Exciting Day in Ocala at Florida Winter Tour
Askew wins at home track in Senior, Schiavo earns two Masters victories
Story by Florida Winter Tour
A crisp and clear Saturday morning greeted the competitors in Ocala, Florida for the third round of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX Challenge, presented by Ocala Gran Prix. After Friday’s qualifying sessions the order of the day had each of the seven classes commence with their morning warm ups, then race the pre-finals and finals. Two classes, Mini MAX and Junior MAX, had sufficiently large fields necessitating the need for last chance qualifying races to set the 34 kart fields for the pre-finals.
Even though each competitor is unique in their own way, there’s at least one common denominator they all share; none of them can race in the Florida Winter Tour without tires and oil. And to get their tires and oil they need to see Nick Weil. Nick has been with the Florida Winter Tour for 10 years. However, he’s quick to point out not all of those years have been as part of the “Fun-Team that runs the FWT events. At least four of those years he was a competitor in the program. Therefore, he has an insight into the driver’s minds that allows him to meet their unique needs.
During Nick’s time as a driver he had many accomplishments including being a member of Team USA in 2005 when the Grand Finals were held at Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. As of now, Nick says he hopes to drive karts again someday if his budget will permit it. Nick was also well-known as the owner of a kart shop on Orlando called Speedquest. He and his wife Nadine opened the shop in 2001 and he says it’s still a viable business, but these days he’s much more focused on Race Directing and working as a Technical Director for a multitude of kart racing series.
During his time with the FWT he says some of the biggest changes he’s noticed have been the advancements on the technical side. “We’re using a lot of tools in the tech shed now that didn’t even exist 10 years ago,” he said. “That not only streamlines our job after the race, but helps ensure accuracy in everything we do,” he added. When he’s away from the track he likes to go hog and coyote hunting at night, ride ATVs during the day, or go to movies with his wife. He also says he’s starting a business of developing mobile apps for many different applications.
Luke Varley is a 22-year-old professional kart racer from Leeds in the United Kingdom. He is perhaps best known for winning the Senior MAX World Championship in 2009 when the Grand Finals were held at Ghibli raceway in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
Luke started racing at the age of 12 when his brother, who had raced at the time, decided to stop racing and it seemed the natural progression that Luke should jump in and give it a go. Luke says from his early days behind the wheel, he wanted to be a professional racing driver, and that that desire is what drove him forwards. Although many young drivers wish for such a career, Luke is living it. As a factory contracted Birel driver and driver coach with Anderson Racing, Luke is one of the few racing drivers in the world to actually make a living driving karts. He says he enjoys the life so much that when the subject of racing cars comes up he doesn’t seem that interested in it. “Honestly, it’s something you would always consider,” he says, “But, there are so few good car opportunities and in karting, we get to race fantastic machines against top talent all over the world.” then he summed up his thoughts perfectly by saying, “If you can’t do it properly, why do it at all?”
Luke has done it properly for years and has established himself as a frontrunner wherever he goes. He says running the Florida Winter Tour is a great opportunity for him because the weather is beautiful this time of year here and, best of all, when he goes back to Europe to run the Euro Challenge he already has a leg up on the competition.
When away from the racetrack he likes playing soccer with his friends, working on his fitness and he says he tries to get in a round of golf whenever he can. In fact, he says the golf has helped him with racing because of the similarities between the two sports when it comes to focus, determination and preparation. Luke Varley has been a great addition to the FWT and we hope to see him racing here for years to come.
Decal Zone sponsored DD2 Masters
Once the action got underway the early morning temperatures had started to warm up and the sun was out to stay. The first drivers to take the track for the pre-finals were the DD2 Masters competitors. Venezuelan Luis Schiavo has been on a mission this year and proved his might once again by taking the win in the pre-final over Derek Wang (USA) by 2.5 seconds.
