Six Team UAE drivers make it through to the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2016 – Day 6
Team UAE and Oman have six drivers who have progressed through to the final day at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2016, in Italy, after a grueling, qualifying process with drivers competing in three Heats and making it through the Pre-Finals against the world’s best Rotax drivers.
The top 34 drivers out of 72 in each class proceed to the final day of racing where they will contest the Grand Final to determine the World Champion in each respective class.
Abdullah Al Rawahi has been the star for Team Oman with a fifth place topping his Heat performances, giving cause for real optimism going into the Pre-Finals. On a very slippery track and wet tires, the conditions in the Pre-Final were treacherous at best but, remaining in contention with the leaders, he would bring his kart home safely in 9th place to guarantee him a place in the Grand Final. Reigning Indy Lights Champion, Edward Jones, performed admirably but could not make up the vital places he needed to join Al Rawahi in the Final.
Taymour Kermanshahchi, on the other hand, rode his luck as his Pre-Final was stopped due to extreme rain. He was tipped into a spin on the opening lap and was in the middle of a fight-back when the race was halted. The race was continued after the weather improved slightly and Kermanshahchi took full advantage, picking off his rivals systematically until he crossed the line in 13th place. Penalties for two of his rivals promoted him further to 11th place and he joins Al Rawahi in the Grand Final.
In the MAX class Pasqual Pook endured a tense wait for final clarification after his Pre-Final. He crossed the line in 15th place which was enough to qualify but a 10 second penalty almost cost him his Final place. Thankfully, a number of his closest competitors also received penalties and confirmation of his progress was announced at the end of the day. Team mate Giulio Peroni improved throughout the week at his first Grand Finals but narrowly lost out on a place in the Final. Still, he can be satisfied with his efforts in the face of quality competition.
Ziggy Kermanshahchi impressed with a great drive through the field in Mini MAX and, coupled with penalties applied to drivers ahead of him, was classified in 11th place which gives him an excellent platform for the Grand Final.
Rashid Al Dhaheri and Oscar McElroy both made forward progress in the Micro MAX Pre-Final to finish 21stand 19threspectively. If they can do the same in the Final a top 15 finish is realistic although both are hoping for much more. The Micro MAX Final will be the first race of Day 7 and will follow the driver’s parade where young Emirati national, Al Dhaheri, will carry the UAE flag with his team mates.
It was heartache for the rest of Team UAE as DD2 Masters drivers Hussain Umid Ali and Anthony Hogg failed to progress to Saturday’s Final. Umid Ali enjoyed arguably his strongest week so far at a Grand Finals with some consistent performances but ultimately missed out on a Final spot by a handful of places in wet conditions. Hogg had been in the wars in the Heat races but was looking forward to the wet Pre-Final as he had been competitive all week in those conditions. Sadly, though, his luckless week continued as he was forced into a spin, having already made up 10 places from his starting position. Both will return to UAE with strong motivation to qualify again next year.
Arguably the biggest disappointment took place in the Junior MAX Pre-Final where Tehmur Chohan and Lucas Petersson looked set to make the Final after some great performances in the Heat races. An excellent opening lap from Petersson saw him move into the top 10 from 20th on the grid. Starting 13th, Chohan was caught up in an incident but limited the damage as he continued in the top 15. After some initial spots of rain on the opening laps the heavens opened and, with all but three of the competitors on untreaded slick tires, the race became a bit of a lottery. Despite the conditions, Petersson was looking good until a spin on lap 7 dropped him back down the field. Chohan also suffered a brief spin but continued and, as the drivers tip-toed round the track as conditions further deteriorated, both UAE drivers would find themselves outside the automatic qualification places.
For each of the six Team UAE drivers who have qualified for the Grand Final, action on the last day includes a brief morning warm-up and the official driver’s parade before the main event in the afternoon which will be followed by the trophy presentation to the class Champions.