By Ken Johnson / Bill Wright – Florida Winter Tour
After a Saturday of very competitive action at the Homestead Karting facility, the Formula Kart Productions Florida Winter Tour was at it again for Round Four of the Formula Kart Racing program. The day dawned clear and bright, with a chill in the air reminding the participants that this is the Florida WINTER Tour. By lunchtime, the Florida sunshine had sent the cold winds away and once again we were treated to a perfect day to be at the racetrack.
As many race participants know, racetrack food too often consists of cold hot dogs and fries, or burnt hamburgers. But, at Homestead Karting this weekend, both onsite food vendors received rave reviews from the event participants. Back from last year was a BBQ caterer that has some of the best pulled pork this side of the Mississippi. The other food vendor was equally special, with a menu of items usually only found at a state fair.
What sort of items would this be? Well, let’s just say if you’ve even thought to yourself, “I wish I had a bacon cheeseburger with onions served between two grilled-cheese sandwiches”, then you missed out if you weren’t at this weekend’s FWT event. These are just some of the things that make The Tour so fun and unique. Another is the people that come from all over the world to participate. We sat down with two such competitors to find out what The Florida Winter Tour means to them.
Brazilian Pedro Cardoso is back at the FWT this year competing in TaG Junior during the Formula Kart weekends and Junior MAX during the Rotax weekends. The 13-year-old from Brasilia has been racing karts for five years and says he got started when he was watching a friend race and was able to talk his father into letting him try. When asked what his favorite part of racing is, he just smiled and said, “Passing!”
When not racing, Pedro says his favorite hobbies are skateboarding and playing soccer. But, he says his true passion in life is to become a Formula One World Champion like his favorite driver, Sebastian Vettel. Even though he’s only raced for five years, he’s already racking up a pretty impressive resume. Of his accomplishments, he lists two as his favorite. Those two would be winning last year’s Florida Winter Tour Mini MAX championship, and winning the Brazilian National championship to be awarded a ticket to compete in the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals last year in Portugal.
Don Whittington often races shifter karts, but this weekend is racing TaG Senior in only his second TaG race. Don comes from a famous racing family where his father, Don, and uncle, Bill, teamed up with German Klaus Ludwig to win the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1979. With a pedigree like that you would think that Don would have grown up racing karts or cars. But, actually, the 26-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale has only raced karts for one year now after years of racing motorcycles.
When asked why he switched, he said that after breaking his collarbone 4 times, he needed to find another, safer, hobby that still fueled his passion for speed. Don says he really likes the “science” of racing karts and is learning about chassis setups every time he takes to the track. When asked of his impressions of the Florida Winter Tour, he says he cannot believe how competitive the TaG classes are. In Don’s words, “those guys that run up front are really good. You just cannot make a mistake in one of these (TaG karts), or you will lose many spots to those you’re racing with.”
Don and Pedro are just two of the multitude of drivers that have made the Florida Winter Tour “THE Winter Place To Be!” Let’s take a look at how the other competitors fared in Sunday’s races and who took home one of the FWT’s signature “Palm” trophies.
AM Engines sponsored Formula Vortex TaG Cadet (31 Entries)
After dominating the TaG Cadet class on Saturday, Anthony Gangi Jr. (USA) signaled his intentions to do the same on Sunday with a fat qualifying lap of 52.653 seconds. Joining Anthony on the front row for the heat races would be his teammate, Giovanni Bromante who qualified 0.106 of a second behind Gangi. David Malukas was third fastest with a lap of 53.027.
In the first TaG Cadet heat race Anthony and Giovanni ran nose-to-tail ahead of a battling pack of karts led initially by David Malukas (USA) and Nick Brueckner (USA). At the front the GT7 Motorsport teammates worked together to pull away from those behind. Coming to the checkers, Bromante made a run for the lead but came up just 0.097 of a second short at the line. New Yorker Michael d’Orlando came home third after a furious race long battle involving positions three thru seven.
TaG Cadet Heat two was again a show of domination by the pair from New York. However, behind Gangi and Bromante, Michael d’Orlando (USA), Guilherme Romano (Brazil) and Nick Brueckner had a tremendous duel for third that eventually again went to d’Orlando.
In the TaG Cadet Final, the large pack of karts accelerated towards turn one with Gangi maintaining the lead. However, this time it was Michael d’Orlando getting the jump to slot into second. As those two ran nose-to-tail for the lead, Bromante had fallen back in the pack. However, Bromante hooked up with David Malukas and the two worked their way back up to battle for third.
In the end it was another win for Gangi but this time a second position on the podium for d’Orlando. Malukas finished third on the track but a non- compliance issue in post-tech moved Bromante to third. This marked the second day in a row that we had three drivers from New York filling out the FWT TaG Cadet podium. It will be interesting to see if the Empire State can keep up their streak at Ocala Gran Prix in March.
Euro Motorsports sponsored Formula TaG Masters (8 Entries)
Qualifying for Euro Motorsports TaG Masters had a south of the border feel to it as Mexican Javier Gonzales set fast time over Venezuelan Juan J. Font. Gonzales toured the 7/10s of a mile Homestead Karting layout in 49.207 seconds to sit on pole with an average speed of 51.212 MPH. Third fastest was another Venezuelan, Christian Calvo on the revived Kali Kart.
In the first heat race, Juan Font made the most of his front row starting spot to take the victory by 0.655 seconds over James Russell Jr. (USA). Nelson Canache (USA), fresh off his win in the Daytona 24 Hour race, came in third just one second adrift of Russell.
