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December 01, 2012 News
EKN Trackside: Rotax Grand Finals – Championship Saturday

Parker Thompson executed a stellar drive in the Junior Final to give Team Canada its first podium of the 2013 Grand Finals (Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)
Parker Thompson executed a stellar drive in the Junior Final to give Team Canada its first podium of the 2013 Grand Finals
(Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)

It was an incredible day for Team Canada at the 2012 Rotax Grand Finals in Portimao, Portugal as Ben Cooper scored outran the DD2 field to score his third win and his first in the two-speed category. The victory gives Canada three straight DD2 wins in a row, coming of the triumph of Pier Luc Ouellette in Al Ain and Daniel Moran in La Conca, Italy. Two other Canadians made podium trips as well, with Scott Campbell taking second in DD2 Masters and Parker Thompson finish third in Junior. Team Canada also finished second in the Nations Cup, besting only from the team from England.


Championship Saturday commenced with the talented Junior drivers taking to the high-speed course in Portugal for a 11-lap Prefinal, which would set the grid for the Grand Final. Leading the field to the start were Bruno Borlido and Josh White, while Team Canada's Zachary Claman DeMelo, Parker Thompson, and Zacharie Scalzo got the green from 17th, 20th, and 28th, respectively. The opening few turns proved chaotic, with multiple karts spinning and going off-course, including the polesitter. The Canadians managed to avoid the carnage, although still losing a few positions, with Claman DeMelo completing lap one in 20th, just in front of Thompson in 23rd, and Scalzo in 24th. Claman DeMelo quickly commenced his charge forward, advancing up to 12th by lap five. While not as prolific, Scalzo was also moving forward, taking over 21st. Unfortunately for Scalzo, this proved to be the high point of his race, retiring soon afterwards, being classified in 31st. Given what was on the line, it came as no surprise that every position was hard fought, with the remaining two Team Canada drivers involved in multi-kart fights to the checkered flag. Claman DeMelo in the end crossed the stripe in 12th, ahead of Thompson in 19th, having been as low as 27th. Australia's James Golding captured the win, leading Finland's Samu Kylmala and Great Britain's Ross Gunn.

After the completion of the Prefinals and the colorful driver and country introductions, it was time to determine who would World Champion at the 13th edition of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. First up was the Junior drivers, with James Golding and Samu Kylmala lining-up on the front-row, ahead of Team Canada's Thompson, Claman DeMelo, and Scalzo in 19th, 23rd, and 31st. While the race got underway in orderly fashion, it was not long before karts were bumping and banging. Scalzo unfortunately was in the middle of the chaos, with contact sending the Canadian upside down. Showing tremendous resolve, Scalzo immediately got his kart back on four wheels and rejoined the race, albeit at the rear of the field. Thompson and Claman DeMelo meanwhile managed to avoid the worst of it, immediately starting to look for ways to move up the order. Doing just that, Thompson was 11th by lap four, while Claman DeMelo was 16th. Thompson, turning laps not on par with the leaders but the quickest overall, rapidly became the driver on the move. Inside the top-eight by lap eight, he had his sights set on the lead pack. At the same time, Claman DeMelo was making his way forward as well, becoming part of the fight for a top-10 spot. It was, however, Thompson who many were watching, as he joined the top-three on lap 17. Dueling throughout the final lap, Thompson completed a stunning drive with a third place finish and the fastest race lap, giving Team Canada a podium finish in the first of four Grand Final races. Claman DeMelo made two Canadians in the top-10 with a 10th place finish, while Scalzo ended the race in 29th. The battle for the win was very intense early on, with multiple racers taking a turn out front. Great Britain's Harry Webb had other ideas though, steadily pulling away in the later portions of the race, adding a World Championship title to his 2012 European crown. Netherland's Janneau Esmeijer, having held off Thompson on the last lap was the runner-up, while Great Britain's Ross Gunn and Spain's Jon Del Valle-Iturr completed the top-five.

