Article By: FloridaWinterTour.com
After all the hard work, all the long hours in the shop, traveling the highways and wading through airports, for those chasing a championship in the Florida Winter Tour Formula Kart Series, it all comes down to today. This is Championship Sunday and all but one of the Formula Kart Series classes is still up for grabs at The Ocala Gran Prix. Just like the past few rounds, the Florida Winter Tour was blessed once again with the most beautiful weather. It’s really no wonder people come from all over the world to race in Florida this time of year.
The OGP round marked the only time during the 2011 FWT season that the Honda GX Senior and Masters classes were in action. It’s honestly hard to tell with these guys if they have more fun on or off the track. Either way, they’re an incredibly fun bunch to have a chat with and bring a lot of joviality to the Winter Tour.
During Sunday’s Honda GX action we saw eKartingNews.com publisher Rob Howden suited up to go into battle. Rob may have been just a bit off the pace, but he had a great time. Those who were on the pace included Adam Racine and Tristan Gill. These two ran off in the Final in a race of their own that was settled at the line when Racine won GX Senior by less than half a second, with Sebastien Laviolette coming home third. James Moores combined points from the weekend awarded him the 2011 FWT Honda GX Senior Cup.
The Honda GX Masters Sunday race was a classic drafting-wait-for-the-right-moment race that saw Arrow-mounted Ronald Henrie win by inches over Saturday’s GX Masters winner Andrew Grinyer with Paul Hasselfeldt coming home third. Unlike Saturday’s podium celebrations, this time the drives made it to the podium in time to thwart their mechanics attempts to stand on the podium in their place. During the winners interview, when Formula Kart Productions President Bill Wright asked who he’d like to thank, GX Masters winner Ronald Henrie said, with a big grin, “Everyone but my mechanic!” which brought a lot of laughter from his crew and the rest of the podium crowd. Andrew Grinyers combined points sent him home to Canada with some FWT “heavy metal” in the form of the 2011 FWT Honda GX Masters Cup.
Following the Honda GX classes, it was time for the TaG Senior and TaG Masters classes to show their stuff. After winning four out of the five rounds so far, RDD driver Sebastian Ordonez was sporting a pretty healthy lead in the points. Even so, the championship wasn’t a done deal. Although he could have played it safe and just cruised home for the few points he needed to lock up the TaG Senior crown, Sebastian did it in style by setting pole position and winning both the Pre-Final and Final races! Both the TaG Senior Pre-Final and Finals saw tight early battles for the top spot as Sebastian fought hard to defend the spot from DFR driver Dore Chaponick Jr. Dore is making his TaG Senior debut this weekend. Coming home in third for his second TaG Senior podium in a row was Humberto Silva jr. His excellent finish to the year brought him up to third in the championship standings. Second in the TaG Senior points was Jake Mottaz who proved steady, solid performances are what it takes to finish high in the championship standings.
The TaG Masters championship came down in the end to a teammate battle between Jim Russell Jr. and Chuck Gafrarar. After setting the pole time in the morning, Jim Jr. went in to the Pre-Final with what was effectively a 15 point lead over his teammate Gafrarar. Russell was looking to extend his lead with a win in the Pre-Final and almost did it too. However, with just two laps to go he suffered from a self-admitted episode of cranial flatulence and ran wide into the marbles in the carousal. Before Jim could regain his momentum, Gillard-mounted Brad Sanders was by and into a lead he wouldn’t give up.
2010 FWT Tag Masters champion Brian McHattie has had a 2011 season marked by great speed but rotten luck. His last Pre-Final of the Tour ended with a DNF that made him more resolved than ever to finish on a high note. And that he did. In the Final, Brian shot to the front in his Kosmic and never looked back to take the win by almost two seconds over Brad Sanders. Jim Russell Jr. came home in third just ahead of Chuck Gafrarar which locked up the TaG Masters championship for the popular kart shop owner from Raymore, Missouri. The FWT championship is the latest in a long line of accomplishments by the driver who has literally grown up with the sport and has competed, and won, in almost every type of kart imaginable from speedway dirt karts to a laydown 250cc superkart.
