Race Report: Florida Winter Tour Rok Cup USA
Kirkwood extends streak to four, Barrichello and Myers split while Peixoto and Malukas earn their first wins
The second stop of the new Cold Stone Florida Winter Tour Rok Cup USA presented by MG Tires was held at the Orlando Kart Center on February 20-22. Nearly 150 drivers from multiple nations took part in the event, enjoying the sunny weather in Florida albeit with some colder temperatures than normal. On track, five drivers secured a double-win weekend in their respective categories, including Kyle Kirkwood, Richard Heistand, Eduardo Dieter, Nicholas d’Orlando, and Felipe Bartz while the Rok Shifter and Junior Rok provided two new winners – including Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello.
Ocala Gran Prix driver Kyle Kirkwood extended his lead in the Senior Rok championship chase, performing another double win weekend in Orlando. It was a near weekend sweep, aside from Brazilian Andre Nicastro (Techspeed) scoring fast time in qualifying on Saturday. Kirkwood was fourth in the session behind Brazilian Joao Cunha (Techspeed) and Christian Munoz (Tony Kart). Munoz got the jump on the field in the Prefinal and led the majority of the race until an electrical issue struck his powerplant, ending his race. Kirkwood took over the lead and scored the win. From the pole position, Kyle led all 18 laps of the Final for his third straight victory. Nicastro was second with Morgan Healey (Tony Kart) landing her first podium of the series in third. Ryan Norberg (PCR) and Canadian Gianfranco Mazzaferro (Tony Kart) made up the top-five.
Kirkwood swept the action on Sunday, earning maximum points on the day. Kirkwood qualifying first, and won the Prefinal after getting challenge by Nicastro, who retired on lap eight. At the start of the Final, Kyle was shuffled back to third, only to fight his way past Cunha and Norberg in four laps. He led the remainder of the race for his fourth victory. Norberg drove to his first podium of the series with a runner-up finish, as Healey repeated her third place result from the day before. Nicastro fought his way up from the tail of the field to place fourth, with Cunha back to fifth.
After Mathias Ramirez swept the feature races in Homestead, the Junior Rok category saw two new drivers in Orlando. Brazilian Gulherme Peixoto (Kosmic) triumphed on Saturday with David Malukas (Top Kart) on top Sunday. Peixoto was second in qualifying on Saturday, clocking in between Koene USA / Tony Kart drivers Roman de Angelis and Michael d’Orlando. Canadian de Angelis led all 14 laps of the Prefinal, with Brazilian Gianluca Petecof sliding up to second ahead of Peixoto. Roman led the field to the green flag, and only lasted a few corners before he was hit behind and suffered a mechanical issue, unable to continue. That gave Peixoto the lead, as the Rolison Performance Group pilot drove away to a 1.6-second advantage after leading all 18 laps. Ramirez (Tony Kart) finished second with Brazilian Arthur Leist (Techspeed) in third. Michael d’Orlando ended up fourth as Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) ran fifth.
Sunday was a perfect result for Malukas, sweeping the action. He edged out de Angelis for the fast time in qualifying, and drove away to a three-second win over the Canadian in the Prefinal. Malukas was challenged by Ramirez and Enzo Fittipaldi until he secured the lead on lap 12, holding on for the remainder of the race to secure the victory. Fittipaldi crossed the line second with Michael McCarthy (BirelART) onto the podium in third. Luis Jose Forteza (PSL) was fourth with Petecof in fifth.
Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello and AJ Myers split the victories in the 13-driver Rok Shifter category. The popular Brazilian driver drove to a perfect score on Saturday, leading the way from qualifying to the last checkered flag. Fellow Brazilian and Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. pressured the elder driver, only to finish second with Myers driving to third. Daniel Formal (DR Kart) and Milan Dontje (CRG) rounded out the top-five. Barrichello edged out Piquet for fast time in the qualifying session on Sunday, earning a new track record in the process (50.383), and drove away to the Prefinal win by two seconds. Barrichello led the first two laps of the Final but Myers was the quickest kart early on. He took over the lead from Rubens, and was able to get away as they fought for second behind them. Myers led the remainder of the race for his first series victory with Barrichello in the second spot. Piquet drove to third with Dontje and Austin Garrison (Tony Kart) in fourth and fifth.
