Sakhir, Bahrain, The 2021 Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals moved into the Pre-Final stages of the event here in Bahrain, as further excitement lay in store for all the drivers around the challenging and fast-flowing 1.414-km circuit. Not only was the surrounding temperature courtesy of the sunshine beating down from up above just as intense as it has been all week, but the action out on track would again welcome the aura of nighttime and floodlight-covered racing.
The action today showed us just who is in clear contention to have a chance at making their mark on the RMCGF Roll of Honour tomorrow on Finals Day, following in the path of so many others in doing that which other have dreamed to do – to race and to win!
What happened as the racing took place under the floodlights? Let us bring you up to speed…..
France’s Oscar Pellemele, who celebrated his birthday today, took one step closer to being the inaugural Project E20 E-Kart RMC Grand Finals by pulling away from the rest of the battling field to secure a win under the floodlights by a commanding 2.826 seconds after a fantastic action-packed ten-lap race.
Theo Kekati would emerge in the battle for the best of the rest behind the #701, having initially being overtaken by Sweden’s Hannes Morin, who got an electric start from sixth place to go third through the first corner. With plenty of action, at times three abreast around several points on the circuit, it provided the best way to start the racing action. Morin would still manage to hold off the likes of David Aulejtner, Aleksi Jalava and Malte Ebdrup, as the Swede kept his cool to stay third at the end.
Aulejtner was at one point in the top three, but a run wide at the far part of the circuit in the latter stages would cost the Polish driver a chance of a better starting position for tomorrow’s Grand Final. However, he would still end up taking fourth, ahead of a very steely drive from the USA’s Ellis Spiezia, who managed to robustly edge out Jalava for fifth initially. However, the American was demoted to 13th after a 10-second penalty for avoidable contact, putting the Finn back to fifth.
Denmark’s Ebdrup dropped three places to sixth, after having been in the thick of the action in the early goings, ahead of Sweden’s Mathilda Olsson who was a further 0.216 seconds adrift, whilst Canada’s Teddy Sin, Victor Nielsen and Germany’s Mats Johan Overhoff completed the top ten.
It was a runaway success for the #30 of Nikita Ljuibimov, in the Pre-Final, as the Estonian was able to stay in the initial lead over the nine laps of racing and take the chequered flag by 7.270 seconds. An enthralling battle behind showed the skills of the youngest drivers on the grid, as the Czech Republic’s Zdenek Babicek was able to sternly defend against multiple competitors for second position. It was a British 3-4 at the end of this exciting encounter, as Kenzo Craigie was able to secure third, despite having an unfortunate slight touch with the #36 of the UAE’s Leonidas Peruzzi, spinning the Emirati down to 29th at the finish.
Craigie was followed by the #6 of countryman Albert Friend, who sprung up the order from 16th at the start whilst Spain’s Manuel Miquez Gayoso completed the top five. The UAE’s Zain Elhommosany, who was originally fourth out on track, was demoted to 33rd at the finish due to an in-race incident.Poland’s Antoni Ociepa was also in the mix when it came to battling close, hard and fair, finishing sixth ahead of Austria’s Dragos Avasilcutei. Another great impressive drive was showcased by Lithuania’s Ainis Vibriantis, who moved up the order from 20th to take the finish in eighth place, ahead of Canada’s Alexis Baillargeon and Switzerland’s Paul Schön, who rounded out the top ten.
In Pre-Final A, Belgium’s Mateja Radenkovic was able to get ahead early to lead the race, thereby being in control for the full 10 laps of the circuit to win by 0.241 seconds ahead of Polish pole-sitter Borys Lyzen, who is still in clear contention for tomorrow’s Grand Final. Lithuania’s Markas Slikunas led a train of Praga karts to stay in third place at the finish, edging out Russia’s Artemiy Meinikov by a mere 0.076 seconds. Poland’s Rostyslav Kostyna was able to gain a valuable five places in the process of the race itself, finishing ahead of Canada’s Jensen Burnett. It was two Polish drivers in the top ten, as Jan Meissner in the #171 was able to finish in front of Spain’s Hugo Marti, as the UAE’s Georges Nassar and the USA’s Gage Korn rounded out the top ten.
