Article By: Rolison Performance Group
The best Rotax racers in North America raced on both coasts during the last weekend in February with the Gatorz Challenge of the Americas in Fontana, California and the Championship Karting International Florida Cup in Homestead, Florida. RPG racers were represented in both events with SSC East/CRG sponsored Joey Wimsett (Senior) in Florida and Team RPG racers Mike Daniel (Masters), Derek Wang (Senior), and Alec Bergstrom (Mini Max) in California.
The CKI Florida Cup boasts one of the biggest prize packages in karting. With a new 2010 Mazda 3 awarded to the winner of the Rotax Senior class, a strong group of karters and professional drivers are participating in the series. Having scored a podium in round one of the event in January, Wimsett looks to continue his success in this series as he makes a run for the top prize.
Despite having battled carburetion issues, Wimsett maintained a good position throughout practice. The qualifying sessions had him shuffled to 9th and 8th but consistent laps and great passing had him finishing 5th on Saturday and on the podium in 3rd on Sunday.
The Gatorz Challenge of the Americas continues to be the biggest Rotax only winter series on the West coast. After a historical rain storm hampered the weekend in Phoenix, competitors from Canada and Western United States converged in the CalSpeed Karting Center in Fontana, California hoping to race in sunny Southern California. However, after a dry practice on Friday, CotA racers were greeted with heavy rain and flooding on Saturday wreaked havoc throughout the day. Traveling and pitting with RPG for this event were Stepanova Nekeel (Senior) and Marcus Brodie (Junior) of Team Vemme and Parker McKean of BBR Racing.
Saturday’s action was conducted under the rain. Racers scrambled to find traction on the unique Calspeed surface. Derek Wang showed great speed in the rain and finished the day with a top 5 finish despite spinning back to 20th place at the start of the final event. With heavy rain forming puddles that stalled motors, final events for the Master and Mini Max classes were postponed until Sunday morning.
With blue skies and sunshine, the final event for the Masters class took place on a damp but drying track. Mike Daniel and most of the field choose to start the race on rain tires. While Jim Busby and Paul Bonilla on slicks. The runners on rain tires pulled an early lead but as the track began to dry, Jim Busby passed the field and easily pulled away. Having diced with most of the field during the race, Daniel made a double pass to go from 5th to 3rd in the closing stages of the race but had to settle for 4th at the line.
Alec Bergstrom posted the top practice time in Mini Max in his second appearance in the CotA series. In the final event, Bergstrom was in a tight battle for 3rd with two other drivers when on the last lap he capitalized on contact between 3rd and 4th to come across the line in 3rd, his first trip onto the Gatorz podium.
With the postpone races out of the way, the track was reset and a full day of racing started from 11:00am. With track conditions still rapidly changing, qualifying for the senior class was packed with action as the standard for fast laps were reset each time a competitor went through the timing stripe. In the end, Wang was able to get himself up to 4th place for his best CotA qualifying performance. Unfortunately, luck would not be on his side as contact in the 2nd row before turn 1 damaged his front wheel causing an instant puncture and a DNF. Starting in the back of the 25 kart field for the final, Wang was again caught in a turn 1 incident to put him dead last by turn 2. However, a determined drive had him move back up to 10th by the checkered flag. Stepanova Nekeel impressed the field as he took his Vemme kart to a comfortable victory.
In the Masters class, Mike Daniel continued his CotA success by finishing second in the prefinal and final event.
Mike Rolison will rejoin Joey Wimsett at the CKI Florida Cup on March 10th. Team RPG will finish the Challenge of the Americas series in Sonoma, California on March 24th.
Rolison Performance Group provides a range of services from complete race-weekend support to one-on-one driver development through instruction, on-track practice, testing, and training. Race weekend support packages and driver instruction days are available in 2010. For more information, please visit www.rolisonperformancegroup.com