Race Report: Florida Winter Tour – Formula Kart Weekend – Homestead Karting

TaG drivers take on Southern Florida facility for second stop of 2013 program

TaG Cadet heading to the green flag
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Saturday Report

The competitors of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour are back in action at the Homestead Karting facility. On track were the drivers of the Formula Kart Racing program who would be going for wins and having “Serious Fun” in the four Formula TaG classes. Last year the Homestead rounds of the Formula Kart Racing program proved pivotal in the Nations Cup, Manufacturers Cup, Drivers Championship and the Skip Barber / FWT award program, and it looks like this year we’re seeing that trend continue.

After a steady rain through the night, the track was clean and mostly dry for Saturday morning’s warm up sessions. After the warm ups, the drivers were ready for qualifying on the challenging Homestead Karting layout. The facility here is lined and dotted with palm trees, very appropriate for the Florida Winter Tour. It also provides some subliminal motivation this year for the driver’s to make the podium and receive karting’s newest signature trophy, “The Palm”.

AM Engines sponsored Formula Vortex TaG Cadet (30 entries)

In AM Engines Formula Vortex TaG Cadet qualifying, Anthony Gangi Jr. (USA) continued his dominating form from Palm Beach as he set the pole time with a lap of 53.569 seconds over fellow New Yorker Dylan Tavella (USA). In a bit of a sweep for the EmpireState in qualifying, Giovanni Bromante (USA) rounded out the top three.

In the first TaG Cadet heat, Santiago Terife (Venezuela) emerged victorious over Gangi in a battle that saw them separated by only 0.237 of a second at the line. In heat race #2, Gangi Jr. resumed his winning ways and took the win by over three seconds from USA’s Neil Verhagen.

At the start of the TaG Cadet Final, Anthony Gangi Jr. and Dylan Tavella took off from the front row and commenced a battle of their own while Antonio Serravalle (Canada) worked to hold off David Malukas (USA) for third. As the race wore on, Gangi and Tavella continued to pull away while Michael d’Orlando worked his way up to third. That would end up being the top three Anthony Gangi Jr. taking the win and a race podium sweep for drivers from New York.

Euro Motorsports sponsored Formula TaG Masters (8 entries)

Jim Russell Jr. made his 2013 debut with victory in TaG Masters (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Jim Russell Jr. made his 2013 debut with victory in TaG Masters
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Moving from the youngest competitors to the most seasoned, the Euro Motorsports TaG Masters. TaG Masters qualifying saw some great laps being turned by the competitors. In the end, it was 2011 FWT TaG Masters Champion Jim Russell Jr. who captured the pole position with a lap of 50.155 seconds.

Qualifying did not go as expected for Juan Font. The fast Venezuelan set the second fastest time but was light across the scales, forcing him to start the first heat from the rear of the field. This added an extra dimension to the first heat race as Font was able to come through the field to finish third behind Russell and Nelson Canache (USA). With the inverted field for the second heat Font was looking forward to Heat #2.

In Tag Masters Heat #2, Font initially put his top starting spot to good use. However, Jim Russell Jr. was not to be denied as he came through the pack to take his second heat win of the day over Mexican Javier Gonzalez by just 0.629 seconds, with Font coming home third.

The start of the TaG Masters Final had the spectators on their feet as Canache, Russell, Font and Brent Lyman (USA) went four-wide into turn one! Entering turn one, Canache managed to momentarily take the lead with a big move down the inside. Following Canache through was another quick Venezuelan, Christian Calvo. Unfortunately Calvo bounced off the inside curb, into Russel, bending Russel’s axle.

This dropped Russell Jr. back, but never out of striking distance from early race leader Juan Font. For lap-after-lap, Font and Russell pulled out a lead over the field. With a handful of laps to go, Russell pulled off a move for the lead down into turn one and held that to the checkers to take his first FWT final win of the season. Joining Russell and Font on the podium was recent 24 Hours of Daytona winner Nelson Canache who’s proving he can run up front in cars and karts.

RYSA Racing sponsored Formula TaG Senior (20 entries)

TaG Junior field shuffles into turn one (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

TaG Junior field shuffles into turn one
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

The TaG Senior competitors took to the track for qualifying and Daniel Formal (Costa Rica) showed his double race wins in Palm Beach were just the beginning. The reigning FWT TaG Senior champion laid down the fastest lap of qualifying at 48.555 seconds to take pole over Venezuelan Jose Zanella and Floridian Dominic Tesoro.

At the start of Heat #1, Zanella pulled off a beautiful outside pass going into turn one to take the lead over Formal. From there the two battled in tight formation while the pack gave chase. With two laps to go, Formal and Zanella touched briefly in the mid-track section, sending Zanella into a spin that ended his race. Bad luck for Zanella worked in the favor of Roger Ralston Jr. (USA) who was able to move into the second position behind Formal with Christopher Morrison (USA) coming home third.

