EKN Top Banner - News2
Pserra Racing - LB

Briggs & Stratton - SS -2

CLUB - WRKC 2013 - DB

CLUB - Point Pelee Karting - DB

CLUB - West Coast Kart Club - DB

Racing Edge Motorsports - FB
January 14, 2012 News
Race Report: Florida Winter Tour - PBIR Rotax Weekend - Saturday

Saturday morning dawned at Palm Beach International Raceway with a bit of a chill in the air. As any good high school science teacher will tell you, there’s no such thing as cold, only an absence of heat. However, no matter what the temperature was, there was no absence of heat on the PBIR racetrack for the initial 2012 Rotax MAX Challenge round of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour presented by SPORTALITY.

As predicted, the FWT RMC entry list set an all-time record for Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX entries, making it again the largest Rotax MAX Challenge program in the world. With more than 580 entries, it’s no wonder people have come to Florida from all six karting continents to experience the biggest and best MAX Challenge on the planet. Professional racing drivers from Formula One, NASCAR, Indy Car and Grand Am, as well as karting stars who have amassed a total of nine World Championships between them, highlight the entry list for the 2012 edition of the FWT. It truly is THE winter place to be.

One such karting star here this weekend is South Africa’s Caleb Williams. Caleb made a big impact on the karting world when he won the DD2 class at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in 2009. A year later he was back at the Grand Finals in Italy. But, in 2010 he had switched over to the Senior MAX category. Repeating as Rotax MAX World Champion wasn’t going to be easy. Caleb had experienced troubles in the heat races that saw him starting at the back of the pack in the Pre-Final. As Caleb puts it, “I was starting so far back, I didn’t even have a grid girl!”.

Setbacks like that take a toll on most people, but Caleb set himself to the task of winning and that’s just what he did in what can only be described as a truly inspired drive. When asked why he switched from DD2 to Senior MAX he said he felt it was where the toughest competition was. And, that’s the same reason he gave for why he came to the FWT. “They’re the biggest Rotax MAX events in the world, I wanted to come here to race against the best competition I can find.” As for now, Caleb is undecided if he can finish out the 2012 Tour. He’s in his graduation year at school and has his studies to attend to. We’re hoping everything works out so Caleb can return for more Florida Winter Tour action later this year.

Even with all the experienced and accomplished drivers at this year’s Tour, that’s not the only attraction to the FWT. 16-year-old Nikki Maratto is attending her second Winter Tour as a participant in the Junior MAX category. Nikki is often seen in the pits with a smile on her face and says “you don’t have to be #1 to have a lot of fun!” And she is having fun. She and her father both said they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t having a great time. As far as the competition, Nikki says, “The Winter Tour is great racing and a great opportunity to learn how to race with the best competition in the world.”

So far Nikki is learning and getting better. She’s showed in the past that she has the will to succeed. When asked of her best karting accomplishment, the young competitor from Somers, NY said, “I ran a 3 hour Ironman kart race, I was the only girl and a lot of guys were making fun of me, saying I’d never finish. But I was determined to prove them wrong. In fact, I was leading the race until my seat broke. By the time I got another kart I had fallen way back but I worked my way back up to finish third. In the end no one was laughing anymore!”

Stuart Clark was the DD2 Masters prefinal winner (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)
Stuart Clark was the DD2 Masters prefinal winner
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)

Although this is the first Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX Challenge race of the season, it’s the second FWT event of the year. Last week Formula Kart Productions kicked off the year with the FWT Formula Kart program. Even in that short length of time, there’s always something new from Formula Kart Productions to add even more value to FWT, and for this week’s event the cameras used for the 16-channel video marshaling system and the FWT LIVE! Broadcasts have been upgraded to wide screen Hi-Definition cameras courtesy of Direct View Video Systems ( http://www.directviewsecurity.com ). This takes the video quality to an entirely new level, improving the event official’s ability to make the correct calls during competition, and improving the quality of the racing coverage for FWT LIVE! viewers. FWT LIVE! is the first and still the only broadcast of its kind that offers live streaming video/audio, real time timing and scoring, and audience interactivity, all on one screen.

