EKN: Race Rotax US Trophy West Series – Grand Junction Race Report

Rotax 2024 West Grand Junction

Championship wraps up in Colorado with tickets awarded to the Rotax Grand Finals

The Race Rotax US Trophy West Series hosted the final two rounds of the 2024 championship program, visiting the Grand Junction Motor Speedway. Round Seven and Eight were contested over the May 10-12 weekend at the Grand Junction, Colorado facility, which is among one of the more challenging circuits in North America.

The unique format of the Race Rotax US Trophy West Series is unlike any other in karting, featuring two different layouts utilized in the same weekend. The first three sessions of Friday practice were conducted in the clockwise direction – reserved for the action in Round Eight on Sunday – before the track switched to the standard counter-clockwise layout – which was used for Round Seven on Saturday. Race Rotax at the end of the weekend celebrated the ‘Weekend Trophy’ podium, awarding the top-three in each category based on the two Finals results over the two days. The weekend in Grand Junction also celebrated the end of the championship chase for the five categories in the best six of eight rounds counting toward the year-end standings, crowing this year’s 2024 Race Rotax US Trophy West Series champions.

An increase in numbers for the Senior MAX division featured 19 battling over the two rounds on the weekend. Senior rookie Giovanni Santora was able to lock in the fastest time in Round Seven qualifying with a 53.627 to edge out two-time Amarillo winner Theo Kekati from the UAE. Santora slipped to third in the opening heat race with Kekati and Round Four winner Cooper O’Clair running 1-2. The second heat saw O’Clair take the top spot over Kekati with Canadian Griffin Dowler now up into third. The main event was a battle between O’Clair and Kekati. Each led at a time until O’Clair led the final four circuits of the 16-lap Final, scoring his second victory and earning a $2,000 payday. Kekati and Dowler completed the Round Seven podium.

The momentum carried over into Sunday for Round Eight as O’Clair secured the fastest time in qualifying with a 53.494 to clear the field by over two tenths. O’Clair went on to win the opening heat race before Kekati edged him out for the win in the second heat. They continued their fight into the Final as each led over the 16 laps. Kekati was able to take the lead at the white flag and held on through to the checkered flag for his third win in four starts. O’Clair settled for second with Spencer Smith finishing a close third for his best result of the series.

With his best weekend total over the four stops on the season, Cooper O’Clair was crowned the Senior MAX champion for the US Trophy West Series. He won by 64 points over Griffin Dowler with Frederique Lemieux finishing third. O’Clair receives the 2024 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals ticket to compete in the DD2 category as a member of Team USA for a fourth straight year. Dowler earned a paid entry to the US Trophy Final while a partial entry to the event was awarded to Lemieux.

It was a two-driver fight all weekend long in Junior MAX, featuring championship contenders Gage Korn and Nixx Eggleston. Round Six winner Korn was able to set fast time in qualifying with a 55.325, only 12 thousandths quicker than Eggleston. Korn would go on to win the opening heat race, however, was removed from the results for non-compliance with two onboard cameras, handing the win over the Eggleston, who scored the top spot in Heat #2 as well. During the first half of the 16-lap final, Eggleston fought with three-time race winner Antoine Lemieux before Korn took control at the front. Grabbing the lead on lap 11, Korn led the remainder of the race to claim a second victory of the season. Eggleston was second with Lemieux in third.

It was the same top two in qualifying for Round Eight on Sunday, featuring Korn with a fast time of 54.882 to beat out Eggleston by 66 thousandths for the top spot. Korn ran away with the race win in Heat #1 while Eggleston responded with his own strong drive in Heat #2 for the win. After exchanging the lead multiple times in the first half of the 16-lap Final, Korn was able to secure the top spot and lead the final eight laps to earn a third victory on the series. Eggleston ended up second with Kyle Drysdale improving up to the third spot.

