Florida Winter Tour Completes Opening Rounds of 2014
Homestead provides excitement over two weekends as championship chases begin
It was another full day of world-class racing on Sunday at the Homestead Karting facility as Formula Kart Productions wrapped up the first double-race-weekend of Rotax MAX Challenge action in the 2014 Florida Winter Tour, presented by Ocala Gran Prix.
We must admit, when we left the facility Saturday evening we thought Sunday’s action couldn’t get any better. We were wrong.
From the moment the DD2 Masters karts hit turn one in the pre-finals it was obvious we were going to see some of the most intense racing to date. In all seven classes, all day long, wherever you looked on the track there was a tightly fought battle for position. Sometimes that position was the lead. Other times it was fifth, sixth, seventh or fifteenth. It didn’t matter. And this had the large crowds spectating in the grandstands entertained all day long.
During Saturday’s lunch break, Formula Kart Production’s Bill Wright had the honor of interviewing two Indy Car legends in Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti. During today’s lunch break, the run of special guests continued when Bill was joined in the FWT LIVE! broadcast trailer by FWT competitors Max Papis and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Max Papis has raced and won at the top levels of the sport in Karting, Formula One, Indy Cars, NASCAR, Sports Cars and more. Max is now moving into car ownership and team management, specifically with the #3 Sprint Cup Car of Austin Dillon and a Euro NASCAR Team. After such a stellar car racing career you would think the 44 year-old would be content with the memories of his past racing accomplishments. He is not! In 2013 Max jumped into the seat of a MAX Masters kart at the U.S. Rotax Grand Nationals and overcame the U.S. best to take the crown of US National Champion in the MAX Masters category, and is competing in the 2014 FWT in the same category, looking for a shot at a Rotax World Title.
Nelson Piquet Jr. is perhaps best known for his stint in Formula One, along with his most recent performances in NASCAR. He’s currently competing in the Florida Winter Tour in the DD2 class. This is Nelsons third year of FWT participation, and he says it’s important to get as much seat time in karts as possible to stay sharp and fit for the other vehicles he races. In 2014 Nelson has plans to compete in a limited Nascar schedule, the Global Rally Cross program and select FIA Formula E events.
These guys come from very different backgrounds. Both drivers offered incredible insight to the sport and shared some valuable knowledge on where the sport has come from, where it’s going and what they feel is really important.
For his part, Papis, the “elder statesman” of the two, shared a piece of advice that everyone in karting should heed. He said, “The biggest value in karting is to bring friends and family together to have a good time. And if we forget that, we miss the entire reason for being involved.” We appreciate Max and Nelson, as well as Dario and Tony, for taking the time this weekend to stop by for a chat. These interviews are yet another reason to stay tuned into FWT Live! because you never know who might stop by. FWT LIVE! will provide archive access to the audio files for both the Kanaan/Franchitti and Piquet/Papis interviews in the near future.
Caio Collet is an eleven-year-old Mini MAX driver from Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is here in Homestead making his Florida Winter Tour debut on behalf of Brazilian Rotax Distributor Wilton Santos. Last year Wilton, with help from Rolison Performance Group, offered a special prize to the Mini MAX National Champion that they would be awarded an expense paid scholarship to come compete in all three weekends of the Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX Challenge.
Caio has been racing for four years and says he dreams of being a professional racing driver in the European DTM touring car series. He lists Ayrton Senna as his favorite driver of all time and, like Ayrton, loves racing wheel-to-wheel with his closest competitors. Caio has been able to attend the Formula One race in Brazil two times and says he loves driving the F1 simulation game F1 2013. We’re glad to see Caio here in Florida and hope to see many more like him in the years to come.
John Motley has been working in the tech inspection department of the FWT for seven years. His vast knowledge on technical issues is legendary in the sport. John started racing karts at the very beginning, way back in 1959. In those days there were very few “off-the-shelf” parts available to the racers. Everything a competitor wanted on their kart, they had to build themselves. He left karting for a while but came back around 1980 when Yamaha asked him to promote the KT-100 out of the Yamaha motorcycle dealership he was operating at the time.
He later sold off the motorcycle business but kept his kart shop, Race kart Engineering. In fact, 30 years ago, John was one of the original dealers in North America to carry Rotax engines. As John is quick to point out, the air-cooled 100cc Rotax engines from back then are a far cry from the sophisticated powerplants he works with today. Although the kart shop is a priority, he says these days he’s kept busier by the technical inspection side which keeps him on the road about 30 weekends a year. When back home in Paso Robles, California, John likes to spend his time riding dirt bikes, reading, and is especially fond of studying World War II history.
