Florida Winter Tour – 16 Year Later and Still Growing
The Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour is one of kartings oldest and longest continuously running racing programs. From its humble beginnings in the winter of 1999 “The FWT” has grown into one of the world’s largest, geographically diverse, competitive and prestigious sprint kart racing programs.
Bill Wright, exclusive owner and promoter of The FWT, is excited to report that for the 15th time in its 16 year history the FWT recorded an increase in the total number of drivers and entries during its recently completed 16th edition. The 2014 FWT featured 382 drivers accounting for 1,780 entries. Participating drivers represented 26 countries and all six karting continents.
A SHORT FWT HISTORY LESSON
FWT began as a Honda CR125 based shifter-only SKUSA program. The first FWT race, actually contested in December 1998, consisted of 24 drivers in three Honda shifter classes.
By 2002 the FWT had expanded to include four shifter classes, two direct drive classes (JICA and ICA), three Rotax classes (Junior, Senior and Masters), and dropped the SKUSA sanction.
In 2006 the growth of classes and competitors had reached a point that a single event weekend didn’t provide enough time to meet the increasing demands of the series. So for 2007 FWT was split into two separate Championships, racing on back-to-back weekends. This format, consisting of the FWT Formula Kart Racing Championship and the FWT Rotax Max Challenge, remains in place today.
The 2007 “FK” weekends consisted of two Senior and one Masters shifter classes, Cadet drivers on Comer 80, Junior and Senior drivers on ICA (Intercontinental A direct drive), and Senior and Masters drivers on the then new “TaG” engines.
The 2007 FWT Rotax Max Challenge weekends consisted of Senior, Junior and Masters classes, and featured the introduction of the new Mini and DD2 classes.
Over the next five years the FWT saw a slow but steady decline in the number of classes and entries at the Formula Kart Racing Championship. Conversely, for the next five years the FWT Rotax Max Challenge showed steady growth and the introduction of two new classes. Amazingly, even during the economic troubles after 2008, the overall numbers for the combined programs continued to climb every year until 2013, when economic pressures and the introduction of several competing programs finally saw a slight decrease in overall participation. Sadly, 2013 was also the first time in its 15 year history that the FWT did not feature a shifter kart Championship.
2014 FORMULA KART RACING CHAMPIONSHIP
It is the height of irony that the classes that disappeared from the FWT “FK” Championship in 2013 helped it to grow substantially for the second consecutive year in 2014. Shifter karts made a return to FWT in a big way, providing the largest percentage of an amazing 34% growth in the 2014 FWT “FK” Championship, averaging 110 drivers and 222 entries per event-weekend, with a high of 117 drivers at the March rounds in Orlando.
2014 FWT ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE
Sometimes success can be its own worst enemy. After an amazing 10 years of double-digit growth-percentages, the FWT RMC succumbed to an increasingly overburdened event schedule and competition from the introduction of several new RMC’s, and for the past two years has shown a decrease in overall participation. The good news is that even with these declines it is still the largest official RMC series in the world. The 2014 FWT RMC averaged 184 drivers and 372 entries per event weekend, with a high of 210 drivers at the January rounds in Homestead.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT!
Over the past 16 years many things have changed in karting in The Americas. Series, predominant classes and engine makes and models have come and gone. One constant has been the ownership and leadership of Bill Wright at the Florida Winter Tour. Although the FWT classes and formats may change, Bill’s dedication to providing a safe, competitive and fun racing program, and his commitment to providing groundbreaking advancements in marshaling and event media coverage have not, and Bill looks forward to many more years of “SERIOUS FUN!” at the Florida Winter Tour.