Florida Winter Tour ‘Formula Kart’ Weekend Closes with Exciting Racing in Homestead

Five drivers double up in second day of competition

Florida Winter Tour 2014 logoStory provided by: Florida Winter Tour

The 16th Annual edition of the Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour, presented by Ocala Gran Prix, is now in full swing as the competitors of the Formula Kart Racing Championship were back in action at Homestead Karting. Today was the perfect day for racing, with beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine with sparse puffy clouds. It was the kind of weather that was perfect for any occasion. And for the competitors of the Florida Winter Tour “FK” weekend, the occasion called for racing!

It’s still too early in the season to make any Championship predictions. But at FWT it’s never too early to give out awards. The Florida Winter Tour has a reputation for giving out some of the best awards in karting.  Car racing scholarships with Skip Barber, a chance to race at the Granja 500 and many other product and cash prizes handed out during the season will add up to over $52,000 in awards for the Formula Kart Racing program in 2014.

Although there is currently no FWT award for the “hardest working competitor”, if there was, Miami, Florida’s Ariel Castro would be an excellent candidate. In addition to competing this weekend in his shifter kart, the 35-year-old oversees his AM Karting operation that not only builds engines, but builds its own karts as well. And they do all this while maintaining a tent full of competitors racing their products. Ariel says his passion for the sport came from his family. In his words, “My parents got married on a Saturday and went racing on Sunday. I can only imagine that I inherited that ‘drug’ from them.”

Briggs LO206 winner Jordan Perry (Photo: Studio52.us)

Briggs LO206 winner Jordan Perry (Photo: Studio52.us)

Ariel’s partner in AM Karting is his wife of two years, Mayri. He says their plans are to continue to expand their karting business and then perhaps someday move into the formula car ranks. For now though, all they have time for is karting.  AM currently has four models of chassis in manufacture and they are developing a fifth. After 27 years of driving karts, he says he’s not ready to stop, but understands the need to concentrate on the business side of things. For anyone who meets Ariel, it’s evident to see the passion he has for our sport and we look forward to seeing how far his passion will take him.

Over the past 16 years thousands of racers have enjoyed attending the Florida Winter Tour. And much of that enjoyment stems from the dedication of the many members of the FWT “Fun-Team”. From the beginning one of those members is Carla Bjorklund. The complete list of responsibilities Carla handles is immense and constantly changing.  If it deals with registration, logistics or sales, it falls under her watch.

Carla is also Bill Wright’s fiancée. Carla and Bill met more than 17 years ago and she says that before she met Bill she didn’t have any ties in racing, but was heavily involved in youth football. She says her work for the FWT is a way to stay involved with youth sport and meet interesting people.  In her “previous life” Carla owned a successful real estate business. More recently Carla has been able to curtail her involvement in real estate and now primarily focuses on helping Bill at FWT.

Michael (151) and Nicholas (115) d'Orlando went 1-2 both days in TaG Cadet (Photo: Studio52.us)

Michael (151) and Nicholas (115) d’Orlando went 1-2 both days in TaG Cadet (Photo: Studio52.us)

Carla says she has many great FWT memories over the years. So many, in fact, that she really can’t say there’s any one “best” memory. She says perhaps her most cherished honor from The Tour is the opportunity to watch the young kids grow up and into young adults. It’s these types of experiences that remind us that karting really is one big family, and Carla Bjorklund is a big part of the FWT karting family.

Top Kart USA / Briggs and Stratton sponsored Briggs LO206 Senior
The Briggs LO206 class once again was the first class to take to the track. This class proved on Saturday that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to experience fun, competitive racing, and with nearly $8,000 in cash and prizes to be given away this year in this class, look for it to become one of the most popular.

In Sunday morning’s qualifying session Canadian Mathieu Demers set the fastest time at 55.129 seconds to claim Koene USA’s P1 Pole Award. Demers’ time was less than a tenth of a second faster than Saturday’s top qualifier Kevin King (Canada) and all indications pointed to another set of close races in the LO206 category.

Open Shifter podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Open Shifter podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

In Heat one it was King who emerged the winner but only by a fraction over Collin Daley Jr. (Jamaica) and Demers. In the second heat race, Floridian Jordan Perry got the setup he’d just put together Friday evening working as it should, and he would take the win by a half a second over King.

