The 2013 Florida Winter Tour Rotax Max Challenge saw it’s first race day finally hit the track today at Palm Beach International Raceway. With a mixture of weather in the forecast, drivers and mechanics were kept on their toes, doing their best to ensure they had the correct setup for the tricky conditions. The morning warm ups, Last Chance races and first few pre finals were all on a dry track, but just as the Rotax Junior division hit the track, the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down.
Taking advantage of his Ocala Gran Prix teammate, Nick Neri (TonyKart) slid into the lead on the start of the pre final, while Oliver Askew tucked in ahead of a heard charging Dan Roeper. Behind the leaders, a traffic jam in corner one took many drivers out of contention, but up front it was all TonyKart green. Reigning Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals Champion Charlie Eastwood (TonyKart) tracked down the front three and worked his way all the way to the lead after a mistake by Askew. Eastwood would hold on to take the heat, with Askew and Neri in tow, while Tadasuke Makino (Birel) finished fourth ahead of the UK’s Luke Varley (Birel). Steven Szigeti (Zanardi) was the hard charger of the race as he went from a 32nd starting position to ninth, after working through the last chance race.
Unfortunately for Eastwood, he would be removed from the results after failing post race tech, and he would be forced to start in the final in 34th.
Makino made a great move as the lights went out to start the Final, and exited corner one with the lead and clear view through the water mist. However his lead would not last as Varley moved into first before the lap was complete. Eastwood was on the move and had broke into the top-ten by the completion of lap one, and by lap three he was into third before being pushed off track in the first corner. Regaining in seventh, Eastwood settled down and quickly posted some of the fastest laps of the race while working back towards the front. Up front, Varley checked out, with Danny Formal (TonyKart) holding second until Eastwood caught the Florida driver.
At the line, Varley crossed as the victor by 13-seconds, but would be accessed a 1-position penalty by the race stewards for a “driving infraction”, moving Eastwood to the top of the podium. Formal held on to finish third, while Makino and Neri completed the top-five.