Masters class competitor Ryan Urban has spearheaded a successful Kiwi qualifying run at the 16th annual Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals meeting at Portimao in Portugal overnight.
All five New Zealand drivers made it through the practice and qualifying heats this time, with Urban – a veteran of a number of Grand Final campaigns now – qualifying sixth in DD2 Masters and claiming two seconds and a fifth in the heats to start the Pre-Final (being held overnight Saturday NZ time) from P5 on the grid.
Next best qualifier was Palmerston North driver Dylan Drysdale in Rotax Junior. Drysdale, who also represented New Zealand at last year’s Grand Final, qualified 24th but claimed a 13th and two third placings in his heat races and will start tonight’s Pre-Final from P8 on the grid.
New Zealand’s second representative in the DD2 Masters class, fellow Palmerston North driver Fraser Hart, qualified 30th and worked his way up to 12th, 17th and 11th in his heats to earn the P23 grid spot in the DD2 Masters Pre-Final.
Also starting his Pre-Final from P23 is DD2 class representative Daniel Bray.
Bray, from Auckland, was looking good for a top ten Pre-Finals starting spot, having qualified 18th in class and finished eighth in the first heat and sixth in the second. But he was taken out in the third heat and the P34 finishing spot saw him drop down the order to 23rd.
In Rotax Senior, meanwhile, Daniel Connor from Auckland will start his Pre-Final from P26 on the grid after qualifying 34th and getting caught out in a first turn pile-up in his first qualifying heat race, finishing 26th.
He did better in the second and third heats though, working his way forward each time for a 12th and a 10th which brought him back up to P26 overall ahead of the Pre-Final.
This year’s Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals meeting has attracted 288 drivers from 50 countries with 72 starters in each of four classes, DD2, DD2 Masters, Rotax Senior and Rotax Junior.
New Zealand has been represented at all 15 previous Challenge Grand Finals events and has a strong record with a second in the Rotax Max class in 2010 in Italy for Palmerston North driver Josh Hart and thirds for Christchurch’s Matt Hamilton in DD2 in Italy in 2010 and Wanganui’s Earl Bamber in Junior Max at Lanzarote in 2004.
Last year, at the 15th annual Grand Challenge meeting held in Spain Tiffany Chittenden was the top Kiwi (as well as top female) finisher, with sixth in the DD2 Masters class.
Ryan Urban from Auckland, ended up 11th in the same class (DD2 Masters), while Dylan Drysdale finished 19th in Rotax Junior.