There are a plethora of topics we can discuss regarding the first round of ROK Cup USA`s Florida Winter Tour. One topic that prevails amongst the selection however is the outright excitement that we witnessed all weekend. In our time of reporting races, we have witnessed drivers lose championships, passes only the gods themselves we imagine could complete, accidents that shook the paddock, so on and so forth. There was something about this weekend that amplified what we have seen in the past, from drama on warm up laps and starts, accidents that had us scratching our heads, passes that seemed like illusions, and back of the pack charges to the front worthy of the trophy.
Senior Shifter had action, drama, and intensity written all over the class. Entering the weekend we would see factory names, INDY Car drivers, Stock car, sports car, and properly quick karting drivers on the entry list, which would make any motorsport fans chest beat a bit faster. Rubens Barrichello, Robert Wickens, Remo Ruscitti, Marijn Kremers, Daniel Formal, Austin Garrison, Mathias Ramirez, Rory Van Der Steur, AJ Meyers, and many others would be competing at a venue liked by drivers far and wide, with eleven technical yet flowing corners.
Qualifying had Robert Wickens out qualifying Marijn Kremers by the hair on his chin, a mere seventy eight hundredths of a second! With the exception of heat three, Kremers would be the one controlling the pace, not Wickens. Heat three was a night race full of drama, action, and intensity. We saw three attempted starts with drivers stalling, jumping, and needed an extra formation lap until we finally saw green. Barrichello who would start fourth along with Formal in third but would both be moved to the back. The duo fought for position all throughout the heat in desperate need to make sundays pre-final victory accessible. Both struggled but it was Barrichello who made the most of it as Formal struggled in the prefinal and final with a bent chassis.
Kremers would go on to win it, however to the disliking of Kremers and PSL, the driver would receive a penalty for what we are told was contact moving him to seventh with Wickens taking the win.
Junior ROK was dominated all weekend by one by the name of Ugo Ugochukwu. The young Tony Kart pilot of just 10 years received the “Okay” from ROK Cup to partake in the junior class. A bold move personified the expression, “fortune favors the bold” as Ugo would go on to take pole, win two of the three heats, and claim the prefinal win. Up until the final, Ugochukwu had the entire paddock scratching their heads. How could a child 3 years younger than that of the youngest drivers perform so adequately?
One young man who was determined to find out the answer was Tyler Gonzalez. It is usually Gonzalez that we see dominating the junior category. Keen on stopping Ugochukwu’s dominance, Gonzalez put his head down and stopped him in the final. Not only that, but he stopped the Tony Kart driver my the margin of one second. It appears experience and speed outweighs just speed, as proven this weekend.
Mini ROK shocked us with a forty two kart field of pure driver talent. Nikita Johnson, Jeremy Fletcher, Anderson Leonard, Kai Sorensen, James Egozi, Alex Powell, Diego Laroque, Carson Morgan, and Conor Zilisch, gave us hands down some of the best racing all weekend. As the field was so massive, we saw it broken up into groups A,B,C, and D. However for the final, they would all be reunited, to determine who had mastered the Palm Beach circuit.
Kai Sorensen started his weekend off the strongest, as he was our pole sitter, Morgan and Powell would follow. With the progression of the weekend Sorensen would fall off as Zilisch would take over the top spot, along with Morgan and Powell. The trio dueled each race as if it was their last, with heavy contact between Morgan and Zilisch. In the prefinal, Powell would come out on top, giving him a true confidence boost entering the, what seems to be, illusive final. A twenty minute qualifying, six heat races in total, and a prefinal would all lead to this very moment. As we got underway, Zilisch would state his dominance taking the win, with Carson Morgan overtaking an impressive eleven karts to claim third. Laroque would round out the top three with our pre-race pole sitter coming in fourth.
After a long and entertaining first round of the ROK Cup Florida Winter Tour, it is safe to say we have an immense year ahead of us. We have before us drivers of such talent and speed, giving us heaps of entertainment and paving the way for American and other young drives alike from around the world. What better place to experience such racing, than at a FWT event hosted by ROK Cup Promotions. Next up the all hailed Ocala Gran Prix in mid-February.