The anticipation was building all day as dark clouds loomed in the distance of the Ocala Gran Prix throughout the morning on Friday. Everyone in the paddock knew the rain was coming, but it was only a matter of when as drivers and crews made their final preparations before Qualifying for the season finale of the 2015 Florida Winter Tour Rotax Max Challenge.
Just as the first group of Micro-Max drivers rolled out on track to begin qualifying a slight drizzle sent everyone into a panic, but it wasn’t enough to warrant rain tires and the new few groups continued to run through their Qualifying sessions. But with Rotax Mini-Max on the track to mark the halfway point, the skies finally opened up and just as the session ended official declared it a wet race forcing the final four classes to replace their tires.
With the weather forecast calling for thunder showers, FWT officials elected to postpone the SuperPole qualifying sessions until Saturday morning, but here is a breakdown of the qualifying sessions and who have advanced into the top-6 SuperPole Qualifying sessions.
A new face topped the time charts for the first time in Micro-Max as Karsten Defonce (Exprit) posted the quickest time over defending class champion Reece Gold (Exprit) and Alessandro de Tullio (AM Kart). Orlando winner Rafael Chaves Camara was fourth just ahead of Ugo Ugochukwu (KoeneUSA/TonyKart) while championship points leader Sebastien Montoya (BirelART) was sixth. All six drivers will duke it out in the SuperPole on Saturday morning where a valuable five points are on the line.
With 43 karts in the class, four groups will be divided up for the heat races.
Canadian Matthew Latifi (Ferrolati Corse/TonyKart) was the fastest driver in Mini-Max qualifying for the third time in five FWT races. Latifi is coming off of a big win last weekend in the FWT Rok Cup and is now looking towards the Mini sweep. Tyler Gonzalez (Exprit) posted the second quickest time followed by Mexican Sebastien Alvarez (PSL Karting/Mini X2), Dylan Gennaro (OGP/TonyKart) and Dylan Tavella (Verde/TonyKart) as positions 2-5 were separated by only 0.07 seconds! Sneaking into the SuperPole in sixth was Sebastien Rodriguez (Orsolon/TonyKart) while Nicholas d’Orlando (KoeneUSA/TonyKart), who enters the weekend second in points, was all the way down in 12th.
The first class to hit the track as the rain really started to fall was Rotax Junior and it was another Canadian going the fastest. Samuel Lupien (SH Racing/FA Kart) was almost a half-second quicker than the rest to earn the provisional pole. Jose Miguel Alvarado (Exprit) was the second quickest, coming out of the first group of qualifiers, followed by Spencer Mills (Anderson/BirelART), Anthony Gangi Jr. (GT7/TonyKart), Canadian Raphael Forcier (SH Racing/FA Kart) and Sting Ray Robb (OGP/TonyKart).
Rounding out the top-ten but just missing the SuperPole group were Nick Bruecker (Orsolon/TonyKart), Sweden’s Rasmus Lindh (PSL/BirelART), Caio Collet (RPG/Kosmic) and Bradley Zilisch (TonyKart).
It will be interesting to see how the heat races go on Saturday with the grid quite shuffled up and many of the usual suspects starting deep in the field.
Making his first start of the season Steven Szigeti felt right at home at OGP, posting the quickest time in a talent filled Rotax Senior division. Szigeti was the only driver to break into the 46-second bracket, nipping second place Kyle Kirkwood (OGP/TonyKart) by almost a half second.
Kirkwoods main rival in the championship, Oliver Askew (Anderson/BirelART) was P3 followed by Dan Roeper (BN Racing/BirelART), Austin Garrison (OGP/TonyKart) and Morgan Healey (OGP/TonyKart), making it three OGP drivers into the SuperPole session.
Canadians filled positions eight through eleven as Cedrik Lupien (SH Racing/FA Kart) led Christophe Paquet (KCR/CRG), Kevin Monteith (REM/Kosmic) and Gianfranco Mazzaferro (Ferrolati Corse/TonyKart).
Hitting the track before the rain fell, American Nick Neri stormed to the provisional pole in DD2 as he pursues the championship this weekend. Orlando race winner Daniel Formal (DR Kart) was second followed by Canadian Fred Woodley (Prime/Maranello), Jordon Lennox (KMS/BirelART), Jake French (DKC/Sodi) and Gavin Reichelt (PSL/BirelART). Canadians Max Preston (Goodwood/Intrepid), Marco Signoretti (Energy North America/Energy Kart), Austin Riley (Racing with Autism/Energy Kart) just missed the SuperPole group in positions seven through nine.
Rotax DD2 Masters
The only driver to opt for slick tires prevailed in DD2 Masters as Luis Zervigon (PSL/BirelART) cleared the field by a half-second. The fastest on wet tires was Canadian Elvis Stojko (Prime/Maranello) posting his best qualifying effort of FWT, followed by Christophe Adams (KMS/BirelART), Luis Schiavo (Goodwood/Intrepid), Richard Heistand (Intrepid), Christian Canales (Praga) and Finland’s Mikko Laine (Prime/Maranello).
It will be a full day of action on Saturday as drivers will have all three heat races, plus the SuperPole qualifying sessions of those in the top-six.