Formula Kart Championships Decided at Florida Winter Tour

Dailey doubles with DeMelo, Malukas, and d’Orlando among the 2014 champions

(Photo: Studio52.us)

(Photo: Studio52.us)

Florida Winter Tour 2014 logoStory by Florida Winter Tour

It was a gorgeous, sunny and warm Sunday for the final round of the 2014 Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour, presented by Ocala Gran Prix, Formula Kart Racing Championship. At stake were eight FWT Formula Kart Racing drivers points championships for the Briggs, TaG and Shifter Kart competitors, and cash and prizes valued at over $61,000.

It’s been an amazing season of Formula Kart competition and, as Formula Kart Productions owner Bill Wright so aptly proclaimed over the PA as the last checkered flag was thrown, a bitter sweet end to a solid Formula Kart Racing season. Bitter that is had to eventually end, but sweet when looking back at all the great action we’ve seen through the six rounds of intense “FK” competition.

One could say it was doubly sweet when looking at the future and seeing where the FWT’s Formula Kart Racing Championship is headed. In 2014 Formula Kart Productions has once again seen double-digit-percentage growth in the “FK” Championship, with 190 drivers, representing more than 680 entries, taking part. The growth is further highlighted by a significant increase in International competitors. And it should be noted that the final round of the Championship equaled the entry numbers of the first round, a clear testament to the growing interest in the FWT “FK” Championship.

Hunter Fox wins Briggs LO206 Junior (Photo: Studio52.us)

Hunter Fox wins Briggs LO206 Junior (Photo: Studio52.us)

Two of the biggest factors in the resurgence of the Formula Kart Racing Championship were the addition of the cost-effective Briggs LO206 classes and the return, in force, of the shifter kart classes. One competitor who came to compete in the Formula Masters Shifter class is Petr Ptacek. Petr hails from Prague in the CzechRepublic and is better known as “Mr. Praga”, the owner of the Praga manufacturing company.

Petr is justifiably proud of his company’s history and was quick to point out that Praga’s roots as a Czech car company go back before World War II, and it’s manufacturing heritage dates all the way back to the turn of the 20th century. He says that in the eight years he has owned the company there have been many great achievements. One such achievement was having Praga, as well as their other chassis, OK1, selected as two of the official chassis at last year’s Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals.

When asked why he decided to race at the Florida Winter Tour Petr said that the FWT is known around the world as a very reputable series, so he really wanted to come here with his son, Petr jr. and race. Plus, as he added with a grin, “in the Czech Republic right now it is very cold, so why not come race where it’s warm and sunny?” By spending just a bit of time in the Praga pits it’s very evident that Petr is very well-liked and respected among his staff. In fact, the general vibe is that of a family that is very serious about what they do, but know how to have fun while doing it. We hope to see Petr Ptacek, his family, and the rest of the Praga crew around the Florida Winter Tour for many years to come.

Collin Daley leads Briggs LO206 Senior (Photo: Studio52.us)

Collin Daley leads Briggs LO206 Senior (Photo: Studio52.us)

MG Tires / Granja 500 Award
During the Championship Sunday lunch break a drawing was held for all eligible FK participants to determine who would get to represent the Florida Winter Tour at this year’s Granja 500 karting endurance race, held annually in Brasil. Eligible participants had their name drawn and the lucky winner was Masters Shifter pilot Farshad Bagheri. Farshad will receive and all-expense paid trip to Brasil to compete in the famous race that so many are talking about. We couldn’t think of a better guy to win a prize like this and we wish him all the best as he travels to South America later this year to represent the FWT. This once-in-a-lifetime award is exclusive to the FK Championship, and is provided by MG Tires, the official tire of the FWT Formula Kart Racing Championship.

With today being Championship Sunday for the Formula Kart series the drivers and crews were more eager than ever to get everything just right. For those that still had a shot at one of the various titles everything had to be just right. Let’s take a look and see how the drivers fared.

Victory Kart / Briggs and Stratton sponsored Briggs LO206 Junior
The first class out of the gate was the Briggs LO206 Junior class. Canadian Roman DeAngelis picked up where he left off Saturday by claiming the Koene USA P1 Pole Position Award with a lap of 1:05.920 seconds.

