Only two weeks into the new calendar year and another busy karting season is about to begin. MaxSpeed Entertainment opens up their six-race winter championship known as the Sofina Foods Florida Winter Tour presented by FIKSE Wheels this weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and its bound to be a big one. Several professional drivers have registered to compete against many of the best kart racers from North America in the very popular international karting program.
The Florida Winter Tour is split up into two separate championships, with each competing in three rounds over the next three months. This weekend will feature drivers competing on the Vortex ROK engine platform across seven different age and engine categories, while next weekend will see seven classes utilizing the Rotax Max powerplant. Both championships have big prizes up for grabs along with the bragging rights that go along with them as a prestigious FWT champion. Both programs also have a new weekend race format as organizers have moved past the typical double-race weekends and introduced the CIK standard with Qualifying, heat races and a PreFinal helping set the grid for Sunday’s all-important main events.
2016 marks the seventeenth season for the Florida Winter Tour, but only the second under management and ownership of the MaxSpeed Group. With a year of event management under their belts and a passion to grow their program and the sport itself, MaxSpeed and their associates have shown they are excited about year two, building on a great foundation set in 2015.
The permanent karting track in the parking lot of the Homestead-Miami Speedway features a challenging 7/10-mile circuit that is very popular amongst drivers. The lightning-fast track is made up on mainly 90º and 180º corners, forcing drivers to utilize and respect the curbs both at apex and corner exit this weekend. While the facility is a bit of sight for sore eyes, the racing it provides makes up for the lack of visuals.
A few of the headlines entering this weekend’s event include:
Class Champions Earn Invitations to Italy
All of the 2016 Florida Winter Tour ROK Cup class champions, with the exception of Micro ROK, will earn the opportunity to race at the ROK Cup International Final in Italy later this year. The event draws Vortex ROK racers from around the world each year and is hosted by the OTK Group at the famed South Garda Karting track in Lonato, Italy.
Barrichello and Piquet Jr. to do battle in ROK Shifter
Former Formula 1 drivers Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet Jr. are entered in this weekends event and will compete in the premier category, ROK Shifter. The six-speed gearbox powered karts provide great entertainment and there is a full field of hungry karters looking to show the motorsports stars they mean business. The likes of Costa Rican Daniel Formal, a multi-time FWT champion, and Americans Austin Garrison and AJ Myers will be sure to challenge for the win. Sportscar stars Remo Ruscutti and Hayden Duerson as well as Brazilian Danilo Dirani have also entered the category.
Rookies looking to break through in ROK Junior
For many drivers, a fresh calendar year means the opportunity to advance up a category and for those drivers looking to make an impression on their young racing careers, moving up to Junior is one of the biggest steps in the karting ladder. Three of these young drivers making their junior debut this weekend, Nicholas d’Orlando, Lachlan DeFrancesco and Matthew Latifi, all contended for the MINI ROK title a year ago and all represent the Canadian flag on their driver’s suits. But they will have sophomore Juniors like Dylan Tavella, Michael d’Orlando, Aidan Keel, Gianluca Petecof and Eduardo Barrichello, son of Rubens, to deal with if they want to have a chance at stepping on the podium this weekend.
Kirkwood seeking second straight ROK Senior title
No driver was even able to come close to Kyle Kirkwood in 2015 as the Florida pilot delivered five victories in five races to claim the ROK Senior championship. Back for another season, Kirkwood leads a field of drivers with plenty of potential, including a couple of class rookies having moved up from Junior. Mexican Javier Gonzalez as well as American’s Ryan Norberg, and Stirling Fairman could be the best chance to give Kirkwood a run for the title along with rookies Roman De Angelis and Zach Holden.
Full attendance expected in Micro and Mini ROK
The two categories reserved for the youngest competitors of the sport will be the busiest this weekend. Last season the MINI-ROK category was so big it needed to be split up into groups for the heat races and it appears that will happen again in 2016. There are also a few names that stand out on the Mini-ROK entry list including Sebastien Montoya, son of 2015 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, Fernando Barrichello, son of Rubens Barrichello and an FWT race winner in 2015, and Jak Crawford, 2015 ROK Cup International Final vice-champion.
There will be plenty of action when these young drivers hit the track this weekend in Homestead as they work towards building up an early racing resume.
Every FWT event broadcasted live online
Finally, this weekend’s event will be broadcasted online via the MaxSpeed Entertainment Live broadcast. Live event streaming will be available starting Friday at http://bit.ly/1mDVTsQ.