The final round of the 2016 US Open Karting Championship takes to a temporary circuit at the RIO All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas with championships up for grabs. Cody Schindel reports.
For Rotax Max racers the 2016 season culminates this week in the city that never sleeps as the Sofina Foods US Open of Las Vegas takes place at RIO All Suites Hotel and Casino. For the second year in a row MAXSpeed Entertainment will challenge their racers with a temporary circuit in the rear lot of the RIO, creating a unique and exciting atmosphere with a picturesque backdrop for drivers from around the world looking to close out their season on top.
With additional points available, the championship picture in all eight categories is wide open after previous rounds in Louisiana and Utah. Here are some headlines entering the week.
Fourteen different countries represented
With the first invitations to the 2017 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals up for grabs to race winners in four of the Rotax categories, drivers from around the world have flocked to the event. No less than 14 different nations will be represented in Las Vegas with drivers from as far as Australia, the United Kingdom, Argentina and France taking it to the large contingent of drivers from the USA and Canada.
Dramatic showdown expected in Rotax Junior
Entering the race, Nick Brueckner leads the Rotax Junior Championship standings but given the number of points available, nearly 10 drivers have a chance at the title including Mathias Ramirez, Ryan MacDermid, Reece Cohen and Dylan Tavella. Also looking for a big win will be Can-Am Challenge runner-up Mason Buck as well as US Mini-Max National Champion Tyler Gonzalez. With more than 30 drivers entered in Rotax Junior this weekend, there will be plenty of action on track.
Rotax Grand Finals podium finishers in Las Vegas
Only two weeks after a pair of North American drivers stood on the podium at the biggest Rotax Max race in the world, they are back in action. American Diego LaRoque claimed the first ever RMCGF Micro-Max world title while Canadian Thomas Nepveu finished runner-up in Mini-Max and both will carry that momentum to Vegas.
Championship leaders absent in Rotax Senior and DD2
Two important contenders will be absent this weekend as Rotax Senior points leader Oliver Askew and Rotax DD2 points leader Jeffrey Kingsley have opted to sit out the race in Vegas. Askew is currently competing the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone, UK, after winning the Team USA Scholarship, while Kingsley has just returned from representing his country at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Italy and has now steered his attention to his university studies.
Neri and Cook battle for Shifter Senior title
While most of the attention will be on the Rotax Max categories, there is a headline battle in the Stock Moto Shifter category. Floridian Nick Neri leads the championship after a race win in New Orleans, but Colorado’s Sabre Cook is only a handful of points behind and looking for the title after two podium appearances.
Recent ‘King of the Streets’ winner and IMSA sportscar driver Remo Ruscitti is entered, as is US Grand National Champion Jake Craig and they will challenge the duo for the win. Unfortunately, Utah race winner Kyle Kirkwood will be absent as, like Oliver Askew, he was a Team USA Scholarship winner and is racing in the UK.
Mercedes DTM driver Wickens entered in DD2
Taking any opportunity to jump back into a kart and race with the best, Mercedes DTM driver Robert Wickens will take part in the US Open of Las Vegas for the second year in a row, hoping to better his result of third place a year ago. He will have some strong challengers including Rotax International Open winner Andreas Bäckmann of Sweden.
Grand gala to close out weekend with Motorsport.com DotY Award
Following the Final races on Saturday afternoon, MAXSpeed Entertainment will host a grand gala and dinner to celebrate in style and award their champions. On top of it all, Emerson Fittipaldi will be on hand to award the first annual Motorsport.com Driver of the Year award.
Live webcast of the event
Those unable to attend the race in Las Vegas can watch the live webcast of the race. The event runs from Nov. 2nd practice, qualifying on 3rd, heats on 4th and Friday and Finals on the 5th. MAXSpeed Entertainment will broadcast the race on their website, http://maxspeedentertainment.com. Coverage begins November 3 at 12 noon, PDT with qualifying.