By: Ken Johnson / Bill Wright – Florida Winter Tour
The competitors of Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour are back in action at the Homestead Karting facility. On track were the drivers of the Formula Kart Racing program who would be going for wins and having “Serious Fun” in the four Formula TaG classes. Last year the Homestead rounds of the Formula Kart Racing program proved pivotal in the Nations Cup, Manufacturers Cup, Drivers Championship and the Skip Barber / FWT award program, and it looks like this year we’re seeing that trend continue.
After a steady rain through the night, the track was clean and mostly dry for Saturday morning’s warm up sessions. After the warm ups, the drivers were ready for qualifying on the challenging Homestead Karting layout. The facility here is lined and dotted with palm trees, very appropriate for the Florida Winter Tour. It also provides some subliminal motivation this year for the driver’s to make the podium and receive karting’s newest signature trophy, “The Palm”.
AM Engines sponsored Formula Vortex TaG Cadet (30 entries)
In AM Engines Formula Vortex TaG Cadet qualifying, Anthony Gangi Jr. (USA) continued his dominating form from Palm Beach as he set the pole time with a lap of 53.569 seconds over fellow New Yorker Dylan Tavella (USA). In a bit of a sweep for the Empire State in qualifying, Giovanni Bromante (USA) rounded out the top three.
In the first TaG Cadet heat, Santiago Terife (Venezuela) emerged victorious over Gangi in a battle that saw them separated by only 0.237 of a second at the line. In heat race #2, Gangi Jr. resumed his winning ways and took the win by over three seconds from USA’s Neil Verhagen.
At the start of the TaG Cadet Final, Anthony Gangi Jr. and Dylan Tavella took off from the front row and commenced a battle of their own while Antonio Serravalle (Canada) worked to hold off David Malukas (USA) for third. As the race wore on, Gangi and Tavella continued to pull away while Michael d’Orlando worked his way up to third. That would end up being the top three Anthony Gangi Jr. taking the win and a race podium sweep for drivers from New York.
Euro Motorsports sponsored Formula TaG Masters (8 entries)
Moving from the youngest competitors to the most seasoned, the Euro Motorsports TaG Masters. TaG Masters qualifying saw some great laps being turned by the competitors. In the end, it was 2011 FWT TaG Masters Champion Jim Russell Jr. who captured the pole position with a lap of 50.155 seconds.
Qualifying did not go as expected for Juan Font. The fast Venezuelan set the second fastest time but was light across the scales, forcing him to start the first heat from the rear of the field. This added an extra dimension to the first heat race as Font was able to come through the field to finish third behind Russell and Nelson Canache (USA). With the inverted field for the second heat Font was looking forward to Heat #2.
In Tag Masters Heat #2, Font initially put his top starting spot to good use. However, Jim Russell Jr. was not to be denied as he came through the pack to take his second heat win of the day over Mexican Javier Gonzalez by just 0.629 seconds, with Font coming home third.
The start of the TaG Masters Final had the spectators on their feet as Canache, Russell, Font and Brent Lyman (USA) went four-wide into turn one! Entering turn one, Canache managed to momentarily take the lead with a big move down the inside. Following Canache through was another quick Venezuelan, Christian Calvo. Unfortunately Calvo bounced off the inside curb, into Russel, bending Russel’s axle.
This dropped Russell Jr. back, but never out of striking distance from early race leader Juan Font. For lap-after-lap, Font and Russell pulled out a lead over the field. With a handful of laps to go, Russell pulled off a move for the lead down into turn one and held that to the checkers to take his first FWT final win of the season. Joining Russell and Font on the podium was recent 24 Hours of Daytona winner Nelson Canache who’s proving he can run up front in cars and karts.
RYSA Racing sponsored Formula TaG Senior (20 entries)
The TaG Senior competitors took to the track for qualifying and Daniel Formal (Costa Rica) showed his double race wins in Palm Beach were just the beginning. The reigning FWT TaG Senior champion laid down the fastest lap of qualifying at 48.555 seconds to take pole over Venezuelan Jose Zanella and Floridian Dominic Tesoro.
At the start of Heat #1, Zanella pulled off a beautiful outside pass going into turn one to take the lead over Formal. From there the two battled in tight formation while the pack gave chase. With two laps to go, Formal and Zanella touched briefly in the mid-track section, sending Zanella into a spin that ended his race. Bad luck for Zanella worked in the favor of Roger Ralston Jr. (USA) who was able to move into the second position behind Formal with Christopher Morrison (USA) coming home third.
In the inverted field heat #2, Daniel Formal proved he can win from anywhere as he blitzed through the field to take the heat race win. Continued bad luck for Zanella, and this time Ralston as well, would see those two finish down the field while Dominic Tesoro (USA) and Michael Melancon (USA) took second and third respectively.
The TaG Senior Final was all Daniel Formal as he used his top starting spot to check out on the field to remain unbeaten in TaG Senior Finals in 2013. Behind Formal, however, there was a lot of great racing going on. Kevin Barbesino (USA) spent the beginning of the race in second, but eventually, Zanella and Ralston came through the pack to make it onto the podium in second and third respectively.
MDD sponsored Formula TaG Junior (24 entries)
Twenty four TaG Junior drivers took to the track Saturday morning for qualifying in the MDD sponsored class. Coming out fastest was another of the quick Venezuelans, Marucio Baiz. Behind Marucio were the USA’s Colin Warren and Jack Weprin in second and third respectively.
Jack Weprin continued his strong start to the 2013 racing season as he was able to take the win in the first TaG Junior heat race by almost a second over Gavin Reichelt (USA), with Floridian Derek Sobel third. Brasilian Pedro Cardoso, reigning FWT Mini Max Champion, had a mechanical failure on his warmup lap in qualifying and had to start from the back of the 24 kart field, but charged his way forward to finish 7th, gaining valuable points that would make a big difference in the final.
With the field inverted for heat #2, there was plenty of action all through the pack as the faster drivers were moving through on their way to the front. Brazilian Pedro Cardoso would start up front after his problems in qualifying and he would make the most of his opportunity to take the win. Behind Cardoso, Jack Weprin came in second over a charging Juan Manuel Correa (Ecuador).
In the TaG Junior Final, all bets were off as any of the top five had a shot at this one. Weprin took the early lead, but it was Gavin Reichelt that stormed to the front to assume the top spot on lap two. For many laps the top two would thrust and parry as Pedro Cardoso and Derek Sobel (USA) were right on their bumpers. With about four laps to go, Jack Weprin took the lead going into the inner hairpin. This left Cardoso and Reichelt to battle for second and their battle was just enough to give Weprin the slightest breathing space that he needed to solidify his lead. In the end it was Jack Weprin taking the win over Gavin Reichelt in second and Pedro Cardoso finishing off the podium in third.
The podium celebrations were held during a beautiful Florida sunset as the triumphant competitors received their FWT Palm trophies. Afterwards, the order for many was to clean up, prep for tomorrow, then get back to their respective hotels to watch the special NASCAR race from Daytona. The Daytona race, this year referred to as the Sprint Unlimited, is one of those where they constantly change the format to keep the fans interested. Perhaps they should take some format advice from the Florida Winter Tour. This year’s format for the Formula Kart Racing program, featuring and extra heat race with an inverted starting grid, has led to a solid increase in TaG entries and has made the Formula Kart Racing portion of The Tour more popular than ever.
For those who watched the race action on FWT LIVE!, you know how good to action was and what you can look forward to tomorrow. For those that missed it, you missed a lot, so be sure to log on to www.FloridaWinterTour.com to catch all the Sunday race action. And, be sure to send your friends at the event shout outs through the interactive feature by emailing the announcer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That wraps up Saturday’s action from Homestead Karting. Come back for more news tomorrow as we will go over the racing action, highlight some of the personalities that compete in the FWT Formula Kart Racing program, and take a look at some of the unique items on offer. But, you must come back here to find out what they are.
The Florida Winter Tour is one of the world’s largest, longest running and most geographically diverse kart racing programs. In 2012 the FWT featured over 400 drivers from 28 countries and all six karting continents, and for the 5th consecutive year was the world’s largest official Rotax Max Challenge series and event.