/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

On Location: 2018 US Rotax MAX Grand Nationals

Our event stream of all the biggest updates happening in The Garden State.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News
10:13

Now in the books is the 2018 US Rotax MAX Grand Nationals, held at one of the finer facilities in the country, New Jersey Motorsports Park last weekend -- July 6-8. Here are 26 images that represent the competition and atmosphere from the The Garden State.

Reports from each final can be found in the Kart360 event stream.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

The Rotax Max engines patiently waiting to be raffled on July 4.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

The organizers of the Rotax Max Challenge, including the new partners from J3 Competition and the RTX Group

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Tyler Gonzalez persevered through a wrist injury he sustained in Thursday practice to finish on the podium and secure a RMCGF ticket to the Brazil.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Englishman Bradley Barrett showed great speed in Senior Max but slipped to third on the podium in the Final.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Mathias Ramirez made a last lap lunge for second place, but earned a penalty for knocked Barrett off the track in the process.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Incredible recovery skills by Brent Crews helped him to finish third place and secure the Micro-Max ticket to Brazil.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Canadian Thomas Nepveu was fully focused all week in New Jersey, helping him take home the Junior Max victory after an eventful Final.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

From Peru, Michael Greenfield was quite quiet until the DD2 Final where he second a second place finish.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

For the second year in a row, Hannah Greenemeier secured a Rotax Grand Finals ticket in New Jersey.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

For most of the week, Diego Laroque controlled the Mini-Max category, but he fell short in the Final and placed second.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Traveling to New Jersey for the second year in a row, Australian Scott Howard came within a tenth of a second of the victory in DD2 Masters, leading nearly every lap throughout the weekend in the process.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

The early pace-setter in DD2, defending champ Davide Greco crashed in the PreFinal that really hurt his chances at victory.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Derek Wang will represent Team USA at the Rotax Grand Finals for the eighth (!) time.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Canadian Samuel Lupien was perfect in the Senior Max Final, leaving the rest to fight for second.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

In the Mini-Max Final, James Egozi was able to pull away from Laroque in the closing laps to secure the win.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Former Formula 1 driver Antonio Pizzonio earned the RGF ticket in Max Masters and will compete at the event in his home country.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Justin White (232) jumped out to the early lead in the Junior Max, but fell down the order as the race went on.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Honourable mention to Patrick Woods-Toth, who led a couple different times in the Junior Max Final and initially crossed in second before being penalized.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Ecuador’s Juan Diego Villacis led the majority of the DD2 Final, but crashed on the final lap and was left with a fifth place result.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Derek Wang slipped by Scott Howard for the DD2 Masters after the Australian went wide exiting the final corner of the final lap.

Danny Formal celebrates with five fingers in the air
/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Celebrating five US Rotax Grand National titles was Danny Formal, who made his first DD2 start since 2013.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

The hardworking group from GoRotax, ASRQ, NJMP and Rotax Max Challenge who helped put on a super US Open of New Jersey.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

The three J’s from J3 Competition: Justin, John, and Jim.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

The ten drivers who secured their Rotax Grand Finals tickets in New Jersey

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

For the second year in a row, Rolison Performance Group won the Rotax Senior Final.

/Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Senior Max winner Samuel Lupien had his brother Cedrik turning the wrenches for him in New Jersey and we’ve been informed the roles will be reversed for the Canadian Open in Mont-Tremblant.

16:24
Antonio Pizzonia
Antonio Pizzonia. /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

John Bonanno thus far has had a poised and controlled weekend, and would end it leading the Masters field to turn one. Antonio Pizzonia would be besides him on outside pole with Adam Pettit in third and Pedro Cabrera in fourth.

The inside row of Bonanno and Pettit got underway with a monster start, as Pizzonia would fall to third entering turn one. Pizzonia would eventually made his way around Pettit and apply pressure on Bonanno. As the battle for the lead intensified, with seven to go, Pizzonia made the move for the lead, and Pettit would follow him, dropping Bonanno to third. Back to the battle for fourth, Pedro Cabrera was fighting with Billy Cleavelin but with no proper shot of either making the podium.

