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FWT Ocala ROK Cup: Heat Racing Review

As championship battles tighten, rain looms large for Sunday.

Following the excitement that heat racing provides here at the Florida Winter Tour ROK weekend in Ocala, the term “anything can happen” is certainly emphasized. With a 90% chance of rain on Sunday, the championship round just may turn out to be the most exhilarating round yet.

Austin Garrison removes his gloves after a heat race in Ocala for the Florida Winter Tour 2017
Garrison will still need to pick up wins in the pre-final and final on Sunday if he wants to displace Norberg at the top of the championship.
Photo Credit: Nick Leone/Kart360

Senior ROK has been dominated by none other than the Compkart driver Austin Garrison. The lead driver for the Fluo Yellow brand cruised to victory in heat 1 as a spaced out start allowed him to pull a two second gap within four laps. On auto pilot mode, Garrison safely took his J3 machine to checkered followed by Arthur Leist and Ryan Norberg. Norbergs’ chassis issues have threatened his championship hopes early on, but it appears to be pointing in the right direction following heat racing: Come heat two, a hectic start saw the outside row sweep down hard on to the inside row. Andre Nicastro became heavily involved in a battle with Ryan Norberg for second, bunching up 2nd through 5th. Both Soto Schirripa and Norberg fought with Nicastro resulting in contact which allowed Norberg and Leist through. Garrison would go on to a 3.5 second victory followed by Norberg and Leist. In heat three, Garrison continued his dominance, however Norberg closed the best time gap down to just .1 of a second. A rather spaced out race saw Garrison head to victory followed by Norberg and Leist.  

In Micro ROK, Alex Powell would take victory in all three heats, with heavy challenges from Matheus Ferreira, Noah Baker, and Jesse Carrasquedo. The quartet have exchanged positions 1st to 4th since heat 1, demonstrating driving maturity years beyond the Micro category. In heat one, Powell got off to a poor start, dropping to 6th at the end of lap one. Putting his head down, the Speed Concepts driver worked his way back to the lead to claim victory once again. In heat three, Powell would repeat the performance, however this time Carrasquedo was determined to be the victor. The Brazilian would lead heat 3 for 8 laps until Powell made the move for the win. It appears that no one can stop the young man, who will start on pole for tomorrow's prefinal. Emerson Fittipaldi and Frankie Iadevaia continue to struggle for pace, as they are typically front running threats. With rain on the way, this may be their last chance to make an impact on the lead group.

Three heats and two winners in Mini ROK, Santiago Trisini, and Luca Mars. In heat one, after a unsatisfactory start, Carson Morgan saw himself in 4th after lap 1. Morgan was unable to recover as Santiago Trisini, Reece Gold, and Connor Zilisch battled for the lead. Trisini would ultimately take the win, followed by Gold, then Zilisch. In heat 2, Trisini would make his mark yet again, claiming victory after a 3 wide overtake entering turn 11. It seems tempers were rising in the Mini field as we began to witness a more aggressive approach from the drivers.One driver who wasn't pleased in heat two was Luca Mars. The Energy driver dealt with his frustration by taking victory in heat three. However Mars` victory was not set in stone. On the start of heat 3, Carson Morgan and Reece Gold would break away from the field. As the two battled, the field would eventually catch up, making it a battle for 1st expanding to 7th place. Connor Zilisch attempted to steal the win but was unsuccessful in doing so, as Mars went on to take victory. Tomorrow's championship battle will be a 4 to 5 kart battle, which could alter the outcome of the championship.