Australian Lochie Hughes makes a last lap last turn pass for the win in TaG Cadet (Photo: Studio52.us)

Australian Lochie Hughes makes a last lap last turn pass for the win in TaG Cadet (Photo: Studio52.us)

After qualifying, Roman decided to sit out the day’s competition as he concentrated his efforts on his TaG Junior kart. This left the door open to the other competitors and taking advantage of that in Heat #1 was Tyler Bouillon (Canada) who ran away with the win. In Heat #2, Hunter Fox (USA) would lead at the end of 10 laps to take his first heat win.

In the final, Fox got out to an early lead while Bouillon and Logan Cusson (Canada) circulated a couple second behind, just ahead of Jonathan Morris (USA) in fourth. For a while Bouillon and Cusson worked together in such a way that they almost got right to Fox’s bumper.  But, with a couple laps to go, all three slid together through turn nine, almost crashing, and that separated them just enough that Fox had the gap he needed to run clean until the checkers waved. At the line the top three were right together, with Fox winning, followed by Bouillon in second and Cusson in third.

Victory Kart / Briggs and Stratton sponsored Briggs LO206 Senior & Masters
When the Briggs Senior and Masters Briggs competitors went out to qualify Chad Campbell (Canada) was determined to grab the P1 Pole Position award and that’s just what he did with a lap of 1:03.518 seconds. Campbell would use that advantage going into Heat #1 but in that race, it was Saturday’s winner Johnny Flute who would emerge victorious. Heat #2 saw Flute once again running up front but in the end the win went to Collin Daley jr. (Jamaica), who would capture the win by less than two tenths of a second over Flute.

Masters Shifter pilot Farshad Bagheri to represent the Florida Winter Tour at this year’s Granja 500 karting endurance race (Photo: Studio52.us)

Masters Shifter pilot Farshad Bagheri to represent the Florida Winter Tour at this year’s Granja 500 karting endurance race (Photo: Studio52.us)

In the final it was Flute who would start from the top spot but suffered tough luck just two laps into the race when his exhaust pipe broke and he couldn’t continue. Daley was ready and waiting to claim the race as his, but Campbell and William Lalonde (Canada) were right on his tail and not about to let him get away. As the race wore on Daley held the point, but it was Lalonde asserting himself into second with Christopher Proietto (Canada) breaking into a podium spot in third. At the finish, that’s how the order would remain. On the podium Collin Daley was awarded $250 for winning the Briggs Senior class by Victory Karts Blake Deister.

Finishing fourth in the Sunday final and third in the Championship was Haley Morris (USA), who might have lost the daily podium battle, but possibly won the war. As the highest finisher on a Victory kart chassis on Sunday she won $250. By passing the most competitors in the race she picked up an additional $100 as the Briggs and Stratton Hard Charger Award winner. And as the highest placing Victory Kart driver in the point’s championship she was awarded a complete Victory Kart chassis. You have to admit, to spend a fun day racing in the beautiful sunshine and going home with an extra $350 and a brand new kart chassis is pretty sweet. Congrats to Haley!

AM Racing Kart sponsored Formula TaG Cadet
Thirty five of the world’s best TaG Cadet Competitors took to the track for their eight minute qualifying session and everyone could tell immediately that they meant business. With the draft being so important on the long back-straight the qualifying session looked like a race with no one giving any quarter.  In the end two drivers broke the one minute barrier with Gianluca Petecof (Brasil) edging out Lachlan DeFrancesco (USA/Canada) by just 0.019 of a second, 59.854 to 59.773.

Christian Munoz wins in TaG Junior (Photo: Studio52.us)

Christian Munoz wins in TaG Junior (Photo: Studio52.us)

Heat #1 saw Petecof take the win ahead of DeFrancesco with Reece Gold (USA) in third. Heat #2 saw Lochie Hughes (Australia) take the win over a tight four-way battle for second that included Petecof, Michael d’Orlando (USA), DeFrancesco and Gold.

As the TaG cadet Final got underway Petecof assumed the lead while Hughes tucked in behind him with DeFrancesco and d’Orlando in striking distance. Behind the lead four Reece Gold led a pack that was looking to make up ground. Eventually Gold and Dylan Tavella (USA) would break away from that pack and catch d’Orlando and DeFrancesco as Petecof and Hughes were making the lead battle a two-kart affair.

