Race Report: Florida Winter Tour – Rotax Max Challenge – Homestead Report

Exciting three days of action in southern Florida with international list of winners

Florida Winter Tour 2013 FWT logo

FRIDAY REPORT:

After a week of practice for many of the competitors it was time to see who had it for real today as the competitors of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour hit the track to qualify for this weekend’s Rotax MAX Challenge races. With the Rotax portion of the FWT being so large, there’s no time to qualify on race day so qualifying for Saturday and Sunday is done on Friday. Got it?

The Rotax MAX Challenge is one of two racing programs that make up the FWT. Together these programs create one of the world’s largest and most geographically diverse kart racing programs. We often talk to competitors to find out more about them, and why they choose to come to the FWT. However, The Tour is valuable to teams, too. We spoke to a few team managers find out what the Florida Winter Tour means to them.

DD2 Saturday winner Xen De Ruwe (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

DD2 Saturday winner Xen De Ruwe
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Peter Kalman, owner of KMS North America, oversees a tent consisting of ten drivers representing Canada, Japan, Mexico, The United Kingdom, Switzerland and Belgium. Peter says the FWT is a great place to come and compare themselves against some of the best in the world. He also says that the timing of the FWT season is perfect and helps them get a jump start on the competition that does not come to Florida.
PSL Karting is also here in force this year. They too have a world of driving talent under their tent with competitors coming from Brazil, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and the United States. Manager Andrew Campbell says that the FWT is very important to PSL because the best of the best show up. “It’s really the best place for us to demonstrate the quality of our products. When you win here, people take notice.”

Rolison Performance Group’s Mike Rolison echoed similar sentiment, but from a driver development aspect. “The atmosphere here is perfect for the development of young drivers,” he said. Mike then added, “To learn how to handle themselves at the world’s largest Rotax series is what these young drivers need to advance their capabilities.”

The day’s on track activity was dominated by the qualifying sessions for this weekend’s races. Let’s take a look at who came out on top in the seven Rotax MAX classes.

MRP Motorsport sponsored Rotax MAX Senior (46 drivers)

The Senior MAX competitors were up first for both of the days qualifying sessions. After the times were calculated for Saturday’s starting order, reining Senior MAX U.S. National Champion Daniel Formal was firmly planted at the top of the time sheets. After dominating last weekend’s TaG Senior class to widen his lead in the Skip Barber Scholarship Award, the talented Floridian is looking for more good results this weekend.

In Sunday’s qualifying action reigning Florida Winter Tour Junior MAX Champion, Oliver Askew (USA) proved he has no problem with the transition to the Senior class as he took his second Senior MAX pole position of the year. Others in the top three for each day are reining Senior MAX World Champion Charlie Eastwood (N. Ireland) and Floridian Nick Neri.

Dylan Tavella won the Micro Max final on Saturday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Dylan Tavella won the Micro Max final on Saturday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Daniel Formal (USA) 47.200
Oliver Askew (USA) 47.275
Nick Neri (USA) 47.306

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Oliver Askew (USA) 47.037
Charlie Eastwood (N. Ireland) 47.169
Daniel Formal (USA) 47.198

GT7 Motorsports sponsored Micro MAX (33 drivers )

When FWT Grid Steward Betty Welfenberg waived the Micro MAX karts off the grid, it was time for the youngest of the Rotax MAX competitors to take their turn at qualifying. And though they may be the youngest, they are true racers. They race each other though the corners. They race each other on the straights. They will even race each other to the concession stands. Simply put, these kids are competitive in everything they do.

Qualifying in the top two spots for both days was Dylan Tavella and Giovanni Bromante. On Saturday those tuning into FWT LIVE! will see Dylan on pole with Giovanni second. On Sunday, it’s Giovanni on pole with Dylan alongside. Starting third both days to record a top three Micro MAX qualifying sweep for the USA is Tyler Gonzalez.