Junior ROK has had its fair share of excitement as Arias Deukmedjian, Tyler Gonzalez, Matheus Morgatto, Victor Schoma, Zachary Hollingshead, and Dylan Gennaro engaged in fierce rivalry. Deukmedjian has shown us an increase in pace following poor results in previous rounds. The young man is certainly capable of top results as we have seen in previous events, however a rough start to 2017 has shadowed his potential. In heat 1, Deukmedjian felt a heavy challenge from both Gonzalez and Gennaro, threatening his chances of victory. Deukmedjian could only hold off Gennaro, as Gonzalez found his way around to take victory. In heat two, after a calm start, Deukmedjian would pull away from the field to take victory. Both Gonzalez and Gennaro would follow, with Matheus Morgatto lurking. Come heat 3, Deukmedjian would repeat the heat 2 performance. It didn't come easy, as an eager Tyler Gonzalez had no plans of allowing Deukmedjian to take victory. Gonzalez attempted an overtake on Deukmedjian which allowed Morgatto through causing contact. Victor Schoma pushed himself and Morgatto to 2nd and 3rd, as Zachary Hollinshead, Axcel Cabrera, and Diego Ramos all get by Gonzalez. Matheus Morgatto would come home in second, with OGP driver Zachary Hollingshead stretching his legs up to third.

In Masters ROK Ariel Castro has made his way back into the driver's seat, showing his pace is not to be reckoned with. Gaia Magno seemed to be the only driver able to challenge the Argentine, with Pedro Cabrera trailing in 3rd. Castro took victory in all three heats, with Magno posing the only serious threat. Unable to touch Castro, Magno will have his work cut out for him on Sunday.

Shifter ROK Master has shown impressive battles considering a field of just six. Renato David, Igor Mukhin, and Scott Davidson's’ fight has been the storyline of the weekend. The three have put on impressive battles as David took victory in heats one and two, and Mukhin taking victory in heat three. Farshad Bagheri surprisingly challenged the top three for most of heat three, setting laps times of pace of the leaders. With a possible change in weather, it is very possible that Davidson and Farshad Bagheri will pose a threat.

Gary Carlton sits patiently on the pre-grid with AJ Myers
Carlton has had his way in Shifter ROK Senior for the most part, but suffered a flat tire in heat three to finish second.
Photo Credit: Nick Leone/Kart360

Shifter ROK Senior has been the highlight of the weekend so far. Incredible competition between Gary Carlton, Rubens Barrichello, Jack Hawksworth, AJ Meyers and Gianfranco Mazzaferro have left our eyes glued to the category. Heat 1 was controlled by Carlton, as Barrichello and Hawksworth battled hard for 2nd. Myers and Mazzaferro got together ending Meyers’ race early in turn three. Mazzaferro continued his race, as Carlton extended his gap to over two seconds to Barrichello in second. A scary incident on the start of heat two involving Gianfranco Mazzaferro, Baylor Griffin, and Nicholas Hargraves forced the race to be red flagged. Stalling in his lane, Mazzaferro's kart remained stationary as the other two rammed into him. Griffin was sent airborne and from his kart, escaping from serious injury. All 3 drivers were able to compete in the restart, following a 30 minute intermission to allow mechanics to aid any damaged equipment. Heat two restart saw Carlton get off to an incredible start, with Mazzaferro dropping to 5th. Jack Hawksworth and Rubens Barrichello fought from the flat drop, as the two were able to take advantage of Mazzaferro's misfortune. Hawksworth, Myers, and Barrichello became involved in a fierce battle for 2nd, allowing Carlton to further his lead and take victory. Heat three was a drama filled action show, as Carlton fended off a charging field. Suffering a flat tire, but being able to continue, the Formula K led with Myers trying to take advantage of the issue. After numerous laps of defending by Carlton, Myers made the move and immediately pulled away. Carlton, determined to finish 2nd, defended Hawksworth and the rest of the field for six laps, bunching up the top eight. In a last lap attempt to overtake Carlton, Hawksworth threw his Tony Kart to the inside of turn 1 clipping Carlton. This resulted in Hawksworth skipping across track, managing to avoid the oncoming pack of 7 karts. Myers would cruise to a 5 second victory over Carlton, and Barrichello.

This concludes Saturday's action of the VCI Powered by AM Engines Florida Winter Tour presented by Fikse Wheels ROK Cup heat racing in Ocala. With the grids set, champions will be crowned at a possible rainy Ocala Gran Prix.