The two to go flag was shown, and Bonanno decided it was time to make the move on Pettit for second.  Pizzonia however was now in the position to secure victory, but not comfortable as Bonanno was chasing him down with just one lap to go. Time was not on Bonanno`s side as Pizzonia would take the win, Bonanno in second, and Pettit in third.

16:09
Derek Wang
Derek Wang. /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

DD2 Master was a calmly paced, yet tough battle between Derek Wang and Scott Howard. Scott Howard controlled the race, as Wang continued his steady pace to keep within the draft. With absolutely nothing between the two, Wang would go just .04 faster than Howard, which in time paid off. Wang began catching Howard as the race unfolded, looking for his opportunity to make the pass. It looked as if Howard had secured the deal, as Wang could not find a way by until the front straight on the last lap.

With checkered waving, Wang used the draft to maneuver his way around the Australian successfully making the pass with just feet to go. Wang took victory by just .077, in dramatic fashion.

15:41
Danny Formal celebrates with five fingers in the air
Danny Formal /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

DD2 got underway with Danny Formal on pole with Juan Diego Villacis on outside as the 10-kart DD2 field made their way to green. Jac Preston would apply heavy pressure, however it was Villacis that made the move on Formal for the lead. Davide Greco was on the hunt to make up time and positions as he hunted down the lead group, lap by lap. Setting the second fastest lap time of the race, he showed the pace to make his mark on the lead group.

Changing up the order, Jac Preston with five to go was forced to retire from what we suspect was a mechanical failure. This would move Greco up to fourth. Villacis would put heavy pressure on Formal, however Formal was keen on adding a fifth Grand National victory to his collection. As Greco continued up the field he made a last lap effort to make his way on the podium. Making contact with Villacis, they both dropped to fifth and sixth. Formal would take the win, followed by Michael Greenfield, and Max Hewitt. 

15:00
Thomas Nepveau leads a train of karts
Thomas Nepveau. /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Thomas Nepveu and Justin White have highlighted the Junior Max category so far, and with the two of them leading the field to green, it was going to be a proper battle for victory. Matheus Morgatto in third was certainly keen on making his intentions clear with Jaiden Pope in fourth.

White got the jump entering turn one as he would move straight into the lead, as Pope and Morgatto would follow, dropping Nepveu to fourth and struggling. Patrick Woods-Toth was looking very racey, as he moved his way around Nepveu into fourth position, chasing the rear end of White who had dropped to third. To our unknowing, an issue with White just one lap later, whether a personal mistake or contact with another driver had dropped to tenth.

The top five with thirteen to go would follow with Morgatto leading, Pope second,  Woods-Toth third, Tyler Gonzalez fourth, and Luca Mars in fifth. Falling as far back as sixth, Nepveu with half way complete began to find his feet once again, and moved around Gonzalez for the fourth position with roughly seven kart lengths to Woods-Toth in third.

It seemed, to our eye, perhaps PSL made a strategic adjustment to allow Nepveu’s chassis to come in later in the race. With four to go entering turn one, Woods-Toth made the move on Morgatto for the lead in clean and precise fashion. Now, the fight was only just igniting as the top five had now bunched up, adding Nepveu and Gonzalez to the mix, and with two to go, Nepveu wowed us moving into the lead after an uphill battle all race. Pope made contact with Morgatto, after a questionable move allowing Nepveu to further his lead, and come home to take a brilliant win.

Woods-Toth had finished second, but was hit with a 3-second penalty post race for avoidable contact. Gonzalez got the promotion to second, and Morgatto, after coming ever so close to victory would limp home in a more than disappointing third position, following the contact earlier in the lap.

11:03
Mini MAX podium at 2018 Rotax Nationals
Koene USA's James Egozi stands proud in the center of the podium, with Diego LaRoque in second and Brent Crews in third. /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Brent Crews and Diego Laroque would lead the 29 kart Mini MAX field to green with Laroque on outside pole getting the jump into turn two. Battle commenced earlier as Crews was eager to inherit back the lead as the following four corners the two exchanged position three times, on the opening lap.