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Dylan Tavella (USA) 53.299
Giovanni Bromante (USA) 53.346
Tyler Gonzalez (USA) 53.549

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Giovanni Bromante (USA) 53.048
Dylan Tavella 53.081 (USA)
Tyler Gonzalez (USA) 53.201

Rolison Performance Group sponsored MAX Masters (14 drivers )

In the MAX Masters class, Derek Wang (USA) was the first of four drivers to set the fastest time for both days. His lap of 48.673 for Saturday’s grid was a full 0.298 seconds faster than fellow front row starter Raul P. Costa, and 0.353 faster than third starting Leonardo Nienkotter (Brazil). For Sunday’s starting order, the top three are exactly the same, but the times are much closer together.

Derek Wang won his third straight in Masters (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Derek Wang won his third straight in Masters
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Derek Wang (USA) 48.673
Raul P. Costa (USA) 48.97
Leonardo Nienkotter (Brazil) 49.026

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Derek Wang (USA) 48.700
Raul P. Costa (USA) 48.789
Leonardo Nienkotter (Brazil) 48.794

Ocala Gran Prix sponsored Rotax Junior (48 drivers )

Coming in at 48 drivers Junior MAX is the largest class this weekend at the Florida Winter Tour IRMC. As such, if you don’t qualify well you’re not out of it for the win, but you’ve just made your weekend’s work that much harder. With Sunday’s qualifying up first, it was the Argentinian Ignacio Salvucci who set the fast time by 0.160 of a second over Jamaican Thomas Issa. In the afternoon session to set Saturday’s grid order, the tables were turned and this time it was Issa who took the top spot by 0.113 of a second over Salvucci.

Rounding out the top 3 spots in the weekends action are Gustavo Lopes (Brazil) on Sunday and Kyle Kirkwood (USA) on Sunday. As one of the newest recruits to the OGP squad, Kyle will be especially motivated to do well to bring the trophy home for class sponsor Ocala Gran Prix.

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Thomas Issa (Jamaica) 48.199
Ignacio Salvucci (Argentina) 48.312
Kyle Kirkwood (USA) 48.344

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Ignacio Salvucci (Argentina) 48.015
Thomas Issa (Jamaica) 48.175
Gustavo Bandeira Lopes (Brazil) 48.215

AM Engines and Chassis sponsored Rotax Mini MAX (37 drivers )

With 37 competitors in the fiercely competitive Mini MAX class, the only thing that was for sure going into qualifying was that the competition would be tight. Real proof of this came in the afternoon qualifying session for Saturday’s races when less than half a second covered the first 15 spots on the grid.

Jamaican Thomas Issa scored the Junior victory Saturday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Jamaican Thomas Issa scored the Junior victory Saturday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

When it was all said and done it was Texan Nicholas Brueckner who would set the fastest time on both classes for the most impressive performance of the week so far. Zach Holden (USA) was the closest to Bruckner in qualifying and will be looking for a win for his team. These kids never fail to put on a great show. So, if you can’t be here in person, set your watch, leave a post it note, tie a string on your arm, do whatever it takes to remember to watch the Mini MAX races this weekend on FWTLIVE !

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Nicholas J. Brueckner (USA) 50.330
Zach Holden (USA) 50.393
Joshua Sirgany (Jamaica) 50.396

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Nicholas J. Brueckner (USA) 50.051
Michael Benyahia (USA) 50.277
Antonio Serravalle (Canada) 50.349

SH Karting sponsored DD2 Masters (12 drivers )

When DD2 masters took to the .7 mile Homestead Karting track, most eyes were on the reigning DD2 Masters World Champion, South Africa’s Cristiano Morgado, and rightly so. As a three-time Rotax World Champion and winner of the last two Grand Finals in DD2 Masters, as well as a double race winner at the season’s opening event in Palm Beach, he’s the odds on favorite to win. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, it must be noted that this class is literally stacked with World Championships.

Mini Max field Saturday, led by eventual winner Anthony Gangi Jr. (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Mini Max field Saturday, led by eventual winner Anthony Gangi Jr.
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Alessandro Manetti (Italy), the two-time World Champion in Formula A and Formula Super A has joined the FWT at Homestead and is running strong. Add in another pair of World Championships from Scott Campbell (Canada) and Christophe Adams (Belgium) and this could be considered, pound-for-pound, one of the toughest fields in karting. After both sessions had been run, it was indeed Morgado that prevailed to put his kart on pole position for both days of racing.

