We are now underway in the final round of Florida Winter Tour ROK Cup 2017 in Ocala and the beginning of the end to the championship. The championship has been electric, with rivalries now formed and title hunts more epic than ever. With over 140 entries, great racing will be put on from the get-go in Ocala.
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Junior ROK would be first to the stage for qualifying. As we are in Ocala, we couldn't help but think Dylan Gennaro, Zachary Hollingshead, and Eduardo Barrichello would be the ones to beat. We were mistaken, as Arias Deukmedjian and Tyler Gonzalez, who is a former OGP driver himself, would lock out the front row. Both Eduardo Barrichello who qualified eighth and Henry Cubides who qualified 11th had us scratching our heads. The two have shown outstand pace in the previous rounds, but will their work cut out for them come the heats. Nicholas D'Orlando suffered a mechanical issue forcing him to retire after completing just four laps. The New Yorker will work his way up from 20th in each heat, pushing to keep his championship hopes alive.
Mini ROK saw Carson Morgan, Santiago Trisini, and Reece Gold shuffle purple times from beginning to end of the session. First to 20th would be separated by six tenths, making Mini ROK the closest class of the weekend. Carson Morgan would ultimately end up on pole, followed by Trisini, then Gold. Surprisingly James Egozi was unable to break into the top five, setting the seventh fastest lap time. Mini is known for exciting racing, and with the order as-is and times so close, we will be in for action packed heat racing.
Senior ROK has been controlled by former OGP driver Austin Garrison since Thursday. The now Compkart driver set pole by two tenths over Arthur Leist and guest entry, Andre Nicastro. Ryan Norberg, who currently holds a 60 point lead in the championship over Garrison, placed fourth over three tenths off pole. Also a former OGP driver, Norberg will be relentless in overcoming his pace issues to continue controlling the championship. Augusto Soto-Schirripa showed fantastic pace in round one, however issues have intruded his attempts in a repeat performance. The Floridian will start sixth in all three heats, after suffering now resolved chassis issues.
Micro ROK was a duel between Matheus Ferreira and Alex Powell. Ferreira would take pole over Powell and Energy driver Noah Baker. Emerson Fittipaldi Jr. would set a time fast enough for 6th,with Miguel Costa fast enough for 13th, and Frankie Iadevaia fast enough for 17th. The trio are all known for their front running efforts, surprising us with below standard times. Iadevaia fresh off a 2nd place finish at SKUSA SummerNationals, will be beyond eager to find the groove once more. Both Fittipaldi and Costa suffered minor issues that we should see resolved come the following heats.
ROK Senior Masters was run by Ariel Castro who took pole by two tenths of a second over Gaia Mango and Miguel Gransaull. Magno dominated the previous round at PBIR winning every official race session of the weekend. It appears that Castro has plans to end the Magno/Orsolon domination in Ocala.
ROK Shifter Masters is the smallest field of the weekend with 6 drivers, who just so happen to be within a second of each other. Renato David, Igor Mukhin, and Scott Davidson will be the three to watch all weekend. David took pole by two tenths followed by Mukhin and Davidson. The Brazilian looks to be pulling away early in the weekend, however it may be too soon to tell.
ROK Senior Shifter will be considered the premier class of the weekend by many. With 17 entries, though, it is a drop in comparison to previous rounds, nevertheless with names like Carlton, Barrichello, and Hawksworth, we are in for pure racing this weekend. AJ Myers and Jimmy Cabrera set purple times early on, however it was Gary Carlton who took pole position for the first time this winter tour. Gianfranco Mazzaferro would follow Carlton in second, with Lexus GT3 driver Jack Hawksworth in 3rd. Hawksworth has not been on the karting scene for quite some time, however the former Rotax Euro Max champion and KZ driver hasn't lost his karting legs at all. Antonio Serravalle would have an impressive run, setting the 5th fastest time of the session, a personal series best for the CRG driver. With 1st to 7th separated by one tenth of a second, we are in for a dramatic and intense final round.
Tomorrow we will wrap up the heat racing and finalize the grid for championship Sunday of VCI powered by AM Engines Florida Winter Tour 2017 presented by Fikse Wheels.