The top nine had nothing between them in the first half of the race, as James Egozi put himself well into the fight with Karsten Defonce, Miguel Costa, Ryan Stanton, Nikita Johnson, Noah Baker, and Santiago Biagi following in a seven kart train for second. Egozi and Laroque would pull a six kart gap to Crews in second as the duo battled for position.

Focusing back on the train for second, dueling and fighting allowed for Jeremy Fletcher and Jack Jeffers to join in on the fight, as now anyone in the top eleven was eligible for a podium finish with six to go.

With four to go, NJMP showed us all how important the draft is around this 1.3 mile circuit, as a few drivers in the top eleven lost it, spreading out the front pack. Egozi opened up the gap to Laroque as Crews and Fletcher broke away into their own battle for third. Jeremy Fletcher impressively made his way up to fifth, chasing down Biagi and would finish there.

Egozi would take the win, with Laroque in second, and Crews in third position. 

10:28
Samuel Lupien
Canadian Samuel Lupien will represent his country in Brazil at the Rotax Grand Finals after his victory in New Jersey. /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

After rigorous battling all weekend, the Senior Max category got underway with Mathias Ramirez leading the field to turn one alongside Hannah Greenemeier. Ramirez got away cleanly, with a strong jump over Greenemeier, as Samuel Lupien influenced the more than healthy start giving Ramirez a great push.

Entering lap two, Lupien inherited the lead in the back section of the circuit, pulling a healthy gap almost immediately as Ramirez, Mason Buck, and Barrett chased one another in fight for position. After her poor start, Greenemeier was keen on pressing on, and made the three kart battle for second a four kart battle, hunting the rear bumper of Buck.

Drama unfolded mid way as Buck and Cole Hooton made contact whilst in the fight for second, dropping both far down the order and allowing Ramirez, Barrett and Greenemeier to freely battle for the second spot. Not caught by our eye, however, talk on grid stated that David Illavia made contact with one of the two drivers, causing them to run over one another. Illavia benefited from the move, as he now was in front of the two, until a retirement ended his chances of a healthy finish.

Back up front, Lupien continued to control the lead in poised fashion. As the white flag flew, Ramirez, Greenemeier, and Barrett engaged in a proper battle for second, with Ramirez coming out on top of the group. As the battle unfolded, a few seconds ahead it was Samuel Lupien coming home with the victory, controlling the race from the get go.

However, a post-race penalty was handed down to Ramirez for avoidable contact, which carried a 3-second forfeiture, dropping him to fourth. This call promoted Greenemeier into second, which gave her the next Grand Finals ticket to Brazil along with Lupien.

A stand out performance in the race was Senior Max rookie Josh Green who crossed the line to secure fifth. After an impressive qualifying, heat, pre final, and final result we may be witnessing a talent emerging in the senior field.

10:00
Mathias Ramirez-Barrero
Mathias Ramirez-Barrero /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Saturday’s racing was nothing short of exciting, as the program jam-packed with the remaining two heats and pre-finals unfolded at the ROTAX US Grand Nationals / US Open 2018. The popular New Jersey Motorsports Park provided the ideal venue to turn on some fantastic battles for positions and show just how close the competition is this year.

First on track, ROTAX Senior Max kicked off the action before lunch where two race winners shared the honours. Mathais Ramirez-Barr was fastest to win the opening heat and Samuel Lupien the second one, with the intense challenge for places and nose-to-tail racing further back through the pack left no room for error. The pre-final was another close one, but it was Mathais Ramirez-Barrero who kept his cool under pressure for victory ahead of Hannah Greenemeier in the #308 kart and Samuel Lupien in P3. Fastest qualifier Bradley Barrett found no way past in P4 and Mason Buck was fifth. Up to 10 different drivers shared the first five positions by the end of the day’s race sessions, therefore proving without doubt that the brand new Rotax MAX Evo engines on board are living up to their expectations to bring the competition closer at all levels. 

Out next, the ROTAX Mini Max class was a constant shuffle for positions in every race as the laps would down. The youngest of the 120-kart entry list has clearly brought together a new generation of both budding talent and string of fast-developing drivers all pushing for the top step of the podium and the dream to be champion. Three winners shared the race victories Saturday, yet the amazing place-swapping fights happening amongst the 29-kart field were great! Recapping the wins, it was James Egozi first in heat 2, pole-sitter Diego Laroque in P1 in heat 3 and Brent Crews through to take the flag in the pre-final in front of Laroque and Felipe Bernasconi, while Egozi took fourth from Ryan Stanton. 

