FWT - Homestead Sunday recap

Florida Winter Tour -- Sunday Recap Speed, Pedrosa rise to the top Homestead, FL (January 13, 2008) - The 10th Annual Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida continued its season opener with Day 2 of its ...

Florida Winter Tour -- Sunday Recap
Speed, Pedrosa rise to the top

Homestead, FL (January 13, 2008) - The 10th Annual Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida continued its season opener with Day 2 of its record-breaking event weekend. The 230 drivers in attendance took full advantage of a beautiful day in south Florida to close the books on Round 1 of the FWT International Rotax Max Challenge.

The IRMC status, and the coveted direct transfer spots to the '08 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals that go with it, has been a real boon to the FWT Rotax weekends. Point champions in DD2, Senior and Junior earn fully funded rides to the RMCGF, while Masters and Mini Max champs earn paid entry packages to the United States or Mexican Grand Nationals.

Cameron Motorsports DD2

As is so often the case on a double race weekend, the favorite from Saturday wakes up Sunday morning to discover that the rest of the field has made considerable gains. Such was the case when the DD2 field took to the track for qualifying.

With just the fifth fastest time, only the grossly naïve would suggest that current DD2 World Champion and Saturday winner Pier-Luc Ouellette (Arrow/SRA Karting) was suddenly an underdog. However, Sunday's qualifying session certainly illustrated that many drivers had made progress overnight. Blasting to the pole was Alex Speed, his Birel/MRP Motorsport ride looking much better than the previous day. His 47.072 was just enough to secure the top spot, as Joey Collins (CRG/SSC) came up short by just 23 thousandths of a second. Michael Vincec (Cameron Motorsports) lined up third.

Alex went flag to flag in the pre-final, confirming that his pole time was no fluke and he was going to be the one to beat in the main. Collins held down his second spot, while the always aggressive Vincec found himself on the short end of an incident and bumped to the end of the field from where he'd started in third.

When the main rolled around, Ouellette got a terrific start and nipped by Speed into first. Alex took up station behind while Stuart Marsell (reigning American DD2 champ) watched from third. That didn't last long as Marsell got around Speed, only to lose the spot back to Alex just a few turns later. That duo stopped their in-fighting and instead set off after Ouellette.

Great racing now as Speed made a clean move to gain the lead, Pier-Luc stole it back less than two laps later, and then a lap later it was Speed back to the point. It was superb action from this pair of champions. Now securely in front, Alex began to inch away from Ouellette and went unimpeded to the checkered. Marsell lost third place to Vincec on the track, yet a post-race one position penalty for rough driving dropped Michael to fourth and put Stuart back on the podium.

Advanced Karting Rotax Junior

As ever, the 68-kart Rotax Junior field provided epic racing action throughout the day. The pre-final excitement started early when Daniel Vela, while leading in the early laps, made a mistake coming onto the back straight and ran wide, allowing Daniel Formal (Tony Kart/Advanced Karting) to move into the lead. Gabriel Chaves and Jesus Rio Jr. also made moves on a clearly rattled Vela, who found himself out of room as he reached the halfway point of the front straight and was pinched into a spin. He finished 28th.

Formal settled into the pre-final lead while Rios and Chaves glued their bumpers together and raced for second, with Chaves getting the best of it by the checkered. Three karts debated the fourth spot, with Mario Solares claiming the position from Tatiana Calderon and Nick Neri. Saturday's winner Phil De La O was a surprising 16th.

Formal got a fine start in the final, but he overcooked Turn 5 on the first lap and Chaves gave thanks while assuming the lead. In third, Tatiana was doing all she could to hold off the advances of Rios, who in turn was throwing the kitchen sink at her in an attempt to make the pass.

Formal eventually recovered from his mistake by moving into the front spot a few laps later and began to edge away from Chaves. Calderon was ice in a hot situation with Rios still all over her bumper. Jesus was so pre-occupied with her that he was caught out when Nick Neri slipped past. Nick turned his attention to Calderon, and he duly paid the same price when Rios went back around five laps later! It all gave Tatiana some breathing room with visions of podiums dancing through her head.

While the battle for third went on unabated, Saturday's winner De La O was carving up from his poor 16th starting position and was now in fifth. Finally at the two-thirds point, Rios got around Calderon, whose valiant efforts fell apart as De La O and Neri also went past.

That was the end of the drama as Formal took the checkered, Chaves 1.5 seconds behind, and De La O completing his comeback by reaching the podium.

S1 Racing Karts Rotax Senior

By all appearances Jose Zanella was picking up where he'd left off the day before; he easily snatched the Rotax Senior pole on Sunday and then comfortably converted it into a lead in the pre-final. All similarities ended there. Victor Pedrosa (CRG/SSC East), who'd looked very strong on Saturday before dropping out, closed up on Zanella's bumper and began to take some looks down the inside. Hanging tough with them was Australia's Scott Saunders (Birel/MRP Motorsport) and Oliver Aquino (Tony Kart Florida).

