Article by: Florida winter tour
After a full day of qualifying on Friday, the competitors of Formula Kart Production's Florida Winter Tour presented by Ocala Gran Prix were set for some Rotax Max Challenge wheel-to-wheel racing on Saturday. The bright blue skies with slightly cool temperatures were absolutely perfect conditions for fast lap times and great racing.
INDY CAR IN-THE-HOUSE
In addition to the multitude of talented racers that compete in the Florida Winter Tour, on Saturday we had some racing royalty as spectators. During the lunch break Indy Car stars Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan stopped by the FWT LIVE! production studio to have a chat with Formula Kart Production's Bill Wright. After a vicious crash in Houston last year, Dario has been ordered by doctors not to race again. After that decision was made, Chip Ganassi Racing hired Dario's old teammate and close friend Tony Kanaan.
The three discussed various topics, including Darios career and career ending injuries, their early years in karts, the racing at the Florida Winter Tour, Tony's 2013 Indy 500 win, their late friend and teammate Dan Wheldon, the challenges of having children who race, and the Granja 500 kart race in Brazil. After comments that "Chip" (Ganassi) won't let his drivers race in karting events Bill Wright couldn't help but suggest that Tony might mention to Chip that after James Hinchcliffe ran the first two FWT events last year he won the season opening IndyCar race in St. Petersburg.
Ask the majority of the young drivers in karting what their goals are and they will tell you they want to be a professional racing driver. The most common disciplines mentioned are Formula One, Indy Car or NASCAR. However, as rare as it is to be a driver in any one of those series, it's even more so to be a professional factory karting driver. Jordon Lennox is just that. The 21-year-old from Cambridge, England is an official factory CRG driver and spends most of his time driving the latest machinery developing parts for the legendary manufacturer.
Jordon started racing karts when he was seven-years-old when his father, who raced 250cc Superkarts, put him in a Cadet kart on his 8th birthday. From that moment Jordon realized he loved driving karts and wanted to do it more and more. From that humble beginning, he has climbed the ladder of success and eventually became the CIK KZ World Champion in 2012 at Sarno, Italy.
Jordon credits watching the movie "Senna" once a month to keep him focused on his goals which include being the best kart racer in the world. When not racing Jordon enjoys many types of shooting sports and is especially fond of GRG owner Giancarlo Tinini who he says is like a second father to him.
To win at the Florida Winter Tour, you need to be the best of the best on the track. And when you win at the Florida Winter Tour, you meet the best of the best in technical crews. Kevin Hodges is in his third year as the Rotax Technical Steward of the FWT and is a vital part of the FWT technical staff.
Kevin hails from Lancaster, South Carolina where he lives with his wife and two children and spends his week working as a Subaru Service Technician. Although his karting duties keep him on the road 18-20 weekends a year, he says he still gets to spend some time with his kids playing soccer, football and target practice. Among his other hobbies is racing and maintaining a 1989 Chevy S-10 with a 383 cubic inch (6.27 liter) stroker motor that turns times in the mid-6 second range on a local 1/8th mile drag strip.
Kevin and the rest of the FWT technical crew ensure that all the competitors compete on a level playing field. Let's take a look at who was the best of the best on Saturday at the Homestead karting circuit.
Decal Zone sponsored DD2 Masters
Derek Wang (USA) started the Decal Zone DD2 Masters pre-final from pole position and had a spirited battle with Venezuela's Luis Schiavo. At the Checkers it was Schiavo who was victorious by a scant 0.044 of a second over Wang.
In the final, the battle for the lead was a 3-way fight amongst Schiavo, Wang and Mexico's Carlos Medina. Wang held the early lead and maintained it throughout the balance of the race. Towards the end, he was able to pull out a second and a half lead over Schiavo and at the end of the final it was Wang the winner followed by Luis Schiavo in second and Carlos Medina third.
SH Racing sponsored DD2 MAX
Second in the day's lineup were the two-speed DD2 MAX karts. These chassis and engine combinations are the kings of Rotax competition and the FWT DD2 field boasted a driver lineup worthy of the mission. The DD2 grid this weekend features many Rotax MAX and CIK world champions, national champions from around the globe and even a former Formula 1 driver.
Qualifying was led by Florida's Daniel Formal who proved he's on top of his game in the morning pre-final by winning over Italy's Paolo De Conto. Formal would lead the final into turn one but it was another Floridian, Nick Neri, who would come through from third to lead the first three laps until Danny Formal would make his move for the lead. Neri and Formal wound up being the class of the field on this day as Danny would win by 1.878 seconds over Neri who in turn had over three seconds over former CIK world champion Arnaud Kozlinski (Italy).
AM Engines sponsored Mini MAX
In Friday's qualifying session, Venezuela's Sergio Terife bested 40 other Mini MAX drivers to claim the pole position. As such, he would start the pre-final on pole. However, due to the large number of entries a second chance race had to be run to determine the makeup of the pre-final field. This race was won by the FWT rookie, and Formula 1 legend Rubens Barrichellos son, Eduardo. He and five other second chance race drivers transferred into the days final-phase races.
In the pre-final, Michael d'Orlando would emerge victorious by 0.079 of a second over Terife who was 0.576 of a second ahead of Gianluca Petecof (Brazil). As the karts took the green to start the Mini MAX final, it was d'Orlando who took the initial lead but Petecof wasn't giving in and sped by into the lead. The two would race in close quarters for the full 14 laps and at the end, it would be Petecof prevailing to take the win over d'Orlando. Lachlan DeFrancesco (Canada) would put in a great drive to move up from fifth to third at the finish.
