Race Report: Sunshine State Karting Challenge – AMR Motorplex
The 3rd and 4th Rounds of the 2019 Sunshine State Karting Challenge take racers back to the venue that hosted the series’ inaugural event in late Spring of 2018. The AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex presented by MG Tires is an extremely physical circuit, clocking in at 7/10ths of a mile long with 12 corners.
More than 80 drivers filled the paddock in South Florida, and the original wet forecast moved out to make way for clear skies and sunshine. The biggest division on the weekend was the IAME X30 Junior class, with 18 drivers taking to the track over the two days of action.
Alessandro Truchot (BirelART / Pole Position) was undeniably dominant on home turf. The five year old from Miami Beach took a clean sweep of all official sessions, setting a new track record in the process. Benja Fernandez (BirelART / VMotorsport) and Maxwell Macha (Praga / DucTard) both put pressure on Truchot as they battled for the runner-up spot. Fernandez was able to best Macha by the end of the 10-lap Finals on each day, minimizing the points loss in the championship.
IAME Micro Swift
Much like in the IAME Bambino class, one driver stood head and shoulders above the field in the Micro Swift division. Enzo Vidmontiene (Benik) did have a stellar performance in Ocala by grabbing a runner-up finish in Round 1 and the win in Round 2. This weekend, though, Vidmontiene was in an entirely different zip code than the rest of the field. He swept every single session and did not relinquish the top spot for a single corner.
Kai Johnson (Energy / AKT) and Oliver Wheldon (Kosmic / JC Karting) gave chase to the Benik driver on Saturday, finishing a little beyond four seconds back in second and third. On Sunday, that gap doubled back to Johnson who once again would finish second, but after a spin and a heavily bent axle, Wheldon suffered his first DNF of the season. Anastasia Markovic rose to the occasion behind Johnson, snagging third and her first career SSKC podium.
Seven drivers made up the field in the Shifter division, but much like the two classes above, the battle was for second place. Alan Isambard (Rosso Korsa / KSF) had the field covered by nearly a second per lap throughout the weekend. He did suffer mechanical failures in the Pre Finals for both days, but that didn’t faze the fifteen year old as he recovered to the lead early and dominated both main events.
On Saturday, Giano Taurino (Mad Croc), Cole Mathewson (TB Kart), Baylor Griffin (Comp Kart / URace), and Patrick Otto Madsen (Zanardi / ANSA) all shuffled the second spot until eventually Griffin escaped with the position. Taurino held back Mathewson for third on track, but then received a jump start penalty that gave Mathewson the final podium spot. On Sunday, the top 2 remained the same as Isambard scored the victory and Griffin came home in second.
IAME KA100 Junior
Kyffin Simpson (Tony Kart / Speed Concepts Racing) remained in a league of his own in the KA100 Junior division this weekend. A clean sweep of each session extended his championship lead heading into Andersen, although it wasn’t without pressure. Jimmie Lockhart (Benik / The Karting Experience) fought to a close second in both Rounds 3 and 4, with Jack Jeffers (Tony Kart / Orsolon) also giving chase. Both drivers were able to get to the lead at one point in the day on Sunday, but ultimately, neither had the 15-lap pace of Simpson.
Some of the best racing action seen this weekend was found in the Briggs Senior class. Colin Warren (VLR / TSRacing) came into the weekend looking to continue his win streak, but Dylan Amundsen (MGM), Michel Garrido (Tony Kart), and Frankie Barroso (BirelART / RYSA) came prepared to fight. Amundsen led the charge early on Saturday, scoring the pole in qualifying by just 0.066. He and Warren would go on to have a last lap duel in both the Pre Final and the Final, but the day favored experience and Warren was able to just barely win both for the overall Round 3 victory.
Garrido struggled with mechanical woes all weekend, but it looked as if the gremlins had finally faded by Sunday afternoon. He made the lead pack a group of four along with Barroso, and the lead changed hands more laps than not throughout a chaotic Final. Unfortunately, a chain failure sent Garrido to the sidelines in the closing stages and backed Dylan Amundsen away from the drafting window of Warren. Warren cruised to his fourth straight victory on the year, with Amundsen second and Barroso again in third.
Briggs Heavy was one of the few classes on the weekend that didn’t see the same winner for both days.
On Saturday, Dan Breitenstein (BirelART / RYSA) and James Perkins (Margay) drove away from the field early. Things got a little bit physical coming to the stripe in the Pre Final, but the pair cleaned up their acts for the main event. Unfortunately, an late move under braking with just two laps to go saw Perkins spin at the apex of turn 4. Breitenstein gave up a bit of time to the drivers behind in navigating the carnage, but he was able to hold on for his first SSKC victory. Franco Cipullo (Praga / RYSA) was promoted to second after the spin with Neil Breitenbach (MGM) clinching another podium finish in third.
