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FWT Ocala Rotax: Heat Racing and Pre-Finals

Kingsley and Norberg have a stranglehold on their championships, but other championships have yet to be decided.

The top of the race order belongs to Junior MAX where Tyler Gonzalez and Zachary Hollingshead tied for the best set of heat races. Gonzalez was able to break the tie due to his qualifying performance, which meant Hollingshead would start outside pole for the pre-final. Friday’s pole position-man, Eduardo Barrichello opened up the heats with a win, but slipped to sixth and fourth in his last two heats. The Brazilian would get the honor or starting third in the pre-final later in the day.

The opening laps in the Junior MAX pre-final were hectic as karts shuffled for position behind leader Gonzalez. Arias Deukmedjian had started fourth and found his way into the lead on lap six, but contact with Gonzalez pushed Deukmedjian off course and out of the race. Gonzalez carried on, but had slipped to second behind Dylan Gennaro. The OGP driver led most of the second half of the race with Gonzalez directly behind, giving Gonzalez the opportunity to over-under Gennaro in the final corner to win at the line. A post-race penalty was handed down to Gonzalez for driving, but not for the Deukmedjian incident -- it was for aggressive driving with Gennaro. That put the Speed Concepts Racing driver to third, with Hollingshead back to second where he started. Jeremy Fairbairn and Tyler Maxson rounded out the top five.

The day had belonged to PSL Karting’s Ryan Norberg in Senior MAX, sweeping the heats and leading the category to green in the afternoon pre-final. Mathias Ramirez was frequently in tow of Norberg, but lacked any overtaking pace, finishing 2-3-2 in the heats to fill in the front row for the 18-lap race later that day. Logan Cusson, running for Canadian outfit REM, had run 3-4-4 in the heats, which beat out Ryan MacDermid, who now runs on the Tony Kart for OGP as he switched chassis brands earlier this week.

The opening of the pre-final was quite interesting, seeing a near four-wide battle in the opening laps. When things settled down, Norberg was out front of Ramirez, but MacDermid had slipped a distance behind. As the race wore on, MacDermid’s pace picked up and he ran down both the Birel ART’s. Getting around Mathias first, his eyes were set on Norberg who was clearly lacking in pace to the Canadians. With Norberg now on the defensive, MacDermid gave the championship leader a bump into turn three, sending him wide and putting him back to third. MacDermid went to win the pre-final, followed by Ramirez and Norberg. The MacDermid move on Norberg on lap 14 eventually was penalized, placing him behind Norberg and giving the win to Ramirez. We’ll see if anything flares up from this growing rivalry on Sunday.

DD2 has been completely ruled by Jeff Kingsley. The Canadian PSL driver has been excelling since they stepped foot onto the pre-grid on Thursday and hasn’t looked back. Gary Carlton has been the nearest competitor, but in the 18-lap pre-final the Formula K driver could only watch as Kingsley slowly drove away from the field with absolutely nothing he could do. Marco Signoretti gained two positions from fifth in the heat races to third in the pre-final and will likely be in a dogfight for second with Carlton, Davide Greco, and Ethan Simioni.

Mini MAX was becoming the main storyline with championship leaders Dale Curran and Justin Arseneau so tight in the points race. With Curran getting the pole position and winning the heats, he had jumped his compatriot heading into the pre-final. Arseneau had scored a second place starting spot for the pre-final and it appeared that the show was just starting. That was until the outlap of the pre-final, Arseneau slowed with apparent engine issues, ending his race and most likely the championship. Curran won by holding back a quicker Aidan Fox on the Compkart, giving him max points while Arseneau watched. Kyffin Simpson finished third with Ryland Duesburry and Ethan Donkers in fourth and fifth.

As we entered the weekend in Micro Swift, James Egozi had a pretty comfortable lead in the championship and has done nothing to lose that spot, although he hasn’t won any session yet either. Nikita Johnson looked comfortable out front in the heats, winning two of them and started pole for the pre-final. Alex Powell and Miguel Costa were Egozi’s nearest rivals in the standings, and Costa has bettered Egozi in the heats and pre-final, gaining 53 points on the Koene USA driver. Now, 191 points back, Costa will need to win and Egozi to finish 12th or worse. Costa and Egozi make up the front row in the final, with Johnson and Powell in the row behind. Emmo Fittipaldi, who had an opportunity to win the championship this weekend, has been a bit off pace and looks to finish his season on a high note.

Scott Roberts and Michel Abboissa have the most intriguing racing today out of any category, with only four in the class. Abboissa led the championship by 81 points entering Friday when he picked up the pole position, earing five more. Roberts took the heats a head of Abboissa and then won the pre-final as well while the Orsolon Racing driver finished third. Now, they stand just 16 points apart and whoever betters who in the final race today is your champion.