- From the race day notebook of Sodi ME Racing Team Director Nicolas Fargeas
- Positive showing for Sodi drivers in opening round of UAE Rotax Max season
- Two podiums including one win and two novice awards at the season opener in Al Ain
Great start of the season for Sodi Middle East Racing Team during the opening round of the 2015-2016 UAE Rotax Max Challenge at Al Ain Raceway on Friday, 9 October 2015
Sodi Me Racing Team rewarded of two podiums and two novice trophies after a day of strong performances from the drivers and setting an encouraging marker for the season ahead.
It seems like everything went according to plan for the Micro Max squad, as Georgie Zouein demonstrated straight from qualifying his desire to finish on the top step of the podium by claiming pole-position by six tenths ahead of his closest rival.
Diaraf Keinde set his fastest time in the last lap from which saw him move from P10 to P5 on the grid. Archie Sampson delivered a solid performance and found himself in P12 with fellow rookie Luis Velasco in P16.
Zouein described his race: “Straight from the start I felt my kart and engine setup were a good match and I felt really comfortable driving it, that was the perfect combination for me to setting and set the fastest lap time, I would like to thank George, Vincent, Gerry and the team for everything we have been working on to get these times. We make a great team”
Throughout the heat and pre-final Georgie Zouein kept on driving like qualifying and kept his comfortable top spot position with the fastest time in Heat 1 and Pre-Final, few tenths ahead of Ali Al Shamsi driving the same chassis.
With number 5 on his kart Keinde qualified fifth and kept the lucky number in Heat 1 with P5 but lost a position down to P6 in Pre-Final.
Our two novices gave us a great show on track with some outstanding moves for both of them. Sampson progressed from P12 in qualifying, to P10 in Heat 1 but unfortunately got involved in the multiple kart mayhem in Turn 3 and did not finish the race.
Sampson said: “I was very disappointed and a little shaken after the big crash with the others, but after some encouragement from the rest of the team I was in a positive frame of mind going into the final race”
Velasco starting from P16, could not finish Heat 1 because of a crash in turn 2 in Heat 1, however a strong comeback from the back of the grid to seventh in the Pre-final behind his team mate Keinde.
Velasco said: “I had a severe amount of luck with a few big crashes happening ahead of me, but like they say: You gotta be in it to win it!”
In the Final, a dramatic accident happened in the last corner involving Keinde going for a move, clerk of the course took the decision to red flag the race. At this stage, Zouein led the pack and took victory. Sampson finished ninth ahead of his team mate Luis Velasco tenth.
Zouein summed up: “I didn’t know what this Red Flag was for; when I came back around I could see the Kart of my team mate Diaraf upside down and was really worried about him. After I found out he was fine I realized I had won the race. I would have preferred seeing the chequered flag because that is where I was headed and no one was going to stop me.”
Khaled Saab didn’t have too much luck in qualifying as his chain came off in the first lap. Even though he started at the back of the grid, Saab delivered a strong performnace and went from P11 to P4 in Heat 1. A very tough Pre-Final saw him drop down to P8. But in the final he avoided a race incident involving several drivers in the first corner, allowing Saab to take advantage of the situation and reclaiming back his fourth and setting second fastest lap time of the race.
Saab said: “I did well in Heat 1 and got up to 4th. The kart felt good and I had great pace so was able to overtake a few people. I was happy with the result and now I know I have the speed. I hope to get a podium in Round 2 at Al Forsan.”
Sodi ME racing team was missing two drivers Logan Hannah and Omar Alami for the opening round.
Thus Eliot Jones and Enzo Fontanella were flying Sodi Kart colours in the junior category. It was a tough qualifying for the duo to work all together and unfortunately found themselves P12 and P14 respectively.
Heat 1 was a different story for Jones who managed a great start and proceeded to deliver a strong drive and turned P14 on the grid to P3 at the chequered flag.
Fontanella was in the thick of the Turn 1 melee, but nevertheless dug deep to produce some great driving and finish in P8.
In the Pre-Final steady driving from Fontanella saw him end up P7, while slugged it out at the sharp end but an off track excursion in the heat of battle relegated him to P13.