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Cristiano Morgado (South Africa) 46.662
Alessandro Manetti (Italy) 46.723
Luis Schiavo (Venezuela) 46.723

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Cristiano Morgado (South Africa) 46.688
Luis Schiavo (Venezuela) 46.977
Scott Campbell (Canada) 47.018

PSL Karting sponsored Rotax DD2 (12 drivers )

During the Rotax MAX weekend of the Florida Winter Tour at Palm Beach International Raceway in January, Belgium’s Xen De Ruwe struggled with mechanical issues that thwarted the talented driver’s progress. After the DD2 qualifying sessions today, it would appear those issues have been solved. The young driver scorched around the Homestead Karting circuit to set the fastest time in both sessions to sweep the top spot for this weekend’s prefinal races.

Also making a strong showing in DD2 qualifying is Collin Daley Jr. who looks set to add to the Nations Cup point tally for his home country of Jamaica. Canadian Marco Di Leo and reigning DD2 World Champion Ben Cooper cannot be overlooked and will both be factors throughout the weekend.

Round 3 – Saturday qualifying top 3
Xen De Ruwe (Belgium) 46.102
Collin Daley Jr. (Jamaica) 46.225
Marco Di Leo (Canada) 46.606

Round 4 – Sunday qualifying top 3
Xen De Ruwe (Belgium) 46.184
Ben Cooper (Canada) 46.269
Collin Daley Jr. (Jamaica) 46.548

SATURDAY REPORT:

Three-time Rotax MAX Grand Finals champion Cristiano Morgado won Saturday in DD2 Masters (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Three-time Rotax MAX Grand Finals champion Cristiano Morgado won Saturday in DD2 Masters
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Greetings from sunny and warm Homestead, Florida where Round 3 of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour Rotax Max Challenge is now in the books. Today was a great day to be a race fan if you were fortunate enough to be here at the Homestead Karting facility. We had perfect weather, awesome racing, great food and lots of camaraderie with others who share the same passion for motorsports. Or, to put it another way, it was a day of Serious Fun!

Today’s on-track action marked the third round of the 2013 Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX Challenge. After today’s action we’re halfway home to Championship Sunday at Ocala Gran Prix in March. Let’s see who stood out from the rest of the pack around the challenging Homestead Karting circuit.

PSL Karting sponsored Rotax DD2 (12 drivers )

Yesterday we mentioned how Xen De Ruwe (Belgium) came to Homestead determined to put the troubles of Palm Beach behind him. He got a great start on that by setting the fastest time during Friday’s two qualifying sessions. During the DD2 pre-final, Xen was able to back up his pole run success by dominating the field to the tune of a 5.479 second victory over Canadian Jesse Lazare.

Before the final, FWT DD2 competitor and Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe (Canada) took time from his lunch break to have a chat with Formula Kart Production’s Bill Wright in the FWT LIVE! broadcast trailer. For those that have never met or don’t know James, this is a man who embodies the spirit of “Serious Fun” through and through. Not only is he a world-class racer and underwater basket weaver, he has a very sharp wit and great sense of humor. For those that have not seen the Indy Car “The Offseason” videos on YouTube, you must take a moment and do so. Episode 10 is their best yet!

After the lunch break, we were back to racing and it was again Xen De Ruwe who took command of the DD2 class. The Belgian was on a tear and left no doubt why he is considered by many to be the fastest DD2 driver in the world. Behind De Ruwe, Jesse Lazare and Jamaican Collin Daley Jr. would have great drives as well to stand on the FWT podium in second and third respectively.

