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Florida Winter Tour - Ocala Rotax Race Report

3/24/2010

Article by: floridawintertour.com

In what’s been a record-breaking season for the Florida Winter Tour Rotax Max Challenge, over 200 drivers arrived at the magnificently repaved Ocala Gran Prix for Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2010 series. This year’s FWT RMC has grown by 15% since 2009, and the series has maintained its three-year reign as the world’s largest Rotax Max Challenge.

In the final weekend of the FWT RMC season, all points titles were still up for grabs as the karts took to the track for the weekend’s action. Also at stake were direct transfer spots to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals (RMCGF) for the 2010 FWT points champions in the Senior, Junior, FR 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
The Rotax Senior class did not disappoint for either drama or excitement. On Saturday, while the pre-final was somewhat processional, it was clear that all the title contenders were simply saving their equipment for the main. Daniel Formal cruised to the pre-final win and would start from the pole.

Danny made a poor start though and immediately dropped to third, as last year’s champion Fabio Orsolon and former world champion Pier-Luc Ouellette blasted past. Orsolon enjoyed his first view of the lead for many a race, but it was short-lived as PLO moved to the front with authority. Fabio held up Formal for a few laps, but it wasn’t long before Daniel was into second and chasing after Pier-Luc.

Formal assumed the top spot, and as the points leader, was in a prime position to put a stranglehold on the championship. PLO had other ideas. As the two battled back and forth for the final three laps, Danny took the white flag and likely thought he had it in the bag as he took an inside line to defend his lead. Pier-Luc was unimpressed and went around the outside on Turn 1 and made it stick, to the amazement of the track locals and to the cheers of his PSL team. PLO hung on for the rest of the lap and took the win, while Formal could only shake his head and console himself that he still had the points lead.

Everything was in place for a Sunday showdown, yet a morning deluge of rain created a soaked qualifying session. Formal found himself back in 19th, while PLO was sitting pretty up in second. Pier-Luc won the pre-final easily, while Danny made steady progress to finish tenth. If he could just gather a few more positions in the main, Formal could claim the title even if PLO mustered a victory.

But a drying track scuppered all well laid plans. Most of the field chose slicks, including the two title contenders, yet there were plenty of wet tires to be found in the top half of the grid. At the start, as the field tip-toed through Turn 1, PLO got thumped from behind by wet-tire shod Kevin Monteith; Pier-Luc had no traction to try to recover and dropped to 16th, while Monteith later received a 7 position penalty.

Formal, if he even noticed, was past Pier-Luc and finished the first lap in 13th. Everything was going perfectly for Danny; just pick off a few positions and the title was his. Alas, the racing gods had other plans, as contact with Alex Mayer on the second lap snapped off a wheel on Formal’s Tony Kart. Dejected, he was forced to park it, his title hopes now in the hands of fate.

At the front of the field, Steven Szigeti had assumed the lead on the second lap and was happily dashing away from all pursuers. Sam Beasley was holding station in second, while his BTK/Arrow teammate Victor Pedrosa had moved into third. They would cross the line that way, only for Szigeti to receive a disqualification in the tech tent. That elevated a pleased Beasley into the top spot, with Andy Dunne now taking the final podium spot.

Pier-Luc’s problems were hardly solved by Formal’s early retirement. The former DD2 World Champion was off the pace following the first lap incident, and by Lap 14 of 20 he was languishing in 18th and was next in line to be black flagged as the leader came up to lap him. Not a moment too soon, PLO’s dry tires began to shine on the drying track, and he kicked it into overdrive. He went from 18th to 14th in the last five laps, avoided the black flag, and left no doubt as to his champion’s heart.

For his efforts, Ouellette earned yet another trip to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, and this time he will test his skills against the best Rotax drivers in the world in the Senior category. Formal, as expected, was gutted by the final result, as he missed the title by just a few points. It was small consolation to him that, in his first year as a Senior driver, he took a former world champion down to the wire and forced PLO to give nothing less than his best.

RDD Motorsports Rotax Junior
After a season of dominance, OGP/Tony Kart driver Nick Neri needed only to show up on Saturday, bring the kart home, avoid any sort of disqualification, and the junior title was his. Neri did his part, playing it safe and finishing a quiet fourth in Saturday’s main. For the second straight year, he will represent the Florida Winter Tour and the United States at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.

While Neri was collecting his points title and RMCGF transfer spot during a Saturday cruise, his OGP/Tony Kart teammate Jack West took complete control of the day’s proceedings. West took the pole, won the pre-final, and then ran a mature race en route to a win in the final. He missed out on fast race lap by just two thousandths of a second, that honor going to third place finisher Jesus Rios Jr. RDD Motorsports/Kart Mini ace Sebastian Ordonez finished second.

Sunday morning rain mixed up the qualifying field; Neri celebrated his championship by qualifying a lowly 18th, while Nicholas Latifi stunned the field by putting his PSLKarting.com/CRG on the pole. In the pre-final, it was DeFrancesco Racing’s Dore Chaponick Jr. who immediately grabbed the lead and cruised to an easy victory. Behind him, Neri had methodically moved into sixth, where he’d start the final.

By the time of the junior final, it was debatable as to whether wet tires or slicks would be the choice, given that the seniors in the previous final had been quickest on dry tires. But another cloud moved in and dropped enough sprinkles to convince most of the juniors to go with wets. Within the top ten, only Andrew Palmer and Luke Chudleigh opted for slicks.

The dry tire gamble was the wrong one, as the slick-shod drivers put it in reverse and soon were trailing the field. Meanwhile, at the front, the first lap was the stuff of legend for Neri. From sixth, he picked up one spot in the first turn, picked up two more through the second infield hairpin, picked up another through the tree turn, and took over the lead with an underneath move into the final corner. Thus ended Lap 1.