With no one dominating throughout the day, the stage was set for a very competitive final, and that’s exactly what we got.  Off the grid it was King setting the pace with Perry, Demers, Daley, and Steven Kilsdonk (USA) on a Victory Kart in hot pursuit. As the laps counted down, the karts spread out a bit, featuring multiple two-kart drafting battles. The front two by this point were Perry and King who circulated as though they were tied to each other.

With two laps to go King led, but Perry made a perfectly-timed move and took over the top spot on the backside of the track. He was able to hold station to the finish to capture his first 4-stroke win by 0.858 of a second. In taking the win, Jordan Perry took home the FWT Palm trophy, the $250 for first place and the $100 hard Charger Award. Joining Perry on the podium were Kevin King in second and Collin Daley Jr. in third. In fifth place, it was Steven Kilsdonk who again pocketed $250 for being the top finishing competitor on a Victory chassis.

Stock Moto winner Matthew Di Leo (Photo: Studio52.us)

Stock Moto winner Matthew Di Leo (Photo: Studio52.us)

AM Racing Kart sponsored Formula TaG Cadet
During Saturday’s action in the Formula TaG Cadet class it was the d’Orlando brothers, Michael and Nicholas, that swept the qualifying and race sessions. In Sunday’s qualifying, the domination continued as the two brothers from New York again set the fastest times in the Formula Kart program’s largest class. This time it was Michael leading the way with a lap of 52.445 seconds.

In the two heat races, Michael and Nicholas split the result with one win apiece, with Brazilian Gianluca Petecof capturing the third spot in both races. This set the grid for the final with the d’Orlando brothers sharing the front row with the chance at an FWT first, having two brothers sweep qualifying and every single race over a Florida Winter Tour event-weekend. And to do it in a class as competitive as Formula TaG Cadet would add even more to the accomplishment. However, before history could be made they would still have to get the better of the other very fast TaG Cadet drivers.

Masters Shifter podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

Masters Shifter podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

In the opening laps, as if by script, Michael and Nicholas d’Orlando assumed the lead with Lachlan DeFrancesco (Canada) pushing them hard in third. After falling back to fourth at the start, Petecof was on the charge again and came up to challenge DeFrancesco as d’Orlando and d’Orlando started to pull away. At the end of 14 very contentious laps it was Michael d’Orlando taking the win with his younger brother Nicholas 1.926 seconds behind in second to complete the historic sweep. Six seconds adrift of Nicholas was Giancarlo Petecof, who came home third to earn his spot on the podium.

Following the TaG Cadet karts were the three shifter classes; Formula Masters Shifter, Formula Open Shifter and Formula Stock Moto. The Koene USA sponsored P1 Pole Position awards went to Ariel Castro in Masters (USA/Rok), Collin Daley Jr. in Open (Jamaica/Rok) and Matthew Di Leo in Stock Moto (Canada/Honda) for their quick laps they set in qualifying.

Bordogna Racing Engines sponsored Open Shifter
On Sunday Collin Daley Jr. continued his dominance in Formula Open Shifter.  Whether it was with the Maxter power plant he ran on Saturday or the Rok Shifter on Sunday, the “Usain Bolt of karting” would not be denied in any session be it qualifying or racing. In the final, following Daley to the line in second was none other than Nick Neri (USA/RoK) with Dominic Legrand (Canada/Rok) in third and Christian Lall Dass (USA/Maxter) in fourth.

International Racing USA sponsored Stock Moto
Both Formula Stock Moto heats were won by Matthew Di Leo. Not only did he have the measure of the Stock Moto class but he was also running fast enough to be up in the thick of it in the Formula Open shifters. In the final Di Leo used his good form to take a second Final win for the weekend and was joined on the podium by TBKart teammates Chris Gannon (USA/Honda) and Matthew Sanford (USA/Honda) in second and third respectively.

David Malukas was classified as the TaG Junior winner on Sunday (Photo: Studio52.us)

David Malukas was classified as the TaG Junior winner on Sunday (Photo: Studio52.us)

Decal Zone sponsored Masters Shifter
The largest shifter class on the weekend was the Formula Masters Shifter category. On Sunday the 11 competitors took to the 7/10ths of a mile Homestead Karting circuit to battle once again for the coveted FWT Palm trophies. As it was on Saturday, Ariel Castro was again the class of the field as he parlayed his P1 pole position into top finishes in both heat races and capped his weekend off with another win in the finals. Kurt Matthewson (USA/Honda) finished second, and Praga owner Petr Ptacek (Czech Republic/IAME X) repeated on the podium in third.