The Formula TaG Junior Final was a race we’re sure will get high numbers of replays from the FWT Live! archive. The race started with Pre-Final winner Ashley Ann Rogero in the lead from Zachery Claman DeMelo. After a handful of laps DeMelo overtook the top spot as Rogero started going backwards. Meanwhile, going forwards was Saturday’s Final winner Karl Weber who, after a very conservative run in the Pre-Final, had suddenly come to life and was carving his way to the front. Just as it appeared that the Junior Final would come down to a battle between DeMelo and Weber, Rogero sprang to life and she was once again headed back to the front. However, by now she was going to have to contend with Weber, Joel Jens and a resurgent Luke Chudleigh who had led the points coming to OGP.
Lap after lap the leaders fought for every last inch of valuable track position. As it came down to the last few laps, Rogero was back up to second and looking for a way by DeMelo. Going into turn seven on the last lap, Ashley went wide to get a run on Zach but Joel Jens took advantage and went down the inside to take over second. Not giving up, Rogero stuffed it deep into the carousal to take second back from Jens. This scuffle allowed Zach DeMelo a little breathing room and he took full advantage by locking up his second Formula TaG Junior win of the year.
With her Pre-Final win and hard-fought run to second in the Final, Ashley Rogero earned enough points to overtake Luke Chudleigh in the points standings to capture the 2011 Florida Winter Tour Formula TaG Junior championship. Luke Chudleigh maintained enough points to come home second in the championship and Karl Weber was third.
At every 2011 Formula Kart Series event the TaG Cadet class has had the largest number of entries. This was again the case at OGP and thanks is due in a large part to the scholarship program offered so generously by DeFrancesco Racing. This program has provided entry fees and engines to many of the Cadet competitors. During Saturday’s report we mentioned the hot streak that Logan Sargeant was on. That streak continued through qualifying and the Cadet Pre-Final with a pole position and a win by over two seconds. However, all good things must eventually end and for Logan it came on the second lap of the Final when he went off in the carousal corner that leads on to the main straight. Formula Kart Productions President Bill Wright asked him later if it was a component failure. However, the young RDD driver admitted it was just a case of entering the corner a bit too fast and getting lost in the marbles.
Although Sargeant had started on pole, it was Devlin DeFrancesco that shot to the early lead. Inspired by the promise of extra Oreo cookies for taking a race win, the young DFR driver ran a strong first lap. Unfortunately for DeFrancesco, his lead came to an end at the completion of lap one when Tate Holleran drafted by near the end of the straightaway. However, Holleran’s lead lasted less than two seconds as Logan Sargeant drafted past him entering the fast sweeping turn one! This was all some pretty exciting stuff that kept the spectators on their feet and the fans watching on FWT Live! glued to their computer screens.
After Sargeant’s previously mentioned exit from the race, Tate Holleran re-assumed the lead. For the bulk of the race, Holleran had his hands full with Juan Manuel Correa until Correa managed to take over the top spot. At this point the tables had turned and it was Correa’s turn to hold off Holleran. This was a task the Exprit-mounted driver was more than up to and so Correa came home the winner by just under a second over Tate Holleran with Clay Van Eerd on Hollerand’s tail. By winning 4 of the season’s six races, Logan Sargeant was a very deserving championship winner. In the end Sargeant finished 115 points ahead of Devlin DeFrancesco in second and 171 ahead of third place championship finisher, Juan Manuel Correa.
