Under floodlights, the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals held its Pre-Final heats at the Bahrain International Karting Circuit today.
Many South African drivers’ hopes were dashed as several failed to qualify for Saturday’s final, with only the top 36 drivers progressing. The exception is the Micro MAX and DD2 Masters class, which only have 36 competitors.
DD2 & DD2 MASTERS
In the Pre-Final, Sebastian Boyd, TEAM SA’s top performer thus far, was paired with Kian Grottis. While Grottis started from last, Boyd, the National DD2 Champion, set off from fifth. After the start, Boyd lost two positions and another three as the race passed halfway. Pushed wide and off the circuit, Boyd dropped to the back of the field before retiring his kart with five laps remaining. A patient Grottis, took advantage of some of the carnage ahead and worked his way up 14 places to end in 22nd, later inheriting another position. African Open winner Jamie Smith, racing under a British licence, started 33rd in the other group, battling his way to a 24th-place finish. Boyd is the only driver to advance to tomorrow’s final.
National DD2 Masters Champion Kyle Lawrence, who sees automatic progression to tomorrow’s final, started from 31st this evening. Making a solid start, the oldest driver of TEAM SA made up an impressive 14 positions to head into tomorrow’s final with a slender chance of success.
Erich Heystek, who qualified for his first RMCGF by winning the Senior MAX African Open, had been in great form this week. As is the nature of the competition, an unfortunate result yesterday cost him dearly, and he started from 30th behind KC Ensor-Smith (29th), who, too, had a challenging week. In the day’s Pre-Final, Ensor-Smith worked his way up to 22nd before tangling with a competitor to cross the finish line in 30th. Heystek was less fortunate, dropping to 35th in the race’s early stages. Despite a valiant attempt to recover positions, Heystek finished 31st. His pace was, however, such that he recorded the quickest lap of the race and claimed the fastest first and second sectors. Both miss out on tomorrow’s final.
While making his debut at the 2023 RMCGF, Kent Swartz, the National and African Open Junior MAX Champion, performed admirably throughout the week, recording some strong results that saw him start from 16th in the Pre-Final. Returning finalist Wian Boshoff started from 26th, but an early incident saw him retire after only two laps. Swartz, on the other hand, made little progress after dropping back and finishing 23rd. Neither driver qualified for the finals.
South Africa’s two Mini MAX hopefuls had a challenging road to the Pre-Finals. African Open winner Reagile Mailula started from 20th ahead of National Champion Caleb Odendaal (32nd), with the two paired in the same heat. As expected, the racing was frantic, with drivers changing positions on every lap. Mailula made a good start and picked off a competitor on every lap to finish 12th on track but 10th after penalties were applied. Odendaal stayed out of trouble over the opening laps and moved up an outstanding 12 positions before gaining another after penalties. Sadly, Odendaal will miss out on the final, with compatriot Mailula doing enough to start in tomorrow’s spectacle.
With only 36 Micro MAX competitors competing at this year’s finals, National Champion Rafael da Silva also gains automatic advancement to tomorrow’s final. From the 24th position, Da Silva moved up 12 places before a mechanical issue saw him drop the order and finish 33rd.
The rest of the team will now rally around their teammates hoping to offer encouragement as they pursue the ultimate prize in Rotax karting. Tomorrow’s program resumes with a warm-up ahead of the day’s finals. All the action will again be live-streamed from 09:30 (SA time) on the link below.