Team News: Ocala Gran Prix Turns Heads at Florida Winter Tour Opener
Weprin dominates Rotax Junior while Neri and Askew show speed in Senior
With the 2013 Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour kicking off this past weekend at the Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR) in Jupiter, Florida, Ocala Gran Prix (OGP) once again flexed their muscles and showed why they are one of the most dominant teams in the series. With race wins and podium results throughout the weekend, Friday’s speed and qualifying efforts were hampered by Saturday’s weather for some drivers while others powered through to put themselves right in the thick of the championship battles.
“This year the Ocala Gran Prix team is surrounded by great talent,” explained OGP President Jorge Arellano. “There are no followers in this stable as everyone is a leader in one way shape or form. The rest of the Florida Winter Tour will be exciting to watch unfold as the talents rise throughout the series.”
Leading the way in the Rotax Junior category was Ocala Gran Prix newcomer Jack Weprin. After taking Friday afternoon’s qualifying sessions by storm and claiming both of the weekend’s pole positions, a post race technical infraction would see the hot shoe start from the tail of the last chance qualifier (LCQ) on Sunday afternoon. Claiming his first career FWT victory on Saturday, Weprin advanced through the LCQ to make Sunday’s main event and quickly stormed to the top five throughout the prefinal. Not to be outdone in the day’s main event, Weprin battled with fellow OGP pilot Kyle Kirkwood and come out on top to be a double victor on the weekend.
With a stout field of Rotax Junior drivers under the OGP tent, results were plentiful as Ashley Rogero showed her speed to cross the stripe second on Saturday. After a disappointing qualifying effort on Friday afternoon, Rogero turned her Saturday around when the heavens opened and rain began to fall on the circuit. Showing her wet weather prowess, Rogero stalked the eventual race winner only to come up just short after the 18 lap main event.
Kyle Kirkwood, who qualified second for both days of competition, would settle for an eighth place result on Sunday after battling for the race win while Gavin Reichelt would claim a seventh place result on Saturday and finish tenth on Sunday. Rogero would add an 18th place effort after contact in Sunday’s main event while Olivier Bellanger would show speed throughout the weekend. Ryan Norborg added an 11th place finish while Aaron Bass would come home 13th, both in Sunday’s main event. Quentin de Bouever completed his first career FWT event by making the main event on Sunday. Floridian Brian Lockwood looked to have one of OGP’s strongest results of the weekend with a fifth place in Sunday’s final, but a disqualification after the event moved him to the tail of the field.
Nick Neri and Oliver Askew flexed their muscles in the Rotax Senior ranks, as both drivers were able to claim pole positions on Friday afternoon. Impressive through the heat races in both wet and dry weather competition, main event results did not show the drivers’ true speed when the event came to a close. Neri would claim a fifth place result on Saturday and improved to fourth on Sunday while Askew, in his Senior debut, would fall to 12th on Saturday and narrowly missed the top five on Sunday coming home sixth despite winning both prefinal races.
Sam Beasley, Jonathon Kotyk, Morgan Healey and Alex Hornborg would also see action in the Rotax Senior ranks as all four would show speed throughout the weekend. Beasley scored the best result of the quartet with a 13th place run on Sunday and all four will look to improve at the upcoming round at the Homestead Karting Complex.
Rotax Mini Max pilot Mathias Ramirez scored his first career podium with an impressive third place result on Saturday. Battling some of the country’s best pilots, Ramirez held his own throughout the heat races and main event to take the final step on the podium. Sunday would prove to be a little difficult for Ramirez as a solid heat race result would turn to disaster in the main event with a 30th place finish. Rotax Micro Max driver Jordan Heffner impressed all weekend long showing speed in the youngest division in the series. Running at the pointy end of the field throughout the weekend, the young female would claim 32nd and 11th place finishes in her FWT debut.
IZOD IndyCar Series and Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe returned to his roots after a nine year hiatus from the sport. Taking some time to familiarize himself with the Rotax DD2 package, the GoDaddy.com driver improved greatly throughout the weekend. After taking home an 11th place finish in Saturday’s rain soaked event, Hinch battle hard in Sunday’s final knocking wheels with world champions as he battle for a podium result. Getting the short end of the stick in the closing circuits, Hinchcliffe would settle for a fifth place finish and will look to stand on the podium in Homestead next month. Joining Hinchcliffe in a DD2 powered machine was DD2 Masters driver Anthony Honeywell. Coming from enduro-style racing, Honeywell is new to the sprint style format and would cross the line with a pair of 11th place results.
With a few weeks off until the next round, Ocala Gran Prix will regroup and plan to attack the Homestead Karting Complex. Located on the grounds of the Homestead-Miami Speedway, OGP will look to carry the momentum gained through the first event and help put drivers in the proper positions to battle for series titles.
For more information on Ocala Gran Prix, OGP race team opportunities and info on how to get into karting, please visit Ocala Gran Prix online at www.OcalaGranPrix.com or contact them at 352.291.0600 or via e-mail to Info@OcalaGranPrix.com