On Sunday, championship leader Jorge Ruiz (TB Kart) joined the fray. The winner from opening weekend qualified second and held that to the end of the Pre Final, battling with Breitenstein and the eventual winner in Perkins. In the main event, the trio looked set to battle once again. However, Breitenstein retired within five laps to go with a mechanical failure. That left Ruiz to try and run down Perkins alone, which he was almost successful in. However, the 4-cycle veteran prevailed and James Perkins scored his first SSKC victory in his first weekend of the series.
IAME Mini Swift
Jakub Kolar (Formula K / DucTard) was absent from competition on opening weekend in Ocala, as the “Kid from Key West” was overseas competing in European karting events. Not to be forgotten, he quickly went to the top of the leaderboards on Saturday. He did so en route to a perfect Round 3, taking a flag-to-flag win in the Final.
On Sunday, Kolar saw challenges from fellow hometown racers in Miguel Costa (Parolin / MC Racing) and Max Garcia (Kart Republic / KartSport). Costa came much closer to Kolar in qualifying, and Tony Kart driver Jorge Ortiz (Tony Kart / ORT) also joined the mix with a third place effort. In a spectacular final lap move of the Pre Final, Miguel was able to pull off a crossover move on Jakub that secured him the number one starting position in the main event.
The Final saw even more action than the Pre Final. Initially, four karts made up the lead group until Jorge Ortiz lost touch with the trio in front. From there, a three-way battle ensued, with Garcia, Costa, and Kolar all taking turns at the point. At the drop of the checkered flag, the order was Costa, Kolar, and then Garcia. However, Costa was issued a blocking penalty that moved him down one step, giving Kolar a sweep of the weekend’s Finals.
Colin Warren (TB Kart) came into Homestead as a driver determined. He maintained a two to three tenth advantage over the TaG Senior grid throughout the entire weekend, putting on an absolute clinic. Brandon Simeone (Tony Kart) could do nothing but watch from second place as Warren scored maximum points for Rounds 3 and 4 on the schedule. Initially, it looked like 2018 X30 Junior champion Kai Palomino (BirelART / Andersen) might have had something to challenge Warren with. Sadly, between fighting an illness and starting at the tail end of the field, the best the Tampa-based driver could muster was a third place finish.
Simeone did separate himself from the rest of the pack on Sunday, as local talent was showcased in the battle for third each day with Joshua Wright (BirelART / RYSA) and Jack Copeland (BirelART / RYSA) going wheel-to-wheel. Wright was able to get the upper hand on his teammate and take the third and final spot on the box, making significant strides all weekend in his first regional-level event.
IAME X30 Junior
It’s almost undeniable how much the X30 Junior class has exploded with talent thanks to the veterans remaining on top of their game to challenge a superb rookie class. As we mentioned in the preview, predicting a the top three, much less a winner, was a nearly impossible task for this division.
On Saturday, the driver to beat was Joey Atanasio (Tony Kart / URace), as he took fast time honors in qualifying and the Pre Final win. Kyffin Simpson (Tony Kart / Speed Concepts) and Emmo Fittipaldi (Exprit) were right behind him, but a poor start to the Final for Simpson took him out of contention. Fittipaldi was all that was left to challenge Atanasio, but he just wasn’t ever able to put a move on the third-year Junior driver. Fittipaldi settled for second while Atanasio’s teammate in Aaron Benoit (Comp Kart / URace) rounded off the podium.
On Sunday, Fittipaldi struck first with his first pole award in qualifying. He went on to take the Pre Final win by a slim margin over Alessandro de Tullio (Exprit / AM). Rounds 1 and 2 winner Jeremy Fletcher (Tony Kart / Zanella) finished the heat race third, putting his name in the frontrunning mix for the first time all weekend.
The Sunday final might have been the most exciting race of the season so far. Fletcher got a monster of a start to jump into the lead early, but he was quickly passed by de Tullio. From there, the five driver lead group went to war with one another. Atanasio eventually got to the lead with just a handful of laps remaining, but a surreal passing move earned Kyffin Simpson the lead with just two laps to go. Fletcher, Atanasio, and de Tullio went three-wide behind Simpson in the same sequence, giving the Speed Concepts Racing driver just enough time to sneak away with the win. Atanasio would rebound to finish in second, with de Tullio third, Fittipaldi climbing back to finish fourth, and Fletcher dropping to fifth at the checkered flag.
NEXT UP: Rounds 5 & 6 @ Andersen RacePark | June 29-30, 2019
For more information on the Sunshine State Karting Challenge or the tracks and partners involved with Florida’s premier regional championship, visit http://sskckarting.com/