Every FWT weekend thousands of people around the world log onto FWT LIVE! to see some great racing action. Today that action started with the SH Karting DD2 class. 2010 DD2 Grand Finals World Champion Daniel Morad (Canada) started the Pre-Final on pole position and battled mightily with Cody Hodgson (USA). Cody came out on top in the Pre-Final and looked set to do the same in the Final. After a lengthy battle again with Daniel Morad, this timed joined by Nicholas Latifi (Canada), Cody Hodgson won the DD2 Final as he sets his sights on a Florida Winter Tour championship.

It’s worth mentioning that Cody always races with a purpose, but this year it’s something tragically special. The ride he’s in was originally intended for the late Dan Wheldon. After the tragic events last year at the IndyCar finale, Cody was asked to take over the #226 kart to race in Dan’s honor. Wearing a special driving suit, a special graphics package and a new helmet, all adorned with Lion Heart tributes to a friend and a hero, Cody intends to do justice to Dan’s memory and hopefully bring home the prestigious FWT championship, and then carry Dan’s honor to the Rotax Grand Finals.

Qualifying for Keane Racing’s DD2 Masters belonged to the senior statesman of U.S. shifter kart racing Alan Rudolph but he lost his advantage at the start of the Pre-Final when he inadvertently put four wheels outside the starting lanes. The 16-channel video marshaling system misses nothing, but Alan admitted his mistake right away saying that he’s not used to rolling starts and he just wasn’t paying attention. The Pre-Final was eventually won by 2011 Pan Am DD2 Masters Champion Stuart Clark (Canada). Stuart had been running very strong all weekend and is determined to win.

In the DD2 masters Final, Alan Rudolph came from the back to second in two laps. He then spent the bulk of the race in a battle with Ryan Horses (Canada). Just after midway, Rudolph broke free but with a few laps to go, Ryan reeled him back in and eventually took back the lead for a 0.339 second victory. Also on the move in the DD2 Masters Final was reigning FWT Champion Rene Martinelli (USA) who went from 10th at the start to fourth. Rene was a late addition to this year’s Tour and it’s great to have him back.

What can you say about Micro MAX? The Florida Winter Tour is known worldwide for huge competition in Micro and Mini MAX and this year is no exception. Micro MAX, sponsored in 2012 by PSLKartingUSA.com, is proof that a class doesn’t have to be the fastest to put on a great show. Year-after-year these young kids provide some of the best action anywhere.

Antonio Serravalle completes a sweep of the prefinal and final in Micro Max (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)
Antonio Serravalle completes a sweep of the prefinal and final in Micro Max
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)

On this day, Justin Sirgany (Jamaica) had the pole position but fell to 10th in the Pre-Final after being assessed a 10-second penalty for being over the starting speed limit at the start. The Pre-Final was won by Antonio Serravalle (Canada) who also won the Final but not without being hounded for 12 laps by Sirgany who had worked his way back to the front. In the end, it was Serravalle, Sirgany and Dylan Tavella (USA) who stood atop the podium at the end of the day.

In ZCD Autosport Rotax MAX Masters, Thomas Radivoy started on pole position. Jason Heffner (USA) qualified in the top-five but found himself starting at the tail end of the Pre-Final field after a non-compliance issue in tech. At the end of the Pre-Final, won by Robert Maler (USA), Heffner was 15th. Halfway into the Final Heffner was up to third and with a couple laps to go he took the lead for an excellent win by one second over Alejandro Galvan (Mexico).

People who attend the Winter Tour know to come out and watch when the Ocala Gran Prix sponsored Junior MAX class hits the track. Today was no exception as the fences, grandstand and haulers were filled with spectators to see the battle that would take place. Juan Manuel Correa (Ecuador) used his pole position advantage early on in the Pre-Final, but problems after nine laps knocked him out. Oliver Askew (USA) used the experience he gained as part of Team USA at last year’s Grand Finals to bring home the win in the Pre-Final.

In the Junior MAX Final it was Grand Finals experience to the front as 2010 Grand Finals Junior MAX Champion Jordi Van Moorsel got out in the lead and stayed there for the win. But, perhaps the best Junior MAX performance on the day came from Kyle Kirkwood. Kyle failed to turn in a time in qualifying and thus started the Last Chance Race from the tail of the field. After moving up through the LCQ to transfer to the Pre-Final, he was able to work his way up to sixth in the Pre-Final and then, after passing a total of 63 drivers on his way back to the front of the field, got onto the podium with an amazing third place in the Final. So in the end, it was Van Moorsel (Holland) first, Parker Thompson (Canada) second, and Kirkwood (USA) third.

