Article By: Florida Winter Tour.com
Hildebrand, Wheldon, Formal, Holmboe, Neri shine at record FWT RMC opener
Orlando, FL (January 18, 2010) - The 12th Annual Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour opened its Rotax Max Challenge weekend in grand style, as 223 drivers from more than 20 countries descended upon the Orlando Kart Center in Orlando, Florida. A mix of rain on Saturday and sunshine with gusting winds on Sunday gave the racers a chance to prove their worth in a wide variety of conditions.
Along with the racing action, the FWT was blessed with visits from BRP/Rotax executive Christian Mundigler and Williams F1 driver Rubens Barrichello. Both were interviewed on FWT Live during Sunday’s broadcast, with Mundigler officially confirming that there will be a new, separate, Masters class for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. To top it off, the points champion of the 2010 FWT Masters class will earn a direct transfer spot to the 2010 RMCGF.
Goodwood Karting / Intrepid Canada Rotax Senior
There were many superb moments during this race weekend, but the highlight came from Saturday's Rotax Senior final. Held under the lights at Orlando Kart Center, BTK Motorsports /Arrow Racing Karts teammates Kenneth Hildebrand and Dan Wheldon staged a titanic duel for the win. Wheldons on and off-track performance during the weekend solidified his position as one of racing's all-around talents and one of its more humble, less-pretentious personalities.
Having outdistanced the field Hildebrand and Wheldon created their own personal playground as they battled for the victory. Side by side through corners, sliding, slipping, neither giving quarter as the laps wound down. Two to go and with Hildebrand in front and not an empty space along the fences, the crowd cheered for Wheldon to make his move. Off the last corner they came, side by side, throttles mashed to the frame, and by just .096, Hildebrand eeked out the win. The two racers congratulated each other heartily on the cool down lap to the ovations of an appreciative crowd.
Sunday's Rotax final should have delivered the same sort of spectacle, but Wheldon's hopes were dashed when he got speared on Lap 1, Turn 1 of the pre-final, ending his hopes for a victory on the weekend. But it wasn't Hildebrand who went on for an unchallenged win; it was Advanced Karting's Danny Formal, making his senior class debut. Formal put the hurt on the field and felt little pressure in the main, forcing Hildebrand to accept a bridesmaid's role.
A pair of quiet runs to fourth by Goodwood Karting/Intrepid's Marco Di Leo are the stuff of championship caliber. Never a threat for the win, Di Leo nevertheless kept his nose clean and made the best of the weekend. Meanwhile, reigning class champion Fabio Orsolon had a similar weekend; logged a third and a fifth in the two finals, a respectable points haul as he makes his bid for a third-straight trip to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
RDD Motorsports Rotax Junior
Almost 60 of karting's finest young drivers took to the track for Rotax Junior, led by names like Nick Neri, Sebastian Ordonez, Alessandra Madrigal, Austin Self, Jesus Rios Jr., Shawn Sharkey, Reid Arnold, Jesse Lazare, and Dore Chaponick, Jr., just to name a few.
Saturday's main event was a tight affair, as Ordonez was in sharp form in his battle with Neri for the victory. Sebastian's Kart Mini seemed well-tuned for the bumps of OKC, and on this day, Nick's Tony Kart came up a bit short as Ordonez took the checkered flag for Colombia with a half second to spare, while Rios Jr. trailed home in third.
The dual-event format allows for second chances, and Neri took full advantage of it on Sunday. He left nothing to chance and steadily pulled away from the field once the main was underway. Madrigal was the best of the rest with a runner-up finish, consolidating her points haul on the weekend after finishing fifth the day before. Lazare, in his junior debut, came home a very respectable third.
Ferrari North America Rotax Masters
Taken as a whole, Rotax Masters was the most exciting class of the weekend. Three drivers put on a great display of racing at the top of the sheets: Scott Holmboe (Swiss Hutless), Robby Mott (Corsa Kart) and Eduardo Martins (Tony Kart), battled all weekend.
