Formal and Neri take heat race wins as Team USA scores well in several races, log several fast laps and close off a strong first day of racing action with eleven top ten finishes
Dealing with a damp and cold track was the first order of business for the drivers as they worked through the morning warm-up. The odd numbered Juniors were first out and struggled for grip around the circuit that held residual signs of the overnight showers. By the time the final DD2 group had circulated, the track was up to speed from yesterday and it was all systems go for wheel-to-wheel racing action. As if on cue the sun came out at 10 AM and the stiff off shore breeze moved the palm tree branches to the east. A full slate of 14 races were on tap for the day as the series of round robin heats get completed to set the grid for the Sunday prefinal. The sunny crisp morning with a light breeze gave way to a warm afternoon with few clouds in the sky, perfect racing action as the stands filled through out the day. The Italian race announcer gave the event that real Euro feel. But most important on the minds of the Team USA squad was getting down to business.
Rotax Junior Max
First up was the Junior A vs. B race that included Team USA drivers Nick Neri on row one, Louie Pagano on row eight and Ethan Ringel on row 10. It was Neri with the win to start off perfect in the eight lap heat races. Ringel was able top cross in 10th place and Pagano in 21st. Next up was Junior C vs. D race that had Dore Chaponick on row nine with Andrew Palmer on Row 10 and Ashley Rogero on row 14. Palmer was the first American across the line in 17th with Chaponick on his bumper in 18th and Rogero in at 26th. Race 8 on the official schedule was the Junior A vs. C and included Team USA drivers Palmer and Rogero. A tough race for both drivers not only in corner one but also contact through out the race would see Rogero bring home her kart in 22nd while Palmer was able muster a 26th despite some major racing action. The final Junior contest of the day was heat race 9 that featured Neri on pole. Neri was joined in the race by Pagano on row eight, Chaponick on row nine and Ringel on row 10. Neri had a great start to lead the open circuit when contact moved him back to 10th before half distance. The OGP driver battled back to fifth only to be taken out on the last lap when the lead group crashed catching him in the ensuing spin. He would be classified as 26th. Cold comfort came for Neri from setting fast lap of the race. Meanwhile back up front Ringel put a nice race together to finish in eighth place his second top ten of the day with Pagano regaining ground from contact to finish in 14th followed by Chaponick in 22nd.
Rotax Senior Max
The Senior drivers hit the track for their first heat of A vs. B with Danny Formal on the front row thanks to a stellar qualifying effort. Formal was joined by Stepanova Nekeel on row 7, Victor Pedrosa in row 12 and Sam Beasley on row 18. At the line it was Formal taking second and setting fat lap for the race. Nekeel added another top ten by taking eighth at the line with Beasley in at 22nd and Pedrosa crossing in 27th. The second senior heat of the morning was C vs. D and featured Jesus Rios Jr. on the fourth row as the lone American in the field. Rios would run a solid race to cross in the 21st position at the end of 12 laps. Despite the less then stellar result Rios was able to set fast lap of the race. Race 10 was the A vs. C race with Pedrosa and Beasley in the fight for Team USA. A good run for Pedrosa had him finish 15th up from his 23rd starting spot. Beasley was out on lap two with contact exiting turn four, ending his day early and putting him 35th on the sheets. Race 11 was another American on pole as Formal gets the preferred spot for the final Senior race of the day. Formal was joined by fellow Florida flyer Rios for the final Senior race of the day and Nekeel looking to keep the momentum going. Formal led form the opening lap and never looked back taking the win and leading every circuit of the 12-lap race. At the stripe it was Rios with a 6th place finish while Nekeel went out on lap 9 to be set on the scoring sheets in 30th.
Rotax DD2 Max Masters
The Masters where up on board their DD2 karts with Jim Busby Jr. launching from row four and Mike Daniel from row eleven with Todd Ulmen starting from the 14th row. With only 36 in the class all drivers will start all three heats from their same qualifying position. Busby had a nice run to finish well inside the top ten in sixth spot. Ulmen brought it home in 20th with Daniel in 25th. The Masters ran their second race under great conditions as the region delivered amazing weather through out the day. It was Busby with his second top ten taking tenth at the line followed by Daniel in 16th and Ulmen in 23rd.
Rotax DD2 Max
The premier DD2 category was next and featured Derek Wang on the seventh row with Cody Hodgson going hot from row 11, Nathan Mauel in row 12 and James Carey in row 15. With four karts in the field the US was looking for a good set of results. It was Wang leading the way crossing in 11th with Carey in 21st and Mauel in 24th. Hodgson had been running up in top ten until contact ended his day one lap early, classified in 33rd place. The second DD2 run would feature Troy Castaneda on the front row with Andy Dunne on row seven as the only two Americans in the field. Castaneda was able to convert his front row start to a fifth place finish. Dunne would come home in 16th to get a good start on the weekend. In the third DD2 heat it was Wang and Dunne sharing the seventh row with Hodgson back on row 11 this time from the inside. After 12 circuits of the 1.2 KM track it was Dunne making the most of his effort with a 9th place finish followed by Wang in 18th and Hodgson in 21st despite not joining the start until after ducking into the pits on the warm up lap for an engine issue. The final race of the day featured Castaneda on the front row this time from the outside lane. Troy was joined by Mauel and Carey for the late afternoon session. The California driver made the most of his front row start to grab a second top five finish with a second place result putting him in a great spot for the prefinal points tally.
Overall it was a good day for Team USA with some solid runs in each of the classes for a total of two wins, three fast laps and eleven top ten finishes. There was an American finishing in the top ten in 9 of 14 races run on the day. Doing the media room math Formal is in great shape scoring a valuable win, that scores zero points and a second place finish that scores two points. The event had no major incidents and ran well throughout the day to close on time. With sun setting, lighting up the few clouds in the sky, drivers completed final preparations for tomorrow’s final heat race action and the Second Chance Qualifier. For some tomorrow is a shot at redemption, while for others its’ one step closer to glory.
Official Coverage of Team USA is brought to you by G7 Motorsports of Brookville, New York. G7 Motorsports, along with team driver Anthony Gangi Jr., captured four major US titles in 2010 including the 2010 Rotax Grand Nationals Micro Max Championship, Florida Winter Tour Rotax Micro Max Championship, the Northeast US RMax Challenge Micro Max Championship and New York State Micro Max Championship. G7 Motorsports is proud to support Team USA and the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals Program. Best of luck to all Team USA drivers.