The ROTAX Max Masters was not as clear-cut as local driver John Bonanno may have hoped, and certainly not as it appeared after he secured P1 then Super Pole Friday. However, he managed to beat the competition to the line in all three races Saturday, giving Bonanno pole position for Sunday’s final. Lining up alongside him and looking for victory will be Rotax newcomer Antonio Pizzonia from Brazil, who also ranked P2 in the points following the heat races. Top 3 place-getter Adam Pettit took third in the pre-final, so he’ll start on row 2 next to Pedro Cabrera and Salvatore Sparacio on grid position 5. 

Just short of a full grid, ROTAX Junior Max has displayed some impressive racing at the event and the international mix has thrown the challenge out to the US drivers on home soil. Qualifying was dominated by the Canadians, only to have one of Brazil’s young guns Matheus Morgatto hit the top of the leaderboard in the overall ranking by winning both heats on day 2. In the pre-final though, it was the Super Pole champ Thomas Nepveu who fought back to gain one place for the win ahead of Justin White off grid 3 and Morgatto taking third. Australian Jaiden Pope finished on P4 to edge out Patrick Woods-Toth. 

ROTAX DD2 produced another exciting and also unpredictable series of races, where some of the most experienced competitors on track at NJMP had to match it with the younger generation of drivers coming through. Canada’s Davide Greco claimed heat 1 first up, while class rookie Jac Preston from Down Under set the race pace Saturday and outdrove the likes of multiple USA champion Danny Formal and previous event winner Greco to take the chequered flag in heat 3, and blitzed the field in the pre-final. Securing a front row start as well for the final the next day, Juan Diego Villacis racing for Ecuador also showed his potential to win the title Sunday, ahead of Formal on P3 in the afternoon pre-final. Max Hewitt was close behind in P4 while Isaac Marritt rounded out the top 5.  

It was a clean sweep to pole position in Sunday’s final for 2017 Rotax Grand Finals Australian team boss Scott Howard, remaining unbeaten in every race plus the pre-final of the ROTAX DD2 Masters. Leading the US campaign in the 32 years plus class, Luis Schiavo was twice P2 and ranked second after the heats by one point to fellow American Derek Wang, who moved up a place in the pre-final. Taking third in the last race for the finals grid was the driver from Peru, Andres F. Grajales, followed over the line by Columbian Santiago Guerrero and in P5, one of Argentina’s champions Henry Martin.

With the stage now set for Sunday’s finals, the race for the 2018 titles in New Jersey is bound to be another excellent day’s racing, as the competitors also contest the tickets to the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2018 being hosted by Brazil this November. 

All results can be found online at – https://speedhive.mylaps.com/Events/1554911

10:57
Englishman Bradley Barrett leads the way thus far in Senior MAX for Koene USA /Cody Schindel / Canadian Karting News

Today saw the official start to the event program at the highly anticipated ROTAX US Grand Nationals / US Open 2018 at the New Jersey Motorsports Park, where day 1 of the racing definitely delivered. Sporting an entry list of 120 drivers across the ROTAX Max categories, the overall expectations of the newly introduced lottery engine format provided some excellent close competition in each of the contested classes Friday. 

Showers dampened the first of the official practice sessions, but the threat of more rain gradually disappeared as the day unfolded. ROTAX Senior Max got the proceedings underway running on the new MOJO D5 regulation tire for the first time ever in the USA, beginning with qualifying immediately after the lunch break. It was 17 year-old British driver Bradley Barrett (Koene/Tonykart) who posted the fastest lap of 1:07.465 in Timed Qualifying by a mere 0.005 seconds over Samuel Lupien and Hannah Greenmeier in P3, then backed-up to confirm his front row positon by winning the Super Pole showdown of the quickest six drivers, with a 1:07-527. Continuing his momentum through Heat 1 of seniors, the number 323 kart of the young Englishman won the intense battle for victory after the lead swapped momentarily during the 10-lapper. Barrett played it smart to maintain first place amidst the nail-biting fight between nearest rivals Mathais Ramirez-Barrero and race pace-setter Samuel Lupien (1:07.305).