As with Micro MAX, RYSA Racing sponsored Mini MAX has a reputation for a very high level of competition. In qualifying for Saturdays racing action, Joshua Sirgany (Jamaica) qualified fastest in a session that saw the top three clock in within five-one-hundredths of a second from first to third. Unfortunately for Sirgany, a 10-second penalty at the start of the Pre-Final dropped him back in the results.

After all was said and done, 2011 Mini RoK World Champion Logan Sargeant (USA) got the win in the Mini MAX Pre-Final over Devlin DeFrancesco. It was the same combatants at the front again in the Mini MAX Final, as Sargeant and DeFrancesco were joined by Pedro Tavarez, de Moraes Cardoso (Brazil). Lap-after-lap the three fought a fierce battle nose-to-tail and it looked like any one of them could win. With a lap to go, Sargeant grabbed the lead and held off his pursuers for the win.

The final class on the schedule was Goodwood Kartways / Intrepid North America sponsored Rotax Senior. As previously mentioned, this is the class many feel is the most competitive, not only in Rotax MAX competition but in all of karting. To that end this is the class that this weekend features no less than three double world champions and many multiple national champions. During qualifying it was recent Red Bull Kart Fight champion Danny Formal (USA) taking it to the other 68 competitors by setting the fastest time of 50.601 seconds.

In the Pre-final it was Mason Chelootz (USA) crossing the line first. But, a three-position penalty for a driving infraction recorded on the 16-channel video marshaling system knocked him back to fourth. This opened the door for Jesse Lazare (Canada) to win the Pre-Final over IndyCar’s Jay Howard (UK) and reigning Rotax MAX Grand Finals DD2 Champion Pier-Luc Ouellette (Canada).

Pier-Luc Ouelette leads Ben Cooper in Senior Max (Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)
Pier-Luc Ouelette leads Ben Cooper in Senior Max
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.com)

In the Senior MAX Final, Lazare and Howard got out front early and smartly stayed together without trying to race each other. With the speed advantage of working together on PBIR’s long straights the two were able to pull out a substantial advantage over third place, and it looked almost certain the race win would be decided between Lazare, in his debut in the Senior Max class, the veteran professional Howard.

However, with just a couple laps to go the pack in third settled down just as the two up front started to race each other. The end result was five karts running five-wide down the backstretch on the last lap with one turn to go. Jay Howard was leading going into the turn, but Nick Neri (USA) had the lead coming out. As Nick sped towards the finish line, Mason Chelootz used a side draft maneuver to just barely pip Neri at the line by just 0.040 of a second.

The Senior MAX final was yet another of many FWT battles for the ages, and one that was sure to be a hit on FWT LIVE! If you missed the action you can see it soon when the events are loaded to the FWT LIVE! video archive section. Be sure to check out Sunday’s action on FWT LIVE! by logging onto http://www.FloridaWinterTour.com. Or, better yet, if you’re anywhere near South Florida stop by Palm Beach International Raceway to witness the world’s biggest and best Rotax MAX Challenge event. The Florida Winter Tour is more than a race, it’s a showcase event for the best in karting! FWT, THE winter place to be.
Ken Johnson and Bill Wright
United States Quebec Ontario Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia New Brunswick Nova Scotia

Go Top
Copyright © 2006 Ekartingnews.ca. All Rights Reserved.       Maintained by Holbi

EKNca Facebook - DB

Search EKN Canada:

More News from this region
Related Stories
Race Report: Manitoba Karting Association - Round Seven
Kawartha Durham Kart Club Readies for Round Eight This Weekend
Lance Stroll Back Home for 2014 ASN Canada FIA Canadian Karting Championships
Team PSL Karting Laying Down Top Finishes at the 2014 Cold Stone US Grand Nationals
Superkarts! USA and Le Monaco de Trois-Rivieres Announce Grand Prize for Peo Shifter Category

CLUB - Le Circuit Quyon


CLUB - Kawartha Durham

EKN Canada Viewer Poll

Are you going to attend the WRKC Flea Market this weekend?