The 12th Annual Florida Winter Tour reached the two-thirds mark in its 2010 season, as the series closed out Rounds 3 and 4 of its Rotax Max Challenge at Palm Beach International Raceway. It was another day of competitive racing action and beautiful Florida weather in the mid-70's.
Over 200 Rotax drivers entered this PBIR weekend, and all of them were hoping for a piece of the heralded FWT prize structure. At stake are direct transfer spots to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals (RMCGF) for the 2010 FWT points champions in the Senior, Junior, Masters and DD2 categories. Those awards are made possible by Formula Kart Productions, U.S. Rotax Distributor MRP Motorsport, Canadian Rotax importer SRA Karting, and BRP/Rotax.
Goodwood Karting/Intrepid Rotax Senior
An impressive field of 45 Rotax Senior drivers were on tap this weekend, but as ever, only 34 of them transferred into the main event. With the green flag out, Pier-Luc Ouellette leaped to the front, and he came around to lead the first lap with Daniel Formal, Philippe Gelinas and Felipe Fraga in close tow.
And in fifth, already, was Gary Carlton, who was having quite the adventuresome day. It began after qualifying, when a non-compliant airbox resulted in a disqualification. Forced into the Last Chance Qualifier, he won that easily and started the pre-final in 29th. He finished it in 15th, and that's where he'd started the final.
He wasn't the only one on the move though. Carlton briefly lost fifth to Dan Wheldon, the Indy 500/IRL champion also having made an amazing start. Yet on Lap 3, Wheldon glanced over one shoulder, then looked over the other, looked back again just in time to see Carlton go by. Two laps later and Gary was into fourth.
By the fourth lap and Formal decided he'd had enough of PLO's PSL Karting.com/CRG. Danny slotted cleanly into the lead, and at about the same time, Carlton was moving into third. It ended a frenetic first five laps.
The remaining three quarters of the race was mostly uneventful. Formal eeked out a tenth here and there and steadily pulled away from Pier-Luc, Carlton could make no more progress, and that's how they would take the checkered. It was a huge win for Danny, as it confirms his arrival to the top of the senior ranks of the sport, and thrusts him into the championship battle.
RDD Motorsports Rotax Junior
There were 55 Junior drivers on tap for this PBIR weekend, but only 34 qualified for the main. That gaggle of karts experienced a tangle in the first turn when the green flag came out. OGP/Tony Kart driver Nick Neri, who'd started from the pole, came out clean ahead of the mess and was greeted by clear track on the other side. Shawn Sharkey slotted into second, followed by Jesus Rios Jr., Austin Milwain and Ryan Rupp.
Not getting very good starts were the pair of British drivers, Matt Parry and Jack Barlow. These Formula Kart Stars champions, who had shined the previous day, emerged from the first lap mess back in 25th (Parry) and 7th (Barlow).
Neri immediately broke away from the field, eager to show up the English drivers and in particular, Barlow, who had won the final on Saturday. Behind Nick, Rios was having an inspired drive and was up to second, while Barlow was picking off a position a lap in his pursuit of Neri. By Lap 6, Jack was into second.
But he could get no closer. Neri's consistency kept him out front, and while Barlow shaved a tenth here or there, this was going to be Nick's day, and he took the checkered by 1.615 seconds. Barlow took the second podium position, while Rios Jr., Sharkey and Jesse Lazare rounded out the top five.
PSL Karting.com Mini Max
Another large field of 45 Mini Max karts descended upon the Palm Beach facility. Once qualifying, the last chance qualifier and pre-finals were complete, they'd been whittled down to 34 and were ready for the main.
Lap 1 and the Kart Mini/RDD Motorsports entry of Logan Sargeant was into the lead, followed closely by Saturday's winner Lance Stroll, Zachary Claman DeMelo, and Dalton Sargeant. After some brief shuffling in the top five, it was a repeat of the previous day with Stroll, Logan and Dalton leaving the rest of the field in the dust.
Dalton soon overhauled Logan for second and then closed in on Stroll. The top two began to inch away from Logan, and then slowly but surely, Stroll crept away from Dalton. Lance made few mistakes and never opened the door for either Sargeant to catch him. At the checkered, Stroll won by half a second, followed by Dalton, Logan, Jordan Perry and Justin Wood.
SH Karting DD2/DD2 Masters
At drop of the green flag, Goodwood Karting/Intrepid driver Daniel Morad made his intentions clear in the DD2 category. From the second row of the grid, Morad shot into the lead and put a chokehold on the rest of the field. Nobody else even got a look.
Behind him, the outcome was less clear cut. Darren White and Enrico Menotti held a spirited early battle for second, with Michael Vincec joining the fray. Closing on them was Cody Hodgson, the American driver having started 11th and taking no prisoners as he sliced through the field.
But there would be no catching Morad on this day, as he took a calm three second. White could do no better than second, while Hodgson completed the podium.
Steve Schiewer had a lonely run in DD2 Masters as he romped to a 17 second victory. Richard DuPont and Dave Ricci completed the podium positions.
Ferrari North America Rotax Masters
The early laps of Rotax Masters were a torrid affair, as Scott Holmboe, Robby Mott, and the Martins brothers (Andre and Eduardo) battled at the front of the field. Things settled down with Andre Martins holding down the lead, while Mott and Eduardo staged a race-long battle for second with Holmboe lurking in fourth.
Mott spent most of his race trying to get clear of Eduardo Martins and make his way to Andre in the lead. He pulled it off with three to go, left Eduardo behind, and began closing on the leader.
Last lap and Mott now on Andre's back bumper. As Robby was lining up Andre for a final corner pass Eduardo had other ideas, stabbed down the inside and thumped Mott's sidepod. Andre was the benefactor and reached the checkered in first. Championship points leader Scott Holmboe, once again, serenely drove past the Mott-Eduardo collision and picked up second. Eduardo crossed the line in third, followed by Mott. Race officials were quick to slap a one position penalty on E. Martins. Mott would have to settle for third in what could prove to be a Championship deciding event.
MRP/GoRotax.com Micro Max
A frenetic final few laps in Micro Max overshadowed what had been an amazing race by the young Canadian, Kami Moreira-Laliberte. Having led most of the laps, Moreira-Laliberte was poised to take a maiden FWT victory.
Yet the efforts of a flying Venezuelan, Sebastian Fernandez, changed those plans. Having patiently carved his way up from a starting position of 11th, Fernandez was positioned for a last lap move. Also interested in a victory was points leader Anthony Gangi, and on the final lap, all three made their moves for the win.
Contact on the last lap between Moreira-Laliberte and Fernandez left Kami in the lead, Fernandez down the order, Matt Thomas moving into second, and Mauricio Baiz in third. Officials subsequently placed Kami behind Sebastian in the finishing order. That elevated Matt Thomas to the top step of the podium, with Baiz and Joshua Sirgany in second and third, respectively.
The 2010 Florida Winter Tour will crown its champions and close out its season next month at Ocala Gran Prix in Ocala, FL. The FWT Rotax Max Challenge event weekend takes place on March 19-21, and the Formula Kart Championship Series is scheduled for March 26-28.
For more information, visit www.floridawintertour.com