GT7 Motorsports sponsored Micro MAX (33 drivers )

2012 US Grand Nationals champ Daniel Formal took his first Senior Max victory of the year (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

2012 US Grand Nationals champ Daniel Formal took his first Senior Max victory of the year
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Leading the Micro MAX competitors off the grid in the pre-final were the two GT7 teammates Dylan Tavella, on pole, and Giovanni Bromante. Both of these drivers had run nose-to-tail through qualifying on Friday and did the same throughout the pre-final, with Bromante taking the win. Derek Carmenate (USA) came through in third to round out the top three.

In the Micro MAX final, Giovanni Bromante used his pole position to take the lead on the run down to turn one. Tavella didn’t get the best of starts and that allowed Derek Carmenate to settle into the second position. Although it took a few laps for Dylan Tavella to get past Carmenate, he eventually assumed second place and set his sights on his teammate and the lead.

After a brief stoppage of the race bunched the pack back together in a single-file-restart the field resumed their battles around the 0.7 mile Homestead circuit. After hounding Bromante for several laps, Tavella eventually found a way past to take the victory. Third went to Carmenate to complete the Micro MAX podium.

Rolison Performance Group sponsored Rotax MAX Masters (14 drivers)

When Derek Wang entered MAX Masters for Palm Beach, it was the first time he’d ever entered the MAX masters class after several years racing Rotax MAX Senior. After sweeping both victories there, and taking pole position for today, the multi-time Team USA member looked set to continue his success in the masters class. After winning the pre-final, everything was going to plan for the man with the golden shoes, and Derek would head into the final from the front of the field.

At the start of the Masters final, Wang got the jump at the start to take the lead and it was Raul P. Costa (USA) giving chase in second, just ahead of Scott Falcone (USA) and Jason Bell (USA). The top five remained in close contact throughout the race. Only at the end was Wang able to pull out a bit of a cushion over Costa. Third place went to Leonardo Nienkotter (Brazil) who put in a stunning drive after having to start shotgun on the field after a non-compliance issue in tech after the pre-final.

Ocala Gran Prix sponsored Rotax Junior MAX (48 drivers )

Ben Cooper returned to the top in DD2 on Sunday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Ben Cooper returned to the top in DD2 on Sunday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

The Florida Winter Tour’s Junior MAX class entry list reads like a who’s who of talented junior drivers. Leading this impressive group of young racers was Thomas Issa (Jamaica) who had set the fastest time during Friday’s qualifying session. In the pre-final, Issa used the top spot to take and early lead that he would convert to victory in the 15-lap race.

Going into the Junior MAX final, Issa got a great jump at the start to take the lead, but Kyle Kirkwood (USA) came around as the leader to complete lap one. At the end of lap two, Darren Keane (USA) and Jack Weprin (USA) were second and third as Issa had fallen to fourth. Some drivers would have been rattled by getting shuffled back like that, but Thomas kept his head down and steadily worked his way back onto Kirkwood’s rear bumper and was soon looking to take the lead.

Before long, the Jamaican was back at the front of the pack and it was Kirkwood’s turn to chase. With a couple laps to go, the scrum for second got a little too heated and they slowed each other down just enough for Issa to pull out a 4+ second victory over Darren Keane and a rapidly advancing Ashley Rogero (USA). It was a popular victory for Issa and everyone at Keane Racing was overjoyed to see Darren on the podium so soon after moving up the Junior MAX class.

AM Racing sponsored Rotax Mini MAX (37 drivers )

After a great qualifying effort on Friday, Nicholas Brueckner (USA) would start the Mini MAX pre-final from the pole position. He would take the lead early but eventually give it up to Anthony Gangi Jr. who would go on to take the win over Joshua Sirgany (Jamaica) and Brueckner.

Starting the Mini MAX final, Gangi would take the lead followed by Brueckner, with Neil Verhagen (USA) holding off Michael d’Orlando and Joshua Sirgany for third. As the race wore on, Brueckner gave it his all but, on this day, Anthony Gangi was too strong for any challenge as he steadily increased his lead to 1.3 seconds at the checkered flag. Behind Brueckner, Michael d’Orlando would come home third to earn the last of the three FWT Palm trophies for the Mini MAX class.

