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CKN Driver Diary: Fred Woodley @ Florida Winter Tour Ocala

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CKN Driver Diary: Fred Woodley @ Florida Winter Tour Ocala

I had heard a lot about Ocala Gran Prix before I was able to make my own impressions of the track and facility last week. I knew the track was smooth and technical; even though there are only 8 corners. I knew there was a flea market at the rear end of the facility, and almost all of the trees had the grey stuff growing on them. This was more commonly referred to as “tree cancer” under our tent. With all of this knowledge, which proved to be trivial, I felt confident and comfortable going into my first full week of racing in Ocala!

Setup:

Trevor Wickens (my mechanic/driver coach) and I landed in Orlando early Monday morning and were in Ocala by noon. The tent was assembled and kart was prepped before we left for dinner that night. Monday was definitely the sweatiest and hardest day of the week but when considering that our team was living in the tent for 10 hours of the day for the rest of the week it was definitely worth it.

Atmosphere:

The atmosphere at the OGP track was not like any of the other FWT races I have been to before. It was a relaxed, laid back, chilled feeling in the paddock through all of the test days. It allowed me to feel like I was under no pressure; which is vital to the success of a test day or race day. Practice ended at 5pm every day which meant that we could have an early dinner and be well rested for the next day.

Testing:

Testing commenced just before noon Tuesday morning. Tuesday and Wednesday were warmer, but the weather changed Wednesday night and we found the track covered in water Thursday morning. This put a damper on Thursday morning testing, but overall did not have a huge effect on the weekend. Trevor and I were able to try different parts, setups, and chassis changes to close the gap between myself and the leaders. Overlaying data from previous sessions and looking at go-pro video was vital to me. It allowed me to see how the track was changing and how I should change my driving to compensate. On Wednesday my family showed up at the race track; making it feel like home. When testing was over we felt confident and secure in the place we were in.

Racing:

Qualifying for Saturday and Sunday resulted in 8th and 10th against some of the world’s best DD2 drivers. I was surprised at how equal starts were in Ocala. Starting on the inside vs the outside row did not really matter! The key was to have positions sorted before the third corner. Saturday’s pre-final was a bit of a struggle as we were still trying to get the setup right, but the final went our way and resulted in a 6th position; missing fast time by less than half a tenth. Sunday was very similar to Saturday pace wise. I was 6th for most of the pre-final, but a costly battle with the 5th place driver allowed others to gain. I had to start the final in 8th position. After fighting my way to 6th on the first lap I realized the setup was not what I wanted it to be and I finished in 8th place, neither gaining nor losing a position from the start line. The racing at the front was very competitive all week leaving no room for error. It was very common to see 8 or 9 karts in the lead group, all fighting for position. Ocala is one of the few tracks that naturally promotes this kind of tight racing.

Championship:

One of my major goals of the FWT Championship is to learn how to put an entire championship together. Trevor has been continually advising me of this goal and so-far it has gone just as planned. I have finished every race and pre-final inside the top 10 karts and have not faced the wrong way on the circuit. I have not been known for this in the past, so it feels very promising to see the improvement for myself. Oh, and if I finish the championship in a similar fashion Trevor has agreed to sport a cardigan the entire flight home. I am often heckled for my use of the practical and realistic outer-garment, but maybe if Trevor and others would try it they would understand! Leaving Ocala I am 6th in the championship and a mere 56 points out of 5th.

The City of Ocala:

I really didn’t know what to expect of the city of Ocala. I figured it would be a regular Florida city equipped with a Panda Express, lots of bugs, elderly people, and football team advertisements, so the sudden blast of “horse culture” was unexpected to me. Horse pictures and sculptures could be seen in every room and common area at our hotel. I also quickly realized that the city of Ocala was not home to a Panda Express franchise. This meant many of our meals were consumed at the race track. Overall Ocala is not like any of the other Floridian cities that I have been to.

Appreciation:

I would really like to thank my family and parents for this weekend. They are always supporting me which goes a long way. I need to thank Trevor as well for the extreme help he is to me as a mechanic and coach.

Until next time,

Fred Woodley

Photos by: Cody Schindel/CKN

Photos by: Cody Schindel/CKN

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