Lap-after-lap the front two stayed in lock step with the Brasilian leading the Australian. They worked together to pull out a five second lead over the drivers fighting over the last podium spot. As they took the white flag Lochie Hughes was locked onto Petecof’s rear bumper, planning his way by. The moment he was planning for was on the last turn of the last lap. When the moment came the Australian executed his run perfectly, with a clean pass on the left.

As the two exited the left hander Petecof was able to pull alongside Hughes, but the run to the line has a long right-hand bend, and Hughes right-side position gave him a shorter run to the finish line, and the victory. It was a thrilling end to a great race. However, after the checkers Petecof intentionally slammed into Hughes on the cool down lap, severely damaging the winners kart, earning Petecof the disdain of the viewing audience and an immediate disqualification.

Andre Nicastro wins TaG Senior (Photo: Studio52.us)

Andre Nicastro wins TaG Senior (Photo: Studio52.us)

This then made the battle behind those two a race for second and that would be won by Michael d’Orlando while Dylan Tavella just nipped Reece Gold at the line by 0.050 of a second to claim the last podium spot.

Moto Bordogna Engines sponsored Formula Open Shifter/International Racing USA sponsored Formula Stock Moto/Decal Zone sponsored Formula Masters Shifter
Three classes of shifter karts hit the track for their qualifying session. Coming out with the overall honors was Collin Daley jr. who claimed pole position in his Open Shifter with a lap of 50.855 . Second fastest time went to another Open Shifter, Max Di Bella (USA) while third fastest went to Stock Moto competitor Jordon Lennox-Lamb (UK). Rounding out the top four fastest times was Ariel Castro representing the Masters Shifter class.

Heat #1 witnessed Collin Daley jr. and Max Di Bella stage a fantastic duel that would eventually be won by Daley by just a half of a second. Ariel Castro would lead home the Masters Shifters while Jordon Lennox-Lamb would do the same for the Stock Motos.

Collin Daley would take top honors in Heat #2 over Di Bella again but this time fellow open Shifter competitor Michael de Quesada  (USA) would follow them home third overall. Fourth overall was Matthew DiLeo picking up the honors for Stock Moto while the Masters Shifter portion was headed up by Farshad Bagheri (USA).

In the shifter final Collin Daley would start on pole and assume a lead he would never give up. Max Di Bella did his best to give chase but eventually faded allowing Open Shifter competitors Michael de Quesada and Stephan Isambard (USA) to claim podium spots.

Briggs LO206 Senior Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Briggs LO206 Senior Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

In the Masters Shifter class Ariel Castro was on a quest to complete a perfect six-win season, but it was not to be as he exited the race on lap two. This left Vicky Brian in the top spot and she put in an awesome run to take the victory. Second and third in Masters Shifter went to David Levy (USA) and Jason Alden (USA).

In Stock Moto Matthew DiLeo (Canada) would bring home another dominating win over Chris Gannon (USA) in second and Phil Haddad (USA) third.

Ogden USA sponsored Formula TaG Junior
The TaG Junior class took to the Orlando track sounding like an enormous pack of angry bees as they fought for every thousandth of a second around the circuit. When all the times were in it was David Malukas (USA) who would claim the Koene USA P1 Pole Award over Roman DeAngelis (Canada) by just 0.060 of a second.

Heat #1 would see Christian Munoz (Columbia) emerge as a main contender for the days title as he took the win in a tight battle with Mathias Ramirez (USA) and David Malukas. In Heat #2, Nick Brueckner (USA) would put in an amazing run from near the back of the pack to take the win. Unfortunately for Nick, the stewards felt some of his passes were too aggressive and he was stripped from the results handing the heat win to Roman DeAngelis.

In the TaG Junior final Christian Munoz would start up front and take an early lead. Behind Munoz random chaos erupted as a handful of drivers got turned around on the first lap. During this time a few drivers made great moves though the pack as others fell back. One driver with his eye on a championship and keen to make smart moves was David Malukas. After surviving the start Malukas would find himself fifth and patiently made his moves taking him all the way to second.