It was an impressive display from the class champion, who then proceeded to inch away from the field and felt no pressure for the balance of the race. Ethan Ringel drove a solid stint to finish a distant second, while Diego Ferriera rounded out the podium.

Ferrari Driving Experience Rotax Masters
The drama in Rotax Masters throughout 2010 has rivaled a run-of-the-mill reality show. Protagonists Scott Holmboe, Robby Mott and Eduardo Martins have battled throughout the season, with Mott and Martins having collided twice, both times to the benefit of Holmboe. The trio came to Ocala with Mott and Holmboe separated by just five points, and Martins with little more than an outside chance.

Saturday’s race bucked the trend and was empty of excitement. Mott utterly dominated the affair, leading wire to wire and earning Robby his second win of the season. It also put him in control of the title, and with Holmboe notching his lowest result of the season (fourth), Scott would have to drive like a man possessed come Sunday.

He didn’t disappoint. Holmboe found some overnight pace and won the pre-final, and with Mott finishing third, the two championship contenders would line up nose to tail for the final. The stage was set. Unfortunately, Mott’s engine didn’t get the invite. From the drop of the green flag, the California-born driver began to back-peddle through the field, more than a second off the pace and dropping spots with every lap.

Up front, Holmboe staved off an early challenge from James Lousada and left the field in his wake. The Oregon driver was in his element in the damp conditions, and Scott crossed the line for his third win of the season, and based on his trio of wins to Mott’s two, Holmboe won the title on a tiebreaker.

During the awards presentations, the classy Holmboe announced that he had other life commitments that would keep him from attending the RMCGF later this year. He smiled and congratulated Mott, who will now represent the FWT and the USA on a world stage at the Grand Finals.

SH Karting DD2
Daniel Morad entered Saturday’s action with a massive lead in the DD2 category, the Goodwood Karting/Intrepid driver having won three of four races on the year. When the green flag came out for the main, almost 30 karts roared into Turn 1, with PSL Karting.com’s Kyle Herder leading the way.

That didn’t last. Morad serenely moved into second, then into the lead on Lap 3 and never looked back. Behind him, Cody Hodgson and Herder waged quite the battle for second spot. Things turned nasty when Cody assumed that second position; as the pair entered the final turn, they collided and Herder launched up the side of Hodgson’s OGP/Tony Kart entry. Herder was a DNF on the spot, and Hodgson, water pouring from his damaged radiator, received the meatball a lap later, ending his race as well.

Up front, Morad completed the job he’d been brought in to do: win the DD2 title and earn the transfer spot to the RMC Grand Finals this fall. Brendon Bain and Dru Gallagher were second and third, respectively.

On Sunday, in a race that meant nothing to him, and when some people would have just watched from the sidelines, Morad underscored his dominance with another wire to wire win in damp conditions. That made if five victories from six races on the year. He will join Team Canada and attempt to replicate the DD2 RMCGF championship that Pier-Luc Ouellette won for the FWT and the maple leaf in 2007.

PSL Karting.com Mini Max
A quartet of young drivers came to Ocala with a strong chance of earning the Mini Max crown. RDD Motorsports/Kart Mini driver Dalton Sargeant led the points, with Jordan Perry and Lance Stroll just behind, while Kyle Kirkwood would need a strong weekend and some back luck to befall Sargeant if there was to be a chance for the title.

On Saturday, Stroll and Sargeant finished one-two in the pre-final and would fill the front row for the main. A big puff of air went out of the title fight on Lap 3 when Dalton’s motor gave up the fight; he coasted down the main straight and watched both his points lead and Lance Stroll disappearing into the distance. Stroll would go on to a narrow .649 second win over rival Jordan Perry.

Sunday’s rain did nothing to shuffle the order at the top. Stroll dominated qualifying, the pre-final and the main and earned his second victory in as many days, as Michael Bilyy finished a close second while Patricio O’Ward completed the podium. The class championship went to Stroll, whose Ocala performance included both pole positions and wire-to-wire victories in both pre-finals and both mains.

MRP/GoRotax.com Micro Max
It seemed a two-horse race for the championship in the Micro Max category, as Mauricio Baiz arrived in central Florida with a slim nineteen point lead over Anthony Gangi Jr., each driver boasting one win, one second place, and one third place result on the season.

The wheels fell of the Baiz bus when he retired on Lap 2 of Saturday’s main. He could only watch as Gangi finished a strong third, behind race-winner Sebastian Fernandez and runner-up Matthew Thomas.

Sunday and it was all there to play for, and it was Gangi who rose to the occasion. He notched the pole, won the pre-final, and then in the main, he held off the challenge of a determined Gianfranco Mazzaferro. The two drag raced to the checkered with Gangi gaining the victory by just .069, while Fernandez trailed home in third and Baiz in fourth. It clinched the title for Anthony as he beat out Fernandez by a hundred points.

FWT Live!
The Florida Winter Tour’s groundbreaking media coverage, FWT Live! powered by Supertune USA and DeFrancesco Racing, bowled its way through Rounds 5/6 and continued to set single season benchmarks for viewership. Over 70,000 audience members have now been a part of the broadcasts which include live streaming video, live timing and scoring, and interactive blog.

As a further added value to the participants of the series, each of the top three points earners in all classes will receive a commemorative DVD with all six of their races from the 2010 season. DVDs of all the 2009 and 2010 FWT Finals will also be available to the general public shortly after the conclusion of this year’s FWT.

Coverage continues Saturday with live video coverage of the FWT Formula Kart Championship Series season finale, starting at 12:00 PM EDT (GMT -4). To tune in, visit floridawintertour.com

Article Credit: floridawintertour.com
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