In the inverted field heat #2, Daniel Formal proved he can win from anywhere as he blitzed through the field to take the heat race win. Continued bad luck for Zanella, and this time Ralston as well, would see those two finish down the field while Dominic Tesoro (USA) and Michael Melancon (USA) took second and third respectively.

The TaG Senior Final was all Daniel Formal as he used his top starting spot to check out on the field to remain unbeaten in TaG Senior Finals in 2013. Behind Formal, however, there was a lot of great racing going on. Kevin Barbesino (USA) spent the beginning of the race in second, but eventually, Zanella and Ralston came through the pack to make it onto the podium in second and third respectively.

MDD sponsored Formula TaG Junior (24 entries)

Saturday TaG Junior winner Jack Weprin (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Saturday TaG Junior winner Jack Weprin
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Twenty four TaG Junior drivers took to the track Saturday morning for qualifying in the MDD sponsored class. Coming out fastest was another of the quick Venezuelans, Marucio Baiz. Behind Marucio were the USA’s Colin Warren and Jack Weprin in second and third respectively.

Jack Weprin continued his strong start to the 2013 racing season as he was able to take the win in the first TaG Junior heat race by almost a second over Gavin Reichelt (USA), with Floridian Derek Sobel third. Brasilian Pedro Cardoso, reigning FWT Mini Max Champion, had a mechanical failure on his warmup lap in qualifying and had to start from the back of the 24 kart field, but charged his way forward to finish 7th, gaining valuable points that would make a big difference in the final.

With the field inverted for heat #2, there was plenty of action all through the pack as the faster drivers were moving through on their way to the front. Brazilian Pedro Cardoso would start up front after his problems in qualifying and he would make the most of his opportunity to take the win. Behind Cardoso, Jack Weprin came in second over a charging Juan Manuel Correa (Ecuador).

In the TaG Junior Final, all bets were off as any of the top five had a shot at this one. Weprin took the early lead, but it was Gavin Reichelt that stormed to the front to assume the top spot on lap two. For many laps the top two would thrust and parry as Pedro Cardoso and Derek Sobel (USA) were right on their bumpers. With about four laps to go, Jack Weprin took the lead going into the inner hairpin. This left Cardoso and Reichelt to battle for second and their battle was just enough to give Weprin the slightest breathing space that he needed to solidify his lead. In the end it was Jack Weprin taking the win over Gavin Reichelt in second and Pedro Cardoso finishing off the podium in third.

The podium celebrations were held during a beautiful Florida sunset as the triumphant competitors received their FWT Palm trophies. Afterwards, the order for many was to clean up, prep for tomorrow, then get back to their respective hotels to watch the special NASCAR race from Daytona. The Daytona race, this year referred to as the Sprint Unlimited, is one of those where they constantly change the format to keep the fans interested. Perhaps they should take some format advice from the Florida Winter Tour. This year’s format for the Formula Kart Racing program, featuring and extra heat race with an inverted starting grid, has led to a solid increase in TaG entries and has made the Formula Kart Racing portion of The Tour more popular than ever.

Sunday Report

After a Saturday of very competitive action at the Homestead Karting facility, the Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour was at it again for Round Four of the Formula Kart Racing program. The day dawned clear and bright, with a chill in the air reminding the participants that this is the Florida WINTER Tour. By lunchtime, the Florida sunshine had sent the cold winds away and once again we were treated to a perfect day to be at the racetrack.

As many race participants know, racetrack food too often consists of cold hot dogs and fries, or burnt hamburgers. But, at Homestead Karting this weekend, both onsite food vendors received rave reviews from the event participants. Back from last year was a BBQ caterer that has some of the best pulled pork this side of the Mississippi. The other food vendor was equally special, with a menu of items usually only found at a state fair.

What sort of items would this be? Well, let’s just say if you’ve even thought to yourself, “I wish I had a bacon cheeseburger with onions served between two grilled-cheese sandwiches”, then you missed out if you weren’t at this weekend’s FWT event. These are just some of the things that make The Tour so fun and unique. Another is the people that come from all over the world to participate. We sat down with two such competitors to find out what The Florida Winter Tour means to them.

Brazilian Pedro Cardoso is back at the FWT this year competing in TaG Junior during the Formula Kart weekends and Junior MAX during the Rotax weekends. The 13-year-old from Brasilia has been racing karts for five years and says he got started when he was watching a friend race and was able to talk his father into letting him try. When asked what his favorite part of racing is, he just smiled and said, “Passing!”

When not racing, Pedro says his favorite hobbies are skateboarding and playing soccer. But, he says his true passion in life is to become a Formula One World Champion like his favorite driver, Sebastian Vettel. Even though he’s only raced for five years, he’s already racking up a pretty impressive resume. Of his accomplishments, he lists two as his favorite. Those two would be winning last year’s Florida Winter Tour Mini MAX championship, and winning the Brazilian National championship to be awarded a ticket to compete in the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals last year in Portugal.

Don Whittington often races shifter karts, but this weekend is racing TaG Senior in only his second TaG race. Don comes from a famous racing family where his father, Don, and uncle, Bill, teamed up with German Klaus Ludwig to win the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1979. With a pedigree like that you would think that Don would have grown up racing karts or cars. But, actually, the 26-year-old from Ft.Lauderdale has only raced karts for one year now after years of racing motorcycles.

When asked why he switched, he said that after breaking his collarbone 4 times, he needed to find another, safer, hobby that still fueled his passion for speed. Don says he really likes the “science” of racing karts and is learning about chassis setups every time he takes to the track. When asked of his impressions of the Florida Winter Tour, he says he cannot believe how competitive the TaG classes are. In Don’s words, “those guys that run up front are really good. You just cannot make a mistake in one of these (TaG karts), or you will lose many spots to those you’re racing with.”

Don and Pedro are just two of the multitude of drivers that have made the Florida Winter Tour “THE Winter Place To Be!” Let’s take a look at how the other competitors fared in Sunday’s races and who took home one of the FWT’s signature “Palm” trophies.

AM Engines sponsored Formula Vortex TaG Cadet (31 Entries)

Double TaG Cadet winner Anthony Gangi Jr. (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Double TaG Cadet winner Anthony Gangi Jr.
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

After dominating the TaG Cadet class on Saturday, Anthony Gangi Jr. (USA) signaled his intentions to do the same on Sunday with a fat qualifying lap of 52.653 seconds. Joining Anthony on the front row for the heat races would be his teammate, Giovanni Bromante who qualified 0.106 of a second behind Gangi. David Malukas was third fastest with a lap of 53.027.

In the first TaG Cadet heat race Anthony and Giovanni ran nose-to-tail ahead of a battling pack of karts led initially by David Malukas (USA) and Nick Brueckner (USA). At the front the GT7 Motorsport teammates worked together to pull away from those behind. Coming to the checkers, Bromante made a run for the lead but came up just 0.097 of a second short at the line. New Yorker Michael d’Orlando came home third after a furious race long battle involving positions three thru seven.

TaG Cadet Heat two was again a show of domination by the pair from New York. However, behind Gangi and Bromante, Michael d’Orlando (USA), Guilherme Romano (Brazil) and Nick Brueckner had a tremendous duel for third that eventually again went to d’Orlando.

In the TaG Cadet Final, the large pack of karts accelerated towards turn one with Gangi maintaining the lead. However, this time it was Michael d’Orlando getting the jump to slot into second. As those two ran nose-to-tail for the lead, Bromante had fallen back in the pack. However, Bromante hooked up with David Malukas and the two worked their way back up to battle for third.

In the end it was another win for Gangi but this time a second position on the podium for d’Orlando. Malukas finished third on the track but a non-compliance issue in post-tech moved Bromante to third. This marked the second day in a row that we had three drivers from New York filling out the FWT TaG Cadet podium. It will be interesting to see if the Empire State can keep up their streak at Ocala Gran Prix in March.

Euro Motorsports sponsored Formula TaG Masters (8 Entries)

Juan J. Font scored the victory in TaG Masters on Sunday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Juan J. Font scored the victory in TaG Masters on Sunday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Qualifying for Euro Motorsports TaG Masters had a south of the border feel to it as Mexican Javier Gonzales set fast time over Venezuelan Juan J. Font. Gonzales toured the 7/10s of a mile Homestead Karting layout in 49.207 seconds to sit on pole with an average speed of 51.212 MPH. Third fastest was another Venezuelan, Christian Calvo on the revived Kali Kart.

In the first heat race, Juan Font made the most of his front row starting spot to take the victory by 0.655 seconds over James Russell Jr. (USA). Nelson Canache (USA), fresh off his win in the Daytona 24 Hour race, came in third just one second adrift of Russell.

With the second heat race featuring an inverted starting order, it was the popular George Moss (USA) leading the field at the start. However, before the race was one-lap-old, Nelson Canache had taken a big lead that he would stretch all the way to the checkers. Canache’s win by almost six seconds over Font was one of the most dominating performances we’d seen all weekend. After engine problems on Saturday Indianan Bryan Seward showed his true potential, coming to the line third.

In the TaG Masters Final, Font and Canache started on the front row, but, by the end of lap one it was Jim Russell Jr. on Fonts bumper as the two dueled for the lead. By the midway point of the race, Christian Calvo (Venezuela) joined the two to make it a three-way battle for the lead. With the laps winding down, Font was able to gap Calvo, who had gotten past Russell on the run to the inner hairpin. At the checkers it was Font (1st), Calvo (2nd) and Russell (3rd) who would stand atop the FWT podium and receive the coveted FWT Palms for their day’s work.

