x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Al Ain Raceway a happy hunting ground for Pier-Luc Ouelette

'To win the first one was special, but to come here and regain my title is something amazing.'

Canada’s Pier-Luc Ouelette, right, trailed Australia’s Jason Pringle before taking the lead with six of the 21 laps remaining to win the DD2 class at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Al Ain.
Canada’s Pier-Luc Ouelette, right, trailed Australia’s Jason Pringle before taking the lead with six of the 21 laps remaining to win the DD2 class at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Al Ain.

AL AIN // Officials at Al Ain Raceway have already confirmed they hope to stage the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals again after successfully holding the competition for a second time this week, but Pier-Luc Ouelette probably wishes the championship finale to the series could be held at the track every year.

The Canadian driver won the DD2 category the first time the finals were held in Al Ain, in 2007, and he repeated that feat on Saturday as he held off the challenge from Australia's Jason Pringle to take the chequered flag.

"It is something special," he said on becoming a double DD2 world champion.

"To win the first one was special, but to come here and regain my title is something amazing."

Despite both his championship titles coming in Al Ain, the 24 year old did not think the track particularly suited him and said he believed the extra years of racing he had on some of his rivals had given him the edge.

"At international level all the drivers, after two or three sessions, they know the track exactly like I do, but it is just maybe the experience I have in racing," he said. "Maybe I am a little bit older and that helps going through the heats, pre-final and final because there are a lot of young kids coming up."

Ouelette had led from the start, but was overtaken by Pringle on lap four at the penultimate turn of the 1,400-metre long track.

Ouelette remained within three tenths of a second of his rival, and six laps from the finish of the 21-lap race he dived down the inside of Pringle going into a tight left-han corner to regain the lead.

The Canadian held on to win by 0.066 seconds from Pringle. Jari Huttunen, the Finnish driver, crossed the line in third but was given a 10-second penalty by the stewards after the race for a clash with Canada's Nicholas Latifi, promoting Estonia's George Vann to third.

Elsewhere on Saturday's finals day, Ben Cooper held his nerve to win the Senior Max category for a second time.

The Briton, who had started from pole, led throughout to hold off Australia's David Sera to take the title. His previous success was in the 2008 competition in Italy.

Another driver to win his category for a second time was Ukyo Sasahara, the Japanese teenager who won the Junior Max competition in convincing fashion. Starting from third, the 15 year old, whose previous title had come in Egypt in 2009, quickly moved his way to the front and then pulled away to win by 2.5 seconds from the Australian Joseph Mowson.

Cristiano Morgado dominated the DD2 Masters race to triumph in comprehensive fashion. The South African raced away from the field and finished the 21-lap race 4.7 seconds ahead of Belgium's Danny Brand.

The Nations Cup, which added up the results of every driver competing at the finals, saw Australia win from Canada and South Africa.

gcaygill@thenational.ae