Jones said : “In Pre-final I was the punching bag”
In the Final Jones and Fontanella were leading the mid-pack who were chasing the leaders, but P7 and P8 respectively were their rewards for a tough day of racing in a very competitive class.
Fontanella said : “We have the pace to collect the trophy, we showed it at the invitational race, and we will use these two races as motivation to achieve a successful Round 2 in Al Forsan”
The Sodi trio of Abigail Birch, Jan Richtermeier and Fraser Rose showed some great pace throughout the day which has characterised with ups and downs.
In qualifying the three chased pace setters Giulio Peroni and Pasqual Pook and ended up with Birch third fastest, P4 for Richtermeier and P5 for Rose.
In Heat 1, Rose made his way to fourth ahead of teammates Birch and Richtermeier.
In the Pre-Final, Rose worked his way up to second and ended only a couple of tenths down on race winner Peroni. There was little to separate Richtermeier and Birch who ended P5 and P6 respectively.
The Final was a great battle within the chasing pack with position changes in almost every corner, but in the end Fraser showed his speed and race craft to claim third place, a mere hundredth of a second shy of second placed behind Pook.
Rose said: “We worked very well as a team with all of the drivers having very good camaraderie and a good team work. A big thanks to everyone at Sodi Kart Middle East especially to my mechanics and coach Piers and Sami.
Luck ran out for Richtermeier who was bumped at the start, he lost a few positions but managed to fight back and secure P6.
Richtermeier said : “All in all it was a day with some problems when catching up the front contenders but I had a good pace. A massive thanks to the whole Sodi ME team for giving me the opportunity to be on the same speed as the front runners.”
Birch finished P8 after some race incidents with other competitors on track and said at the end of the day: “Overall was a very tough weekend against a very competitive field. However I learnt a lot throughout the race weekend and hope to use that in the upcoming race.”
Tony Hogg representing SodiKart in DD2 & DD2 Master Category showed great performance during the overall weekend.
Hogg had his second official race with SodiKart Middle East helped by his master mechanic Danny Brand.
The duo managed to get a good setup on the kart and a good power from the new Evo engine and in qualifying felt they were better than P10, as they were only half a second 5 off DD2 Master pace setter Hussain Umid Ali.
In Heat 1 he showed good speed, but circumstances kept him in tenth.
Everything changed in Pre-Final where Hogg got closer to the chasing pack with a well-deserved P6, however in the Final he dropped down to P9 after some good battles.
An overall good day for Hogg getting the grips with his new chassis and clearly showing his potential for the rest of the season.
Hogg said: “Great first steps alongside the Sodi Racing Team, I like the whole family feel at Sodi. Despite limited testing at Al Ain as a consequence of testing in Portimao for the upcoming Grand Finals. Working closely with Danny Brand the setup evolved during testing and on into the race day, culminating in a race pace good enough to trouble the front runners at times. The Sodi chassis worked well once we got it dialled in and I’m now really looking forward to Al Forsan”.
Nicolas Fargeas, head of Sodi ME Racing Team operations:
“Overall a good weekend, in all categories for the Sodi ME Racing Team with some ups and downs, but we showed that we are there. We have the speed and for sure we will be working hard to challenge for titles this season.”
“We are heading in the right direction with George Gibbons, Team Manager, Mechanics (Joe Narciso, Sami Nilanka, Robert Gibbons, Gerry Laplana, Jak Watson) and the coaches (David Terrien, Vincent Fraisse, Piers Pakenham-Walsh) having done a great job preparing the team for this race and giving 100% of themselves to provide the drivers with the best equipment and advice,” concluded Fargeas.
For Sodi Kart it was a good start of the season with also a first position on the podium for Daman Speed Academy with Hamda Al Qubaisi in Mini Max and a great pace for the other front runners such as Ali Al Shamsi in Micro Max and Ahmed Akhamisi in Senior Max.
Round 2 of the UAE Rotax Max Challenge takes place at the Al Forsan kart track in Abu Dhabi on 30 October 2015.