Article by: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour
It seems as though we were just presenting the trophies to the winners at the Florida Winter Tour event at Orlando Kart Center, and here we are already at Palm Beach International Raceway for the third round of the 2011 FWT Rotax MAX Challenge. Since many of the competitors either competed here last weekend at the Formula Kart Championship events or have been testing here this week, it seems as though the competition is dialed in and ready for the weekend’s action.
Last month we detailed some new safety and tech features being employed by Formula Kart Productions. This time, we focus on the new Datalogic tire barcode scanner being provided by the MAXSpeed Group. For those that have ever wondered if they, or their competitors, had the right tires on at the right times, those concerns can now be officially put to rest.
With the Datalogic system, each and every tire is scanned in when the sets are built up. Then, the information is stored in the computer so the officials know who is running what tires and when they are supposed to be running them. What’s more, the system provides background information on each tire as it was tracked from the factory, when it was shipped and to what country it is supposed to be raced in. While to some this may be information overload, there’s no doubt it puts an end to claims of some competitors getting, or using, special tires.
As with the other Rotax MAX Challenge weekends on the Florida Winter Tour, qualifying for both Saturday and Sunday is held on Friday afternoon. For the classes with over 34 entries, some entrants need to earn their way into the finals via an extra qualifying race in which the top finishers transfer to the Finals.
At the Florida Winter Tour, we refer to this race as the Last Chance Qualifier, or LCQ. However, in many other series around the world this is sometimes referred to as the Second Chance Race. So, the real question is, what do you call it? Let us hear from you during the race weekends through the live interactive blog on FWT Live! (FloridaWinterTour.com/fwtlive/2011) . You can talk about this or any other aspect of the Florida Winter Tour. And if your comment happens to catch the eye of our world-renowned PA Announcer, Ken Walker, it may just get read over the air. Even if you don’t participate in the interactive blog, check out FWT Live for its in-depth coverage with more camera’s than ever and live timing to go with the video.
After the Friday qualifying and Saturday last chance races, the fields were set for Round 3’s Pre-Final and Final race action. The first Final up was for the DD2 and DD2 Masters competitors. DD2 was about as close to a run-away as you’ll find at the Florida Winter Tour as Michael Vincec won over Orlando double race winner Robert Wickens by almost two and a half seconds. In DD2 Masters, IndyCar star Alex Tagliani lead the way for his second win of the year.
In Micro MAX, Sweden’s Rasmus Lindh had a great battle with Canadian James Dean Laderoute. In the end it was Lindh by just 0.046 of a second over Laderoute for the closest finish of the day.
In Mini MAX, the finish was almost too close to call as the three top runners crossed under the checkered flag in less than two-tenths of a second. Taking the fantastic win was Devlin DeFrancesco who used all the skills he’s acquired to hold off Patricio O’Ward and Austin Versteeg.
In MAX Masters, Georgian Brent Harper used his new CMC-tuned Swiss Hutless to good effect in taking the win over James Vance-Lousada and Thomas Radivoy. These three fought it out for several laps until Brent was able to take command of the lead.
In Junior MAX, the action at the front was a titanic battle between A.J. Myers and Luke Chudleigh as these two checked out on the field. But, just as the Titanic sank, their battle amongst themselves allowed Dore Chaponick jr. to run them down. On the last lap, Chudleigh and Myers fought over the lead while Chaponick slipped through for an amazing last-lap-last-corner win.
The last race of the day was for the big guns in the Rotax MAX Senior class. If you missed this one, either in person or on FWT Live!, you need to log on when the archived footage is available. This race was a whale of a battle initially between IndyCar drivers Dan Wheldon and Jay Howard.
Back in the pack, after problems in the Pre-Final, Daniel Formal was mounting a charge that had him up near the front early on in the Final. With a couple laps to go, Formal took the lead over Howard and started to pull away ever so slightly. With one lap to go contact sent Jay Howard into the grass allowing Daniel Formal some breathing room. Behind Danny at the flag were Jesus Rios Jr. and Andrew Palmer for a podium sweep of former members of the elite Team U.S.A. Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals team.
At the end of the day, just as the sun was setting, victory celebrations were enjoyed while many others in the paddock were cleaning and prepping equipment for tomorrow’s racing. Stay tuned to FloridaWinterTour.com for race updates and standings in the $50,000 Skip Barber Racing “Doin’ The Double” Awards program. And be sure to log on to FWT Live for the best in kart racing event coverage from the Florida Winter Tour.