As the 2013 racing season takes the green flag, both the annually contested Florida Winter Tour and premiere Ocala Gran Prix race team do as well. With round one taking place at the ultra fast Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR) in Jupiter, Florida, Ocala Gran Prix (OGP) will head south with a strong team of nineteen drivers. With at least one competitor in every Rotax Max class, OGP will be looking to close the series in March with multiple race wins, podium results and championships.
“We are ready for the 2013 season to get started,” explained Nate Grindell, Team Manager at Ocala Gran Prix. “After sending four drivers to the Rotax Grand Finals in 2012, we are looking to increase that number in 2013. We have assembled one of the strongest teams of drivers that Ocala Gran Prix has ever had and it’s only a matter of time before we are on the top step of the podium.”
With nineteen drivers under the team tent, six of them will do battle in the Rotax Senior ranks with multi-time champion and recent World Karting Association (WKA) Manufacturer’s Cup victor Nick Neri leading the way. Neri will be joined by Senior rookie and 2012 Rotax Junior Florida Winter Tour champion Oliver Askew, and WKA frontrunner Jonathon Kotyk. Making the switch to Ocala Gran Prix in 2013 will be Sam Beasley. Always a frontrunner in whatever he is racing, the two-time Team USA Rotax Grand Finals competitor will look to challenge for race wins, the championship and the elusive invitation to compete at the 2013 Grand Finals.
Alex Hornborg will return to the Ocala Gran Prix race team. Making the jump from the junior to senior ranks in the middle of 2012, Hornborg has achieved much success on the local level and will now look to do the same as a rookie at the 2013 edition of the Florida Winter Tour. Floridian Morgan Healy will also make the switch to the OGP squad, as she will compete in her first ever FWT event in only two weeks time.
A pair of competitors will see action in DD2 powered karts as Anthony Honeywell will battle in Rotax DD2 Masters and IndyCar Series frontrunner James Hinchcliffe will try his hand in DD2. While Honeywell comes from the enduro side of karting, the now turned sprint racer has competed in several events leading up to the FWT and will look to outdo the over-32 group of drivers this season.
Hinchcliffe, who is a perennial frontrunner in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Andretti Autosport, will trade his GoDaddy.com sponsored Chevy in for an Ocala Gran Prix prepared Rotax DD2. A former karter back in the day, Hinchcliffe will return to his roots and battle with some of North America’s best. Recently completing a test at the Ocala Gran Prix facility in mid-December, Hinchcliffe will look to shake the rust off and find the speed to win when he hits the track in just under two weeks time.
Ocala Gran Prix will enter a strong eight competitors in the Rotax Junior ranks. Claiming a victory in the 2012 Florida Winter Tour, female pilot Ashley Rogero will look to up her game and battle for the title in 2013. Always a frontrunner, Rogero will forgo the TaG weekend of the series to fully prepare for the ultra-competitive Rotax weekends. Another new competitor to the Ocala Gran Prix squad and instant favorite for the championship will be 2012 TaG Junior FWT champion Kyle Kirkwood. Making the switch to Tony Kart has been done with ease, as a recent test in Ocala proved that Kirkwood has the speed and experience to challenge for another championship. Aaron Bass and Brian Lockwood will compete at the 2013 Florida Winter Tour as both have been honing their skills in regional action throughout the state of Florida. While Lockwood saw action in 2012, he is looking to improve on his results and show the country that he has what it takes to win. Bass, who is a FWT newcomer, has been competing with Ocala Gran Prix throughout the 2012 season but will now try his hand at the challenging Florida Winter Tour. Adding to the Rotax Junior field will be Tony Kart pilots Austin Garrison and Ryan Norberg as both will join Ocala Gran Prix for the 2013 season.
With ten drivers in Rotax Junior, some new faces will be present under the team tent as Jack Weprin and Gavin Reichelt will join the talented team. Both drivers have experience at the annual Florida Winter Tour program and both are ready to get down to the business of winning. Olivier Bellanger and Quentin De Boever will look to start their 2013 karting seasons off at the Florida Winter Tour. While both drivers have competed locally throughout Florida and in the North Florida Rotax Max Challenge program, Bellanger and de Boever are looking to make a name for themselves on the national scene.
Showing their true diversity by having a driver in every racing division during the Rotax weekend, Mathias Ramirez will return to the OGP squad and see action in the Rotax Mini Max ranks. Claiming a podium result at the 2012 United States Rotax Grand Nationals last August, Ramirez is looking to carry his momentum into the 2013 Florida Winter Tour. Jordan Heffner will make her FWT debut in a few weeks time, as the young lady will compete in Rotax Micro Max. Running at the front of the field throughout the state of Florida, Jordan, daughter of 2012 Rotax Masters FWT Champion Jason Heffner, will look to follow in her fathers footsteps this season.
“My entire crew at OGP has done a great job in preparing for the Florida Winter Tour,” explained Jorge Arellano. “With some returning drivers and some new ones, the logistics of a program this size are tough. I have complete faith in my guys and know that we are in for a successful 2013 season.”
With a strong team of drivers, a talented crew of tuners is needed and that is exactly what OGP has put in place. With tuners from around the world with all levels of expertise, more than 300 years of experience can be found under the OGP Team tent. Tuning at all three Rotax rounds will be Gary Carlton, Alex Speed, John Russell, Mike Maurini, Tom Buckley, Tony Alvy, Austin Elliott, Wesley Boswell, Gary Willis, Arie Ouimet, Nate Grindell, Scott Gordinier, Cale Wyse, Mario Ioffredo, Jay McKeague, Kurt Folsom, Jim Rogero, Thomas Silva, Cody Johnson, Ben Beasley, Phil Kirby, Scott Grenier, Ismael Ramirez and Jason Heffner.
For more information on Ocala Grand Prix, OGP race team opportunities and info on how to get into karting, please visit Ocala Gran Prix online at www.OcalaGranPrix.com or contact them at 352.291.0600 or via e-mail to: Info@OcalaGranPrix.com.