Second group onto the grid Friday was the ROTAX Mini Max category, which was eventually topped by three different American drivers in the consecutive sessions. While #44 Jack Jeffers posted the best lap of 1:13.027 during the 10-minute Timed Qualifying just over two-tenths faster than James Egozi and Felipe Bernasconi, it would be the former World number 1 Diego Laroque who stole the show in his Energy chassis in the Super Pole with a 1:13.050. However, Heat 1 proved to be a more difficult feat for the accomplished 12-year old from Phoenix, who lost the leading advantage he had fought so hard for to be the quickest on track as well (1:12.770), when the team Koene/Tonykart of Egozi claimed the race honours ahead of Laroque in the deciding lap, to run away with the win. Karsten Defonce took P3. 

Local driver John Bonanno put his J3 Competition kart at the top of the timesheet with a 1:08.310 to qualify by a convincing gap of 0.415 seconds over Billy Cleavelin and Pedro Cabrera in the ROTAX Max Masters. Not to be outdone by former F1 driver and current Brazilian stock car racer, Antonio Pizzonia, Bonanno pushed to hold onto his pole position for Heat 1 and nailed the Super Pole with a best lap of 1:08.248. The race turned on some wheel-to-wheel action in the first of three qualifying races for the 32-years-plus line-up, with Bonnano first to cross the line well ahead of Adam Pettit out of start grid 6 and fastest with 1:08.315. International class entry Pizzonia drove well to finish third. 

The 32-kart field of ROTAX Junior Max provided bumper-to-bumper rivalry from the flag. Timed Quali Friday was claimed by #244 Patrick Woods-Toth (1:08.304) ahead of Justin Arsenau to make it a Canadian lock-out, with Matheus Morgatto of Brazil third fastest. Following the Super Pole hot laps, it was Birel ART factory-supported team driver Thomas Nepveu who managed to move up to P1 from ranking 6 for the heats, shuffling all four Junior Canadians at the event to be within the first 6 starters. Justin White spoiled the northern party though, flying the USA flag for the race victory after the lunch break in a dash to the line narrowly beating Morgatto, with Nepveu having to settle for P3. 

The ROTAX DD2 brings a depth of more experience together in the 2-speed gearbox category, mixing it with the most seasoned competitors of the event – alongside the ROTAX DD2 Masters. USA international Michael Greenfield shot to the top of the screen (1:06.345) to edge out defending champ Davide Greco by a narrow margin of just 0.004 seconds in the qualifying, while four times ROTAX US Nationals / US Open winner Danny Formal was third quickest. Super Pole changed the order of the day, seeing Canada’s Greco set an even faster lap of 1:06.204 on his introduction to the MOJO D5 race tire, to relegate Greenfield back to P2 in front of class rookie Jac Preston from Australia; striking a distinct contrast. The initial DD2 heat gave Formal the chance to rebound, fighting his way up to P2 and taking a long look over Greco’s shoulder in the very last corner. The pass was unsuccessful, so it was the Canadian from Formal and paceman Preston third. 

All bar one of the ROTAX DD2 Masters drivers at New Jersey this weekend has qualified through to the RMCGF in previous years, suggesting the smaller field is going to turn on some great racing. USA multiple karting champ Derek Wang posted best lap of 1:07.172 in his PSL Birel ART kart, slightly faster than another Aussie Scott Howard and Argentina’s Henry Martin. Sharing a place in the red and white team awning, Howard picked up the pace to grab Super Pole honors (1:07.156) as well as winning the opening race with a 1:07.029. It was a superb effort, competing at the New Jersey venue for the first time. 

Saturday, July 7 begins with a morning warm-up prior to the remaining two heat races for each class, where the overall points establish grid positions for the pre-final last thing. Sunday is dedicated to the final and the challenge for the titles plus the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2018 invitational tickets to join the best in Brazil this year. 

All results can be found via the Race Monitor app – available to download online.