With the second heat race featuring an inverted starting order, it was the popular George Moss (USA) leading the field at the start. However, before the race was one-lap-old, Nelson Canache had taken a big lead that he would stretch all the way to the checkers. Canache’s win by almost six seconds over Font was one of the most dominating performances we’d seen all weekend. After engine problems on Saturday Indianan Bryan Seward showed his true potential, coming to the line third.
In the TaG Masters Final, Font and Canache started on the front row, but, by the end of lap one it was Jim Russell Jr. on Fonts bumper as the two dueled for the lead. By the midway point of the race, Christian Calvo (Venezuela) joined the two to make it a three-way battle for the lead. With the laps winding down, Font was able to gap Calvo, who had gotten past Russell on the run to the inner hairpin. At the checkers it was Font (1st), Calvo (2nd) and Russell (3rd) who would stand atop the FWT podium and receive the coveted FWT Palms for their day’s work.
RYSA Racing Formula TaG Senior (21 entries)
With all his success, especially with three successive FWT TaG Senior wins of late, the smart bet would be to see Daniel Formal (USA) on pole in TaG Senior. However, races aren’t run on paper and when Sunday qualifying was over, TaG Senior rookie Dominic Tesoro (USA) used his new AM Kart to stand atop the time sheets and claim his first FWT pole of the year.
In TaG Senior Heat #1, Jose Zanella (Venezuela) and Daniel Formal grabbed the top two spots on the first lap, leaving polesitter Tesoro to battle Roger Ralston, Jr. for third. After 14 laps of seriously hard racing, Zanella was able to hold off Formal by just under a half second to score the win, with Tesoro coming third.
In Heat Race #2, the inverted field put the fastest qualifiers at the back of the pack. But, for drivers like Formal and Zanella, it doesn’t seem to matter where they start. After scorching drives through the pack, Daniel and Jose were able to work their way up to first and third respectively, sandwiching Kevin Barbesino (USA) who came in second.
The TaG Senior Final would see Formal, Zanella and Roger Ralston Jr. use their solid heat race results to start in the top three spots. As the field sped into turn one, Formal and Zanella once again assumed the top two spots. Behind them, Dominic Tesoro had his hands full holding off a determined Roger Ralston Jr. Lap-after-lap Zanella and Formal put on a driving clinic at the front. After getting around Tesoro, Ralston put on a charge for the leaders. In the end, Formal won going away and Zanella was just able to hold off a determined Ralston who continues to impress in his Team MDD Praga.
MDD sponsored Formula TaG Junior (25 entries)
For those that love good close racing the Formula TaG Junior class almost never disappoints. These young drivers have skills that belie their ages and the lap times are always close. How close? For today’s pole qualifying, Venezuelan Mauricio Baiz beat out Ecuadorian-turned-American Juan Manuel Correa by less than seven-thousandths of a second to secure the top spot. Saturday TaG Junior winner Jack Weprin was third.
Going into the heat races, Baiz, the 2012 Easy Kart World Champion, looked to use his top starting spot to his advantage. In Heat #1 he did just that as he was able to secure the victory over Christian Munoz (USA) by just over a second with Juan Manuel Correa in third.
In the second heat race the inverted field led to even more great racing and in the end it was Poland’s Antoni Ptak who emerged victorious. It must be noted that Ptak’s victory did not come from him starting at the front from a poor qualifying time. Antoni’s win came from a mid pack start, signifying just how close the competition is in TaG Junior. And, that sometimes all someone needs is a little better track position to bring home a win.
In the Tag Junior Final, Mauricio Baiz took the early lead but the top spot belonged to Correa by the end of the first lap. Ptak used his solid heat race results to secure a great starting spot in the final but got turned around in the first turn and fell down the order. Behind the top two, Gavin Reichelt (USA), Christian Munoz and Saturday’s winner Jack Weprin (USA) began a heated battle for third.
A little further back in the pack, Argentina’s Ignacio Salvucci was carving through some pretty fast competitors to work his way up to third. As the laps wore on, Baiz made several attempts to take the lead but Correa wouldn’t surrender. At the finish it was Correa taking the win by just 0.508 of a second over the Easy Kart world Champion. Behind them, Salvucci would solidify third to claim the last FWT Palm of the day.
With four rounds of the 2013 FWT Formula Kart Racing program now in the record books, leaders are emerging in the coveted championships for Nations, Manufacturer’s and Drivers. For those drivers attempting to win the Skip Barber Award (http://www.floridawintertour.com/news/61- 2013/366-skip-barber-fwt-22000-scholarship-awards.html ), almost nothing else matters. As evidence of this, during his podium celebration, Daniel Formal took time during his interview with Formula Kart Production’s President Bill Wright to discuss how much he wants to win the Skip Barber award.
Last year, Daniel won five of the six TaG Senior races, but it wasn’t enough. So, this year he’s staying focused on the first place prize that includes a 3-Day Racing School ($4000), plus one Advanced 2-Day Racing School ($3500), plus one guaranteed 2013 Karting Shootout Entry ($3000) for a total current retail value $10,500. But, rest assured, Daniel is not the only competitor with his eye on the Skip Barber award. In the coming races, the competition will only get hotter so stay tuned to see who the winners are.
That wraps up the weekend’s action from Homestead Karting and Formula Kart Production’s Florida Winter Tour Formula Kart Racing program. Next weekend we’re back at it as the competitors in the FWT Rotax MAX Challenge continue their quest for FWT podiums and Palms. For those that cannot attend in person, log on to www.FloridaWinterTour.com to catch all the race action live. And, be sure to send your friends shout outs through the interactive feature by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.