SH Karting sponsored DD2 Masters (12 drivers)

Giovanni Bromante - Micro Max Sunday winner (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Giovanni Bromante – Micro Max Sunday winner
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

With one reigning and four former karting World Champions representing seven World Championship titles racing in this class it’s no wonder the fans come out to watch when DD2 Masters hits the track. Leading the field to the green in the pre-final was none other than three-time Rotax MAX Grand Finals champion Cristiano Morgado (South Africa). Cristiano would lead lap one but it was two-time CIK World Champion Alessandro Manetti of Italy that would drive past him beginning lap two. Lap-after-lap the two would run each other hard and clean around the Homestead karting circuit. However, a mechanical issue for Manetti saw him pull off with two laps to go. In the end, the pre-final went to Morgado with 2010 DD2 Masters World Champion Scott Campbell (Canada) second and Venezuelan Luis Schiavo third.

Going into the DD2 Masters final, Morgado would be on pole, but Manetti would have to start at the rear after coming up a little light at the scales in the pre-final. This meant the South African would have to contend with 2010 DD2 Grand Finals World Champion Scott Campbell (Canada) and a motivated Rene Martinelli at the start. Going into turn one, both Campbell and Martinelli swept around Cristiano and the race was ON!

We’ve seen scenarios like this before though, and Morgado somehow always seems to remain calm and eventually pick his way back to the front. Today was no exception and after taking his third win in three races Cristiano is one step closer to adding an FWT title to his impressive resume. Rounding out the DD2 Masters podium were Alessandro Manetti (2nd) and Scott Campbell (3rd) to make it six world titles represented on one FWT podium.

MRP Motorsports sponsored Rotax MAX Senior (46 drivers)

The Senior MAX category got the pre-final underway with Daniel Formal on pole. He ended up with the pre-final win which allowed him to add more points to his lead in the FWT / Skip Barber Racing Award program, but it was a hard fight along the way with Nick Neri (USA) and Charlie Eastwood (N. Ireland).

Brazilian Leonardo Nienkotter scored the win in Masters Max Sunday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Brazilian Leonardo Nienkotter scored the win in Masters Max Sunday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

In the final, it was again Formal on pole but NIck Neri got the jump from the outside to lead the field into turn one and lead the first couple laps. Beginning lap three, Formal was able to get a draft off of Neri down the long front straight and retake the lead going into turn one. A few corners later, contact among the front runners sent Neri down the order and gave Formal a fairly substantial lead.

As good as Daniel has been running this year, one may think he’d take the lead and run away from the field. But, as the laps wound down, Oliver Askew (USA) started reeling Formal in until he was on his bumper with a few laps to go. On the penultimate lap, Askew was able to get around Formal for the lead at the inner hairpin, but Daniel snatched it back a few corners later and took the win to remain undefeated for this year’s FWT action in Homestead. Formal stated at the podium that this was the hardest race he has ever run. Joining Formal and Askew on the Senior MAX podium was the United Kingdom’s Jordon Lennox-Lamb, in his Rotax and Florida Winter Tour debut.

SUNDAY REPORT:

The Rotax MAX Challenge portion of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour was back in action today at Homestead Karting for Round Four of the 2013 FWT season. The day was sunny and warm, with bright blue skies and white puffy clouds. Just one of those days that makes the FWT “THE Winter Place To Be”.

The Homestead Karting facility is located within the confines of the Homestead-Miami Speedway complex where many professional series, such as NASCAR and Grand Am compete. The complex is also close to a naval air base that was running many training exercises this week. As such, fans of military aircraft were treated to an awesome display of flying machinery from fighter jets to tankers, and even an AWACS and other airplanes flying a few hundred feet above the packed grandstands.

PSL Karting sponsored Rotax DD2 (12 Entries)

The first class in today’s racing queue was the two-speed DD2 karts. Belgian Xen De Ruwe set the pole time for the pre-final in Friday’s qualifying trials and, after dominating the field on Saturday, was looking to continue that form today. However, three-time world champion Ben Cooper was keen to get back to his winning ways and in the pre-final, the “United Kingdanadian” did just that to prevail over De Ruwe by 0.746 of a second.

