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January 07, 2012 News
Race Report: Florida Winter Tour - PBIR Formula Kart Weekend - Saturday

We’re barely one week into 2012 and the competition kart racing season is already underway as the Formula Kart Racing classes of the Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour, presented by SPORTALITY, took to the track in Palm Beach, Florida. New faces, new equipment and record numbers of entries adorn the Palm Beach International Raceway facility, but the challenges of winning in one of the worlds largest and most competitive series still remain.

The Formula Kart Racing weekend is the first of two back-to-back weekends of FWT racing here at PBIR. The “FK” program features shifter karts of multiple types and TaG classes for Seniors, Juniors, Masters and Cadets. The TaG Cadet class in particular is really strong this year and features some top names including the current Mini RoK World Champion, Logan Sargeant.

Formula Kart Productions is constantly pushing to improve the sport with continuous innovation. FKP events are currently the only American events using the Tracksa remote control light marshaling system. These lights offer improved safety for both the competitors and corner marshals. Also in use at FKP events is the custom starting gantry that made its debut last year here at PBIR. FKP events feature CIK style starts with lane and speed restricted starting procedures. As drivers approach the start area they can plainly see their approach speed on a digital display located next to the start lights.

At FKP events the corner marshal isn’t the only one watching the start. FKP built a 16 channel video marshaling system in 2010. FKP has multiple camera’s (11 hear at Palm Beach) placed around each facility. A monitor displays all the cameras and a 16-channel DVR records all the cameras, all the time. The starts and virtually every part of the track are covered, so that race stewards always have an eye on the action. In the case of protests, FKP officials have instant replay capabilities from every camera at their disposal.

On-Track action started today with short morning warm-ups followed by qualifying sessions for each race group. The first group to hit the track was the combined TaG Seniors and TaG Masters. In qualifying, the pole position for ZCD Autosport sponsored TaG Senior went to Canadian Alex Guenette with a lap of 50.312 seconds. Fastest in Keane Racing sponsored TaG Masters was the popular U.S. driver Chuck Gafrarar. “Chuck G” turned in a qualifying time of 50.984 seconds to lead the Masters.

Despite his off road excursion, Andrew Palmer finished third in TaG Senior, right behind Canadian Alex Guenette (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)
Despite his off road excursion, Andrew Palmer finished third in TaG Senior, right behind Canadian Alex Guenette
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)

In the first heat race, U.S. driver Danny Formal led early before dropping out with a mechanical issue to leave the lead to be fought over by Alex Guenette and former US Rotax Junior champion Andrew Palmer, with the TaG Masters driver Gafrarar right on their tail. At the completion of the Pre-Final Palmer took the win by just 0.021 seconds over Guenette while Gafrarar took a healthy win in Masters.

In the Senior TaG Final, Danny Formal was back with a vengeance and it wasn’t long before he moved from the tail end of the TaG senior grid to the lead. From there he and Andrew Palmer hooked up and started to check out on the field. As is often the case, once Palmer and Formal started racing each other the pack caught them and going into the last corner there were four karts with a shot at the win. Formal led, but Palmer wasn’t about to give up and went for a wide line coming onto the finish straightaway.

If speed were all that mattered, Palmer’s move may have seen him end up with the victory. However, a move like that also requires a bit more asphalt than the corner allowed. The end result was an impressive display of agricultural racing as Andrew briefly turned his finely tuned kart into the world’s fastest rototiller. Fortunately, Andrew was able to recover quickly to finish behind Guenette in second and Danny Formal who took a tightly contested victory.

In TaG Masters, Chuck Gafrarar won the Pre-Final and raced his way to victory in the Final but not without having to fend off his teammate, defending FWT TaG Masters champion Jim Russell Jr. The two circulated the track nose-to-tail for almost the whole 20 laps of the Final before crossing the line less than a half a second apart.

Canadian Zachery Clamen DeMelo took the pole position in AM Engines sponsored TaG Junior with a lap of 50.261 seconds. The ZCD Autosport driver looked to have things well under control in the Pre-Final too as he took a great win over the U.S. National Champion Joel Jens with a winning margin of over two seconds. Finishing dead last in the Pre-Final after going out on lap one was Kyle Kirkwood. No one likes finishing last and so it must have been extra motivation for the young Floridian to run strong in the Final.

