Oakdale High freshman Blaine Rocha doesn’t need a Nintendo 64 controller or Mario Kart cartridge to achieve open-wheel glory.
The 14-year-old go-kart driver and member of the Oregon-based Rolison Performance Group sped to back-to-back first place finishes on March 9 and 10 at the CalSpeed Karting Facility outside the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
The wins clinched a Rotax Challenge of the Americas Series Championship and secured one of the first qualifications for Team USA at the prestigious Rotax Grand Finals in New Orleans from Nov. 13 to 16.
The Grand Finals is considered the Olympics of go-kart racing and features participants from over 60 countries across five divisions of competition. The event was held in Portugal in 2012 and has never before made an appearance in the United States. A driver from the United States has never won a Grand Finals title in any division and a U.S. racer in Rocha’s 125 Junior Max division has not placed top-10 in over four years.
But Rocha, who won Challenge of America titles in 2010 (Mini Max) and 2011 (Superkarts), isn’t used to second place.
“It’s the biggest race of my career and the biggest race in the world, but we all have the same karts and the same engine,” Rocha said at Oakdale High on Monday. “It’s all on the driver, and I think I have a good opportunity to do something big for Team USA.”
Blaine said his racing success stems from a childhood on the asphalt as his father, Doug Rocha, enjoyed a career in auto racing. Blaine quickly became an accomplished dirt bike racer, but got into racing karts in 2008.
He was recruited to join RGP after open-wheel success and now enjoys action with a team that provides driver support, event tuning/coaching, transportation and training. In Fontana, the team claimed series championships in the Junior Max, Senior Max and Mini Max fields to punch three tickets to the Grand Finals.
“(Senior Max driver Phillip Arscott), Blaine and (Mini Max driver Sting Ray Robb) are talented drivers, and I couldn’t be more excited to help them earn their championships and tickets to the Rotax Grand Finals,” said Mike Rolison of RPG on rolisonperformancegroup.com. “I couldn’t be happier in what we’ve accomplished thus far in 2013.”
Rocha will race at the site of the Grand Finals, the NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, during the Pan American Challenge in October. It’s the next big race on his schedule and the last prequel to the pinnacle of kart racing, the November Grand Finals.