In the DD2 final, Ben got the jump at the start with Marco Di Leo falling in right behind. Xen De Ruwe was following closely in third, but had his sights on the lead. Just behind the leaders were two more Canadians as Jesse Lazare battled IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe for fourth. As the laps wore on, Cooper began to steadily pull away and at the checkers had a 4.223 second lead over second place. Behind Cooper, Marco Di Leo survived a serious last lap challenge from De Ruwe to take second by just 0.068 of a second.

GT7 Motorsports sponsored Micro MAX (33 Entries)

Thomas Issa bagged a second victory in Junior Max (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Thomas Issa bagged a second victory in Junior Max
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

So far this weekend, the Micro MAX class has been owned by the GT7 Motorsports teammates Dylan Tavella (USA) and Giovanni Bromante (USA). During Friday’s qualifying session, the two qualified within 0.033 of a second from each other and were never more than a few feet apart in the Saturday races. In today’s pre-final, they again outran the field with Bromante taking the win by a scant 0.057 seconds.

In the final, Bromante and Tavella paced the field to the green, but going into turn one it was Derek Carmenate (USA) who would split the two to take second. By lap two, Bromante and Carmenate were breaking away from the field while Tavella and Harry Coulton (USA) were working together to catch them. Carmenate did all he could to try to get around Bromante, but in the end, he would have to settle for second. It was a great win for Giovanni Bromante who has really been running fast this year. Behind the top two, Harry Coulton was able to take third to claim the last Micro MAX FWT Palm.

Rolison Performance Group sponsored Rotax Masters (14 Entries)

So far this season we’ve watched as Derek Wang dominate the MAX Masters class. With the Washingtonian on pole position for the pre-final, would we be seeing the same again? As it turned out, Wang was fast, but Leonardo Nienkotter (Brazil) was faster and took the pre-final win by 1.756 seconds over Wang.

In the MAX Masters final, Nienkotter got the jump into turn one and it was Scott Falcone (USA) who followed him into second while Derek Wang fell back a few positions to fourth behind Michael Auriemma (USA). Within a couple laps, Wang was able to work his way back to third, but by that time, Nienkotter and Falcone were gone. In the end, it was Nienkotter taking a dominant win over Falcone and Wang, prompting Formula Kart Production’s Bill Wright to ask him during the podium celebrations what made the difference from Saturday. Leonardo said he and his team found something in their setup that worked. But, like a true racer, he was not about to share what it was.

Ocala Gran Prix sponsored Rotax Junior (48 drivers)

Anthony Gangi Jr. scored his third straight Mini Max win on Sunday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Anthony Gangi Jr. scored his third straight Mini Max win on Sunday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Ignacio Salvucci (Argentina) would lead the Junior MAX competitors to the green at the start of the Junior MAX pre-final, but by the end of the 16-lap-race, it was Saturday Junior MAX winner Thomas Issa (Jamaica) who would be taking the checkers first. Salvucci held on for second just ahead of Brazilian Pedro Cardoso and Poland’s Antoni Ptak.

At the start of the final, Issa led into one with Cardoso and Salvucci right behind as a couple spinning karts sent half the field into avoidance mode. When the dust settled, all were back up to speed, but some had a lot of ground to make up. Up front, Issa and Cardoso had a great battle going until Cardoso got taken out by an incident that had taken placed before the leaders arrived on the scene. This gave Thomas Issa all the breathing room he needed to take the win over Ignacio Salvucci and Antoni Ptak.

AM Engines sponsored Rotax Mini MAX (37 drivers)

The Florida Winter Tour has a reputation around the world as having the strongest Micro and Mini MAX fields you’ll find anywhere. And this weekend, with 37 entries in Mini MAX, was no exception. Leading things off in qualifying was Nicholas Brueckner (USA) who set the fastest time. Brueckner was able to parlay the pole position into a fantastic race win over Anthony Gangi Jr. (USA) and Michael Benyahia (USA).