Richard Heistand (Tony Kart) continued his win streak from Homestead, scoring both wins in the Rok Shifters Masters division. Heistand was perfect on Saturday, leading from qualifying to the Final. Canadian Michel Legrand (CRG) and Jason Alden (TB Kart) made up the podium, with Chris Gannon (TB Kart) and Daniel Miglorancia (Tony Kart) completing the top-five. Heistand was on his way to another perfect day on Sunday, earning fast time in qualifying and crossed the line first in the Prefinal. However, he was removed from the results after crossing the scales underweight. That gave Alden the race win. Heistand was on the charge, coming from 12th on the grid and drove back to the front. By lap 16, Heistand was into the lead around Alden, and scored the victory. Alden slipped back to fourth behind Gannon and Vicki Brian (Tony Kart), while Legrand crossed the line fifth.
Masters Rok saw Eduardo Dieter (Techspeed) complete a weekend sweep to extend his championship lead. The Final race on Saturday was a Brazilian 1-2-3-4 finish, with Dieter out front by 15 seconds over Rodrigo Piquet (Tony Kart), Alexandre Rigon (Techspeed), and Jorge Borelli (Techspeed) with Francois Brun-Wibaux (PCR) in fifth. The advantage Dieter held in Sunday’s victory was just under 17 seconds, with Rigon placing second. Piquet crossed the line third, but was handed a one-position penalty for a driving infraction, moving Andre Duek (Tony Kart) to the podium, dropping Piquet to fourth ahead of U.D. Ramsey (Tony Kart).
Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) was able to match a feat his brother Michael did twice last year in the Formula K program of the FWT – two wins in one weekend. The New York driver drove his way to the Mini Rok victory both days this weekend in Orlando, taking over the championship lead. Jonny Edgar (Benik), who entered the weekend as the point leader, posted the fast lap in Saturday’s qualifying session ahead of 40 other drivers with a 58.831-second time. d’Orlando was third behind Reece Gold (Tony Kart). Edgar won his two heat races, while d’Orlando and Gold split the other two. A large group of drivers made up the lead pack in the 14-lap Final with Edgar, Gold and d’Orlando among the lap leaders. Canadian Matthew Latifi (Tony Kart) took over the point with four laps remaining as d’Orlando put himself in the second position. On the final circuit, Latifi ran a defensive line down the back straight, and drifted wide at the turn, allowing d’Orlando to slide past for the lead, and the victory. Latifi held on for second with Egar on the podium in third. Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) was fourth with Wesley Mason (Benik) fifth.
New faces moved to the front on Sunday in qualifying, as Derek Carmenate (Benik) and Jak Crawford (Benik) set the fast laps of the session, while d’Orlando was third once again. Crawford went two for two in his heat races to retain the pole position with Gold and d’Orlando each winning a heat race. At the start of the Final, Crawford was shuffled back, as Carmenate took over the point. On lap five, d’Orlando moved into the lead, and led the remaining circuits for his second victory of the weekend. Carmenate drove to second with Gold winning the battle for third over DeFrancesco and Jeremy Fairbairn (Benik).
Only two drivers have won at the FWT Rok Cup USA program. Fernando Barrichello won both races in Homestead, and Felipe Bartz (Tony Kart) triumphed this weekend in Orlando. Both days, Bartz drove to the win in the Prefinal and Final. Diego Contecha Porras (Tony Kart) was the top qualifier both days, as Bartz was third both days in the timed sessions. He went on to win Saturday’s main event by a half-second over Chase Heffner (Benik) with Porras on the podium. Oliver Denny (Benik) and Jeremy Fletcher (Tony Kart) made up the top-five. On Sunday, it was Denny finishing a half-second back of Bartz in the Final, with Lucas Rodriguez (Tony Kart) on the podium and Gabriella Ramirez (Tony Kart) and Barrichello (Tony Kart) completing the top-five.
The series finale is scheduled for March 20-22 at the Ocala Gran Prix facility, located about an hour north of Orlando.