EKN.ca Team Canada Driver Paddock Pass

Driver: Zachary Claman-Demelo - #120
Hometown: Montreal, QC
Mechanic: Chris Green
EKN.ca One-on-One: http://ekartingnews.ca/news_info.php?n=7805
Prefinal: Start – 17th / Finish – 12th
Final: Start – 23rd / Finish – 10th

Claman-Demelo needed to put in a huge effort in order to win today, and to begin the Prefinal, he was aggressive in his advancement. En route to a 12th place finish, the officials deemed that his tactics were a little too ‘aggressive’, slapping him with a 10-second penalty for rough driving that dropped him to 23rd. In the final, he got a great start and began working his way through the field, eventually getting into the top-10. He was not able to advance any further, caught behind a couple drivers scrapping hard for eighth. ZCD showed great pace this week and was hurt initially by his DNF in the first heat race. The rough driving penalty in the Prefinal was the final nail, miring him mid-pack for the main. If he takes this week as a pure learning experience, he’ll be better for it.

Driver: Parker Thompson - #163
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Mechanic: Chris Freckleton
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Prefinal: Start – 20th / Finish – 18th
Final: Start – 19th / Finish – 3rd

Starting mid-pack in the Prefinal, Parker Thompson did what he could to stay out of trouble, but to no avail. It was mayhem all around, and Parker hung tough to finish 18th. In the Final though, his Birel came alive. Thompson set about attacking the field and was one of the fastest karts on the track. He quickly worked his way into the top-10 and chased down the next pack of four karts, slicing his way through them with ease. Parker had superior straightaway speed and was able to use the draft to make multiple passes heading into the first corner. Over the final laps, he reeled in the two drivers running in second and third, and the battle was exciting, with Thompson getting into second for a time. He would end up third in the final tally, the first Canadian to reach the podium this week.

Driver: Zacharie Scalzo - #161
Hometown: Montreal, QC
Mechanic: Zolton ‘Ze’ Boraros (KMS Racing Team)
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Prefinal: Start – 28th / Finish – 31st
Final: Start – 31st / Finish – 29th

Scalzo got a great start at the green light of the Junior Max Prefinal, jumping into 19th during the opening lap. This all ended quickly went contact with another kart dis-lodged his nosecone, forcing him to pit lane. His bad luck continued at the start of the Final when he was collected in a mid-pack incident just past the frontstraight kink at the start. Scalzo ended up upside-down on one of the infield berms, but quickly climbed out from under his kart, flipped in back over, and jumped back in so that he could complete his race. Zacharie ran all 18 laps and finished 29th overall.


Scott Campbell added another podium finish to his Rotax Grand Finals resume with a second place in his record ninth appearance (Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)
Scott Campbell added another podium finish to his Rotax Grand Finals resume with a second place in his record ninth appearance
(Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)

Going from youngest to oldest, the DD2 Masters drivers were next on track for their 14-lap Prefinal. Cristiano Morgado and Canada's Scott Campbell started on the front-row, with Team Canada further represented by Stuart Clark and Luc Sauriol in 17th, and 18th. In a repeat of the opening affair, the first few turns witnessed multiple karts sliding off the track. Unfortunately, both Sauriol and Clark were caught out, with duo tumbling down to 21st and 32nd. Out front, Campbell held second place initially, but was immediately involved in a spirited dice for positions. Going in opposite directions, Campbell slowly lost places as the race progressed, dropping down to a fight for fourth and fifth, while Sauriol worked his way back forward into 16th. As expected, the order shuffled repeatedly right until the final few corners. Campbell ultimately secured a hard fought fourth place, besting Sauriol in 16th, and Clark, who recovered from the first lap incidents back was too far back, in 30th. Portugal's Morgado took home a comfortable victory over Great Britain's David Griffiths and Ireland's Martin Pierce.

