It was another beautiful day in Florida for the official opening day of the Florida Winter Tour Rotax weekend here in Homestead. The morning started out with three practice rounds for each category, followed by Qualifying. With the debut of the MAX One by Vega tire, we were finally able to see the comparison between this new tire and the Rotax MOJO tire each category used a year ago. On average, the pole time in each class was around one-second faster this year over last year on the same circuit and configuration.
Here’s the recap for each qualifying session:
A pair of Canadians on BirelART’s swept the front row in DD2. Jeff Kingsley, one of Canada’s finest karters, beat our Mercedes-AMG DTM driver Robert Wickens by .209 to lead the field of 18 to the green for each heat race. Gary Carlton flew the Formula K colors in third and is in great position to repeat his win from last week. Lucas Auer -- Wickens fellow DTM competitor -- ran fourth, which impressed us greatly considering the competition. Zach Claman Demelo was able to put his CRG in fifth. Of note, Rubens Barrichello and Juan Manuel Correa, two drivers capable of winning, ran seventh and ninth respectively.
The closest qualifying session we’ve seen in a while in Rotax came during the Senior MAX session, with the top four within one tenth of a second. Ryan Norberg, the decorated driver for PSL Karting, edged out Arthur Leist by .041 to wrap-up the pole position in the heats. Leist, the senior category rookie, has now held his own two weekends in a row for Rolison Performance Group and perhaps this weekend is his time to break out. Floridian Darren Keane (Orsolon Racing) will sit third, followed by last weekend’s Senior ROK winner Austin Garrison (Compkart) in fourth. Another senior field rookie, Dante Yu, ran fifth -- just .195 back from Norberg. With Max Hewitt in sixth and Lane Vacala in seventh, that gave Compkart four karts inside the top seven.
Right on cue, Tyler Gonzalez (Speed Concepts Racing) took claim to the top spot in the 37-kart Junior MAX category. He was trailed with impressive runs by a pair of rookies in the class, Canadian Jeremy Fairbairn (Koene USA/Tony Kart) and Brazilian Matheus Morgatto (AM Engines/Expirit). Eduardo Barrichello (OGP/Tony Kart) starts his defense of the win last weekend by turning the fourth quickest time, followed by another class favorite, Arias Deukmedjian (Deuk Spine Racing/Kosmic). Of note, two drivers we mentioned as favorites in our race weekend preview had pedestrian efforts on Friday. That is the two BirelART drivers of Ryan MacDermid (PSL Karting) and Aiden Keel (Andersen Racing) in ninth and tenth. They hope to find their way through three heats of action on Saturday.
Michel Aboissa made it loud and clear that he will be a tough out this weekend after taking the top spot in Masters MAX qualifying by over two tenths of a second. Luis Schiavo will start next to Aboissa after making it up to second in his run. Scott Roberts, Christophe Adams, and Max Papis were all able to get into the top five as well, but have some time to make up if they want to challenge for the win this weekend.
Reece Gold helped Benik solidify another pole position in Mini MAX, just barely edging out Koene USA’s Dale Curran. Canadian Justin Arseneau (PSL Karting), Brazilian Fernando Barrichello (OGP), and Venezuelan Santiago Trisini (Benik) capped off the top five. Gold’s nearest rival this season was expected to be Luca Mars on his Energy cadet kart. Mars failed to make a time in qualifying and will start from 12th for each heat race as he tries to get himself a front-half starting spot for the Pre-Final on Sunday.
The Miami resident, James Egozi, is in his familiar Micro MAX setting this weekend for Koene USA and ran to the top of the charts in qualifying by .118 over Miguel Costa. These two should put on some great racing for us in the heats, but could be spoiled by the Floridian Jeremy Fletcher who ran third. Emerson Fittipaldi was four tenths back in fourth followed by Alex Powell, a half-second back.
That wraps up qualifying for the weekend and we’ll look forward to the conclusion of heat racing all day on Saturday where the weather looks to be creeping into the 80s. Our On Location page will have live video and live timing, along with our timely results and photo updates. Stay tuned!