In the DD2 Masters final, Wang would share the front row with Schiavo but didn’t get the best of starts and that allowed Carlos Medina (Mexico) to take over second going into turn one. Slotting into third was Andres Fonseca (Costa Rica) with Wang in fourth. As the laps wore on, Schiavo and Medina solidified their positions while Derek Wang battled his way back up to third. Towards the end of the race, Camilo Matiz (Columbia) found enough steam to make a bid for the podium. He was able to get to Wang and made a move for position that would just get him on the box in third to join Schiavo and Medina in first and second respectively.
SH Karting sponsored Rotax DD2
The next class in the queue was DD2. These machines are the kings of the Rotax program and they get around the 0.52 mile OGP course in a hurry. Leading the way after qualifying was Paolo De Conto (Italy), and he turned that advantage into a win over Nick Neri (USA) who was carrying the FWT LIVE! onboard camera, that gave us some great live onboard action during the event.
At the start of the final Daniel “Four-Time” Formal (USA) made a cracking start and jumped into second behind De Conto while Nick Neri would latch onto Formal’s bumper. After waiting a few laps for his setup to come in Nick Neri began his charge to the front and eventually overtook De Conto for the top spot, once again providing all the action live from the onboard camera. During this time Alessandro Bressan was making his own charge and hauled himself up to the third position within striking distance of Neri and De Conto.
Just past halfway, trouble for Neri dropped him to third leaving De Conto in the lead and Bressan in second. After gathering himself up, Nick was able to make another run but by that point Bressan and De Conto were too far up the road to catch. In the end, the top three in DD2 were Paolo De Conto, Alessandro Bressan and Nick Neri.
AM Engines sponsored Rotax Mini MAX
The Mini MAX pre-final featured a close battle for the lead between Harry Coulton (USA) and Caio Collet (Brasil). The two were never more than a couple kart lengths apart the entire race and at the flag it was Coulton that came home with the win. Back in the pack, after having to make his way into the pre-final by winning the last chance race was defending FWT Mini MAX champion Nick Brueckner. Nick sliced through the field from 29th to ninth before the end of the pre-final.
The Mini MAX final got away precisely on time and from the outset Harry Coulton would hold station at the front followed by Collet, Sergio Terife (Venezuela) and Matthew Latifi (Canada). The top four would run through the majority of the laps with no major change except for a few positions being shuffled. With a handful of laps to go, Matthew Latifi had worked his way to second and seemed content to follow Coulton until the moment was right to attempt a pass.
That moment came with just over a lap to go and the young Canadian made a power move to assume the lead. Once in front there was no turning back for Latifi and he ended up winning over Harry Coulton by 0.141 seconds with Caio Collet a further half-second adrift in third.
Rolison Performance Group sponsored MAX Masters
In the MAX Masters class, the term “master” is very appropriate to the way Luis Schiavo has been performing in this year’s Florida Winter Tour. After dominating qualifying, Luis went on to win the pre-final by 3.550 seconds over Raul P. Costa (USA).
In the Masters final it was again Schiavo taking the lead. However, Costa was not about to let him get away and he shadowed the Venezuelan the entire race. As the checkers waved it was again Schiavo taking the win, but this time by only 0.295 of a second after 18 laps over Costa who had turned in the fastest race lap. In the final, the results for MAX Masters read, Luis Schiavo 1st, Raul P. Costa 2nd, Scott Falcone (USA) 3rd, Brian McHattie (USA) 4th and Bobby Greene (USA) in 5th. In a very unusual twist for FWT competitions, the results for the top five in the final match the same result from the pre-final and qualifying.
PSL Karting sponsored Rotax Junior
Although Luis Jose Forteza III (Puerto Rico) would start the pre-final at the head of the field by virtue of his pole position time set in Friday’s qualifying session, at the end of the 18-lap Junior MAX pre-final it was Brazilian Pedro Cardoso who would be first to the checkers with Foreza second. Forming the second row for the start of the final would be Jose Enrique Brito (Ecuador) and Austin Garrison (USA) who finished the pre-final third and fourth respectively.
