FWT-IMRC: Ocala Sunday summary

Marsell, Guimaraes, Formal score FWT championships Ocala, FL (March 9, 2008) -- The Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida continued its tenth season on Sunday, wrapping up the sixth and final round of the 2008 FWT ...

FWT-IMRC: Ocala Sunday summary

Marsell, Guimaraes, Formal score FWT championships

Ocala, FL (March 9, 2008) -- The Formula Kart Racing Florida Winter Tour presented by Tony Kart Florida continued its tenth season on Sunday, wrapping up the sixth and final round of the 2008 FWT International Rotax Max Challenge. The Ocala Gran Prix karting facility played host to a field of 170 drivers competing in all six Rotax Max categories; Senior, Junior, Masters, DD2, Micro, and Mini.

Since early January these drivers and teams from around the globe have been competing for the fully funded rides to the 2008 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals (RMCGF) that will be awarded to the points champions of the Rotax DD2, Rotax Senior and Rotax Junior classes. In addition, FWT RMC Masters and Mini Max class points champions receive paid entry packages to the United States or Mexican Grand Nationals, and the eligible runner-up of each class points championships will gain an automatic berth to the U.S. Grand Nationals.

Complimenting the FWT Rotax awards are Skip Barber Racing School Three Day Competition Courses for points champions in Rotax Senior and Junior (an $8000 value), and Autosports Media awarded a $1,000 web site voucher for the points champions of all FWT Rotax classes.

S1 Racing Karts Rotax Senior

If Brazilian import Felipe Guimaraes was hoping to have any chance of scoring the Rotax Senior crown, and the direct transfer spot to the RMCGF that goes with it, he needed to continue his form that had led to three successive FWT victories. Knowing that he must win today in order to keep his hopes alive, Guimaraes went out in qualifying and threw down a 37.621, his Kart Mini a full tenth clear of the entire field.

His closest competition came in the form of Champion Racing/Intrepid's Ben Searcy, who again mustered the most significant challenge to the flying Brazilian. Fabio Orsolon (Max Papis Racing with Fittipaldi), who needed to finish fifth or higher in the final in order to clinch the title, could only manage seventh, while another Brazilian and title contender, Victor Pedrosa (CRG/SSC East), only qualified tenth.

Such has been Guimaraes' recent dominance that the starts are the only suspenseful moments in Rotax Senior; he and Searcy went side by side for the first two corners, but then Felipe got the better of it and took over his position at the front. Venezuelan Luis Schiavo leaped into second from Row 2, Searcy dropped to third, while Pedrosa made a mega-start and was fourth by Lap 2. Marco Di Leo ran fifth, and that put three Intrepids in the top five.

The pre-final was a cautious affair with little dicing and lots of saving of tires. Guimaraes cruised to a 3.5 second win, while Searcy moved past Schiavo and into second. Jerimy Daniel showed well for SH Karting/Tony Kart with a fourth place, while Pedrosa crossed the line in fifth. Orsolon struck disaster in the closing laps, falling from sixth all the way down to 25th and, barring a miracle in the main, effectively ending his title hopes.

Calculators whirled throughout the pits as everyone geared up for the final, as points were tallied in order to play out the multitude of championship possibilities. It was mostly a simple affair; if Orsolon could finish fourth or higher, he'd clinch the title. Pedrosa needed to win and hope Fabio (starting 25th) couldn't work his way forward, while Guimaraes was in the same basic situation as Victor: win and hope for the best.

Felipe did his part, unloading a truckload of hurt on the field and running unchallenged to the checkered flag in the final. The outcome was never in question, only the margin of victory, which stood at 4.5 seconds. Schiavo and Searcy completed the podium.

By virtue of his fourth straight win and, despite missing both rounds at Homestead, Guimaraes went four for four during the last two thirds of the season and snatched the title, the RMCGF transfer spot, and the Skip Barber Racing School Three Day Competition Course. Pedrosa and Orsolon could only wonder what might have been, as they finished ninth and twelfth, respectively.

Advanced Karting Rotax Junior

When the Rotax Junior field took to the track for qualifying, it was yesterday's third-place finisher Kevin Monteith (Firstkart.com) who was the early pole sitter. That was not to last long though, as Danny Formal (Advanced Karting/Tony Kart) grabbed the pole just a few minutes later. Danny became embroiled in a seesaw battle with Nick Neri (OVRP/Maranello), as the two swapped fast time for a number of laps.

But they were all shamed by Tatiana Calderon (Tony Kart Florida), the girl from Colombia serving notice that she had the raw speed to get the job done. Her 38.119 was .039 clear of Formal's best effort, who in turn was quicker than all of his championship rivals, Gabriel Chaves (Goodwood Kartways/Intrepid), Phil De La O (Advanced Karting), and Neri.

At the start of the pre-final, Formal got a generous spot from his off-pole position yet the green flew anyway, while Tatiana slotted into second. Second lap and she was down to fourth, as both Neri and Chaves went blitzing by. De La O held down fifth position, therefore all four of the title hopefuls were running in the top five in a superb nose-to-tail fracas.

Turn 1, Lap 7 and Neri made his bid for the lead, moving cleanly past Formal. That lasted all of a lap before Danny resumed the top position; then a lap later Nick moved back to the front. Behind them, Chaves bobbled and Tatiana pounced, demoting Gabriel down to fourth. Lap 12 and Tatiana was into second, with Neri losing two spots and now Chaves into third. Perhaps in frustration, it was only a few corners later that Neri shoved Chaves onto the marbles in the final turn; Nick was back into third while Chaves scrambled on the loose stuff and slid to fifth as De La O scooted past. Two laps later and the checkered flew for Formal, Calderon, Neri, De La O and Chaves. Post race and Neri was placed behind Chaves for the hit-and-run transgression.

Heading into the final and the points championship was heavily in favor of Formal, his thirty point lead looking unassailable. But behind him, just ten points separated De La O, Chaves, and Neri. Off-pole sitter Calderon didn't figure into the championship mix, but she had the good looks of a fly in the ointment.

Not initially though, as the green flag flew and De La O, Neri, and Chaves all went past her in the matter of a few corners. Neri and Chaves resumed their battle, and it ended in futility when they ran into each other. The result for both drivers was lost positions, lost contact with the lead group, and lost hope of scoring either the series title or the RMCGF transfer spot.

Up front it was a two-kart breakaway, as Formal and De La O were attached at the hip. Lap 9 and Phil took a turn in the lead, only to have Danny take it back. De La O went back in front a few laps later, and time was running out.

Formal waited until the white flag lap before making the token Ocala move into Turn 1, and with that, Danny went on to the win while clinching the FWT Junior Rotax title and a Three Day Competition Course from Skip Barber Racing Schools. De La O was hardly disappointed though, as he earned the expenses-paid Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals direct transfer spot.

Cameron Motorsports DD2

A frigid morning and a cool track surface greeted the DD2 qualifiers, and it took the two-speed Rotax contingent a few extra laps to get something resembling heat into their Mojo tires. But it was the Californian Joey Collins who achieved the most success in the search for grip, as the SSC/CRG pilot snatched the pole position with a 37.388. Stuart Marsell (BTK Motorsports/Arrow) and Fidencio Guzman (Firstkart.com) were second and third respectively, while SRA Karting/Arrow teammates Kyle Herder and reigning DD2 World Champion Pier-Luc Ouellette were fourth and fifth.

Into the pre-final and Collins, as he has this season, struggled with his start and found himself down in third in the opening corners. Herder made a great push from fourth and made his way into the early lead, Marsell close behind. The two of them scratched and clawed at each other's eye balls for the first seven laps, swapping the lead several times and with Herder using his bodywork generously. Stuart cordially returned the favor and got the better of it; Marsell would go on to win by a second and a half over Herder and then Ouellette. Saturday's winner Guzman went missing at the crossed flags, a stuck throttle sending him into the barriers on the outside of Turn 1. He was unhurt.

