Wins and Podiums for Birel ART North America at Florida Winter Tour Opener
Morgatto wins ROK Senior while Kremers has heartbreak in ROK Shifter
It was a winning weekend for the Birel ART North America squad at the opening round of the ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour. After moving north from the event the week prior at the AMR Motorplex in Homestead, the large contingent took on the barrier-lined temporary circuit at Tropicana Field scoring the ROK Senior victory with standout Matheus Morgatto.
With an event that featured qualifying and the first heat on Friday, two heat races and the prefinal on Saturday, and main events on Sunday, the plan was to remain consistent through the heats to challenge for the round one victory. One driver who was able to do just that was 2022 OK World Champion Matheus Morgatto as a drive to the front in the prefinal solidified the pole position for the main event. From there, Morgatto was able to jump to the point and control the twenty-lap final driving to his first win in the United States in 2023 and a quick point lead in Florida Winter Tour competition. Fellow Birel ART North American driver Diego Ramos showed his speed and looked to have put two team drivers on the podium but a post-race penalty for an incident on track stripped him from a valiant third-place effort and relegated him to ninth on the result sheets. Quick throughout the heats, the result was not what Ramos deserved this weekend. Canadian Frank Esposito added a 13th-place finish for the team and will shift his focus to the second in February round to improve on that.
With the prefinal win in ROK Shifter, Marijn Kremers looked to be able to challenge for the race win on Sunday but contact on the opening lap took him out of contention. In a tight battle all weekend long, Kremers was one of the two standout shifter drivers and despite contact that sent him to the tail of the field and a rebound to sixth when the checkered flag flew, a penalty for contact saw him scored in the last position. Kremers will aim to sweep the final two rounds in Loxahatchee and Orlando. ROK Shifter teammate Dominic Legrand earned a top-ten finish on Sunday coming home seventh.
In the ROK Shifter Master class, it was Antonio Pizzonia who gave the Birel ART squad another podium with an impressive drive to third. A contender all weekend, Pizzonia suffered from a poor start in the main event but rebounded to a P3 finish. Placing four drivers in the top-ten, Pizzonia was third ahead of Luis Gautier in seventh, Martin Janson in eighth and Michel Legrand in the tenth position.
In the junior classes, it was Christian Cameron who led in both VLR Junior and ROK Junior. A threat for the win all weekend long in VLR Junior, Cameron had the pace to battle at the front of the field and crossed the stripe third on Sunday. Officials deemed Cameron to be in violation of something on the track and that third-place finish was taken away as he was dropped off the podium and classified fourth. A disappointing result in such a strong weekend of competition for Cameron. In the ROK Junior class, Cameron claimed a P7 result on Sunday ahead of Birel ART teammates Pearce Wade, Ari Theodoropoulos, and Carlos Sasso in 12th, 14th, and 15th. In Mini ROK, it was Cole Medeiros and Antonie Lemieux who flew the Birel ART colors. Medeiros had a P16 result while Lemieux turned his fifth-place qualifying result to seventh, tenth, and seventh place finishes in the heat races, an eighth-place finish in the prefinal and drove to the second step on the podium in the main event to start his FWT off with a second-place result.
Next up for Birel ART North America is a trip back to the AMR Motorplex for rounds three and four in the Superkarts! USA Winter Series before heading over to the Piquet Sports and Entertainment Complex for round two of the ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour.
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