The winter season has turned it’s halfway point as the Florida Winter Tour Rotax Challenge completed round two this past weekend in Ocala, Florida at the very popular Ocala Gran Prix. After a rough start to the week, the weather took a turn for the best come race time as beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures made for very ideal race conditions.
Looking back at the weekends events, we have put together our usual set of News & Notes as a reflection on the weekends action in north Florida.
Where are all the Rotax Seniors?
While we have seen the numbers drop off a bit at the FWT this year, Rotax Senior took the biggest hit in Ocala. After 44 drivers entered the opening event in Homestead, only 28 were on track in Ocala and no Last Chance Race was even considered. Although a handful of drivers did opt for the Rotax Winter Cup in Campillos, Spain, we are curious why what is the usually the most popular class is struggling thus far in 2014.
Hopefully it can make a turn as the season progresses.
Paolo De Conto puts his stamp on Rotax DD2
After his controversial disqualification in Homestead removing him from his podium finish on Sunday, Paolo de Conto put his stamp on the Rotax DD2 class in Ocala, sweeping both features in fine fashion. He was given a run for his money in the early laps of both finals, but ultimately De Conto was able to drive away from his competition aboard his KMS/Birel chassis.
Scary Accident for David Shutiak in Rotax Masters
On Sunday, Canadian David Shutiak
was involved in a very scary accident in the Rotax Masters Final. Ultimately needing a transport to hospital, Shutiak is in recovery from some serious injuries from the incident including a broken pelvis and broken ribs.
We are seeking updates as often as we can and wish David a safe and quick recovery.
Canadians Sweep Mini-Max Races
Arguably the most competitive class of the weekend, Canadians were in control of the Mini-Max division from start to finish. Lachlan Defrancesco kicked it off by posting the fastest time in both qualifying sessions Friday. Then Matthew Latifi scored his first Mini-Max victory on Saturday with a brilliant drive and late race pass for the win. Capping things off, Michael d’Orlando added to his already impressive 2014 season by winning his fifth Final of the year in similar fashion to Latifi with a late race charge and pass for victory.
The Canadian flags were flown proudly on top of the podium with both drivers having a shot at the Championship next month in Orlando.
Benik Kart Impressing in Micro and Mini-Max
Introduced only a few months ago, the new Benik Kart developed by Nick Mitchell and Ben Cruttenden for the Mini classes had three drivers competing over two classes on the weekend. In Mini-Max, Canadian Lachlan Defrancesco scored two Qualifying pole-positions, while Jo Nunez kept his Benik Kart up front in Micro-Max all weekend, starting on the front row each day. The chassis has shown it can compete with the best right away in two of the most competitive international mini classes in the world.
Mitchell and Cruttenden have informed CKN that they do plan on bringing their Benik Kart to Canada for a couple ECKC races this summer.
OGP almost unbeatable on home soil
The Ocala Gran Prix race team has always been impressive, with top notch drivers racing under the team tent and usually a larger following at their home event, and this weekend was different with solid performances in all the main divisions.
In Rotax Senior, both Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood swept the action as Kirkwood scored both poles, while Askew won both Finals. Austin Garrison also kept the OGP flag up front in Rotax Junior, nearly winning on both days. Finally, Nick Neri was the only driver to really challenge double-winner Paolo De Conto on the weekend, leading portions of both Finals. OGP was also on the podium in Max Masters with Brian MacHattie.
Joshua Cunha making a name for himself in Micro-Max
A year ago, Joshua Cunha was just getting started in karting and didn’t even have a race outside of Canada on his mind. Fast forward twelve months and Joshua Cunha is tearing it up in the youngest division on track at the FWT.
On Saturday Cunha earned his first international podium when he finished second in a race that came down to the wire and a drag race to the finish.
Sunday was much different as Cunha was working his way from sixth on the starting grid in the prefinal when contact with another driver knocked his chain off and he was forced to the sidelines. Starting the Final from the rear of the grid, Cunha picked off driver after driver and ultimately caught the leaders on the final lap while setting the fastest lap in the process. When the dust settled, Cunha was awarded the third and final step on the podium to earn his second trophy of the weekend.
This drive has earned Joshua our driver of the event award.
FWT Live Includes Onboard footage
Although we were trackside and didn’t get a chance to check out the live broadcast, the FWT crew introduced live onboard footage to their FWT Live broadcast feed. The feed is already very successful and the crew at FWT continue to push to improve each and every race.
The system used was actually quite simple and could potentially be something utilized more at future events around the world.