Race Report: 2020-2021 UAE Rotax MAX Challenge gets off to a solid start at Dubai Kartdrome
The opening round of the 2020-2021 UAE Rotax MAX Challenge (RMC) - under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council - took place at Dubai Kartdrome on Friday, 9 October, with drivers eager to perform after the off-season months, exacerbated by the lockdown.
DD2 featured a host of young drivers who moved up from the Junior MAX and MAX classes and immediately made an impact on proceedings. Anshul Gandhi, Kayne Cherian and Khaled Saab all showed solid pace and as a result there was very little to separate the trio all day.
Gandhi's preseason form was no fluke, and after qualifying third and finishing second in the Heat race, he took control of the day to win the Pre-Final and Final. Cherian chased hard but had to settle for second, 4.54 seconds down, with top qualifier and Heat race winner Saab in third.
Tony Hogg was the top DD2 Master on the day, the veteran showing good enough pace to trouble the DD2 youngsters at the sharp end of the field.
Kamal Agha was almost untouchable in the MAX races despite qualifying third, he went on to to win the Heat, the Prefinal and the Final, doing just enough to keep this challengers at bay by a couple of seconds. A hat-trick of wins that signal the youngster's intent for the rest of the season.
In the MAX Final, Theo Kekati gave chase with Jacopo Mazza also in the mix with the latter driver finishing second in the Heat and the former bagging second in the Final.
A big and impressive field turned up for the Junior MAX class which inevitably produced some of the feistiest racing of the day. A host of drivers were in the mix at the front during their action packed races. Zack Scoular, Max Dexter, Harry Hannam, Federico Rifai, Sofia Necchi, Matteo Quintarelli, Lewis England, Iko Segret, Arien Shirodkar and Diaraf Keinde all showed handy pace, with just over a second covering the top seven.
But the standout performer was Rifai who was prevented from taking part in Qualifying and forced to start from the back of the grid. He kept his head about him, delivering a scorcher of a heat race - from last on the grid to fourth - and then bagged top spots in the Prefinal and Final to crown a strong day.
The chasing pack scrapped for the runner-up place, with Dexter emerging second after a strong challenge for the lead. He was beaten by a mere 0.361 of a second at the finish line at the end of a riveting Final. Scoular was third, followed by Quintarelli in fourth and Hannam taking fifth. Eight seconds separating the top five over the line.
Mohammed Ismail Ali fended off Sam Naylor to claim top honours in the Final of RD1 ELITE class after a day long battle with the likes of Anjum Shaikh, Marc Roca and Hussain Umid Ali.
Naylor won the Prefinal from Shaikh and Ali but in a hard fought Final, Ismail Ali had the edge to win by 0.322 of a second over Naylor, with Roca third, Umid Ali fourth and Humaid Alketbi fifth.
Championship Director Guy Sheffield summed up the day of action in Dubai: "It was great to get back to racing again. In the wake of the lockdown it was reassuring to see solid grids and close competition in all classes, with Junior MAX particularly impressive and laying the foundation for a good season."
The 2020-2021 opener at the Kartdrome marks the beginning of the eight round UAE Rotax Max Challenge, with Round 2 scheduled for 20 November 2020.
UAE Rotax MAX Challenge Website: http://www.alainraceway.com/uaermc/
Race Results: http://www.alainraceway.com/uaermc/race-results
Championship Standings: http://www.alainraceway.com/uaermc/championship-standings