Rolison Performance Group sponsored MAX Masters
In MAX Masters Luis Schiavo would start his second class of the day from the Koene USA P1 pole position and use that advantage to take a commanding win in the pre-final over Raul P. Costa (USA) and Brian McHattie (USA). In the final, Schiavo would sprint off to an early lead but it was current NASCAR driver and reigning U.S. MAX Masters National Champion Max Papis who came storming up the field from his eight place starting spot.
Papis was moving through the field unabated until he came up upon Lone Tree, Colorado's Scott Falcone. Papis tried lap after lap to get by, but Falcone was resolute in his desire to hold on to second place. With two laps to go Max's kart failed him and he pulled off the track leaving third place to 2013 Pan-American champion Chris Bogart. In the end it was Schiavo by 11.071 seconds over Falcone who was just over a second ahead of Bogart at the finish.
PSL Karting sponsored Junior MAX
The Florida Winter Tour consistently produces a large and talented field of Junior MAX karts. This year is no exception as 47 Junior competitors took to the track Friday for qualifying. In the end of that session it was Canada's Gianfranco Mazzaferro who emerged on top with a lap of 48.528 seconds.
In Saturday morning's second chance race, for those not qualified in the top 28, it was Cedrik Lupien (Canada) who took the SCR win while Grand Finals Micro & Mini Invitational Mini MAX champion David Malukas (USA) took the last transfer spot to the pre-final. In the pre-final, Mazzaferro proved that his pole position was no fluke as he spent the 16 laps to build a 4.050 second cushion over Brazil's Pedro Cardoso.
The Junior MAX final was perhaps the best race of the day as a back-and-forth battle between Mazzaferro and Cardoso raged at the front of the field. Behind the leading two, Javier Gonzalez (Mexico) was busy charging up from his third row starting spot to emerge in third. Over the last few laps, Mazzaferro and Cardoso exchanged the top spot no less than three times and at the end it was Mazzaferro keeping his day's record perfect by taking the win. Pedro Cardoso scored second place while Gonzalez rounded out the podium in third.
GT7 Motorsports sponsored Micro MAX
Race teams use the off season to get prepared for the next. And the FWT is the first indication of how well that preparation is going to pay off. I Micro MAX, it appears Reece Gold and his team have done the best at preparing for the new season. The youngster from Florida dominated qualifying and won the pre-final by 2.460 seconds over Alessandro de Tullio (USA).
In the final, Reece again led the field into turn one while Matheus Morgatto (Brazil) filed in behind him. For a while it was Arias Deukmedjian (USA) who pulled up on Gold's bumper to challenge for the lead. However, after the race settled down it was a two kart affair for the win between Gold and Morgatto.
It was a tight race till the end. Going into the last lap Reece Gold held the lead but Matheus got by him going into the hairpin. On the ensuing straight Gold had a run on Morgatto but Matheus administered a block to keep him behind. After the race the officials determined the block warranted a two-position penalty restoring Reece Gold to the top and giving him the win. Second place ended up going to Alessandro de Tullio while Morgatto took home the third place FWT Palm.
MRP Motorsport sponsored Senior MAX
In Senior MAX qualifying, Ed Brand (UK) outran 43 other competitors to grab the P1 pole position award. Six other drivers would join Brand in the days racing by transferring through the last chance qualifier. These six were led by Henry Taleb (Ecuador) who won the LCQ by 0.495 of a second over Quentin de Boever (USA).
The Senior MAX pre-final saw a tight three-way battle between world-class drivers Oliver Askew (USA), Jordon Lennox (UK) and Ed Brand. In the end the three finished within a second of each other in that order with Kyle Kirkwood (USA) three seconds adrift.
The last race of the day was the Senior MAX final. At the start, the front of the field streamed through Homestead's wide turn one side-by-side three wide while a couple karts got turned around, including three-time World Champion Ben Cooper. Jordon Lennox was the first to take the point but it wasn't long before Oliver Askew got around. By lap three Oliver was in the lead with his teammate Kirkwood shadowing him.
By the midpoint of the race, Kirkwood started to fade just enough for Ed Brand and Jordon Lennox to get by. Brand spent the next few laps pressuring Askew until he lost second position to Lennox. But, by that point Oliver Askew was able to just pull enough gap that he wouldn't be caught. The final podium would be Askew in first, Lennox in second and Brand in third.
With the podium celebrations over, the first day of racing at the 2014 Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX Challenge was in the books. Those in attendance were treated to some great racing under picture perfect skies. If you're anywhere near South Florida, be sure to catch day 2 of Rotax MAX Challenge action at Homestead Karting on Sunday. And, if you can't make it in person, be sure to log on to www.FloridaWinterTour.com to catch all the action live on the sport's pioneering interactive broadcast FWT LIVE! And while you're at it, send shout outs to your favorite drivers and teams by emailing FWT Live! announcers at live@FloridaWinterTour.com .
The Florida Winter Tour is owned and operated exclusively by Bill Wright of Formula Kart Productions. The FWT is one of the world's longest running, largest and most geographically diverse karting programs. In 2013 the 15th Annual FWT featured more than 340 drivers from 26 countries and all six karting continents, and for the sixth consecutive year was the world's largest official Rotax Max Challenge series.