CKN News & Notes: Florida Winter Tour Round #3 – Orlando
This past weekend, we were trackside at the Orlando Kart Center for the Florida Winter Tour 2014 season finale. The ever popular winter karting series keeps many kart racers active during the “off-season” and also sets the tone and gives everyone a chance to see who could step up for the upcoming season.
Reflecting on the action on and off track in Orlando, here is our News & Notes from the event.
| Saturday Results | Sunday Results | Saturday Photo Gallery | Sunday Photo Gallery |
“Super” Ben Cooper has victorious return to Rotax DD2
For many, it was very unsettling to see multi-time Rotax Grand Finals Champion Ben Cooper struggle so much in the Rotax Senior category through the opening two rounds of the FWT, but none more than Cooper himself. Challenged mainly with the new Birel chassis, Cooper took the opportunity to switch back to the two-speed Rotax DD2 class in Orlando and immediately was back up to speed.
Challenging for the pole-position, Cooper qualified second and third on Friday. On Saturday he was equal to race winner Nick Neri, but just couldn’t catch him after Neri broke away in the opening laps while Cooper was fighting to get back into second.
But on Sunday Cooper put on the performance most of us are used to seeing from the Englishman since his move to Canada. Neri again broke away early but this time Cooper tracked him down. Knowing Neri was going to be a handful, he slowed him up enough to ‘feed him to wolves’, and while he let his competitors attack Neri for the second position, Cooper snuck away and drove on to victory.
March Madness in Orlando
There has been lots of controversy during the entire tour this year, but the season finale in any series always seems to really open things up in the stewards office and post-race tech.
This was on display heavily on Saturday with plenty of finger pointing and protests and appeals were flying left and right, even postponing the Saturday Mini-Max podium by a day.
We are still baffled that the officials allowed an appeal to be heard, let alone reversed on a technical violation to a Saturday winner, but nonetheless it seems to be almost normal in karting these days, no matter where the races are.
Then there was the mandatory drivers meeting on Sunday before the Championship deciding Finals. Series officials felt the need to tell drivers that the racing was too aggressive and penalties would be looming if they kept it up. But we wonder why the penalties wouldn’t have been assessed to begin with?
But regardless of it all, the on track racing at the FWT in 2014 was incredible as per usual.
No Canadian Rotax FWT Champion in 2014
For the first time in many years, Canada left the FWT without a Rotax class title. Canadian drivers have always been very competitive, and even owned the Rotax DD2 title for a handful of years, but this year we did not have a driver championship, although Canada did claim three titles on the FWT Formula Kart weekend.
Canadians did however stand on the podium in every Rotax class at least once.
However Canadian team PSL Karting did win the Rotax Junior title with Brazilian driver Pedro Cardoso and the Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid outfit scored the titles in both Max Masters and DD2 Masters with Venezuelan Luis Schiavo.
TonyKart wins Manufacturers Title; Other chassis still making headway
The OTK product line was by far the most popular chassis at the tour this year, but it has to be mentioned how hard the remaining manufacturers have been pushing to return their brands to the front. As mentioned, PSL Karting/CRG did win the Junior Max title, and Birel was very quick in both Senior Max and DD2 all season with countless wins and podiums. Intrepid dominated the Masters categories while Intrepid drivers Zachary Claman DeMelo and Ed Brand were the only two to upset the TonyKart of Oliver Askew in the talent-ridden Senior Max category.
In Micro and Mini Max two privately developed chassis also really made an impression. The AM Kart scored many victories and podiums and even won the Mini-Max title, while the new BENIK chassis was quick out of the box earning pole-positions and podium appearances. Both chassis are very new to the national karting scene and haven’t wasted any time getting up to speed.
In the Manufacturers Cup race, TonyKart bested CRG and Birel on the podium, with the AM Kart and Praga completing the top-five.
Six races, five different winners in Rotax DD2
Taking over as the premiere division of the Florida Winter Tour, the Rotax DD2 class saw growth in both numbers and international talent in 2014.
The racing was by far the best on display at all three rounds and when all was said and done there were five different winners, all representing a different country.
In Homestead, Costa Rican Daniel Formal grabbed race one for CRG with Frenchman Arnaud Kozlinski taking race two for Intrepid. Italian Paolo de Conto left his mark in round two, sweeping the weekend for Birel and becoming the only double-winner. Closing out the tour in Orlando, Nick Neri put TonyKart and the USA on top of the podium in race five with Canadian/Englishman Ben Cooper wrapping things up on a Birel in race six.
The one thing we would have wanted to see was a more consistent championship battle. Kozlinski only completed round one, De Conto and Alessandro Bressan completed two and Cooper only competed in round three. We can now only imagine what this championship would have been like if everyone ran all six rounds.
Canada runner-up to USA in FWT Nations Cup
It is no surprise that the USA won yet another FWT Nations Cup as the host country still holds a majority of the entered drivers. But the race for second was close with many countries having a solid contingent of drivers competing at all three rounds.
For Canada, our strong presence was once again shown as we finished runner-up to the USA, beating out Venezuela and Brazil.
KoeneUSA.com hands out cash to fastest qualifiers
One of the nice perks at this years FWT was a kick back to those drivers who had the best qualifying efforts throughout the entire tour.
Mike Maurini of KoeneUSA.com first provided each fast qualifier with a sticker to commemorate their pole-position and at the conclusion of the tour, handed out $200.00 cash to fastest Junior and Senior division drivers.
Taking home the cash for the Senior classes was Venezuelan Luis Schiavo, while Lachlan Defrancesco and Michael d’Orlando split the Junior rewards as they both equalled each other.