Leesmann, Lee, Wimsett clinch championships Ocala, FL (March 16, 2008) - The Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida concluded its record-breaking tenth season with a sun-drenched 2008 series finale held Sunday at...
Leesmann, Lee, Wimsett clinch championships
Ocala, FL (March 16, 2008) - The Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida concluded its record-breaking tenth season with a sun-drenched 2008 series finale held Sunday at Ocala Gran Prix. On a perfect day in Florida, the FWT crowned its series champions in Shifter, TaG, JICA, and Cadet classes. This season boasted record numbers with 1100 participants from 21 countries, 18 U.S. states, and five Canadian provinces. The FWT website also shattered all previous marks with 2.5 million hits from 80 countries around the world.
PSL Karting.com Pro Shifter
With the championship on the line between main title protagonists Fritz Leesmann (PSL Karting/CRG) and Danilo Dirani (Tony Kart Florida), the track went green for Pro Shifter qualifying. Cody Jolly (Cameron Motorsports/CRG) drew first blood with a 35.266, followed by a pair of quick laps by Keith Spicer (DL Racing/CRG) and Kyle Wiegand (Team Top Kart). Almost halfway through the session and there'd been no sign of the title contenders.
That is, until Leesmann got serious about the issue and ripped off a 35.109, eclipsing Jolly's time by a tenth and a half. Dirani slowly picked up the pace, improving from eighth to sixth to fifth on successive laps. However, with Fritz and Jolly on the front row, and with Spicer and Michael Vincec (Cameron Motorsports/CRG) on the second row, Danilo was staring up at the first four positions all occupied by CRGs.
In the pre-final, Leesmann was away cleanly with his entourage in tow, Dirani holding station in fifth. Outside the top five, Wiegand, Josh Schreiber (MRP Motorsports/Birel) and Jordy Vorrath (Champion Racing/Intrepid) were running in close quarters.
In what was a rather processional affair, there were no changes in the top five throughout the entire pre-final, with Fritz bringing it home with almost six seconds in hand.
Green flag for the final and Jolly got a good jump, leading into Turn 1 while Leesmann settled in behind, Vincec and Spicer in close arrears. Dirani was soon into fourth, and not long after that, Fritzer moved past Jolly and the fat lady sang. Leesmann was never challenged, winning by almost three seconds and successfully clinching the FWT Pro Shifter championship, the first Californian to do so.
As is the norm for the FWT, the Pro Shifter cash purse was impressive and, perhaps most significantly, the money winners get their checks on the podium every single time. Leesmann pocketed $2200 for his pair of Ocala race wins, and then he nabbed another $1960 for winning the championship. All told, he took home $7500 for his 2008 successes, a healthy chunk of the $20,000 total that the shifter boys take home each year.
With the JICA championship in the bag for Nick Neri (OVRP/Maranello), everyone expected a free-wheeling day of racing in this class. The JICA drivers did not disappoint. What started out as a status quo qualifying session (Neri, Spencer Pigot, Daniel Formal, Taylor Miinch, Bijon Spinazzola, Tristan DeGrand) would morph into something very different by the final.
Pre-final green and Pigot jumped to the front in his First Kart, followed by Neri, Formal's ever-present Advanced Karting/Tony Kart, Spinazzola and Miinch. Neri tried a move into Turn 1 of Lap 2 but Pigot was mighty brave and kept the faith all the way along the outer line, hanging onto his lead. Yet it was only a few corners later that Pigot succumbed to the inevitable and Neri was out front for good.
Lap 6 and Spinazzola (Juncos Racing) and Miinch had a small argument, dropping them from fourth and fifth to sixth and eighth, respectively. That left Sage Karam (MRP Motorsport/Birel) to move up into fourth.
But on Lap 10, Sage got a bad run off the final corner, his Birel hopping along the tarmac, and DeGrand's J3 Kosmic went cruising by. Miinch and his Top Kart also demoted Sage, this time on the final lap.
While Neri and Pigot breezed through tech, Formal wasn't so fortunate and got bounced from third for a non-compliant component.
The real action came in the final. Neri and Pigot broke away cleanly, yet a minor dispute between them on Lap 7 turned the race on its head as they both rejoined near the end of the field. That left a fast and deserving DeGrand to inherit the lead, one which he held for all of two laps before his motor ground to a halt as he started Lap 10.
Lo and behold but it was now Karam into the lead, the rookie JICA driver enjoying his best performance of the year. It wasn't going to be easy though, as Grant Vogel (Vogel Racing/Birel) was determined to stage an upset of his own. Meanwhile, carving through the field with a vengeance was Alex Madrigal; a DQ in qualifying meant that she'd used the pre-final, and now the final, to slash her way forward. She was currently in the top five.
Karam was still under constant pressure from Vogel, and with five laps to go, things began to get really interesting. Formal, who started from the back of the large field after the DQ, was flying through the field, going from sixth to third in the span of a lap and a half. Vogel suddenly slipped to fourth, so it was now Spinazzola who was going to have a crack at Sage. With three to go, Bijon put it into the lead.
Now two laps to go and Sage, a veteran of a thousand last lap Cadet battles, snatched the lead back. It was the best racing of the weekend, and on the white flag lap there was no quarter given. Karam held onto the lead and took a popular win by just .049 second over Bijon, Formal just two tenths behind and in need of a few more laps to complete his comeback, while Vogel and Madrigal rounded out the top five. Formal clinched second place in the points, while Pigot finished third in the standings.
