‘Ze’ Boraros (KMS Racing Team)
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 - 1:03.612 (6th)
Session #3 – 1:03.079 (17th)

Notes:
Scalzo traveled to Portugal a couple of weeks ago to run in the MOJO Cup event, so he has some time on the track and it shows. Zacharie continues to work his driver coach Kevin Glover, and is maintaining his relationship with his mechanic from the Mojo Cup (Ze Boraros). A sixth in the opening practice gave him a strong baseline, and they are working closely with Thompson and Freckleton, sharing data and approaching each session as a unit to dial in their chassis. On-track, Scalzo is focusing on improving his speed in a couple corners, namely the tight turn five, trying to build mid-corner and exit speed. Scalzo was sixth in the opening session, turning a 1:03.612. Heading into the afternoon session, their plan was to continue working on fine-tuning their gearing, having made jet changes to move from yesterday’s spec jet (which was quite rich) to the minimum jet allowed for the competition. The second session went well in terms of speed as he was able to find over a half-second, but the original plan was to work with the draft with Thompson. This did not end up panning out, so it was an open session for Scalzo. You can expect that they’ll be on-track together in the draft in tomorrow morning’s practice session, setting the program in place for qualifying.

************************

 

Zachary Claman-Demelo (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Zachary Claman-Demelo
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Zachary Claman-Demelo - #120
Hometown: Montreal, QC
Mechanic: Chris Green
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Fast Lap:
Session #2 - 1:03.482 (13th)
Session #3 – 1:02.884 (3rd)

Notes:
Like Scalzo, Claman-Demelo competed in the MOJO Cup event in preparation for this year’s Rotax Grand Finals and, as a result, he is currently very comfortable with the track. Zach turned a 1:03.482 in the second Junior Max group, good enough for 13th among that list of drivers. Driver coach Mike Wilson was pleased with his racing lines, noting that his Birel is dealing with mid-corner oversteer that will need to be handled to provide ZCD with improved mid-corner pace. As it stood, he was having trouble rolling the corner with the throttle applied. They elected to install a couple of seat struts to his kart for the afternoon session in an effort to plant the rear on initial turn-in. The seat struts, combined with a couple other smaller adjustments, provided the desired results as Zach was able to roll more corner speed for the second session of the day. Overall, his pace was much better, and he was also have to take advantage of the draft to post a 1:02.884, which put him third in his group and just outside the top-10 overall.

************************

 

Tommy Lemaire-Ouellet (Photo: maxchallenge.ca)
Tommy Lemaire-Ouellet
(Photo: maxchallenge.ca)

Driver: Tommy Lemaire Ouellette - #146
Hometown: St. Jean, QC
Mechanic: Yves Demers
Fast Lap:
Session #2 - 1:04.162 (30th)
Session #3 – 1:04.291 (32nd)

Notes:
Lemaire Ouellette’s primary focus of today remained getting a full handle on the track. He was working to improve his entry into the ultra-fast turn one, as well as a couple of the more challenging corner complexes on the track. They were forced to deal with a gear and chain issue in the opening session, which hampered his pace. Other than this, they made no aggressive chances to the kart for the second session. Mechanical issues continued to plague the young Quebec driver in the afternoon practice session, as his powerplant would not rev fully, prompting Rotax tech officials to swap out the coil. We’ll cross our fingers that Tommy’s problems are behind and that he’ll be able to focus on driving tomorrow, and into qualifying.
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