The DD2 Masters drivers were second in line to take to the Portuguese track in search of a world title. Two-time champion Cristiano Morgado and David Griffiths were the two racers at the front of the field when the green flag waved, with Team Canada's Scott Campbell, Luc Sauriol, and Stuart Clark launching from fourth, 16th, and 30th. Making the most of the opportunities through the opening sequence of corners, Campbell slotted into second, and Sauriol took over seventh after lap one. Clark was less fortunate, getting caught out by an incident once again, so the Canadian was 31st after the first tour. As expected, from that point forward, Campbell was engaged in spirited fight for the lead, with the lead trio regularly trading positions. Likewise, Sauriol was involved in a intense dice for places on the track, while Clark began to recover from his first lap misfortune. Despite posting the fastest lap of the race, Campbell ultimately lost touch with the race leader due to the on-going fight for second through fourth. In the end, the Canadian crossed the stripe in second in his record-setting ninth Rotax Grand Finals appearance, giving Team Canada a back-to-back podium finishes at the 2012 World Championships. Sauriol added another top-10 result with an eighth place, while Clark worked his back up to 22nd at the stripe, before being promoted to 21st post-race. Morgado made history by claiming his third Rotax World Championship, becoming the first driver to accomplish the feat. Great Britain's David Griffiths joined in the podium celebrations in third, beating Portugal's Goncalo Gaivao and Ireland's Martin Pierce.

EKN.ca Team Canada Driver Paddock Pass

Driver: Scott Campbell - #414
Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Mechanic: Dave Campbell
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Prefinal: Start – 2nd / Finish – 4th
Final: Start – 4th / Finish – 2nd

Scott Campbell was either first or second in the heat races, so he certainly expected to be able to vie for the win in the Prefinal. Instead, he was hampered by a couple of surprises engine issues – a broken ground wire and a slipping clutch – and dropped to fifth. Both problems were repaired, and Scott also made a small tire pressure adjustment for the Final to reset the window in which his kart will come in strong. When the main event came, he was part of an exciting fight for the win. Campbell was biding his time and saving his tires, running in the lead group of four karts when two of his competitors got together, balking his lap and allowing the leader to stretch out a little advantage. Campbell eventually worked up to second and began reeling in Christiano Morgado, but ran out of time and had to settle for second. It was another impressive Grand Finals performance for Scott, who is adding to an already stellar resume.

Driver: Stuart Clark - #417
Hometown: Campbellville, Ontario
Mechanic: Trevor Wickens
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Prefinal: Start – 17th / Finish – 30th
Final: Start – 30th /

If there is one thing that you don’t want to do in a world championship Prefinal, it’s to get into an incident on the opening lap. Just ask Stuart Clark, he’ll tell you. Coming through the front straight kink for the first time, three drivers ahead of Clark made contact, two flying off the track and into the barrier. Stuart had nowhere to go and got caught up in the melee, bringing him to a halt and fell to dead last. He would continue, completing the 16-lapper to finish 30th. Clark then got a monster start in the Final, driving around the outside into the turn two at the end of the straightaway as everyone stacked up on the inside. He was able to emerge from the corner with a spot in the top-15, but just as he looked to pull through unscathed, a group of karts got together and shot across the track, sending him into the gravel. For the second time on the day, he was forced to come from the back, this time working through the field to 21st.

Driver: Luc Sauriol - #453
Hometown: Laval, QC
Mechanic: Denis Dubreuil
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Prefinal: Start – 18th / Finish – 16th
Final: Start – 16th / Finish – 8th

Luc Sauriol enjoyed a consistent week in Portugal, running inside the top-10 in his heat races and then the top-20 in the Prefinal. He hooked up with American Mike Jones midway through the 16-lap race and drafted with him to pull away from those behind them. In the latter stages of the race, he went by Jones and eventually took 16th, a two-position improvement on his starting spot. In the Final, he was able to slip through the opening lap carnage that collected Clark, emerging on the other side just outside the top-10. Luc would battle his way up to eighth, and ran there for most of the race, finishing eighth in the final tally.