The final round performance for Gage Korn helped him to earn the year-end championship, by a mere 15 points over Antoine Lemieux with Nixx Eggleston back by 25 points. Korn will also be a member of Team USA for a fourth straight year, earning a 2024 Rotax Grand Finals ticket to compete in the Junior MAX category. Lemieux took home the paid entry to the US Trophy Final with Eggleston the partially paid entry to the August event at New Castle Motorsports Park.

The opening round on the weekend for the Micro MAX division – which saw an increase in entries to 11 – was a sweep by two-time winner Lucas Tarango. After setting fast time in qualifying, Tarango went on to win both heat races. The main even was a wire-to-wire performance to complete the sweep for Tarango, taking his third victory of the series by over three seconds. Cam Becker fought back from falling down the order early to finish second ahead of Tyson Underwood. Becker became the driver to beat on Sunday for Round Eight. His 59.392 lap in qualifying cleared the field by over three tenths before leading every lap in both heat races. Tarango, who did not submit a lap in qualifying, worked his way forward in heat races and took over the top spot as they began the 14-lap Final. He led the first five laps until contact put him off the course. This allowed Becker to go on and claim the provisional victory until he was penalized 10 spots for contact. This promoted Underwood to the top step of the podium, moving Sebastian Johnson to second and Conner Lypka to third.

The final championship standings for Micro MAX put Lucas Tarango into the top spot, earning the year-end title. Round Six winner Paxton Romero finished second on the season and Conner Lypka placing third. Tarango has earned a paid entry and practice tires for the US Trophy Final with Romero also taking home a paid entry. Lypka receives a partial entry to the event this August.

Billy Cleavelin was able to bring his win total to four on the series in the Masters MAX division with a double-win weekend. It was a battle all weekend in the five-driver category with three-time winner Clayton Kesler setting fast time with a 55.184 lap. Round Two winner Christopher Mann fought forward to win Heat #1 before Cleavelin was at the front of the field to complete the second heat. Mann led the first half of the 16-lap Final before Cleavelin took control. The veteran led the remainder of the race to claim the victory by 1.3 seconds over Mann and Kesler. Sunday’s action began with Mann at the top of the time charts in qualifying with a 54.931 to begin Sunday’s action. Cleavelin took over in the opening heat and won the second moto to start from the pole position in the main event. Kessler came up after the halfway point of the Final to battle for the top spot but in the end, Cleavelin came away with his fourth victory. Kesler settled for second with Mann in third.

In the end, Clayton Kessler’s run over the series was enough to secure him the championship in the Masters MAX division. Billy Cleavelin ended up second in the final standings with Christopher Mann in the third position. For earning the championship, Kessler earns a paid entry and practice tires to the US Trophy Final. Cleavelin takes home a paid entry to US Trophy Final for second while a partial entry to the event goes to Mann.

The Mini MAX division featured two sweeps in the two rounds by two different drivers. Championship leader Jaxon Porter was able to secure his seventh victory of the season with a sweep of Round Seven on Saturday. Porter set fast time in qualifying and won both heat races before fighting with Isaac Payn for the top spot in the main event. At the line, Porter was able to hold off Payn by 78 thousandths of a second with Gage Grant finishing third. With the championship in hand, Porter sat out the action on Sunday, running unchallenged with Grant as well not making a session start.

The seven straight victories for Jaxon Porter secured him the series championship for Mini MAX. Gage Grant finished the season in the second spot while Harrison Jeffery was third in the final standings. The championship earns Porter his first ticket to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. Grant takes home a full paid entry to the US Trophy Final. A partially paid entry to US Trophy Final went to Jeffery.

With the completion of the West program, the focus now turns to the Race Rotax US Trophy East Series. The program is set to begin with a trip to the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati in Batavia, Ohio on June 21-23. The second stop for the series heads to the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania on August 2-4. The US Trophy Final event is set for August 22-24 at the New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana.

Read the full article at eKartingNews.com.

(Photo: Race Rotax - 1 AIM)

Rotax MAX Challenge
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