TaG Cadet Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

TaG Cadet Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

After a mechanical issue in the second heat, Mexican Javier Gonzalez would not get the best of start positions in 20th, but made the most of a great setup as he began a charge through the field. In the end that charge would take him to third making the daily podium Munoz first, Malukas second and Gonzales third.

Russell Karting Specialties sponsored Formula TaG Senior
The final group in the day’s racing queue was the TaG Senior competitors. These drivers really put on a great show, evident by a tight fight for pole position. When all the times were in Dan Roeper (USA) claimed qualifying bragging rights on his Rotax powered kart by just 0.008 of a second over Daniel Formal. In fact, the top four qualifiers, which included Andre Nicastro (Brasil) and Zachary Claman DeMelo (Canada), were separated by only 0.047 of a second from first to fourth, with both IAME and Rotax power present. That’s close!

Once the heat races started, it was DeMelo over Nicastro in Heat #1 by 0.225 of a second. While in Heat #2, Brenden Baker (USA) used great positioning in the inverted field to take a seven second win over Bill McGlaughlin Jr.

The final would get underway with IAME powered Nicastro leading the way only to be overcome by DeMelo. Daniel Formal and Dan Roeper would have their say as well as the top four asserted their authority. With this being the last race of the Formula Kart Championship season it was clear nobody wanted to leave anything on the table, as the racing was extremely aggressive. Unfortunately for Roper, the point’s leader coming into the race, this aggression transferred into contact from another driver and some time spent stopped on the side of the track, finally restarting near the rear of the field. More on that later.

Stock Moto Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Stock Moto Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

As the race entered its middle phase, the drivers settled into a groove. Nicastro held the lead while a little ways back Daniel Formal was doing all he could to get by Zachary DeMelo. Behind them, Daniel Stross (USA) was putting in a very solid run to the fourth position.  Roper, meanwhile, was desperately fighting his way back toward the front. He had to finish no more than two positions behind Demelo to retain his points lead.

As the race came to an end, Andre Nicastro celebrated while crossing the line to win the race he’d seemed destined to win all day long. Demelo held off Formal to take second in a performance that would lock-up the TaG Senior championship for him. Daniel Formal fought bravely all race long but in the end he would have to settle for third. Roper saw his Championship hopes dashed as he came across the line three spots back from Demelo. However, aggressive driving on his way to the front earned him a four position penalty, eventually being classified in ninth.

Championship Podiums
As the sun faded low on the horizon Formula Kart Production’s Bill Wright had the honor of bestowing the 2014 Formula Kart Championship season champions with their signature FWT acrylic “Palm” trophies.

First up was Victory Kart / Briggs and Stratton sponsored Briggs LO206 Senior. From starting the season in Homestead by literally taking a motor straight out of a box on Friday afternoon and bolting it to his years-old two-cycle chassis, Jamaican driver Collin Daley jr. would wrap up the season with the most poles and most wins of any competitor in the class to take a well-deserved championship. Second and third would go to Steven Kilsdonk (USA) and Haley Morris respectively.

Open Shifter Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Open Shifter Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

AM Racing Kart sponsored Formula TaG Cadet Drivers were up next as the d’Orlando brothers Michael and Nicholas would take first and third, sandwiching Lochie Hughes in second. This was a particularly joyous podium as the young Australian has become a close friend of the brothers throughout the season. Of course, being a championship podium there was to be a champagne spraying (non-alcoholic for the younger drivers). But, before they could even get their bottles open a dastardly sneak attack was carried out by Koene USA team owner Mike Maurini and his staff, along with Lochie’s father, as they used pre-prepared bottles from behind the podium to drench the young competitors. Old age and treachery: 1 – Youth and exuberance: 0.

While collecting his “Big Palm” championship trophy on the podium, International Racing USA Formula Stock Moto champion Matthew DiLeo was prolific in his praise of the organization and staff at FWT, and for his steadfast and supportive team members, and stating “we’re only here to win”. And win they did. Chris Gannon and Matthew Sanford fought a close battle for second, with the position eventually going to Gannon by a mere 28 points.

