Round 2 of the UAE Rotax Max Challenge took place at the pristine Al Forsan in Abu Dhabi on Friday 30 October 2015, where most of the Sodi Racing Team ME drivers and crew were exposed to a new track where they found good pace throughout the weekend – not far from the three steps of the podium.
Here is a summary of the action on race day as seen from the perspective of Nicolas Fargeas, head of Sodi ME Racing Team operations.
It was a decent start for our Micro Max drivers on the 16 strong grid. Track conditions changed a lot from the previous days of testing. In quaifying Georgie Zouein managed to get third position, a mere two tenths away from local hero Ali Al Shamsi also driving a Sodi chassis. Archie Sampson was in a good rhythm getting ninth position followed by Diaraf Keinde in 12th and Luis Velasco 13th.
In the Heat Race, Zouein managed to keep his third position, very close to the top two, after losing the lead couple of lapsbefore the end.
Keinde managed to gain two position after some battle on track while Sampson unfortunately dropped to 12th, but ahead of his team mate Velasco in 13th – a clean race between Archie and Luis battling it out. Both drivers were classed as novice but were driving like pros providing great entertainment. In the end Luis clinched 12th with Archie just 0.056 seconds behind in 13th.
In Pre-Final, Zouein gained a place, finishing second behind the leader by a tiny gap of 0.077 of a second gap. Keinde kept 10th ahead of Velasco in 13th, while Sampson had to retire from the race after an incident with another competitor.
Zouein said: “I had a good speed which enabled me to take over the lead at some point, but some mistakes made me go back to second place. Al Forsan is a super technical track but, super exciting, it requires fitness, I was knackered at the end!”
In Final, Zouein started strongly and took an early lead from Mohammed Al Habsi and kept it for most of the race. But in the last few laps everything changed and he crossed the line fourth – a bit of frustration after all the hard work put together throughout the weekend.
Velasco made an incredible race starting with a great start getting himself in the top ten, unfortunately a few rookie mistakes gave the opportunity to other competitors to retaliate. However very well defended, Luis finished in P11.
Sampson had a tough final finishing 13th after being caught in traffic. Keinde did not finish due to a race incident.
Velasco said: “A last lap mishap made me fall into 11th when I missed the apex into Turn 2, started to panic, looked behind me, missed the apex again coming into Turn 3 and lost the place. A very good P11 came into my hands which made me, my Dad, and Sodi very happy! I left Abu Dhabi on a high and I am going to the next race very confident.”
Difficult weekend for Khaled Saab who found it difficult to find the pace on track in the early races. Nevertheless he made a great start in the Final where he managed to get few places, but unfortunately got held back in the mid-pack battle which delayed his climb up to the front. When the chequered flag waved he was sixth.
Saab said: “Clearly there was room for improvement in the last two corners which David Terrien pointed out to me. The changes finally made to my kart paid off in the Pre-Final although I struggled to gain any position. In the end finishing sixth in the final was the best I could do on the day. I got a good start but a few mistakes meant I lost some of the places I had gained. I kept pushing until the end and had good pace in spite of getting very tired on the last few laps.”
In Heat 1, Jones managed to gain a position up to 7th, Hannah after few moves got ninth ahead of Fontanella getting 10th and Alami dropping to 14th.
Fontanella said: “A drastic change in Kart setup a day before the race lead to difficulties with the chassis, followed by engine problems which resulted in a not so good weekend, but we will work harder to have the deserved results at the next round.”
In the Pre-Final there was great pace for Jones and Hannah joining the chasing pack with with P5 and P6 – ahead of some of the top juniors. Fontanella kept P10 while Alami managed a decent comeback to 11th.
In the Final, Jones managed to keep his fifth position until the end, and showed the potential to be on the podium with third fastest best lap of the race. But the gap to the leaders was too big, neverthless a great effort until the end.
Hannah lost few places during the start but managed to regain few throughout the race with some great overtaking moves to finish 8th behind her friend Amna Al Qubaisi also racing with a Sodi chassis.
Jones said: “The final was my favourite race because when the race started I dropped down to about eigth but I was able to make some good overtakes. I found I had super speed on the main straight and was then up to fifth. I was then catching up with the pack ahead with each lap. But unfortunately I didn’t have enough laps left, so I started and finished the race in fifth.”
Hannah said: The final was a little harder and I got pushed back to about 13th from sixth in the first lap, but then I pushed hard and managed to make my way back up to about eighth. Overall the weekend was good yet challenging. All of my coaching that I had done in preparation for the race was being put into action.”
The Sodi Senior Max trio qualified in the top five with Abi Birch impressing by taking second on the grid – a tenth off of local hero Ahmed Akhamisialso at the wheel of a Sodi kart.
Jan Richtermeier also got a good pace claiming third, with Fraser Rose fourth despite engine problems which also affected him during the Heat race.”
Rose said: “A lot of problems occurred during the Heat race with my engine. I tried to do my best with it but my concentration was taken away by this and I couldn’t focus on my race.”
Birch managed to keep the race rhythm despite losing a position towards the end and found herself in third. Rose managed fifth place with the third best lap time of the race after a very long morning getting the engines sorted which resulted in a really short time to set the chassis up. Richtermeier finished sixth.
In the Pre-Final, Birch kept her third position even though lots of position changes occurred during the race. Rose kept fifth position despite an incident with a rival. It was bad luck for Richtermeier who had a big crash, bent his kart but still managed to end the race to score some points.
It was a very tough final for the Sodi trio. Richtermeier chassis was in a really bad shape but still managed to drive it to claim wighth place.
After starting third Birch lost a few places, finishing sixth after a tough fight at the front. Rose managed to hang on to finish P5.
Richtermeier said: “This was a weekend with a lot of bad luck. I bent my chassis and my engine wasn’t working properly in the end again. I really thought I had a good pace on the practice days but sadly only the races count, A big thanks to my mechanic Robert, the chassis just felt fantastic and the whole Sodi team for putting so much effort in giving us drivers the best opportunities to drive with the front competitors.”
Birch said: “Overall a fantastic weekend and I learnt so much, just unfortunate in the final. Love this track!”
Fargeas summed up Round 2 of the UAE RMC: “Overall a difficult weekend for the team, we were not far away from the podium and some better positions – but fate had a different script for our drivers. Now back to work, next round in Dubai Kartdrome and we will be ready to get some silverware at this one, which is home track to our drivers.”
“For SodiKart (our chassis brand) it was a good weekend with a victory for Daman Speed Academy with Ahmed Akhamisi in Senior Max who showed great pace all day long, while Ali Al Shamsi also impressed on his way to second place in the Micro Max class.”