FWT - Homestead notes 2008-01-2

Florida Winter Tour -- Saturday Recap Ouellette, Zanella shine on record day at Homestead Homestead, FL (January 12, 2008) - The 10th Annual Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida kicked off its season with...

Florida Winter Tour -- Saturday Recap
Ouellette, Zanella shine on record day at Homestead

Homestead, FL (January 12, 2008) - The 10th Annual Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida kicked off its season with the largest event in series history. Almost 230 drivers descended upon the Homestead Karting facility for Round 1 of the FWT Rotax Max championship, a huge increase in participation in what was already a very strong showing of 156 Rotax drivers at last year's 2007 season opener.

Now that the FWT has been granted International Rotax Max Challenge status, and with the benefit of DD2, Senior and Junior class champions earning the coveted direct transfer spots to the '08 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, the FWT has found another way to further improve upon what was already the strongest Rotax program in North America. Furthermore, Masters and Mini Max points champs earn paid entry packages to the United States or Mexican Grand Nationals.

Cameron Motorsports DD2

The buzz started early Saturday morning under overcast skies as the highly-touted DD2 field took to the track for qualifying. With DD2 World Champion Pier-Luc Ouellette facing the likes of Stuart Marsell, Brandon Marsell, Alex Speed, Scott Speed, Michael Vincec, Gary Carlton and Joey Collins, everyone expected the first timed sessions in anger to be razor close. The drivers did not disappoint.

The champ made his intentions clear from the moment the track went green, as Ouellette (Arrow/SRA Karting) posted a 46.931 and would be the only driver to crack into the 46 second range. SoCal ace Joey Collins (CRG/CRG) clocked a 47.092 to hold down second spot, while Kyle Herder gave both Canada and SRA a 1-3 qualifying result with his 47.138.

Ouellette converted his pole into a great start in the pre-final and asserted himself early, while Collins slipped to third and Herder moved into second. While Herder and Collins gave spirited chase, Ouellette pulled out a two second lead and sat on it, content to keep a constant gap and keep his tires in good shape for the main. Gary Carlton fared the best of the ICC contingent; he started the pre-final in sixth and worked his way up to fourth.

The start was witness to another clean break by Pier-Luc, while Collins and Herder had a brief debate over second, one which Herder settled quickly and took off after the leader. Kyle caught Ouellette with ease and took up station on his rear bumper.

Behind them, Collins ran afoul of trouble and dropped to the back end, while Scott Speed and Gary Carlton were moving up steadily in tandem and were soon running third and fourth, respectively.

The field spread itself out considerably... except at the front. Ouellette and Herder were joined at the hip, often separated by less than a kart length. Herder was especially quick off the final turn, visibly carrying more speed through the fast 90 degree right hander. With three to go, Herder made his move into the Turn 5 hairpin, lunging down the inside and making it stick. For the next lap, Kyle looked ready to stage an upset.

But apparently they don't hand out world championships for nothing. Ouellette came back with one and a half to go, diving back inside through the infield and reclaiming the lead for good. It was a thrilling battle that set the stage for Sunday. Quietly, Scott Speed (Birel/MRP Motorsport) claimed the final podium spot, his fast lap within a few hundredths of Ouellette's best. Carlton finished fourth while Chemill Mercado rounded out the top five.

Advanced Karting Rotax Junior

The other big talking point of the weekend has been the overwhelming support for the Rotax Junior class. Almost 70 young drivers entered this first round of the FWT, easily making it the largest class of the weekend.

Incredibly, 40 karts took to the track for the Last Chance Qualifier, with names like reigning FWT champ Jarvis Gennari (CRG/SSC East) and multi-time national champion Sage Karam (Birel/MRP Motorsport) both needing to finish in the top twelve in order to transfer to the main. Jarvis used the bumper to gain some spots early on and worked his way up to third, while Karam's sixth spot was plenty enough to make it into the final.

Phil De La O (Tony Kart Florida) established himself as the favorite after garnering the pole and the pre-final win, yet come the main and Daniel Formal (Advanced Karting) had something to say about it. The pair of Tony Kart drivers left the field in their wake as they dashed out to a three second lead, with no more than two tenths separating the leading duo. Daniel Vela held down third spot while the battle for fourth boasted a seven kart scrap separated by just over a second.

The final two laps were the stuff of legend; Formal snatched the lead on the penultimate lap, only to have De La O steal it back six corners later. With the white flag out, Formal lunged back into the lead entering the Turn 5 hairpin and the case looked closed, but just three corners from the checkered and Formal left the door a bit open. De La O made him pay. Phil got back inside and took the lead for good to the cheers of his crew, while a dejected Formal ran a gallant race to finish second.