From the start of the Junior MAX final, Pedro Cardoso would take command of the field with Jose Enrique Brito on his tail. Austin Garrison would spend the first third of the race hounding the lead two but eventually made his way up to the front of the pack on the far side of the course. At the halfway mark it was Garrison leading, followed closely by Cardoso with Brito in striking distance.
Although he had been demoted to second, Pedro never lost his composure and effectively sized up when and where he would make his move for the lead. When that moment came, it was in the dying moments of the race and it left no opportunity for Austin to get back by. It was an excellent win for the Brazilian which further solidified his spot as the championship points leader. Behind Garrison, Jose Enrique Brito was close the entire distance but just couldn’t catch the lead two, giving him a solid podium performance in his first FWT appearance in 2014.
GT7 Motorsports sponsored Micro MAX
The penultimate group in today’s racing order was GT7 Motorsports Micro MAX. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating that these youngsters really put on a great show. Matheus Morgatto (Brazil) drove a stellar pre-final to take the win over Joshua Cunha (Canada). As reward for their top two finishing places, Morgatto and Cunha would be leading the pack of 30 Micros into turn one in the final.
In the Micro MAX final Morgatto grabbed the early lead but Homestead race winner Reece Gold (USA) would make the move into second ahead of Arias Deukmedjian. By the five-lap mark Joshua Cunha had fought his way back to second and looked to be making a bid for the lead when an incident between two karts happened in turn one. Due to the positioning of the karts and the serious appearance of the incident, the race was halted to make sure the drivers were OK and to clear the track.
The race resumed with a single-file restart, with Morgatto leading Cunha. With two laps to go, the top four karts were all battling for the lead. It was anyone’s race at that point and as the scrum emerged on the last lap, it was Reece Gold who had a whisker of a lead over Cunha and Morgatto.
MRP Motorsports sponsored Rotax Senior
After dominating qualifying OGP’s Kyle Kirkwood (USA) would continue his top form by taking the win in the pre-final over Zach Claman DeMelo (Canada). With this being Kyle’s first year in Senior MAX, the Florida Winter Tour was expected to be a time for him to adjust to the more powerful Senior MAX engine. However, he’s adapted very quickly and is looking to win in just the second weekend of competition.
In the Senior MAX final, Kyle took the early lead while his OGP teammate Oliver Askew (USA) looked to get around DeMelo. The move didn’t work and he fell back to fourth behind 2009 Senior MAX World Champion Luke Varley (United Kingdom). After a few more laps the order at the top had flipped. Oliver Askew had surged his way into the lead and Kyle Kirkwood had fallen back to fourth behind Varley and DeMelo. As expected, it didn’t take long for Kyle to work his way back to second. And once he did, it seemed almost effortless for him and Oliver to pull out a 2+ second advantage over Zach. With a few laps to go, it looked as if Kirkwood was going to shadow Askew until the end, then make a move on the last lap, but it was not to be. Oliver was able to keep just enough lead that Kyle could never make the move and in the end the podium would be comprised of Oliver Askew in first, Kyle Kirkwood second, and Zach Claman DeMelo in third.
As always, if you can’t make it to the FWT in person, log in to www.FloridaWintertour.com from anywhere around the world to watch all the action on FWT LIVE! kartsports original live streaming broadcast with live video, live timing and audience interaction, all on one page, only at FWT LIVE!
FWT LIVE! proves once again why it is the leader in karting coverage as FWT teams up with KARTS Video Services to provide live-streaming onboard footage featuring Nick Neri in the DD2 class and Dan Roeper in MAX Senior. Tune in to see the full screen or picture-in-picture action as these drivers make their way around the exemplary OGP circuit.
Be sure to send shout outs to your favorite drivers and teams by emailing the FWT Live! crew at live@FloridaWinterTour.com.