Seven drivers were crowned winners at the Rotax Max Challenge event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but not all seven were pre-race favorites. Indeed, not all were post-race favorites, as two apparent winners flunked post-race tech.
However, the events themselves were successes. From Micro-Max to Rotax DD2, great racing was a running theme, with victory in doubt right up until the final corner.
Kirkwood remains perfect in Rotax Senior
For the second weekend in a row, Floridian Kyle Kirkwood was the driver to beat in the Senior category. After a perfect day of heats on Saturday, he came under more pressure from Englishman Jordon Lennox on Sunday, and even lost the lead to him on Lap 7.
But Kirkwood regained the position a lap later, ultimately fended off further attacks and set the fastest lap on his final tour of the circuit.
Behind the front two, it was a wild opening few laps as drivers hustled for the final podium position. Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo held on through all the pushing and shoving and eventually broke free from the wild group to secure third.
Darren Keane and Zach Holden rounded out the top five.
Wickens holds off Askew in crazy DD2 thriller
A crazy run of events before the green flag even flew in the PreFinal set the stage for a gripping Rotax DD2 Final.
Polesitter Oliver Askew found himself spun around not once, but twice on the warm-up laps of the PreFinal, and an error in judgment earned him two time penalties – for cutting the track to regain his position and regaining his position after the formation line. Thus despite dominating the PreFinal, Askew was forced to start the main event from 13th on the grid with Mercedes DTM driver Robert Wickens on the pole position.
Wickens jumped out to an early lead while Askew’s troubles were not yet over, as he spun his kart at Turn 1 and fell to the tail of the field. Regaining his focus, he then scythed through the pack and by Lap 15 was into second position.
Lapping up to half a second quicker on some laps, Askew chewed up Wickens’ three-second lead and with two laps to go had the DTM driver in his sights and the crowd on their feet. However, Wickens defended beautifully and Askew was unable to complete a pass before the end.
Colombian driver Christian Munoz completed the podium after working his way past Luke Chudleigh on Lap 16, while Rubens Barrichello finished sixth.
Within the DD2 race, Christian Cornejo held off Luis Schiavo for victory in the Masters class with Christophe Adams third.
Leist takes Junior win after D’Orlando earns post-race penalty
Michael d’Orlando waited until the perfect moment to make his pass for victory in the Rotax Junior Final and complete the FWT Homestead sweep. However, a penalty in post-race tech handed the race victory to Brazilian Arthur Leist.
Having climbed from 10th on the grid to second in the PreFinal, d’Orlando started the Final on the front row alongside poleman Ryan MacDermid. MacDermid got a great jump at the start but was attacked immediately in Turn 5 by d’Orlando, Leist, Killian Meyer and Nicholas Brueckner and fell back to fifth.
As the action cooled down, Leist worked by Meyer on Lap 5 and then took the lead from d’Orlando three laps later. D’Orlando smartly tucked in behind Leist and pushed the leader away from Meyer as MacDermid picked off Brueckner and Mathias Ramirez to regain fourth spot.
Patiently waiting to make his move, d’Orlando stayed on Leist’s bumper until two laps to go, making the move in corner five, two laps after MacDermid had snuck by Meyer for the final podium spot.
Fairbairn misses out, then doesn’t, in Mini-Max
Jeremy Fairbairn led every lap of the Rotax Mini-Max Final except the last one, him defending a little too deep into the final turn and allowing Arias Deukmedjian to slide under and take the win.
However, Fairbairn’s minor misjudgment was rendered inconsequential, as Deukmedjian was disqualified in post-race tech. That elevated Austin Torgerson and Matheus Morgatto up a step on the podium.
In Rotax Micro-Max, Josh Pierson overtook both Rafael Camara and Diego Contecha on the final lap to secure the victory. It was an impressive pair of moves by the young driver from Oregon to earn his first win of the season.
Finally, Frenchman Christophe Adams secured the victory in Rotax Max Masters following an intense battle in the opening laps that shuffled up the running order. Two separate incidents on Lap 7 allowed Adams to gain a big lead with Rafa Matos retiring early while running second. Scott Roberts and Michael Aboissa completed the podium, both having had to recover after the Lap 7 incidents.
Round two of the Sofina Foods Florida Winter Tour presented by FIKSE Wheels takes place in three weeks time at the Ocala Gran Prix karting facility in north Florida. The FWT ROK Cup will take place on February 11-14 with the FWT Rotax Max Challenge the following weekend, February 18-21.