Ogden USA sponsored Formula TaG Junior
The Ogden USA’s Formula TaG Junior competitors stormed the track Sunday morning for their qualifying session. At the end of the session it was the Canadian Roman DeAngelis atop the time sheets as he used his IAME X30 to propel him to a lap of 47.371 seconds. In Heat 1, Vincenzo Sarracino (USA/X30) took the win over David Malukas (USA/X30) while Heat 2 saw Michael Benyahia (USA/X30) prevail over a second place Antonio Serravalle (Canada/X30).

UK driver Ed Brand scored the victory in TaG Senior (Photo: Studio52.us)

UK driver Ed Brand scored the victory in TaG Senior (Photo: Studio52.us)

At the start of the final, David Malukas assumed the lead on lap one followed by Matt Solarczyk (USA/X30) and Nick Brueckner (USA/Leopard).  David was able to hold the lead for the bulk of the race while Saturday’s winner, Christian Muñoz (USA/X30), was picking his way through the field after a technical DQ in one of the heats.  With a handful of laps to go, Muñoz made his pass for the lead to get to the checkers first. However, another technical DQ for Munoz dropped him from the standings. This left David Malukas as the winner with Roman DeAngelis in second and Zach Holden (USA/Leopard) in third.

Russell Karting Specialties sponsored Formula TaG Senior
Running as the anchor leg of the sets of qualifying and race sessions, the Formula TaG Senior class packed plenty of firepower to be the grand finale of this fine day of racing. In the morning was a fast qualifying session in which Ed Brand (UK/Rotax) took his second consecutive pole position. Ed would use the #1 starting spot in the first heat to take a 3.505 second victory over Saturday’s final winner Danny Formal (USA/Rotax).  In the second TaG Senior heat it was Zach Claman DeMelo (Canada/Rotax) who worked through the inverted field to take an impressive win from his 24th starting spot.

Ed Brand led the field to the green to start the TaG senior final. It was a clean start for the entire field as they set off down the backstretch at maximum speed. Through the middle of the race Brand continued to lead with his teammate DeMelo right behind.  Dan Roeper (USA/Rotax) followed closely in third while Mike Giessen (USA/Leopard) hung on in fourth.

TaG Masters podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

TaG Masters podium (Photo: Studio52.us)

During Saturday’s Final Ed Brand clipped a barrier, damaging the kart and slowing him down enough to affect the final outcome.  Today he made no such mistake and, after a furious race-long battle, took a 1.258 second victory over the improving Dan Roeper in second and Brands teammate DeMelo third.

Orsolon Racing Sponsored TaG Masters
Formula TaG Masters may have been one of the smaller classes this weekend, but it featured no less than a 24 Hours of Daytona winner in the form of Nelson Canache (USA/X30). In fact, Nelson used this warm up to this year’s 24 Hours to display his karting talents while sweeping qualifying and the subsequent races.  On the podium with Nelson Canache after the final was Miguel Gransaull (USA/Leopard) and Gregory Violo (Venezuela/Leopard).

Skip Barber/FWT Driver Awards Registration Deadline Approaching
With over $23,000 in driver support available, these awards represent a huge opportunity for any driver who wants to add car racing to their motorsports program. Drivers should remember that to be eligible for these awards they must register at info@formulakart.com . Deadline for registration is January 20th. See the details here.

IAME Awards
With almost $10,000 in product awards on the line for IAME/PARILLA drivers it’s worth noting that Roman DeAngelis is currently the highest placed IAME driver in TaG Junior and Mike Giessen is currently the highest placed IAME driver in TaG Senior. Three drivers in each class are eligible. See the details of that program here.

And with that, the first event-weekend of the 2014 Florida Winter Tour is in the books. However, as the Formula Kart Racing program was finishing up, the FWT Rotax MAX Challenge competitors began filtering in to prepare for their big event that officially starts this Friday, the 17th. The world’s largest official Rotax Max Challenge series should provide more “World Class” competition at “THE Winter Place to Be!!. We suggest you make the trip over, down, up or out to beautiful sunny HomesteadFlorida for the next event. And if you can’t make it in person, be sure to attend “virtually” by logging on to our exclusive FWT Live! interactive broadcast at www.FloridaWinterTour.com.

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