Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2024

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Leopold Juch, Khaled Najjar claim double victories in back-to-back rounds of Bahrain Rotax MAX karting at BIKC

Leopold Juch, Khaled Najjar claim double victories in back-to-back rounds of Bahrain Rotax MAX karting at BIKC

  • Leopold Juch triumphs twice in Mini MAX class, Khaled Najjar emerges victorious in Junior MAX
  • Austin Gray in Micro MAX, Fahed Alkhaled in Senior MAX and Yousif Mathkoor in MAX DD2 also win in round five
  • Saif Al Obaidli in Micro MAX, Mohammed Alhasan in Senior MAX, Raoul Sadi in MAX DD2 triumph in sixth round

Leopold Juch and Khaled Najjar both came away with sensational doubles in the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2023/2024 Bahrain Rotax MAX Challenge (BRMC), held back-to-back over the weekend at Bahrain International Karting Circuit (BIKC) in Sakhir.

Bahrain International Circuit’s (BIC) world-class grassroots motorsport facility hosted the two action-packed meetings that featured many of the Kingdom’s most talented racers of various nationalities, who battled wheel-to-wheel along BIKC’s 1.414-kilometre CIK-FIA track.

Leopold and Khaled headlined the list of winners, taking two wins apiece in the Mini MAX and Junior MAX classes, respectively.

Also climbing to the top step of the podium in the fifth round were Austin Gray in the Micro MAX category, Fahed Alkahed in the Senior MAX, and Yousif Mathkoor in the MAX DD2 class.

In round six, Saif Al Obaidli was the victor amongst the Micro MAX challengers, Mohammed Alhasan won in the Senior MAX, and Raoul Sadi took the spoils in the MAX DD2 category.

The BRMC features competitors racing in their very own Rotax-powered karts. The championship is being organised and run by BIC and BIKC, in cooperation with the Bahrain Motor Federation (BMF) and Bahrain Karting Commission (BKC).

BRMC Round Five

In round five, Tariq Soofi took pole in Micro MAX qualifying and then powered to the win in the pre-final. But in the nine-lap final, Austin Gray was able to move in front by lap three and held on until the chequered flag to win in a total time of nine minutes 35.772 seconds. Tariq had dropped to third in class but was able to fight back and finish as the runner-up, while Mansour El Erian completed the podium placers.

In the Mini MAX, Shaikh Ahmed bin Saqer Al Khalifa topped qualifying 0.310s ahead of Leopold Juch, who later managed to win the pre-final with a comfortable margin. Leopold rode his momentum into a thrilling, nine-lap final, where he took the lead on lap two and then staved off both Shaikh Ahmed and Nasser Nass at the finish, both of whom were less than a second behind. Shaikh Ahmed secured second place only on the last lap and was 0.551s from Leopold, while Nass was 0.956s back.

In the Junior MAX class, Khaled Najjar was on a level of his own, sweeping all three sessions in style. He took a pole-to-flag victory in the 15-lap final, never giving up his leading position and winning in 13:51.447—4.530s ahead of Shaheen Shaheen, who had a fantastic drive having started from the back of the grid to finish as runner-up. Rashid Hilal was third 4.625s adrift.

The Senior MAX category saw Mohammed Alhasan outgun Rashid Almuammari by just 0.074s for pole in qualifying, but then Almuammari returned the favour and beat Alhasan to the win in the pre-final by 0.201s. In an ultra-competitive final, however, Fahed Alkhaled maneuvered into the lead on lap three, and after briefly losing his place to Almuammari late on, was able to retake it on the 15th and final lap to win in 13:31.911. It was an exciting and extremely tight finish, with the top five being separated by less than four-tenths of a second. Alhasan was right behind Alkhaled, who won with a mere 0.096s gap, while Almuammari was third 0.172s behind. Tye Mejia was classified in fourth 0.306s from Alkhaled, and Lewis Smith took fifth 0.398s back.

In the DD2 MAX, Abdulla Junaid clinched pole in qualifying and won the pre-final. But it was then Yousif Mathkoor celebrating at the end of the 15-lap final, winning in 13:59.446 and beating Junaid by 5.110s.

BRMC Round Six

The sixth round of the BRMC featured just as much excitement the following day at BIKC.

In the Micro MAX, Tariq Soofi again had a great start, taking pole in qualifying but then Saif Al Obaidli won the pre-final. In the nine-lap final, Saif continued his fine run, capturing the lead for good on lap three following an early battle with Rayyan Najjar, and eventually securing the win in 9:20.449. He was followed by Rayyan and Tariq.

In the Mini MAX, Leopold Juch took all three sessions, finishing on top in qualifying and then winning the pre-final. He then completed his sweep in the final, finishing first in 8:48.285 after nine laps. He was 0.222s ahead of Shaikh Ahmed bin Saqer Al Khalifa, while Demir Albali clinched third 3.185s back.

In the Junior MAX class, Rashid Hilal claimed pole by a slim 0.034s margin ahead of Khaled Najjar in qualifying, before winning the pre-final ahead of Shaheen Shaheen. Khaled then completed a near-perfect weekend with a win in the final, taking the chequered flag after 15 laps in 13:50.955. Hilal followed 3.062s behind, while Khalifah Alkhaled completed the podium in third 3.289s adrift.

In the Senior MAX category, it was a tight fight for first place from the very start. In qualifying, Rashid Almuammari took pole by 0.280s ahead of Mohammed Alhasan. The pair maintained their positions in the pre-final where they were separated by 1.464s, but in the 15-lap final, it was Alhasan on top of the classification, winning in 13:33.597 despite being one of several drivers being handed a five-second penalty by stewards. Lewis Smith avoided any reprimands and was classified a close runner-up 0.457s from Alhasan, while Tye Mejia came third 0.583s back.

In the DD2 MAX class, Abdulla Junaid and Raoul Sadi were engaged in a two-horse fight, with Junaid finishing ahead of his rival in both qualifying and the pre-final. But in the final, Sadi was triumphant after 15 laps, finishing in 13:27.527 and enjoying nearly a half-a-minute gap from Junaid.

Following all the action on both days, the winners were presented their respective trophies in podium ceremonies attended by officials from BIC, BIKC, the BMF and the BKC.

The 2023/2024 BRMC calendar features eight rounds in all. Following last weekend’s double-header, the karters return to the track for the BRMC’s penultimate meeting on 23 February. That will then set the stage for the championship finale on 8 March.