Zachery Clamen DeMelo leads the TaG Junior field after scoring pole position and winning the pre-final race (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)
Zachery Clamen DeMelo leads the TaG Junior field after scoring pole position and winning the pre-final race
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)

As the Final got underway, the usual suspects were fighting it out at the front while Kyle Kirkwood started a steady progress through the field. Before long he had made his way back up to the front to battle for the win. Going into the last corner it was Joel Jens leading, Clamen DeMelo second and Kirkwood in third. Jens and Clamen Demelo both made aggressive moves into the final corner, lost momentum, and Kirkwood cruised by for the win, with Jens second and DeMelo third.

The DeFrancesco Racing Formula TaG Cadet field has been growing steadily the past few years and this year is no exception. In fact, there are so many here this weekend that practice and qualifying was split into two groups so that everyone could get some clean track while trying to set their fastest times. Fastest in qualifying was Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco with a lap at 55.614 seconds.

Once the racing started, it was Darren Keane’s time to shine in the Pre-Final as he raced his way to an almost four-second lead over reigning Mini RoK world champion Logan Sargeant. It was a very impressive performance for the young man from the United States and he set out in the Final to prove he could do it again.

This time however, Logan Sargeant proved why he’s the World Champion and took command of the race. Keane, however, wasn’t shaken and hung on to Sargeant’s tail, never letting the two karts get more than one kart-length apart. On the last lap, Keane made his move for the lead through the esses on the backside of the track. All one had to do was hear the roar of cheers that erupted from atop of the Keane Racing trailer to know the move was successful and their man was now in front. Just a handful of corners remained and Darren navigated them perfectly to take home the win by two tenths of a second over the U.S. drivers Sargeant and Neil Verhagen.

The last sessions to go out were the combined Formula Kart Open Shifter and Masters Shifter classes. Formula Open Shifter was setting up to be a great battle between two Canadians, defending FWT Shifter champion Zachery Meyer and Nicholas Latifi, fresh off his great DD2 run at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals in Al Ain, UAE. In qualifying Zachery was to take the upper hand over Latifi by 0.554 of a second while fellow Canadian Michel Legrand took top qualifying honors in Masters Shifter.

Zach Meyer took the win in Open Shifter to kick off his 2012 FWT (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)
Zach Meyer took the win in Open Shifter to kick off his 2012 FWT
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)

At the start of the Pre-Final, Meyer shot into the lead while Latifi had a problem with his start. Meyer looked set to run away until Latifi started running some quick laps to make a go of it. At the end of the Pre-Final Latifi was within a half second of Meyer but Zachery looked in control. The start of the Shifter Final was a carbon copy of the Pre-Final as Zach Meyer shot out to an early lead and Latifi once again suffered a poor start. This time, however, Meyer did run off and hide, making sure no one else could challenge him to the win. At the end, the Open Shifter Final saw Meyer as the winner followed by Alex Manglass in second and the Jamaican Collin Daley Jr, making his shifter class debut, in third.

In the masters Shifter class, Michel Legrand and U.S drivers David Levy and George Moss ran first, second and third in both the Pre-Final and Final.

After the Shifter Finals, Danny Formal ran some laps in a shifter powered by a 250cc four stroke Honda CRF engine. The four strokes are a new addition to this year’s FK Formula Open Shifter class and subsequent rounds should see more of these karts in competition. Strong rumor that AJ Allmendinger and Danny Formal will race these karts at the Homestead and Ocala rounds.

At the end of the day the podium celebrations were held in warm temperatures framed by a beautiful Florida sunset. The winners received their trophies as teammates and family cheered them on. There’s always a satisfying feeling during a Saturday FWT podium celebration. There’s the tiredness from the hard work put in, but an exciting energy for what’s to come the next day. Sunday brings the second round of Formula Kart Racing program at Palm Beach International raceway. Log onto FWT LIVE! at http://www.floridawintertour.com for the world’s original live video, live timing and audience interactivity as you follow your favorite drivers at the Florida Winter Tour.
Ken Johnson and Bill Wright
United States Quebec Ontario Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia New Brunswick Nova Scotia

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