If you are one of the hundreds, if not thousands of Canadian racers who have ventured south during the winter months to get your karting fix over the past twenty years, then odds are, you have visited or competed at Ocala Gran Prix.
News this morning officially confirmed the rumours that the famous OGP facility was ceasing operations indefinitely. We first heard on April 1, thinking it was an Aprils fools joke, but after some investigation, learned it was real, and the news has shaken the karting industry.
Anyone that has visited the facility knows it is a horse city. Ocala just opened a new global equestrian centre and venturing out for dinner during any race week, usually meant crossing paths with those in riding boots and western hats. This has presented the owner with an opportunity to utilize the space for a better financial return and confirmed the land will convert into RV parking and storage.
For myself, this news is very sad. Visiting the track for two rounds of the Florida Winter Tour in February and March, I came to the realization that OGP was the first international kart track I attended, some 20 years ago in 2001, when my father and I drove down to support some friends who were racing in the WKA Kartweek festivities between Christmas and New Years. It is bittersweet to know that the facility and race team that helped support future motorsports stars, and there were a lot who raced with OGP during their prime, will no longer exist.
Ocala may also be the city I’ve spent more hotel nights in than any other, visiting every single year since at least 2008, as far as I can remember, and absolutely every winter since CKN began in 2012. I felt like the Holiday Inn was a second home some winters, along with restaurants like Tony’s Sushi and Hibachi Grill and Skyy Asian Fusion that was just so well known amongst the karting industry for an annual visit.
To Jorge and the entire OGP staff: I want to say thank you for more than twenty years of support to the karting industry and so many individuals who needed it and appreciated it. I just wish there was one more winter without a pandemic where our Canadian racers could have had one more shot at the high speed ring known as OGP.
We want to share your memories of Ocala Gran Prix, so be sure to comment on our Facebook post and we will add some to our story below.