Marco Di Leo just missed a top-10 finish in the 2013 edition of the Grand Finals (Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)
Marco Di Leo just missed a top-10 finish in the 2013 edition of the Grand Finals
(Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)

The chase for starting positions in the Senior Grand Final began with their 14-lap Prefinal. Pierce Lehane and Charlie Eastwood were the two drivers who set the pace going to the green flag, with Team Canada's Jesse Lazare and Marco Di Leo following in eighth and 21st. Making the most of a clean start, Di Leo attacked through the first few corners to end lap one in 13th place. Ahead, Lazare held station initially, before attacking. He, however, was quickly counter-attacked and dropped back to ninth. By the midway point, the Canadians were going in opposite directions on the scoring charts. Di Leo was up to 10th, while Lazare had fallen to 24th after being spun by a competitor. The Team Canada drivers, never ones to give up, fought until the checkered flag waved. Di Leo led the duo, taking 14th, not far ahead of Lazare in 20th. The back and forth dice for the win ultimately featured Japan's Ukyo Sasahara on top. Harrison Scott was second to the line, but was immediately penalized for an on-track incident, giving Ireland's Eastwood the runner-up spot over Australia's Lehane.

The penultimate Final in Portugal witnessed the Senior racers doing battle for sumpremacy. Starting P1 and P2 were Sasahara and Eastwood, with Team Canada's Di Leo and Lazare a few rows behind in 14th and 2oth. Di Leo enjoyed the best start of the Canadian duo, moving into ninth by the completion of lap one. Things, however, did not go according to plan for Lazare, as he was forced to avoid an incident, sending him all the way back to 32nd. Part of a multi-kart fight in the back half of the lead pack, Di Leo's position fluctuated from a high of seventh to a low of 12th lap after lap. Deeper in the field, Lazare commenced a strong comeback drive. Mixing speed with aggression, the Canadian was challenging for a top-20 spot by the midway point. In the end, Di Leo just missed giving Canada yet another top-10 result at this year's Rotax Grand Finals, crossing the line in 12th. Lazare, having never given up, came home in 16th. The fight for the win initially appeared to be a straight-forward affair, but an error by the leader resulted in an entertaining mid-race fight for the top spot. Eastwood in the end emerged from the duel and built a good gap in the closing stages to earn Ireland's first-ever world title. Great Britain duo of Ed Brand and Oliver Hodgson completed the podium, ahead of France's Alexandre Finkelstein and Australia's Pierce Lehane.

EKN.ca Team Canada Driver Paddock Pass

Driver: Jesse Lazare - #240
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
Mechanic: Steven Chapman
Prefinal: Start – 8th / Finish – 20th
Final: Start – 20th / Finish – 16th

The Prefinal looked like it was going to be a strong run for Jesse Lazare, that is, until he was unceremoniously turned around on the backstraight, dropping him outside the top-20 in the order. Lazare had been running sixth, and was definitely showing the pace to be able to take a run at the podium. Beginning from the outside of two 10, he was again looped on the opening lap and spent the rest of the race putting on a great show. Turning laps equal to those of the leader, Jesse stormed back through field to a 16th place finish. He told EKN.ca that the kart had not been that good all week, and if he would have avoided the opening lap spin, he believes that he could have won.

Driver: Marco Di Leo - #278
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Mechanic: Leonard D’Arrigo
Prefinal: Start – 21st / Finish – 14th
Final: Start – 14th / Finish – 12th

The march forward continued for Marco Di Leo, as soon as the green flag flew to start the Prefinal this morning. The ECKC Rotax Senior champion went on the attack, eventually working his way into the top-15 to be part of a great five-kart fight for 10th. Marco’s been steadily working to get his kart’s handling to where he wants it, rotating in the corner so as not to rob exit speed. Another minor adjustment heading into the Prefinal was a success, and Di Leo was able to charge forward, eventually finishing 14th. Marco made a gear change for the Final, but it wasn’t quite right, and while he started well and was in 10th for a time, in clear sight of the leaders, his kart just didn’t have the necessary top speed to hold off his challengers. Di Leo ended up in 12th, a stellar result, considering the fact that he qualified 47th.