Although the Homestead rounds only make up one-third of the FWT RMC season, this weekend we got a pretty good indication of who to watch when on the circuit. With that in mind, let’s see how our main protagonists fared today.
Decal Zone sponsored DD2 Masters
Luis Schiavo (Venezuela) signaled his intentions during Friday’s qualifying sessions by setting the fastest time in DD2 Masters. Two days later he hadn’t lost a beat and started the day off winning the DD2 Masters pre-final by almost four seconds over Carlos Medina (Mexico).
In the final, Schiavo again commanded the lead with Medina and Derek Wang (USA) in close pursuit. Even after an injury to his arm, and competing in two classes during the FWT RMC weekend, by the midway point of the race Schiavo was able to gradually start pulling away from the pack. This left Andreas Fonseca Grajales (Costa Rica) and Derek Wang to fight over second place. In the end the top three were Schiavo (1st), Fonseca Grajales (2nd), and Wang (3rd).
SH Racing sponsored DD2 MAX
After the DD2 Masters had their turn, the DD2s would take to the 7/10th of a mile Homestead Karting circuit. In the pre-final, Arnaud Kozlinski (France) would use the pole position he earned on Friday to take a 0.445 second win over Italian Paolo De Conto, and Daniel Formal (USA) who was a further 2.750 seconds back.
As the DD2 karts charged towards turn one in the final, Kozlinski led with Danny Formal slipping into his wake. By lap three, De Conto and Nick Neri (USA) had moved into second and third behind Arnaud. At the end of the 18 lap race, Kozlinski crossed the line first to take his first FWT win. De Conto crossed the line in second but an issue in tech dropped him down the order. This promoted Nick Neri to second and Alessandro Bressen (USA) to third.
AM Engines sponsored Mini MAX
Michael d’Orlando (USA) set the pace in Friday Mini MAX qualifying to pick up the Koene USA P1 Pole Position Award. His time of 51.009 seconds was just 0.015 of a second faster than reigning FWT Mini Champion Nick Brueckner (USA) who would start the pre-final on the outside of the front row. With the large field of Mini MAX karts in attendance, a Last Chance Qualifier had to be run to set the complete field. Although he had been having a difficult weekend so far, Devin Boutot (USA) was able to win the LCQ to lead the six drivers transferring through to the pre-final.
Michael d’Orlando would use the 12 lap pre-final to assert his authority and take the win by 1.033 seconds over Brazilian Gianluca Petecof. Although d’Orlando would lead the start of the final, Petecof quickly got around him. For several laps the two circulated nose to tail while Nick Brueckner was carving his way through the field from his 18th place starting spot.
Just past halfway d’Orlando reclaimed the lead from Petecof in the technical section of the course. Over the next few laps the two exchanged the lead multiple times around the course until Petecof established a lead he would hold till the finish. After a technical issue demoted d’Orlando from second, Sergio Terife (Venezuela) and Nick Brueckner moved up to round out the podium.
Rolison Performance Group sponsored MAX Masters
In MAX Masters, it should come as no surprise to anyone following the FWT event at Homestead this weekend that Luis Schiavo was once again on the pole and handily won the pre-final. The Venezuelan has been on fire all week and appeared unstoppable.
In the final, it was expected that Luis would rocket off in the lead. But, Raul P. Costa (USA) had other plans and captured the top spot which enabled Schiavo to be reminded of what a rear bumper looks like. However, at halfway Luis reasserted himself to the front and was able to hold the lead from then on.
At the finish, Costa was able to bring home a solid second place while Max Papis brought his kart home in third. It’s fair to say that this really was Luis Schiavo weekend to shine. By winning three out of four pole positions and three out of four final races, you could say he was the Master-of-Masters at Homestead Karting.
PSL Karting sponsored Junior MAX
In Friday qualifying for Sunday’s Junior MAX class, Pedro Cardoso (Brasil) narrowly beat out Austin Garrison (USA) for pole by a scant 0.006 of a second. With that type of parity the writing was on the wall for a very close race. In Sunday morning’s Second Chance Race it was Ethan Tyler (USA) who crossed the line first after six laps to head the six final qualifiers to transfer to the finals.