Saturday's final was Chapter 1 in this story, as the main event began with a three way battle for the lead. Holmboe darted out to the front, then received a bump-and-run from Martins that put Eduardo to the fore in the middle stages of the race. Unconcerned, and now outdistancing the third-placed Mott, Scott settled in behind Martin's bumper and waited patiently for his moment. It came on Lap 14 of 20, as Holmboe calmly moved back into the lead for good, leaving Eduardo in his wake.
Sunday was the Martins-Mott show. Martins, who may have more laps at OKC than anyone, seemed determined that this would be his day, and for 19 of the 20 laps, used his local knowledge to keep Mott at bay while Holmboe watched from the comfort of third. Eduardo and Robby chose dramatically different racing lines, but to no avail for Mott. He looked high, low, inside, outside, but Martins stayed calm and maintained the top spot.
Last lap, last corner, and Martins left the inside a wee bit open. Mott took the bait, but the morning's rain had left a good sized puddle on the inner line. Robby hit it and, with traction a precious commodity, went straight on and hit the side of Eduardo's Tony Kart. Mott continued on to the checkered with Holmboe close behind, Martins recovered to take third. The officials quickly conferred and placed Robby behind Eduardo, which gave Holmboe his second win in as many days.
SH Karting DD2
Brief spurts of close racing gave way to dominant drives by a pair of racers in the two-speed DD2 class. Saturday's main event witnessed Daniel Morad taking a comfortable victory aboard his Goodwood Karting/Intrepid entry, crossing the stripe over two seconds clear of fellow Canadian Michael Vincec. Cody Hodgson, fresh off podium performances at the Granja Viana 500 and Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, finished third.
Sunday was to be Vincec's day, as his #5 Birel showed its heels to the field and outpaced an early challenge from Kyle Herder. Vincec was smooth and clean on his way to a two second win over Herder, with Hodgson again finishing third.
PSL Karting.com Mini Max
Forty-four young karters, punctuated by high levels of driver ability, made up the 2010 FWT Mini Max grids. This class normally features super-tight racing at the front, but this weekend a pair of drivers turning in extraordinary performances to steal the show.Saturday's main turned into the Dalton Sargeant story. One of three Sargeants competing in the class, Dalton was king of the clan on this particular day. His four second win over Jordan Perry and third-placed Patricio O'Ward served early-season notice that Sargeant has his sights clearly set upon the points championship.
His hopes of a repeat on Sunday were thwarted by the lightning display put on by Kyle Kirkwood. The DeFrancesco Racing driver put his FA Kart to superb use, and put the screws to Sargeant in the early going. Kyle went on to a two second win, Dalton padded his points lead with a runner-up finish, while Jordan Perry stayed in the thick of the title chase with a third place result.
MRP/GoRotax.com Micro Max
A record 32 Micro Max drivers made up the 2010 FWT field. A nose-to-tail train of three diminutive racers was the rage during Saturday's Micro Max final. Mauricio Baiz, Matthew Thomas and Anthony Gangi, Jr. were the protagonists for almost the entirety of the race. The racing is tight when all three karts cross the line separated by less than a second, but so it was as these three youngsters dragged to the stripe. The red Birel of Baiz was the victor, the tiny Venezuelan driver punching the air with his fists.
As is often the case, Sunday was redemption day for the previous day's near-miss. Gangi would have nothing of the closeness that was Saturday's final; instead, the young PSL Karting.com racer took his CRG by the scruff of the neck and left the field behind. Anthony notched a two second win over Juan Buitrago, while Baiz rounded out the podium.
For the second consecutive weekend, FWT Live! powered by Supertune USA and DeFrancesco Racing comfortably smashed all previous viewership records. By Sunday afternoon, over 20,000 viewers from 40 countries were enjoying the FWT's free-of-charge groundbreaking media coverage. The live streaming video broadcast, race calls by Tony Modica, live timing and scoring, and audience interactive blog continue to draw an impressive and ever-growing global audience.
The Florida Winter Tours now moves on to the revamped Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Florida.