Ben Cooper made Rotax Grand Finals history with his third world title, giving Team Canada its sixth win (Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)
Ben Cooper made Rotax Grand Finals history with his third world title, giving Team Canada its sixth win
(Photo: Gregory Lussier - babelphotos.ca)

Team Canada's Ben Cooper and Simon Wagner had the honor of leading the DD2 field to the green in the Prefinal, as Canadians Nicholas Latifi and Zach Robichon commenced their 14-lap affair in fourth and 27th. After the first start was waved off due to an incident at the rear of the field, all three Canadians got good launches. Cooper not only maintained the lead, but began pulling away, as Latifi slotted into third. Seeking to continue to move forward, Latifi briefly took over second, before being shuffled down to sixth. At the same time, Robichon was commencing his drive forward, advancing into 18th prior to the midway point. As Cooper steadily increased his lead, Latifi's race was going downhill, repeatedly losing places, due to a motor issue. Just as it appeared that Cooper was headed towards a comfortable win, the second place racer closed and began challenging for the win on the final lap. The Canadian held off the challenge , securing the Grand Final pole by beating Belgium's Xen De Ruwe. USA's Cody Hodgson completed the top-three, as ended a strong drive in 14th, just ahead of Latifi in 16th.

Concluding the 2012 Rotax Grand Finals, Cooper and De Ruwe were the two drivers who got the honor of leading the field to the starter, with Team Canada's Robichon and Latifi giving chase from 14th and 15th. Upon getting the green, the Canadians had mixed results initially, with Cooper holding the lead, Robichon vaulting into eighth, and Latifi falling to 19th. This ultimately set up where two of the three dueled for the majority of the race. Cooper spent the opening half of the 21-lap affair taking turns leading the race with potential race winners, while Robichon battle at the rear of the impressive lead back. Latifi appeared destined to join his teammate in the fight for places inside the top-10, working his way up to 13th by lap eight. Continuing to push he did just that, with the final few corners determining where he and Robichon would finish. Out front, Cooper emerged from a heated dice to build a multi-second advantage over the course of the final two laps. In the end, Cooper made history, becoming the second driver ever to win three Rotax world titles. Latvia's Konstantins Calko and Belgium Mathias Detige completed the podium. Australia's Kyle Ensbey, having initially crossed the line in third, was moved to fourth in the final results, while Finland's Miika Laiho completed the top-five. Robichon gave Team Canada another top-10 finish with an eighth place result, just edging Latifi in 13th.

Using the results from the Finals, Team Canada ended the 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals second in the Nations Cup, which was won by Great Britain.

EKN.ca Team Canada Driver Paddock Pass

Driver: Nicholas Latifi - #336
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
Mechanic: Coy Arbour / Alex Vincenc
Prefinal: Start 4th / Finish – 16th
Final: Start – 16th / Finish -

After putting in a stellar set of heat races to secure a Prefinal starting position on the outside of the second row, Nicholas Latifi’s heart must have sank when he encountered motor problems in the Prefinal. As the race developed, Latifi’s powerful lost top-end RPM, refusing to spool up fully heading down the long front straightaway. A drop of 0.5 seconds on the straight alone took him out of contention, and he held on as long as he could, finishing 16th in the final tally. Latifi came back in the Final and put in a strong performance, running back through the field

Driver: Ben Cooper - #319
Hometown: Mt. Tremblant, Quebec
Mechanic: Gabor ‘Gaga’ Galas
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Prefinal: Start – 1st / Finish – 1st
Final: Start – 1st /

At the Canadian Nationals in August, Ben Cooper wasn’t the fastest driver through the heat races, nor did he lead a lap. The Quebec resident was not worried, however, as he had a plan and he was sticking to it. Managing his tire wear was key, making sure that he’d have what he needed for the main event. Cooper would go on to dominate the Final, similar to what he’s done here in Portugal all week. Now, it would be hard to believe that he’s been saving his tires, winning all three heat races, and then the Prefinal, but he’s certainly in good shape. Ben said that his Mach 1 was a little sketchy under-braking, so a minor front-end adjustment was made heading into the 21-lap Final.

Driver: Zach Robichon - #346
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
EKN.ca One-on-One: Click Here
Prefinal: Start – 28th / Finish – 14th

Aside from Cooper’s winning performance, the driver to watch in the Prefinal was Zach Robichon. Starting 28th as the last driver to transfer straight into the race, Robichon was on the march forward and eventually found himself in 14th. Zach told EKN.ca that the kart was not particularly great, and that instead, he just drove it a hard as he could be muscle his way past his competition.
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