2022 Rotax US Trophy Final Report
Wednesday October 12, 2022
After working through two full days of practice and a packed Saturday that included qualifying, two heats, and a Prefinal, the drivers at the inaugural Rotax US Trophy Final headed into Sunday with only a short warm-up to prepare for the main events. Tickets to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portugal were on the line at New Castle Motorsports Park, and after all the action on Saturday, the primary players had made themselves known heading into Championship Sunday. CompKart driver Oliver Hodgson – the 2013 Grand Finals race winner – dominated the action in Senior Max, picking up where he left on Sunday to walk away for the win, while fellow CompKart pilot Cooper O’Clair followed suit with a dominant run in Junior Max. Danilo Ramalho (Kosmic), Gage Korn (Race Factory), and Marco Sammut (LN Racing Kart) were also victorious on Sunday to secure tickets to Portimão.
It was forecasted to be Oliver Hodgson’s race to win or lose, starting on the pole position after a dominating Prefinal Saturday afternoon. The 2013 Rotax Grand Finals champion was able to escape the 26-driver field through the opening corners to find enough space to settle in and drive away lap after lap. By the end of the 16-minute plus two lap main event, Hodgson (J3 / CompKart) established a near 10-second gap to earn the inaugural US Trophy Final victory. Behind him was a battle for second that went down to the wire. Daniel Ali (REM / Kosmic) and Aidan Fox (Fox + Son / Alonso Kart) were able to run together until they were run down by another group, including Argentina driver Santiago Biagi (AM / Exprit). After fighting over the final two laps, Fox was able to secure the runner-up spot ahead of Ali. Fellow Canadian Jason Lueng (Kosmic) was able to knife his way forward in the 17-lap event, climbing 11 spots to cross the line fourth ahead Yash Rampal (Fulkrum / CompKart) with Biagi falling back to seventh behind Ethan Ho (APM / Tony Kart). With four total tickets up for grabs, Hodgson declined the Senior Max ticket for the victory, which then was awarded to Fox. Ali and Lueng were then handed tickets to compete in the DD2 category at the Rotax Grand Finals, joining Team Canada. Fox was able to score the most points in the US Trophy Series program, however, that ticket was given to second place in the standings – Ethan Ho – who will compete in Senior Max in Portugal this November as part of Team USA.
The pointy end of the Masters Max category at New Castle was filled with race winners and champions, including 10-time Team USA member Derek Wang (LN Racing Kart). The Pacific Northwest driver had managed the weekend well and he’d earned the pole for the main with a Prefinal win. The storyline of the main event developed quickly when Laurentiu Mardan (Tecno Kart) exploded from the fourth row to second by the end of the opening lap, locking onto Wang’s bumper to begin a push away from the field. Mardan needed to win to earn a ticket to Portugal, and he was driving with that knowledge in mind. Danillo Ramalho (REM / Kosmic) was in the same boat, and he was also on the move, advancing quickly to the top-five to scrap with John Bonanno (Fulkrum / CompKart) and Peru’s Mundy Loyer (Nash / EOS), who had worked through the Prefinal chaos to finish second. Mardan drafted with Wang for the first 10 laps before taking over the lead, but Ramalho was the man on the move, reeling in the leaders steadily to set himself up to attack for the lead and the win. The Brazilian took the lead with two to go, then drove to a 0.986-second victory to earn a ticket to Portugal. Mardan came up just short in second, while Wang finished third to win the overall US Trophy Series title that comes with a ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals. It will be Wang’s 11th trip to one of the sport’s best events. Bonanno finished fourth in the main, ahead of veteran driver Billy Cleavelin (Kosmic).
Very similar to what we saw in Senior, Cooper O’Clair (J3 / CompKart) went wire-to-wire in the Junior Max main event. The Arizona driver got away from the 16-driver field in the 16-minute + two laps Final through the opening corners and gapped even more with each passing circuit. Consistent lap times allowed O’Clair to drive away to near 10-second advantage after 17 laps for the inaugural victory and the Rotax Grand Finals ticket to represent Team USA for a second straight year. Eventually, there was a fight for second with Archer Eversman (FDM / CompKart) closing up on Giovanni Santora (J3 / CompKart) past the halfway mark, bringing fast lap driver Nixx Eggleston (Ruthless / Exprit) and Ben Hernandez (MDR / Kosmic) into the mix. A bit of contact and off-track excursion dropped Eversman and Eggleston, allowing Santora to escape with second and Hernandez into third. Alexander Jacoby (J3 / CompKart) was able to close up and challenge Hernandez late but was unable to secure the pass. Aidan Lourenco (Fox + Son / Alonso Kart) drove to complete the top-five. Joining O’Clair to be part of Team USA, finishing second behind him in the US Trophy Series point was Hernandez.
The fight for the victory in Mini Max ended up with three drivers in the hunt throughout the 14-lap main event. Pole position driver Gage Korn (Race Factory) was joined by Canadian Lucas Deslongchamps (BCR / Birel ART) and Matteo Quinto (Tony Kart). All three drivers led at a point with Deslongchamps leading most of the race. Korn ran third for much of the run, and was there with two laps to go. After getting around Quinto, Korn was able to run down Deslongchamps, making his move at the ‘Cell Tower’ for the lead. Korn would drive away to secure the victory and the Rotax Grand Finals ticket to be part of Team USA for a second straight year. Deslongchamps settled for second, also earning a ticket to be part of Team Canada. Quinto settled for the third step on the podium with Antoine Lemieux (PSL / Birel ART) advancing four spots to fourth ahead of Fion Shi (KWR / Gillard). A third ticket was awarded to the top points earner on the US Trophy Series program. With Korn earning a ticket with his victory, second place in the points was given the ticket, which went to Shi for his first trip to the Rotax Grand Finals.
The 13-lap Micro Max main event was a two-driver fight. Top driver Marco Sammut (MDR / LN Racing Kart) was joined by Ryan Queen (J3 / CompKart) at the front of the field. Sammut led the first seven laps until Queen made his move for the lead at turn two. Sammut tried to over-under, however, turned sideways at the apex, losing a lot of momentum in the process. It took only two laps before Sammut was able to close back the gap to Queen, and with two laps remaining regained the top spot. Queen also spun off track at turn 14, giving Sammut a clean run to the checkered flag for the victory, top spot in the US Trophy Series point standings, and earning his first Rotax Grand Finals ticket. Sterling Mulata (Fulkrum / CompKart) slipped by for the second spot on the podium with Queen ending up third. Cam Becker (Race Factory) won the fight for fourth with Isaac Payn (CB / EOS) in fifth. Sammut is the only ticket awarded on the weekend and will compete for Team USA.
The roster is set with 12 drivers from three different countries earning tickets to the 2022 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, and the base is set with the completion of the inaugural Race Rotax US Trophy Final event at the New Castle Motorsports Park. The future is bright with the base of the ‘Rotaxian’ culture beginning to establish roots once again in the United States. Be sure to follow eKartingNews for complete coverage of the 2022 Rotax Grand Finals from Portimão, Portugal prior to and during the November 19-26 event.