MRP/Birel America Spec Racer
With four contenders for the Spec Racer title, qualifying had a high level of tension to it, with Victor Cabrera (J3 Competition/Kosmic) putting it on pole with a blazing lap over two tenths faster than his nearest rival. Grant Schilling (Zanardi) was second quick, and Sean Meier (DL Racing/Kosmic) was third.
Pre-final action as Cabrera instantly converted his pole into a lead, but only for a short time as Meier was doing all he could to keep his own championship hopes alive. Sean grabbed a lead he would never relinquish.
Behind him, things were less certain. Chris Larson moved his Parilla- powered First Kart into second, leaving Cabrera to get further demoted to fourth by Schilling just a few laps later. Points leader Andy Lee finished the pre-final in fifth.
Finally to the final, and for the first five laps it was Larson, Meier, Cabrera, and Schilling who comprised a four-kart breakaway. Behind them, Ben Searcy was fighting for his championship life, trying to keep Lee at bay.
Back to the front and Cabrera was all over Larson, and on Lap 9 it was Victor to the fore; a lap later and Lee found his way around Searcy. Things were now settling down quickly, and while the top four ran in close proximity, Cabrera was inching away and making the lead his own. Behind him, Larson, Meier and Schilling were content to stay where they were.
And that's how they would finish. Cabrera, arguably the fastest driver in the class throughout the season, took his fourth win of the year and could only wonder at what might have been had he avoided that last lap contact at Homestead, a DNF which probably ruined his title chances. Lee locked up the points with his fifth placed finish, besting Victor's final tally by just 21 points.
CMW Stock Moto / FA Kart Masters Shifter
In what was looking to be a dramatic finish to the Stock Moto season, the puzzling withdrawal of former points leader Bryan Eady (Champion Racing/Intrepid/Leading Edge) took most of the mystery out of the proceedings.
Nevertheless, the surging form of Matthew Mair (Capricorn Racing/Tony Kart) was one of the stories of the season. The young driver from Florida came of age as the series wore on, and after being soundly beaten by Eady at the Homestead openers, Mair rallied and picked up the pace starting with the Sunday Moroso event.
Now, on the final day of the season, all Mair had to do was take the green for the final and he would win the title. However, Matthew didn't simply rest on that possibility, he took the win in the Stock Moto main and wrapped up the title, a thoroughly deserving champion. Jose Zanella (FA Kart) had to settle for second on the day and third in the championship.
More drama was found in the Masters Shifter final. Gustavo Vidal (PSL Karting/CRG) and Jason Lee (MKP Motorama/Birel) entered Sunday's event in a clear winner-take-all scenario. And when Lee dashed out to the lead in the final, and opened up a two second advantage, it appeared as though Jason was going to wrap things up.
Gustavo had other ideas. While he slipped back in the early going, Vidal began to eat away at Lee's cushion, and suddenly began closing like a freight train. By Lap 13 he was firmly on the Birel's bumper, and on Lap 14, made the pass for the lead and for the championship. Gus took the checkered with two seconds in hand. Lee was crestfallen to have come so close to the title, especially since he also finished second in the points in 2007.
J3 Competition KF2 / Rysa Racing KF3
Stakes were high in the KF categories, as not only would the title winners earn a Three Day Competition School from Skip Barber, but also they would lay claim to being the first-ever North American champions in KF. With the strong rumor that the Stars of Karting shall be adopting the KF format in 2009, the 2008 FWT will be remembered as the rebirth of international CIK racing in North America.
Back at Moroso when Joey Wimsett got a DQ for weight after winning the Saturday main, his championship hopes were looking slim. But he came to Ocala on a mission, and while he finished second in yesterday's main, today was a different story. He made a clean sweep of things when he needed it most, notching the pole, the pre-final win, and a victory in the final.
But even that wouldn't have been enough if Fabio Orsolon (Tony Kart Florida) came in second on the day. Throughout the main, it looked as if Fabio was in trouble, as Christopher Grektorp (PDB America) had finally found a competitive setup and was holding down the runner-up position, until his tires began to go away and he slipped to fourth.
Fabio was now in second with just three laps to go, the title within his grasp. But, due to a combination of a delaminating right rear tire and a strong drive from Alex Wikell, Orsolon was demoted by his fellow Tony Kart pilot with two to go, allowing Wimsett to lock up the title.
In a somewhat less exciting KF3 main event, Daniel Formal (Advanced Karting) had already clinched the class championship a day earlier, and the Costa Rican driver had an uneventful drive to victory over Michael Silva (Xtreme/Tony Kart) and Ricardo Duenas (SpeedSouth Racing/Parolin).
S1 Racing Kart Cadet
Austin Self (MKP Motorama/Birel), Broc Yocom (Champion/Intrepid), and Ian Tibor (Juncos Racing) were the stars of the Cadet class in qualifying, as they logged the three fastest times separated by little more than a tenth of a second.
Those same three drivers were running one-two-three at the halfway point of the pre-final, but with two to go, Tibor (who was leading at the time) made a mistake and went from first to fourth in the span of two corners. On the white flag lap, Yocom snatched the lead from Self and hung on until the checkered, with class champion Santino Ferrucci (San Ives/Nevoso) moving into second ahead of Self and Tibor.
Great racing in the final, and when the five kart train came to the checkered, it was Ferrucci who took the win over Mason Chelootz (Champion/Intrepid), Self, Logan Bearden (MKP/Birel) and Garett Grist (Cameron/CRG). Those five karts crossed the line just half a second apart.