Starting the final, it was again Brueckner leading the way. However, starting lap five, Benyahia made his bid for the lead down the inside going into turn one. The pass was clean but as Brueckner swung wide to get a better corner exit, he touched the curb just enough to upset his kart, allowing Gangi by as well. One lap later and Gangi took the lead, but it wasn’t over yet. Benyahia challenged the New Yorker all the way to the finish with Brueckner ready to strike should either of them bobble.

In the end, it was Gangi with the win, followed by Benyahia in second and Brueckner third. For Anthony Gangi Jr, it was the seventh win this season out of eight Florida Winter Tour races he’s run. We’ve been watching this young driver do some pretty impressive things over the last few years. But for 2013, he and the GT7 team have taken everything up a notch and the results are proof their extra effort is working.

SH Karting sponsored DD2 Masters (12 drivers )

South Africa’s Cristiano Morgado earned another in DD2 Masters (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

South Africa’s Cristiano Morgado earned another in DD2 Masters
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

With 12 entries on the entry list, DD2 Masters is far from the largest class at the Florida Winter Tour. But, what it lacks in numbers, the entrants make up in accomplishments and accolades. In fact, in just this one class, the drivers collectively make up seven world championships and numerous FWT and national titles. Leading the way in qualifying was South Africa’s Cristiano Morgado who would also take the win in the pre-final. Rounding out the pre-final top three were Scott Campbell (Canada) and Alessandro Manetti (Italy) for a total of 6 world titles represented in just the top three.

In the final, Campbell got the drop on the field but slipped up a bit on the opening lap allowing Morgado, former FWT champion Rene Martinelli (USA) and double CIK world champion Manetti through. Beginning lap two, Alessandro Manetti drafted past Rene Martinelli down the front straight. The battle for second between Manetti, Martinelli and Campbell allowed Cristiano Morgado to pull a bit of a cushion that he would build to just over three seconds at the checkers. Behind Morgado, a furious battle raged among the other various champions of the sport. In the end Manetti captured second while Martinelli came home third to take home his first FWT Palm trophy.

During the podium celebrations, Bill Wright commented to Cristiano that he manages to make wining look easy even amongst one of the toughest fields at the FWT. Ever so humble, Cris was quick to point out that his success is due in a large way to the support he’s received from his team. To that end we must point out that his tuners for this year’s Tour have been fellow South Africans Ralph and Henry Odendaal. Considering Ralph was just a small twist of fate from one, or possibly two, world championships of his own a few years back, and you understand just what a formidable team this is.

MRP Motorsports sponsored Rotax MAX Senior (46 drivers)

Senior rookie Oliver Askew earned his first on Sunday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Senior rookie Oliver Askew earned his first on Sunday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Oliver Askew (USA) would start the Senior MAX pre-final from pole position after being the fastest qualifier during Friday’s time trials. The young Floridian is the reigning FWT Junior MAX champion and he’s been hungry to prove he can win in Senior MAX too. The lead battle in the pre-final was a tight one between Askew, reigning Senior MAX World Champion Charlie Eastwood (N. Ireland) and Nick Neri (USA). Once Askew had established the lead, he was able to extend it by about a half a tenth a lap to take the pre-final win.

The Senior MAX final got underway early due to the ever diligent Formula Kart Productions crew keeping everything running so smoothly. At the start it was Askew who assumed the lead with Neri on his tail. Behind them, Eastwood and reigning US Senior MAX national champion Daniel Formal were hooked up and running down the leaders. By the time Eastwood and Formal got around Neri, Askew was six tenths clear of second place. Of course, to many people, six tenths of a second sounds like the blink of an eye. But, to race fans, that can be very significant. For Charlie Eastwood, it meant that Oliver Askew was just outside the range he needed to pick up the draft. As such, Oliver was able to extend his lead by just enough each lap to pick up his first international win in the Senior MAX class.

As Oliver crossed the line, the roar from his Ocala Gran Prix crew all but drowned out Charlie Eastwood and Daniel Formal coming home second and third respectively. During the podium celebrations, Oliver said he made the conscious decision before the race never to look behind him and just keep driving.

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