Lithuania had a win in Pre-Final B, after Dovydas Gudelevicius moved up four places from fifth over the duration of the race under the lights, taking victory in front of Japan’s Arata Endo by 0.157 seconds. Poland had something to further smile about, as Juliusz Ociepa was able to keep with the top two and secure third place. Both Great Britain’s Scott Marsh and Belarus’ Mikita Siniabok were able to progress several positions up the order, thereby completing the top five. Latvia’s Toms Strele was able to keep sixth, despite having lost three places, ahead of France’s Mathis Carnejac. The USA’s Jackson Wolny was one of only two drivers that made up over 10 places, and would eventually finish in eighth, ahead of the Netherlands’ Mika Van De Pavert and Germany’s Alexander Klügel.
Tomass Stolcermanis was once again victorious, after having had consistently strong pace in all his visits to the 1.414-km circuit so far this week here in Sakhir, as the Latvian was able to pull away from the rest of the field to win Pre-Final A ahead of the Netherlands’ Enzo Bol by 1.269 seconds. Federico Al Rifai (UAE - #216)was next up to take a top-three finish this time around, as the Emirati driver started from sixth, as Jayden Thien (#259 – Netherlands) was unable to hold onto his front row start, but still finished in a credible fourth. His countryman Joep Breedveld held station in fifth, ahead of Portugal’s Rodrigo Vilaca. France’s Teo Blin was seventh, 3.465 seconds off the eventual race winner, followed by France’s Pacome Weisenburger, Germany’s Raphael Rennhofer and Japan’s Leon Ochiai.
The second Pre-Final was just as captivating for those in attendance, as the noise from the grandstands showed the passion and emotion of racing. Japan’s Mirai Nishida was able to battle with some of the top runners and eventually secure victory after an 11-lap long battle, narrowly finishing ahead of Great Britain’s Harry Linden by 0.111 seconds, whilst Russia’s Mark Koziaev completed the trio that crossed the line first. Pole sitter Kaï Rillaerts was able to keep with the top three, but would have to settle for fourth, ahead of Latvia’s Edgars Vilcans. Hungary’s Aron Krepscik was able to move up seven places to secure sixth, 0.314 seconds ahead of Germany’s Farin Megger. Guillermo Pernia Diaz from Spain started from 11th place, eventually finishing in eighth, ahead of Slovakia’s Matej Konik and Australia’s Kamal Mrad.
Tereza Babickova was able to secure her third win in two days here in Bahrain, as the Czech driver was able to keep ahead for all 14 laps, to win Pre-Final A ahead of the UAE’s Lachlan Robinson, who played a smart and strategic race to secure second by 0.401 seconds, having started in fifth. France’s Paul Fourquemin was third in the race, ahead of Great Britain’s Lewis Gilbert who helped his chances by moving through from 12th place. Argentina’s Francesco Grimaldi was able to progress up from just outside the top ten to round out the top five places, ahead of Austria’s Mario Novak and Malta’s Nicky Gauci (#317). It was damage limitation for Serbia’s Andrej Petrovic, who was fighting at the sharp end of the field, but would end up in eighth after a five-second penalty for a front fairing dropped him down from fourth. Thomas Ricci (#359 – France) would place in ninth ahead of Great Britain’s Kai Hunter, who initially crossed the finish line eighth on the road, but would also have a front fairing penalty post-race.
Great Britain’s Mark Kimber would lead a British 1-2-3 across the finish line in Pre-Final B, taking the advantage in the latter stages of the race to win ahead of the #311 of Callum Bradshaw by 0.411 seconds, whilst Clayton Ravenscroft (#360) completed the top three, who were covered by 1.569 seconds from front to back. Colombia’s Diego Felipe Contecha Porras was initially a further 1.316 seconds adrift in fourth, but was demoted to 25th after receiving a 10-second penalty relating to an avoidable collision. This promoted Rhys Hunter to fourth ahead of Joao Oliveira from Portugal, who completed the top five. The UAE’s Kamal Agha would take sixth ahead of Denmark’s Mads Riis, who was able to make up 11 positions to secure seventh, ahead of Germany’s Linus Hensen and the Russian pair of Russia’s Mark Metsker and Dmitry Kirillov, with the latter having started sixth.
