Race day has finally come in Ocala, Florida as the 2013 Florida Winter Tour inches closer to completion. Saturday was round number five of the six race championship, and although the weather was in question all day long, the skies never opened up and every race was completed under dry conditions. The action was intense through every category as drivers looked to lock up or advance forward in their championship chases.
With wet conditions in the DD2 pre final, Ben Cooper (Birel) was able to take the lead from pole sitter Xen De Ruwe (Formula K) right at the start as the Belgian driver would fall down to seventh as he was the only driver who elected to race with slicks. Following Cooper at the start was teammate Kevin Ludi (Birel), Marco Di Leo (Praga) and Fritz Leesmann (CRG). By lap four De Ruwe was back on the rebound as he would get back into the third position and was on the hunt to catch the leader Cooper. De Ruwe tried to get the lead on Cooper on the outside of corner one two laps later but contact between the two drivers would send De Ruwe spinning. Even with the spin it wouldn’t stop De Ruwe as he was the only driver on dry tires on a drying track and he would be nearly four seconds a lap quicker than Cooper, who was the next quickest driver on track. At the line De Ruwe would have a 12-second lead ahead of Cooper and Ludi.
Going in to the final the only disadvantage De Ruwe would have would be his tires. The Belgian benefited from starting first in the Final to take the holeshot going into the first corner. Next lap by Cooper would take the lead in turn four but as De Ruwe attempted to take the lead back from the Canadian his Formula K kart would climb the rear bumper of Cooper allowing Di Leo to take the lead. Behind Di Leo would be Scott Speed (Tony Kart) maiking a guest appearance in Ocala. Speed who was rated one of the top drivers in North America when he dominated the karting scene before moving to cars still has the same killer instinct and he would try to take the lead from Di Leo going into the oval section of the track. Unfortunately for the former Torro Rosso F1 driver he would lose momentum coming out of the corner which allowed Di Leo to regain the lead. This is where the race got intense momentarily as Speed would go wide coming out of the last corner allowing Cooper and De Ruwe to get through for second and third on track.
At the halfway distance Cooper passed Di Leo for the top spot as he would then drive away from the field. Di Leo, De Ruwe, Ludi and Speed all engaged in battle for the second position. Ludi would be the first to bow out of the race as he tried to take the third position from Speed with eight laps to got but lost his nose cone while making contact with the OGP driver. De Ruwe and Speed started to put a gap on Di Leo in fourth but as they battled in the closing stages of the race Di Leo was able to take the spots back from the two drivers. Up front however Cooper would take his third win of the year, five seconds ahead of Di Leo, De Ruwe, and Speed. Fritz Leesman (CRG) who recently won the Challenge of America’s DD2 championship brought his PSL prepared machine in home in the fifth position.
Looking at the Championship points tally it seems highly unlikely that anyone could challenge Ben Cooper for the top spot. The race for second will come down to the final on Sunday as Di Leo currently holds second over De Ruwe when drops are added into the standings. It should be interesting to see which of the two drivers will get the second ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals.