The Florida Winter Tour has been a truly international competition for more than the past decade, drawing not only drivers from around the world, but race teams as well.
With the first half of the 2017 Florida Winter Tour completing this past weekend at Ocala Gran Prix, seven drivers were crowned champion. Of those seven, four of them raced with Canadian teams who are spending our off-season in the sunny state of Florida.
The most prestigious category running this Tour has been the ROK Shifter category where Goodwood Kartways from Toronto, Ontario took home the top honours, supporting California driver Gary Carlton. The title was decided by only one point with Carlton scoring three podiums in three race to beat former Formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello. With trackside support from team manager Marco Di Leo and mechanic Brian Betterncourt, Carlton delivered against a category that saw no shortage of karting and formula car talents from around the world.
Di Leo had this to say following the race weekend, “It’s a great feeling to provide your driver with the material and personnel to win the Championship. We were able to provide Gary with a competitive Formula K Evo chassis and a fast and reliable engine from Legree Motorsports. Goodwood Kartways mechanic Brian Bettencourt was quick to come to terms with Gary and the FK chassis and three straight podiums later we were Champions! It takes big team effort to win at this level and we really enjoyed having Gary in the team.”
Trois-Rivieres, Quebec based PSL Karting is no stranger to the Florida Winter Tour, racking up titles since the Tour started more than fifteen years ago and during the ROK Cup portion they added two more courtesy of American driver Ryan Norberg and Russian driver Igor Muhkin. With a race victory in round two and consistency throughout the whole tour, Norberg, who is new driver to the team in 2017, and PSL used strategy to secure the ROK Senior title, entering the final on Sunday only needing to finish inside the top-ten. Crossing in fourth never felt so good for Norberg as he achieved success out of the gate this season with his new team.
“I would like to thank everyone that was involved from close or far with this championship effort, it really was a TEAM win!”
– Phil Coy Arbour, Race Team Manager for PSL Karting
We caught up with Coy Arbour, race team manager for PSL Karting and asked about Norberg’s title. “It was definitely a great feeling to win our first championship that we entered with our new driver Ryan Norberg. It was a big learning curve for him coming from a different line of product and a privateer team with a different background, but he really did a great job this early in this new venture. And for us as a team we continue to use all these races to carry on testing and development to ensure our valuable customers gets the best BirelART product to suit their needs and by winning the FWT ROK Senior championship we proved once again that the red army is quick on yet an other type of tires and engine. I would like to thank everyone that was involved from close or far with this championship effort, it really was a TEAM win!”
The second title came in the ROK Shifter Masters class where Igor Muhkin became the first Russian driver to claim a Florida Winter Tour championship. Spending a good portion of the winter in Florida with PSL, Muhkin impressively won the title without scoring a race win and only one podium altogether, that coming in Ocala with a second place effort in the rain.
The third Canadian outfit to stand on top of the FWT podium in Ocala was Energy Corse North America as Darren White’s race team secured the top-two positions at the hands of Luca Mars and Connor Zilisch. By far the most popular category this winter with 53 different drivers entering a race, Mini ROK put on a show in each round with Mars taking home the race win in round one and Zilisch closing out the tour with a victory to help vault him up the standings at the last minute.
Here is what White had to say about the efforts of his two young drivers. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with Luca for the past five months since joining back at the SuperNationals in Las Vegas. Sometimes it is hard to believe that Luca celebrated just his eleventh birthday last Wednesday. The maturity and emotional control he shows in the tightest and hard fought battles on track is why he usually comes out on top against the best ten to thirteen year-olds in the country. I knew with his poise we could win a championship together. I just did not expect it to be the first attempt at one together. I am very happy that we could put the full package together for him because this is a driver that deserves it.”
“Connor had been consistently fast all Florida Winter Tour long and it was a matter of time before he would win his first National race. With it he was able to move up to second in the championship to make it a 1-2 finish for Energy kart.”
Seven more Florida Winter Tour champions will be crowned this weekend as the Rotax Max Challenge classes finish up their tour back at the Ocala Gran Prix. In the hunt, PSL Karting has the chance to win a couple more. Follow along CKN, we will be there to cover all the activity of the Canadian teams and drivers.