Vela came home a distant third, while the story of the race came from Jesus Rios Jr. (CRG/PSL Karting) who, after failing to qualify, came through the 40 kart LCQ to finish eleventh and thereby squeaking into the pre-final. He rocked the pre-final by finishing tenth (after starting 39th) and came home fourth in the main, having made more passes in one day than most drivers make all year. Look for him to make a statement come Sunday.

S1 Racing Karts Rotax Senior

The Rotax Senior field was comprised of 41 drivers with a wealth of experience, representing ten countries and countless laps under their collective belts. It was therefore all the more impressive when Jose Zanella, making his senior debut after winning the 2007 Rotax Junior title at the U.S Nationals, stole the limelight and annihilated the field for the entire day. It was never even close as the Venezuelan driver and his CMW/FA mount led every lap.

Zanella's 47.926 put him on the pole, and behind him there were six karts stacked up within a tenth of a second. Jose demolished the field in the pre-final, romping to a five second lead before the halfway point. Brazilian Victor Pedrosa ran alone in second and had three seconds in hand over Israel Cuadrado (Speed South Racing). It wasn't looking good for the rest of field; save Pedrosa, Zanella's best lap in the pre-final was four tenths faster than anyone else in the top ten.

The green dropped on the final and there were no surprises. Zanella disappeared into the sunset, but behind him the outcome was anything but certain. Pedrosa fell out of second spot, while Fabio Orosolon, Marco Di Leo, Sergio Lanzieri, and Cuadrado ran nose to tail for most of the second half. Orosolon (Max Papis Racing) hung on to grab the runner-up position while Di Leo completed the podium.

RDD Motorsports Masters

Mike Mair (Capricorn Racing) jumped to the top of the time sheets in the early going of Masters qualifying, while Bad Brad Smith (CRG/RH2) lurked less than a tenth behind. Running in tandem throughout the session, Mair improved his lap time by a half second only to have Smith do likewise, just four hundredths in arrears. Things got interesting when Fabian Valencia leapt to the top and eclipsed the top two. Mair pulled off after clocking just three laps, while Smith was determined to make a run at the pole. Brad clocked a lap .006 slower than Valencia and that was as close as he'd get. Mair held onto third while Russel Hamel was just a tenth from the pole in fourth.

Lap 1 of the pre-final was furious, with Smith and Valencia dicing hard for the lead. Smith made it stick into Turn 5 and bid goodbye to the field, immediately gapping Valencia who in turn had a comfortable margin over Michael Riolo (Advanced Karting) in third. Smiths' dominance left little suspense heading into the final.

Smith blasted away into the lead come the main, but the big story was the big move from the big man Andy Seesemann (Full Throttle Karting). The visiting Californian/Gatorz Karting Cup/Challenge of the Americas promoter made a blinding start from sixth into second while a pack of hungry wolves bottled up behind him. The glory only lasted for two laps until he was unceremoniously walloped from behind by Riolo. The ensuing contact left Andy without any drive to the wheels and Riolo in the top three, with Denis Lachance squeaking by into second.

No drama up front as Smith was cruising, already five seconds up the road by Lap 6 of 20. Riolo eventually got past Lachance, and with that the podium was settled.

Kart Mini of America Mini Max / RDD Motorsports Micro Max

Dore Chaponick Jr. found the draft and busted out a 50.011 to take the Mini Max pole, a tenth and a half clear of Pietro Fittipaldi da Cruz (grandson to Emerson Fittipaldi). Dominic Tesoro led a four kart gaggle separated by less than a tenth in positions three through six.

Chaponick breezed to the pre-final win and immediately danced away in the main, courtesy of superior pace and the six karts behind him battling for second. Fittipaldi went to work to repair the damage from a poor start and soon emerged in second, leaving Daniel Herrera, Artem Korelev, Jack West, Alex Guenette, and RC Enerson engaged in a five kart battle for third.

Come the main and it was all Chaponick, who left no doubt as to the final outcome. Fittipaldi brought home a second place for Brazil, while Herrera scored a third place for Venezuela.

The addition of the Micro Max category marked yet another successful Rotax product launch at the Florida Winter Tour. With the Micro platform debuting just last fall, it took only three months for 23 young karters to take the green at Homestead. Florida's Logan Sargeant kept his nose clean and showed the savvy of a racer many years his senior, bringing home a strong win for his RDD Motorsports team.

Wrap-Up

Day 1 of Round 1 of the FWT came to a close exactly on schedule, with the Masters taking the final checkered flag at 5:20 PM under skies filled with a beautiful south Florida sunset. Sunday's weather calls for partial sun with a high of 80, so another day of exciting FWT serious fun is in the forecast!

-credit: www.floridawintertour.com

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Series Kart
Drivers Max Papis , Scott Speed , Emerson Fittipaldi , Joey Collins , Kyle Herder , Michael Riolo , Daniel Vela , Phil De La O , Jarvis Gennari , Sage Karam , Pietro Fittipaldi , Alex Guenette