Article by: Ken Johnson
After a beautiful day of racing on Saturday, the Florida Winter Tour Formula Kart Series was back in action at The Palm Beach International Raceway on Sunday. With seven championship classes ruining, the day was sure to be full of action. Today marks the fourth round of six for the Formula Kart Series, so we’ll see who the true championship contenders are after adding up the points at the end of the day.
After the morning practice and qualifying sessions were run under some low-laying cloud cover, the sun from the previous day was back out in full force by the time the Pre-Finals came around. Also out in full-force were the spectators who filled the grandstands just prior to the flat-out chicane on the front straight. This is an excellent spot to view the racing action here at PBIR because you can see all the twisty bits and most of the straight stuff as well.
Although the grandstands were a very popular a place to watch the races, the most popular spot of all continues to be online at FWT Live! Over the weekend we had several thousand supporters logged on for live video, live timing and participating in the interactive blog. The blog, which originally was a way to gather information about the day’s action, has become a very popular place to give a shout out to your favorite driver. So, if you can’t be here in person, log on and let them know you’re watching them from home. For those that do not have the FWT Live page bookmarked go to FloridaWinterTour.com and click on the FWT Live! link.
For those not at PBIR in person or watching on FWT Live!, you’re really missing out of some truly great racing action. The fast layout of the PBIR track led to some great drafting opportunities and fearsome out-braking maneuvers into turn three. With a layout like this, making a pass is easier than making it stick and many times we’d see a driver make a pass under braking only to lose it exiting the corner on a higher line. This was all fascinating stuff but the most impressive thing was how clean most of the drivers raced against each other all weekend long.
First up for Sunday’s Finals were the combined Formula TaG Senior and TaG Masters classes. In TaG Senior, Sebastian Ordonez was looking to build on his excellent results from Saturday and did just that taking a hard fought win over Robert Bujdoso and Eddie Lichtenberger. With his double win here at PBIR, and his excellent results from the Orlando rounds of the Florida Winter Tour, Sebastian has put himself in an excellent position to win a portion of the $50,000 Skip Barber Racing “Doin’ The Double” awards program. However, we’re only halfway through and there’s lots of racing to go.
The TaG Masters class again had a really strong battle at the front. However, unlike Saturday, Sunday’s hard fought battle was for second after roadracing ace Chuck Gafrarar made a break early and checked out from the pack. Coming home in second, to follow up his win from Saturday was reigning TaG Masters champion Brian McHattie.
Following TaG Senior and Masters was Formula TaG Junior. In the Pre-Final, Zachery Claman DeMelo repeated his winning form from the previous day. However, it was not to be in the Final as Ashley Rogero came from the last row for a great win that brought calls of “Girl Power” from acclaimed karting announcer Ken Walker.
Typical of the racing in the Florida Winter Tour, the Formula TaG Junior race looked like it could have been won by almost anyone in the field for most of the race. Many drivers led down the long straights only to get drafted by. In the end the race was looking like it was too close to call but contact amongst some of the leaders shuffled the order and led to a black flag for DeMelo for a water leak.
Coming into Sunday, Canadian Luke Chudleigh was atop the points in the Junior portion of the Skip Barber Racing “Doin’ The Double” awards program. Unfortunately for Luke, he dropped out with problems on lap eight, thus keeping the opportunity wide open for many other drivers. With racing schools, lapping sessions, and actual race days in a Skip Barber formula car and more up for grabs, these young drivers will really be focused during next week’s Rotax MAX Challenge FWT event as well. Can anyone really Do the Double? Stay tuned to find out.
Next on the grid were the DeFrancesco Racing Formula Vortex TaG Cadet racers. With the lower horsepower of the cadet spec engines, they could not get away from each other down the long straights. This led to a long train of nose-to-tail racing for the first half until the top four drivers were able to eke out a bit of a lead.
The two doing most of the leading in the Cadet class were Juan Manuel Correa and Saturday’s winner Logan Sargeant. The two traded the top spot multiple times with Devlin DeFrancesco and Patricio O’Ward right on their rear number panels. In the end it was Logan Sargeant taking a fantastic weekend sweep of the Formula Kart Series’ largest class by sealing his victory over Correa by less than a second at the checkered flag.
Last up on the day were the shifter classes, KZ2, Stock Moto and Masters Shifter. A lot of the talk going into the KZ2 Final was the Titanic battles we have been treated to all weekend by Rotax MAX Challenge standout Danny Formal and double race winner from the Orlando FWT event, Zach Meyer. These two had been going at it all weekend long in some of the best wheel-to-wheel racing anywhere. On Saturday it was Meyer taking the Pre-Final win and Formal winning the Final. Sunday it was Formal winning the Pre-Final which put him on pole for the Final.
To say these two did not disappoint is an understatement as they traded the lead and fastest race lap between themselves. Just before halfway, Formal was able to get just enough of a lead that he could maintain it without threat of attack in the hard braking zones. The win made a perfect end to Danny’s debut FWT race in a shifter kart and he duly celebrated on the cool down lap with some tasty doughnuts right across from where his family had been watching. Third in KZ2 went to Jamaican Kristian Jeffrey for his second podium appearance of the weekend.
Taking double Finals wins for the weekend seemed to be the thing in the shifter classes as both Lukas Johnson and Kurt Mathewson repeated their Saturday Finals triumphs in Formula Stock Moto and Formula Masters Shifter respectively. Rounding out the shifter podiums were Cole Mathewson and Richard Cormier in Formula Stock Moto, and Ryan Garcia in Formula Masters Shifter.
Full results for both Saturday and Sunday’s races can be found at FloridaWinterTour.com/results.html
With the conclusion of the Formula Kart Series action at PBIR, The 2011 Florida Winter Tour has officially reached its halfway point. Next up is the FWT Rotax MAX Challenge event next weekend here at PBIR. Between now and then, the dedicated Formula Kart Promotions crew will be hard at work getting everything ready for the world’s largest official MAX Challenge Series. Of course, the race teams will be hard at work too as many are expected to be testing throughout the week in anticipation for next weekend’s event.
For those staying in the West Palm Beach area through the week, there are numerous hot spots to take in while you’re here. Just a short drive from Palm Beach International Raceway are exquisite restaurants and the beaches that made this area famous.
Another possible special treat, although it can never be 100% sure to happen, is the scheduled afternoon launch on Thursday the 24th of the Space Shuttle Discovery. If the day is clear, Formula Kart Promotions President Bill Wright says you can see the launch from the West Palm area. However, some may opt to drive up the coast a bit to get a closer view. With only three more launches scheduled, this may be your last chance to witness this awesome spectacle.
No matter how you spend your time during the next week, make sure you get to the Palm Beach International Raceway next weekend for the continuation of the Florida Winter Tour.