Ten Years Later: 2013 Rotax Grand Finals Review
September 5, 2023
The year is 2013, the month is November. The location is the NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The first ever Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals held on United States soil took place on November 10-16. It was the 14th edition of the Rotax world championship, spanning from the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe before making its debut in the USA.
The event was hosted by then Rotax USA distributor MAXSpeed Group – led by Richard Boisclair – with Garett Potter – the then General Manager of NOLA facility. The location was announced at the 2012 Rotax Grand Finals afterparty, giving a full year of promotion and preparation for the USA to welcome the Rotaxians from around the world to the ‘Big Easy’.
Through events in the United States, a total of 23 drivers earned tickets to compete at the 2013 Rotax Grand Finals to represent the USA in the four categories, featuring 288 pilots from all around the world. The headline DD2 division featured five from the USA, including top qualifier Daniel Formal – who was coming off winning his fourth US Rotax Grand Nationals title. Six USA drivers contested the Senior division, led by three-time US Rotax Grand Nationals winner Nick Neri. The DD2 Masters group for Team USA had six veteran drivers, including now ‘Captain America’ Derek Wang who was making his third appearance at the Rotax Grand Finals. The Junior squad was a loaded six-driver roster, featuring a number of up and coming stars, including a Florida kid by the name of Ryan Norberg.
USA drivers were in contention throughout the event, claiming two pole positions for the Prefinal after the heat racing with Alan Rudolph in DD2 Masters and now IndyCar driver Kyle Kirkwood in Junior. Rudolph ended up dropping to fourth. He was able to come back up to fight for the lead in the Final when contact was made, dropping him down the order but working back up to 12th to lead Team USA.
It was in the other three categories that Team USA welcomed podium glory. One of the biggest comebacks in Rotax Grand Finals history came at the hand of a young Oliver Askew. The future IndyCar driver drove up from 24th at the start of the Prefinal to battle inside the top-10. Contact sent him off the track and left his kart undriveable, putting him back in 30th for the start of the Final. He put in another amazing drive forward, reaching the top-15, all within the opening lap. Askew continued picking off drivers and was able to secure the third step on the podium to record the best finish by a Team USA driver at the time.
Two bullets for Team USA were gunning for victory in DD2 with Formal and top shifterkart driver Joey Wimsett. They filled up the second row for the main event with Formal battling early before a broken clutch took him out of the race. This left Wimsett to battle for the Red White and Blue – who led early in the race but settled into a battle for second that he was able to secure in the closing laps. The runner-up result for Wimsett still stands as the best result by a Team USA driver at the Rotax Grand Finals.
Five drivers for Team USA were in the Junior main event, led by Luke Selliken starting third. He was shuffled back at the start and never broke back into the top-five. This passed the baton to Juan Manuel Correa – the 2013 US Rotax Grand Nationals winner. Correa ran third for much of the race with it all coming down to the final lap. Contact between the top two allowed Correa to slide into the second spot. Down the long back straight, Correa kept in the draft and waited for the final turn to make his move, slipping inside, and winning the race to the checkered flag to become the first driver from the United States to win the Rotax Grand Finals.