Martijn Van Leeuwen has constantly showing good race pace during the course of this week here in Sakhir, as the Dutchman was able to secure the win in the first Pre-Final by 0.274 seconds, despite the best efforts of one Flying Finn in the form of the #468 of Axel Saarniala, who was able to take second ahead of Italy’s Michael Rosina. Austria’s Philipp Moitzi was on the inside of row five at the start of the 14-lap race, but would power his way forward to take fourth ahead of Latvia’s Emils Akmens, who lost two places. However, the #438 would be hit with a five-second time penalty for a front fairing, dropping him down to 13th. Lebanon’s Matthias Njeim would also make significant progress throughout the race around the 1.414-km circuit to take 5ixth, ahead of Oman’s Abdullah Al Rawahi. Portugal’s Goncalo Coutinho showcased a good amount of determination to push his way forward from 20th on the grid to take eighth, whilst Sweden’s Max Linden, Latvia’s Patriks Noels Locmelis and Denmark’s Matthias Dall would complete the top ten.
France’s Antoine Barbaroux would leave no stone unturned and was able to pull away from the rest of the field in DD2 Pre-Final B and win comfortably by 2.398 seconds in front of the Czech Republic’s Jakub Bezel. India’s Kyleaditya Kumaran would profit from a five-second front fairing penalty for Canada’s Gianluca Savaglio, who dropped to ninth. Nicolas Picot from France would also incur the same penalty post-race, having finished fifth and would be demoted to 14th Poland’s Dawid Maslakiewicz was able to move forward to finish in fourth place, having started in 11th, along with the hard-charging Brazilian in the form of Leonardo Reis, who started in 13th. Greece’s Vasileris Dmitiris would remain in sixth, ahead of Germany’s Tim Mika Metz and Denmark’s Matthias Dall in seventh and eighth, along with the Czech Republic’s Eliska Babickova rounded out the top ten.
A French 1-2 in the DD2 Masters Pre-Final saw the man on form, the #531 of Morgan Riche control the race fairly easily, as countryman Paul Louveau was able to get ahead of Canada’s Pier-Luc Ouellette for second, and the #516 was able to keep calm and composed to secure the place after 14 laps of racing. Ouellette would finish 1.605 seconds behind in third, as Switzerland’s Michael Hitchcock was able to take fourth, with Brazil’s Joao Cunha completing the top five.
Latvia’s Eriks Gasparovics finished in sixth, ahead of countryman Henrijs Grube, who at one point was running as high as third, but would place in seventh after a front fairing penalty. Germany’s Daniel Schollenberger took eighth, exactly where the #503 started at the beginning, in front of the USA’s Derek Wang, who started originally in fourth, with both also receiving front fairing penalties, whilst Finland’s Antti Ollikainen would fly his way past a total of 14 drivers to finish in tenth.
Overall Fastest Lap Times:
E20: 54.995 | David Aulejtner | No. 715
Micro MAX: 1:01.232 | Ainis Vibriantis | No. 29
Mini MAX: 58.161 | Gage Korn | No. 158
Junior MAX: 54.652 | Raphael Rennhofer | No. 206
Senior MAX: 53.651 | Kai Hunter | No. 339
DD2: 52.460 | Martijn Van Leeuwen | No. 463
DD2 Masters: 53.325 | Morgan Riche | No. 531
Tomorrow, we go racing for one final time at the 2021 Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals, as Finals Day will bring excitement, drama, passion and emotion to all that take to the tarmac, as there are those that will emerge victorious!
Project E20 will start the build-up with their Morning Warm-Up at 09:58 Arabian Standard Time tomorrow.