Bordogna Racing Engines sponsored Formula Open Shifter was dominated throughout the year by Collin Daley and, as such, the FWT Championship Palm was his second at the end of the day. Max Di Bella made the most of his opportunities at the last two venues, but missing Homestead meant second was the best he could do. Dominic LeGrand (Canada) scored enough points early to end up third in the championship without running the final rounds.

With his dominant runs throughout the season Ariel Castro was the deserving winner of the Decal Zone sponsored Formula Masters Shifter championship. Petr Ptacek actually scored just as many overall points as Ariel, but after the drop races (five best races out of six counts for the championship) was forced to settle for second. Third place went to Farshad Bagheri who will have great stories to tell us next season after attending the Granja 500 later this year.

Masters Shifter Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Masters Shifter Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Ogden USA sponsored Formula TaG Junior was a closely fought championship all season. Although contenders emerged early on, no one could predict how this ultra-competitive class would end up. It all went down to the last lap of the last race to determine that David Malukas had earned his first Florida Winter Tour championship. Second was his Top Kart USA teammate Zach Holden while Christian Munoz came on strong at the end to claim third.

In Russell Karting Specialties sponsored TaG Senior Zachary Claman DeMelo used a very strong result during the last weekend to just barely capture the championship. Determining the top three literally went down to the last checkered flag of the last race of the season. Rounding out the championship podium alongside DeMelo were Dan Roeper in second and Daniel Formal in third. The Orsolon Racing sponsored TaG Masters championship went to Miguel Gransaull, who had wrapped it up early on Saturday.

Once the class championships Palms had been handed out there were still plenty of the more than $61,000 in awards to be given away.

Florida Pro Kart Series: All TaG and Shifter class champions were awarded free entry to the first round of the upcoming Florida Pro Kart Series by series promoter Glenn Biggs. This three-race program is gaining a lot of attention in the south eastern US, and should prove to be a great follow-up to the Florida Winter Tour.

IAME: Direct manufacturers support was provided to top finishing drivers who had used IAME products throughout the season in the TaG Junior and TaG Senior classes. IAME owner and multiple-time World Karting Champion Felix Rovelli was on hand to make the awards presentation. Highest finishing driver on IAME product in each class received a complete IAME X30 engine package. Second highest placed driver on IAME product received $1,000 in IAME parts. Third highest placed driver on IAME product received $500 in IAME parts. A total value of more than $10,000.

TaG Junior Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

TaG Junior Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

In TaG Junior the top three were: David Malukas first, Zach Holden second and Christian Munoz third.

In TaG Senior the top three were: Mike Giessen first, Dustin Stross second and Joffrey Amaya third.

Skip Barber Racing: For more than ten years Skip Barber Racing has been providing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars of funding support for FWT kart racers looking to add car racing to their motorsports program. This year Skip Barber Racing provided $23,000 in awards, exclusive to the FWT Formula Kart Racing program.

This year’s awards / recipients:

First: Three-day Racing School, two-day Advanced Racing School, paid entry into the 2014 SBRS “Karts-to-Cars” scholarship program ($10,500)  /  Collin Daley Jr

Second: Three-day Racing School and paid entry into the 2014 SBRS “Karts-to-Cars” scholarship program ($7,000)  /  Michael d’Orlando

Third: Three-day Racing School and half-price entry into the 2014 SBRS “Karts-to-Cars” scholarship program ($5,500)  /  Daniel Formal

As the sun set in the West the 2014 Florida Winter Tour Formula Kart Racing Championship is in the history books.  It was truly a season of amazing action, incredible competition and growth that has us all looking towards the future. It’s bittersweet to see it come to an end, but fear not. Next week we get to experience another FWT Championship weekend as the Florida Winter Tour Rotax MAX Challenge storms into Orlando.

TaG Senior Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

TaG Senior Championship podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Up for grabs next weekend will be more fabulous awards that include seven international drivers’ championships, tickets to the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals, the prestigious Manufacturers and Nations Cups, and perhaps one of the most special awards of all, the Dan Wheldon/FWT karting Ambassador Award. And you can follow all the action right from your computer by tuning into FWT Live!, the sports original live streaming broadcast with live timing and video. It’s going to be an amazing weekend, don’t miss a minute of it!

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