Things got interesting on Lap 8 when Pedrosa made his move into Turn 1, giving the thus-far dominant Zanella a mouthful of exhaust for the first time all weekend. One mouthful was enough, as Jose expertly took the lead back just four corners later, while Pedrosa found himself demoted to fourth when both Saunders and Aquino sneaked past.

Last lap, last corner thrills were on the menu when Zanella moved to the inside to throw the block on Saunders, a move which worked by the smallest of margins. Jose crossed the stripe just five hundredths in front of Saunders, while Aquino and Pedrosa followed in close quarters, setting the stage for an explosive final.

Christophe Boisclair got the start of the weekend by going from fifth to first in the opening lap of the main, though he lost it a few corners later after Zanella assumed his position at the front. A second ill-advised attempt by Boisclair resulted in Christophe climbing halfway up Jose's back; Zanella managed to hang onto the lead while Boisclair lost a heap of positions.

It was now Pedrosa's turn to take his shot at the lead, and while he certainly had the pace, Zanella was now clearly doing his share of the block and weave as they navigated the long front straight. Victor was patient though, and when Jose left the door open through the infield, Pedrosa was through cleanly.

His weekend's dominance officially at an end, Zanella did his best to hang onto second while Saunders now applied the heat from third. Scott tried a slide job in the same corner where Pedrosa had found success, but the outcome was a bit different. The Australian bounced over the top of Jose; and again, Zanella continued on while Saunders watched half the field go by before he could rejoin.

The red mist then got the best of Zanella. The young Venezualan had driven brilliantly throughout the weekend on his debut in the Senior category, but he lost the plot when, having realized that his kart was now mortally stricken, he pulled off-line and waited for Saunders to catch up. Jose pulled his kart back onto the track and took a run at the Australian in the best tradition of Saturday night NASCAR bullring racing.

Fortunately, there was no injury to anyone, but the stupidity and potential danger of the situation was inexcusable. Zanella, who was now parked, was promptly disqualified, a massive blow to this championship hopes in a class in which he was already one of the favorites. He can't drop a DQ, so he'll have only four (instead of five) points finishes to count toward his end-of-season total.

Up front and comparatively short on drama, Pedrosa ran smart, strong and fast the rest of the way to the checkered. Olivier Sirois claimed the runner-up spot, while Sergio Arrayales Mata rounded out the podium.

To get perspective on the incredible international flavor in the Rotax Senior class, there were only six drivers in the 43 kart field who hailed from the United States. The rest of the grid was comprised of racers from Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, and New Jersey.

RDD Motorsports Masters

Having grabbed the Masters pole, Michael Riolo (Tony Kart/Advanced Karting) quickly broke away from the pre-final field, while Saturday's winner Brad Smith found himself shuffled back to fourth. But the Bad Brad wasted little time in demoting Andy Seesemann and Fabian Valencia before taking off after the leader. By the halfway point, Smith tucked under Riolo's bumper as they shot down the front straight, and by Turn 1 it was Brad who'd assumed the lead.

The green flag dropped on the main and Riolo vs. Smith II was immediately underway. Michael got a favorable jump on the start and led into Turn 1, while Denis Lachance and Russel Hamel went at it for third. Their battle lasted all of two laps, before contact between them resulted in Lachance holding third and Hamel sitting trackside.

Up front it was the status quo, with the leaders choosing to sit on their hands and gap the field for the time being. Lachance was now alone in third while Camil Villeneuve and Fabian Valencia battled for fourth.

Second half of the main was mostly processional, though Villeneuve disposed of Valencia and brought some drama to the final laps with a brave attack on Lachance. Denis held firm and took third, while up front Riolo had managed to eek out enough of a gap to control the race and claim the checkered ahead of Smith.

Kart Mini of America Mini Max / RDD Motorsports Micro Max

The other 29 Mini Max drivers had to watch Dore Chaponick Jr. dash out to a lead he'd never surrender, the polesitter having an easy go of it in the pre-final while Jordan Perry, Dominic Tesoro and Jesse Lazare enjoyed a spirited fight for second. They would cross the stripe that way. The main was a similar affair, as Chaponick held off the advances of Lazare and Dore went on to become the weekend's only double winner.

The Micro Max pre-final saw some early action when Grant Quinlan found himself challenged by Jesse Seeley in the early laps, and the two went side by side through Turn 5. Quinlan held onto the lead and realized there was plenty left in the tank; he responded with a lap half a second faster than Seeley and left the driver from Georgia in his wake. But it was Juan David Bonilla (PCR/International Racing) who shined in the final, romping to a nine second win over Quinlan and Juan Manual Correa.

Wrap-Up

The first weekend of the 2008 Florida Winter Tour IMRC came to a close, having wrapped up the event with a two-day entry total of 462. It absolutely demolished the series' best turnout to date, and bodes well for the remainder of the FWT Rotax season. This coming weekend, the first CIK/Shifter/TAG event of the 2008 FWT season is on tap at the Homestead Karting track, where the series is once again expected to have a record turnout.

-credit: www.floridawintertour.com

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