The final race of the championship was for the KZ2 and Formula Stock Moto shifter classes. The shifter classes have put on great races all year and this weekend was no exception. After taking second in the last three races, GP driver Zach Meyer promised he had something in store for Sunday’s races and he was right. After taking the pole position in morning qualifying, Zach was on the pole for the KZ2 Pre-Final. With every lap of KZ2 competition being led by either Zach Meyer or Danny Formal, it was a bit of a surprise to see Matthew Di Leo get the holeshot to take the lead going into turn one of the Pre-Final. Di Leo’s lead wasn’t to last long as Meyer and Formal were on him like two pit bulls on a ham sandwich. Before long Zach Meyer had taken over the top spot. However, we’ve seen this scenario before. But, unlike the past few races where Meyer would get the lead only to have Formal run him down, this time Zach was pulling away and doing so with a smoothness in his driving we hadn’t seen since the opening rounds in Orlando. For his efforts, Zach took a well-earned Pre-Final win.
In the KZ2 Final, it was Danny Formal’s turn to get the lead at the start. This didn’t fit into Zach Meyer’s plan for the race and so on lap three, he took back the lead and started to pull away for another win. Behind Formal, Matthew Di Leo and Joshua Adams had a ferocious battle over third which ended up being second when Formal failed post race tech. In the final point tally for the year, Zach Meyer stands above as the KZ2 points champion. Second place in the championship goes to Matthew Di Leo and third goes to James Dawson.
With Kurt Mathewson wrapping up the Masters Shifter championship on Saturday, the only other class to run with KZ2 on Sunday was the Formula Stock Moto. The Stock Moto points battle was another one that went right down to the wire. Cole Mathewson was leading going into the day but looked like he was going to have to drop 205 points from his total score since only five of the best six races are counted. This worked in Lukas Johnson’s favor since he wouldn’t be dropping any points after failing to score in the first round in Orlando. As it turned out, Cole Mathewson won the Pre-Final, setting up a situation where if either driver won the Final, they would be the 2011 Stock Moto champion. In the end it was Lukas Johnson taking a great win to sew up the championship. Second in the championship went to Mathewson with Richard Cormier in third.
Fourth in the Stock Moto points was Vicki Brian Hager. This was a disappointing finish for the driver who’s season showed so much promise after winning the opening round in Orlando. For Vicki the championship was not to be as a cloud of misfortune seemed to follow her through the third to fifth rounds of the championship. However, before we feel too sorry for her, her luck did turn when she was picked as an entrant on “Team FWT” for the Granja Viana 500. This highly sought after award comes courtesy of WR International, the U.S. and Canadian importer of MG Tires, who, along with Formula Kart Productions, will send four Florida Winter Tour drivers to the world renowned Granja Viana 500 endurance race, now at it's new home in the Beto Carrero them park near Florianopolis, Brazil. The four drivers who make up “Team FWT” will earn expense paid rides that include airfare, lodging, equipment and support.
The format for picking this year’s team was to put one entry for each time a driver entered a 2011 Florida Winter Tour Formula Kart series race. All names would be picked from a hat and this would determine the four primary drivers with two backups in case there was an issue with a primary driver. This years four primary drivers are Vicki Brian Hager, Chuck Gafrarar and the father and son duo of Kurt and Cole Mathewson. Should any of them not be able to make the trip, Brian McHattie and Brad Sanders will fill in as alternates. Although the team was picked at random, we feel we couldn’t have hand picked a better group of ambassadors from the Florida Winter Tour to represent us in Brazil. We wish them all the best at this amazing event and hope they have the time of their lives at the Granja Viana 500.
With that, the Formula Kart Series closes a successful 2011 season, averaging 142 entries over its six races. Next weekend will see the championships decided in the FWT Rotax MAX Challenge series at Ocala Grand Prix. With back-to-back weekends of racing, there’s always something to do during the days in between.
Florida is known for its beaches, golf courses and attractions. One such attraction is located just a few miles down the road from OGP; Big Daddy Don Garlits’ Museum of Drag Racing is a must for all fans of drag racing. On Tuesday, OGP owner Jorge Arellano has generously invited all FWT attendees out to a local lake for rides in his ludicrously fast speedboat. Those interested in attending should contact OGP for further details.
We’ll see you next week, right back here at Ocala Gran Prix Raceway!