RYSA Racing Formula TaG Senior (21 entries)

Daniel Formal continued his winning streak with two more in TaG Senior (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Daniel Formal continued his winning streak with two more in TaG Senior
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

With all his success, especially with three successive FWT TaG Senior wins of late, the smart bet would be to see Daniel Formal (USA) on pole in TaG Senior. However, races aren’t run on paper and when Sunday qualifying was over, TaG Senior rookie Dominic Tesoro (USA) used his new AM Kart to stand atop the time sheets and claim his first FWT pole of the year.

In TaG Senior Heat #1, Jose Zanella (Venezuela) and Daniel Formal grabbed the top two spots on the first lap, leaving polesitter Tesoro to battle Roger Ralston, Jr. for third. After 14 laps of seriously hard racing, Zanella was able to hold off Formal by just under a half second to score the win, with Tesoro coming third.

In Heat Race #2, the inverted field put the fastest qualifiers at the back of the pack. But, for drivers like Formal and Zanella, it doesn’t seem to matter where they start. After scorching drives through the pack, Daniel and Jose were able to work their way up to first and third respectively, sandwiching Kevin Barbesino (USA) who came in second.

The TaG Senior Final would see Formal, Zanella and Roger Ralston Jr. use their solid heat race results to start in the top three spots. As the field sped into turn one, Formal and Zanella once again assumed the top two spots. Behind them, Dominic Tesoro had his hands full holding off a determined Roger Ralston Jr. Lap-after-lap Zanella and Formal put on a driving clinic at the front. After getting around Tesoro, Ralston put on a charge for the leaders. In the end, Formal won going away and Zanella was just able to hold off a determined Ralston who continues to impress in his Team MDD Praga.

MDD sponsored Formula TaG Junior (25 entries)

For those that love good close racing the Formula TaG Junior class almost never disappoints. These young drivers have skills that belie their ages and the lap times are always close. How close? For today’s pole qualifying, Venezuelan Mauricio Baiz beat out Ecuadorian-turned-American Juan Manuel Correa by less than seven-thousandths of a second to secure the top spot. Saturday TaG Junior winner Jack Weprin was third.

Juan Manuel Correa triumphed in TaG Junior on Sunday (Photo: Ken Johnson - Florida Winter Tour)

Juan Manuel Correa triumphed in TaG Junior on Sunday
(Photo: Ken Johnson – Florida Winter Tour)

Going into the heat races, Baiz, the 2012 Easy Kart World Champion, looked to use his top starting spot to his advantage. In Heat #1 he did just that as he was able to secure the victory over Christian Munoz (USA) by just over a second with Juan Manuel Correa in third.

In the second heat race the inverted field led to even more great racing and in the end it was Poland’s Antoni Ptak who emerged victorious. It must be noted that Ptak’s victory did not come from him starting at the front from a poor qualifying time. Antoni’s win came from a mid pack start, signifying just how close the competition is in TaG Junior. And, that sometimes all someone needs is a little better track position to bring home a win.

In the Tag Junior Final, Mauricio Baiz took the early lead but the top spot belonged to Correa by the end of the first lap. Ptak used his solid heat race results to secure a great starting spot in the final but got turned around in the first turn and fell down the order. Behind the top two, Gavin Reichelt (USA), Christian Munoz and Saturday’s winner Jack Weprin (USA) began a heated battle for third.

A little further back in the pack, Argentina’s Ignacio Salvucci was carving through some pretty fast competitors to work his way up to third. As the laps wore on, Baiz made several attempts to take the lead but Correa wouldn’t surrender. At the finish it was Correa taking the win by just 0.508 of a second over the Easy Kart world Champion. Behind them, Salvucci would solidify third to claim the last FWT Palm of the day.

With four rounds of the 2013 FWT Formula Kart Racing program now in the record books, leaders are emerging in the coveted championships for Nations, Manufacturer’s and Drivers. For those drivers attempting to win the Skip Barber Award (http://www.floridawintertour.com/news/61-2013/366-skip-barber-fwt-22000-scholarship-awards.html), almost nothing else matters. As evidence of this, during his podium celebration, Daniel Formal took time during his interview with Formula Kart Production’s President Bill Wright to discuss how much he wants to win the Skip Barber award.

Last year, Daniel won five of the six TaG Senior races, but it wasn’t enough. So, this year he’s staying focused on the first place prize that includes a 3-Day Racing School ($4000), plus one Advanced 2-Day Racing School ($3500), plus one guaranteed 2013 Karting Shootout Entry ($3000) for a total current retail value $10,500. But, rest assured, Daniel is not the only competitor with his eye on the Skip Barber award. In the coming races, the competition will only get hotter so stay tuned to see who the winners are.

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