In the pre-final, Cardoso and Garrison continued their battle from qualifying and remained tied to each other the whole race. At the checkered it was Cardoso taking the win over Garrison with Ryan Norberg (USA) pulling out a fine third place.
At the start of the final, Cardoso would lead from the #1 starting spot but it was Ryan Norberg that shot through Turn 1 on his rear bumper while Garrison slotted into third. By the end of lap one, Cardoso and Garrison were in the lead and pulling away while Austin Versteeg (USA) was laying his claim on third.
As the race wore on, there were fierce battles going on all around the course. However, up front, Garrison never put a move on Cardoso and as a result, the two were able to cleanly pull clear of third place by up to a full half-second on some laps. As the two stormed around on the last lap Pedro led the duo and looked set to win. However, Austin was waiting for his chance, and found it with a classic Homestead move into turn eight. A few minutes later Austin garrison would be standing on the top of the box for his first FWT podium. Cardoso would hold on for second with Versteeg in third.
GT7 Motorsports sponsored Micro MAX
The Micro MAX karts took to their pre-final with Reece Gold (USA) leading the way as a result of his fast qualifying time. Just as Luis Schiavo has been topping the time sheets in the classes for the oldest competitors, Reece has been leading the way all weekend in the class for the youngest competitors. Reece would start the pre-final on pole and take the win by 0.149 over Arias Deukmedjian (USA) to set the front row for the final.
Gold would get the jump at the start but it was David Morales (USA) who would slot into second. Behind the lead two, Deukmedjian was busy holding off Anthony Famularo (Venezuela) in a battle for third. By lap three, Deukmedjian was into second and hounding Gold for the lead. The battle was very tense with neither driver willing to let up.
Entering the last lap there was barely a piece of paper between Reece and Arias. They ran nose to tail the entire last lap with the crowd on its feet. Then, exiting the last corner, Gold slid wide and Deukmedjian went for the low line. It was a drag race to the line and at the finish, Arias Deukmedjian took his first FWT Micro MAX win by just .015 over Reece Gold.
Over six seconds back, David Morales would lead the pack fighting for third place over David Morales, Joshua Cunha (Canada), Anthony Famularo, Jeremy Fairbairn (USA), and Alessandro Famularo (Venezuela).
MRP Motorsport sponsored Senior MAX
Senior MAX qualifying for Sunday was led by Ed Brand (UK) who was also Saturday’s Koene USA P1 Fast qualifier. Jordon Lennox (UK) and Dan Roeper (USA) would complete the top three in qualifying. Winning the LCQ to be one of six to advance to the pre-final was Florida driver Antoni Ptak.
In the Senior MAX pre-final, Oliver Askew (USA) would go from fifth to first to secure the win while Ed Brand, Thomas Issa (Jamaica) and Dan Roeper would set the starting order for the first two rows in the final.
The start of the final saw the field spread four-wide going through turn one. It was Ed Brand who took the lead while some pushing and shoving by some other drivers behind him kept him free from challenge. After a handful of laps, contact between some of the drivers fighting for second let Brand slip away to a huge lead leaving the only real battle for second.
After contact during the furious battle Oliver Askew realized he needed to make a break from the pack if he was to finish the race, let alone stand on the podium. He did just that and broke free for an excellent second place. Behind Askew his OGP teammate Kyle Kirkwood (USA) was in the process of moving through the pack from his tenth place start position. He eventually captured third to round out the podium behind Brand and Askew.
For a weekend that had started out on the chilly side, it ended in a warm, golden sunset as the last of the podium celebrations concluded. It’s hard to believe that in seemingly no time at all we’re now a third of the way through the 2014 FWT season. The next race on the calendar will be rounds three and four of the Formula Kart Racing Championship from Ocala Gran Prix on February 8th and 9th, with the FWT Rotax program following up the next weekend. Make your plans now to attend this very special event at the home of the 2014 Florida Winter Tour’s presenting sponsor. Ocala features an excellent internet source so FWT LIVE! should return to a more stable and consistent broadcast after many issues at the temporary Homestead facility.
For more news and updates on the 2014 FWT season, log onto www.FloridaWinterTour.com and be sure to “like” our Facebook page by visiting us at www.facebook.com/floridawintertour. Find out why the Florida Winter Tour is “THE, Winter Place to Be!”