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FWT Ocala Rotax: What We Learned

As the curtain closes on FWT 2017, did more questions arise than answers?

The credits are now rolling on the 18th Florida Winter Tour season and the third year under MAXSpeed Entertainment guidance. This last weekend, the Rotax categories had their finale at the fine Ocala Gran Prix facility in Ocala, Florida in near perfect conditions.

What we witnessed was typical, highly competitive on-track action by the drivers and efficient event management by MAXSpeed staff. It may have all been overshadowed, however, by who wasn’t there. There’s no denying that entries tend to drop off as a championship series wears on and the third round of the Florida Winter Tour was no exception.

However, the decline down to 65 entries had people taking notice. The Rotax platform is trying to find it’s identity right now despite having improved their engines in the offseason and MAXSpeed giving their customers a more professional tire to run on. We’ve been on record saying we applaud both improvements, but the saying “too little, too late” would seem to be accurately representing the situation we are in.

None of this is lost on MAXSpeed. They are aware of incorrect speculation about the future of the company and of Rotax in the United States. Staff of MAXSpeed said the show will go on when we asked about the possibility of any event cancellations or staff changes, but have said as recent as yesterday on social media that they will be releasing a press release soon to address all of the questions. Until then, we won’t speculate ourselves and will comment on their decisions when they become available. Until then, here is what we learned in Ocala.

Logan Cusson inside of Mathias Ramirez at Florida Winter Tour 2017 Ocala
Cusson used a little too much bumper on his way past Ramirez.
Photo Credit: Kart360

Apparently it only takes six karts to create fireworks

In one of the more bizarre races you’ll see, the Senior MAX final on Sunday had more drama in it than most races with five times the drivers. To get the full picture, let’s go back to Saturday when former PSL Karting driver, Ryan MacDermid -- who left the team for OGP just days before the event started -- had collided with current PSL driver, Ryan Norberg. The move would win him the race on track, but was penalized post-race. The events stirred up some fire between the two drivers and the teams, and had us questioning whether anything more would come of it.

Well, more did come. On Sunday, very early in the final on lap four, MacDermid would run up the back of Norberg’s kart, hitting his elbow in the process. Norberg’s machine would stall out in turn four in the back section of the track, stirring up even more emotion between the two parties. Right away, on track officials had a penalty awaiting MacDermid for the move that would place him behind Norberg. Meanwhile, the race went on.

Mathias Ramirez (Andersen Racing/Birel ART) was well outfront in the early going, but the OTK machines of Logan Cusson (REM/Kosmic) and MacDermid (OGP/Tony Kart) were reeling him in quickly. Cusson, now on the rear bumper of the Birel ART as we passed the halfway point, chose to use his front bumper to make the move to the lead. The move would be deemed illegal and given a penalty that also would await him in the post-race line.

At this point, with Cusson in first and MacDermid in second, both with penalties coming, Ramirez had the race won even while running in third on track. MacDermid would eventually get around Cusson for the win and the lead trio would make their way back to the pit entrance. Ramirez, none too pleased with the move Cusson had used on him to take the lead, blasted the Kosmic kart as the two made their way to pit entrance, sending the Canadian through the barriers that outlined the entrance lane. Many officials did not see the incident with their eyes, so they relied on marshalling cameras around the facility to locate the occurrence. The entire episode was caught on camera, which gave MAXSpeed the evidence needed to exclude the young driver from the day’s activities. This propelled Canadian Marc-Antoine Poirier to the win, followed by Action Jackson -- a pair of FA Kart drivers who were six second behind the action. Cusson would finish third.

Scott Roberts knew the win was much bigger than your typical race and celebrated accordingly.

Roberts quietly steals championship in Masters MAX

One of the better championship contests you’ll see came in the Masters MAX category. The four karts that made up the Masters MAX category were combined and ran at the rear of the Senior MAX field, dimming the spotlight a bit more than if they had the track to themselves. Michel Aboissa had entered the weekend with an 81-point advantage and immediately grabbed the pole position on Friday, earning an extra 5 points.

At this point, Scott Roberts, who ran second in the standings, had to basically win out the rest of the weekend to leap the Orsolon Racing driver. Roberts made his way through the heats and the pre-final on Saturday on top, heading into Sunday with only a 16-point deficit. At this time, the Championship would go to the highest finishing driver, making it a sudden death match of sorts.

With Masters mixed in with Seniors, it certainly was an option to see these drivers get mixed up with incidents they normally would avoid while running separately, but thankfully nothing of the sort happened as Roberts led flag-to-flag for the win and championship, despite early pressure from Aboissa. With the win, Roberts will now have the opportunity to represent Team USA in Portugal during the second week in November.

The four Rotax Grand Finals ticket winners who will represent the Florida Winter Tour in Portugal in early November: Tyler Gonzalez, Scott Roberts, Ryan Norberg, and Jeff Kingsley.

The Championship goes to…

We want to congratulate all of the drivers who were able to achieve the championship in their class. Those champions are:

Jeff Kingsley, DD2 - PSL Karting/Birel ART
Ryan Norberg, Senior MAX - PSL Karting/Birel ART
Tyler Gonzalez, Junior MAX - Speed Concepts Racing/Tony Kart
Dale Curran, Mini MAX - Koene USA, Tony Kart
James Egozi, Micro MAX - Koene USA, Benik Kart 
Scott Roberts, Masters MAX - Speed Concepts Racing/Tony Kart