“Several drivers have strong start to 2011 campaign”
Article By: Race Tech Development
Ocala, Florida – January 25, 2011 – Looking to live up to the expectations gained during the 2010 season, the Ocala Gran Prix squad opened the season strong at the Orlando Kart Center during the first event of the Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour (FWT). With 18 drivers under the team tent including 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, Ocala Gran Prix (OGP) would be in the hunt for multiple race wins and podium results.
In the headline Rotax Senior class, both Nick Neri and Dan Wheldon could be seen at the front of the field. While Wheldon outdid his teammate in both qualifying efforts, Neri got the best in the final results scoring two top five finishes. Having to come through the last chance qualifier in Saturday’s action, Neri managed a solid fourth place finish while Wheldon would come home fifth. Sunday would see Neri narrowly miss the podium in the fourth position while Wheldon would claim a twelfth place finish after having to come from outside the top 25 due to a mid race contact.
Japanese driver Sena Fujita would find the competition tough during his first career Florida Winter Tour action while Andrew Evans showed the speed to run in the final, but had no luck during the rain soaked qualifying runs. Fujita, unfamiliar to the American style of tracks and their conditions, endured a rib injury during the second day of testing but drove through the pain and managed to complete the weekend.
Ocala Gran Prix’s strongest results came from the Rotax Masters class where Jason Bell and Rob Maier would score four top ten results between them. After qualifying pole and off pole for both days of action, Bell managed to score a pair of solid results with a fifth and a third and unofficially, sits second in the title chase. Maier would have a tenth place finish on Saturday and followed in the footsteps of Neri, just barely missing the podium with a fourth place result in Sunday’s action.
With 68 drivers in the Rotax Junior category, seven of them would come from the Ocala Gran Prix stable with young Pietro Fittipaldi taking home the team’s strongest results. After claiming a thirteenth place finish on Saturday, Fittipaldi ran inside the top five throughout Sunday’s main event to eventually come home in the eighth position. Floridian pilot Oliver Askew was one of the quickest junior competitors of the weekend as he would have strong times that were comparable to the lead group. Without bad luck, Askew would have no luck at all as he was a victim of an incident in Saturday’s final before having contact in Sunday’s final while running in a podium position. Junior rookie Ashley Rogero would have a strong fourteenth place result on Saturday.
Within the talent laded Junior field Karl Weber, Alex Keyes, Alex Hornborg and Angus Hunt attended the Orlando event for their first Florida Winter Tour action. Garnering years of experience in one weekend, all four drivers will be back next round as they look to provide OGP with multiple podium results.
United States DD2 national champion Cody Hodgson was back behind the wheel of an Ocala Gran Prix prepared Tony Kart and was one of the quickest drivers of the weekend. After being involved in an incident in Saturday’s main event, Hodgson rebounded on Sunday to score a fourth place result in his run for the overall series title.
Ocala Gran Prix’s youngest competitors came from the Rotax Mini and Micro Max classes as Sebastian Sierra, Enzo Fittipaldi, Justin Gordon and Mathias Ramirez would look for the top step of the podium. While Fittipaldi scored a 23rd and an 18th place finishes, Sierra would stand on the podium on Saturday with a third place result but would fail to make Sunday’s main event after being taken out in the last chance qualifier, while running at the front of the field. Gordon would score a twentieth place finish on Saturday but would run into trouble in Sunday’s competition. Ramirez, competing in the Micro Max class, scored a solid ninth place result on Saturday and improved to the fifth position on Sunday.
“The Florida Winter Tour is very tough this year,” expressed OGP President Jorge Arellano. “The competition is second to none and that is seen within all the classes. From top level karters to professional drivers, it is an accomplishment to stand on the podium let alone have the chance to win a race. The full squad will be back at Palm Beach International Raceway and we will look to improve on our results from Orlando.”
Ocala Gran Prix is also continuing to expand their dealership network with a high priority in both the New York/New Jersey area and Wisconsin. Any interested companies are asked to contact either Mike Maurini at 317.270.8723 ( Mike@RaceTechDevelopment.com ) or Kyle Kraus at 352.291.0600 ( Kyle@OcalaGranPrix.com ).
For more information on Ocala Grand Prix, OGP race team opportunities and info on how to get into karting, please visit Ocala Gran Prix online at www.OcalaGranPrix.com or contact Kyle Kraus at 352.291.0600 ( Kyle@OcalaGranPrix.com ) or Mike Maurini at 317.270.8723 ( Mike@OcalaGranPrix.com ).