The 16th edition of the Rotax Grand Finals, or the unofficial Olympics of karting, has already kicked off in Portimao, Portugal. The circuit first held the event back in 2012 and was so popular with the drivers that it was brought back in just a matter of a few years. The chassis partners for this year's event are Birel ART, IPKarting (Praga) and Sodikart, as they have worked very hard to contribute to the making of the 16th annual Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals.
DAY ONE VIDEO
The DD2 category has 72 drivers from 40 different countries and the door for a new champion is wide open. Not a single driver from the podium in 2014 is returning to the event, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t stiff competition.
Leading the 72 drivers will definitely be the 2015 Euro Max Challenge and US Open Champion Ferenc Kancsar. The Hungarian has been on it all year and will surely look to cap off an impressive season with a grand finale. There is a long list of drivers ready to show they are the best in the world and we have our eye on five of them. Andreas Backman, Luke Varley, and Daniel Bray are proven race winners on an international level. Joining these three is former Formula One superstar Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian has been spending a ton of time in a kart since retiring and will surely be fighting for the podium. Lastly is the American Jake French. The driver from Texas gave Kancsar a hard time all year long at the US Open and has a ton of confidence going into the weekend.
The “premier” category in our eyes, Senior Max has a ridiculous amount of talent in the 72 kart field. Only one man from the 2014 podium is returning and that is the hometown favorite of Bruno Borlido. With a second place finish at last year’s event he is one of the favorites to move up one more spot on the podium to take the victory. His toughest competition could come from the Euro Max Challenge champion Pierce Lehane and front-runner Ed Brand. Brand struggles at the start of the season getting use to his new CRG ride, but at the end of the season was a force to be reckoned with.
From America Kyle Kirkwood is one of the favorites. He has shown all year long he and Oliver Askew are the two fastest Senior Max drivers and we know how well Askew has done this year. Always at the front you will find the young Dutchman of Rinus Van Kalmthout. This kid is hungry for success and has shown all year he can be fast at tracks he may not have the most time on.
For the favorite in the Junior Max category is the Euro champ Jack McCarthy, but as we have seen in years past that doesn’t always mean you’re guaranteed to be at the front at the Grand Finals. His challengers? First we look at his two fellow countrymen Fin Kenneally and Dean McDonald. Between these three drivers they won three of the four races in the Euro Max Challenge. We have to also keep an eye on the Brazilian Caio Collet. He has been racing all over the world this year and shown success in a variety of categories including a third place at the KFJ World Championships.
This may be the best category for the North Americans with five drivers that are very strong contenders. Starting off with the Canadian Samuel Lupien who won the Canadian National Championship. He is very experienced and had a strong showing at the US Open finale in Las Vegas. The other North American champion is the American Anthony Gangi Jr. He had a disappointing performance at the Rok Cup Finale a month ago and looks to rebound from the results. Fellow Americans and champions Sting Ray Robb and Trenton Estep will be two more to watch.
This category is always difficult for us as a lot of the drivers are not in the international spotlight. The highest finishing driver returning is the third place finisher from Finland, Antti Ollikainen. With that being said the favorite to win may be the Brazilian and multi-time SuperNats champ Leonardo Nienkotter. This dude is bad fast in what ever he drives. Rounding out our top three is Christophe Adams who continues to make his appearance at the Grand Finals and hopes to have a better result than last year. As we said above we are probably missing a heap of contenders, but these are our three favorites.