To the final: in what amounted to a winner-take-all scenario for the points championship and the RMCGF direct transfer spot, the three title contenders (Marsell, Herder, Ouellette) were running one-two-three as they came into Turn 1. Marsell maintained his position up front with Kyle and Pier-Luc in close quarters.

None could match Stuart's pace; he was routinely lapping two-three tenths faster than the field. Brandon Marsell began to close in on Pier-Luc and put some pressure on him, giving his brother some insurance up front. Meanwhile, it was clear to most everyone that Pier-Luc had the obvious measure of Herder, but Ouellette seemed content to sit in third. After all, Pier-Luc's return to the RMCGF was already assured (defending champs get a free entry), so he was apparently willing to help his teammate get there as well.

But that would have required a meltdown from Marsell, and that never transpired. In what was fine retribution after he was robbed of the opportunity to get a fully paid trip to last year's RMCGF as the United States DD2 champion, Marsell took the checkered by almost four seconds ahead of Herder and Ouellette, clinching the title and the transfer spot. It sent the partisan Florida crowd into a frenzy for one of their favorite local drivers, and it completed a one-two-three sweep for the Arrow chassis in FWT DD2 competition. It was also one of the closest FWT points battles in history; Marsell's 455 stacked up against 450 for both Pier-Luc and Kyle.

RDD Motorsports Masters

The Mad Max show continued on Sunday, as Max Papis (MPR/Birel) put on a driving clinic for the 35 and older crowd in the Masters category. Papis took the pole, won the pre-final by six seconds, won the main by a similar margin, and only his unfailingly good nature and humor kept the rest of the field from feeling too terribly humiliated. After all, the guy's resume includes CART, ChampCar, NASCAR and ALMS rides.

Brent Harper (CMC/Swiss Hutless) was the best of the rest, as he easily claimed second spot in both the pre-final and the final. However, the battle for third was where all the action was, as Denis Lachance (Simplex/CRG) and Christopher Rock (OVRP/Maranello) enjoyed a huge scrap throughout the main. Denis got the better of it by the slimmest of margins, earning the podium by less than a tenth.

When Brad Smith dropped out of the class after his stellar Homestead weekend, it took a lot of the drama out of the Masters points battle, as his nemesis Michael Riolo (Advanced Karting/Tony Kart) was suddenly left with a huge points cushion over the rest of the field. Riolo had previously notched two wins, but he struggled here at Ocala, and on Sunday could do no better than sixth.

Despite some adventures up and down through the field, Michael did what he had to do to lock up the championship over Lachance and Paul Montopoli. For his efforts, Riolo earned a paid entry package to the U.S. Rotax Nationals.

Kart Mini of America Mini Max / RDD Motorsports Micro Max

The story of Mini Max qualifying was Jack West, as the Juncos Racing driver scampered to the pole over championship rivals Dore Chaponick Jr. (Birel/MRP Motorsport) and Jesse Lazare (SH Karting/Tony Kart). Those same three would stage a heated debate in the pre-final, with West again getting the better of it.

But when it really counted, Chaponick was the one who had all the correct answers, and the young Florida driver would score a fine victory in the main event. West went missing at the halfway point, while Lazare and Pietro Fittipaldi da Cruz (MPR/Birel) scrapped over the runner-up position, with Jesse ultimately earning the spot. Dore crossed the line with a second and a half in hand, and also earned a paid entry package to the U.S. Rotax Nationals.

One of the most popular wins of the weekend was put in by Micro Max driver Grant Quinlan, as the Birel/MRP Motorsport driver swept the day with his pole position, pre-final, and main event victories. The Ontario driver kicked off the day with his pole run that was .029 better than Patricio O' Ward (Paradise/Arrow), Grant then won the pre-final by just three tenths over Jesse Seeley (Raceway Motorsports/Maverick), and then won the final by a similar margin.

The assembled hillside crowd let out a raucous cheer as Quinlan decided he needed a victory lap with the checkered flag, and he got mad props for even taking another lap just to return the checkered to the head flagman. All in all, it was a well-deserved win for Grant, and it clinched the Micro Max championship for him as well.

-credit: www.floridawintertour.com

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