Heat racing was anything but predictable in Orlando

Just four drivers able to repeat as winners on Saturday in 21 heat races.

Saturday was an astonishing day when you realize the parity that unfolded in the heat races. There were a staggering 17 (!) individual drivers who won a heat race in the 21 total heat races. AJ Myers, Connor Zilisch, Gonzalo Aponte, and Farshad Bagheri were the only four drivers who had multiple heat race wins, in which each one of them had two.

AJ Myers speeds around the long turn six in front of the crowd in Orlando
AJ Myers has just one blemish this weekend, but it was a big one in heat two.
Photo Credit:

Rubens Barrichello had the quick time in Shifter ROK, but was unable to match the speed of AJ Myers and Danny Formal in the heats. Myers picked up wins in heats 1 and 3, but left with a disappointing DNF in heat 2 when a big puff of smoke rolled out of his engine. Formal had picked up the pieces in heat 2 for the win which followed a second place in heat 1. As the Costa Rican ran inside the top two in heat three on the final lap, the connection to his shift lever broke and forced him to the side. With the top two players now with DNFs, Barrichello’s consistent string of heat races has the Brazilian starting from the top spot in today’s pre-final. Mathias Ramirez, who has set a fast time in the heats, will launch from second. Jimmy Cabrera, Antonio Serravalle, Myers, and Formal will form the next two rows.

In Senior ROK, Arthur Leist has set the tone beginning with this pole position qualifying effort and ending with this Heat 3 win. In between that was a hectic couple of heat races with Ryan Norberg earning the Heat 1 win as he was able to drive way from the field. Norberg led Heat 2 in the closing laps, but a broken battery harness caused the Birel ART to mishandle throughout the closing two laps, backing him up into a contest for the lead with Leist, Ryan MacDermid, and Christian Cole. When the dust settled, Cole emerged as the surprise winner, adding to the heat race winners on the day. Leist busted out to a 2.5 second lead int he opening lap of heat three as Norberg, MacDermid, and the others battled very hard in the opening lap. Leist cruised to the win for the third different heat race winner in Senior and will start from pole in today’s Pre-Final.

Arthur Leist leads with a massive advantage in heat three in Orlando
Arthur Leist looking to earn his first major senior category victory this weekend.
Photo Credit:

As good as the racing has been here this weekend, Junior ROK has been the most competitive. This was another category with three different heat race winners in Diego Ramos, Tyler Gonzalez, and Eduardo Barrichello. Those three, in that order, will bring the field to the green flag this morning, followed by Matheus Morgatto and Arias Deukmedjian -- both who have been contenders upfront but haven’t quite broken through yet. These top five have had a stranglehold on the category, but Tyler Maxson and Dylan Gennaro have the ability to come in and spoil the party. Genarro had a DNF in heat two which dropped him to eighth after the heats.

Reece Gold and Connor Zilisch have been the clear cut leaders in Mini ROK and will start first and second this morning. Zilisch picked up the first two heat race wins and was leading in the third until an apparent carburetor issue had his machine misfiring in the same two corners over the final two laps, dropping him back to sixth. Gold finished his heats with a 2-2-2 record after his pole position, tying him with Zilisch, but earning the tiebreaker from qualifying. Joey Atanosio, Matthew Christensen, and James Egozi are all in the hunt, but haven’t shown the ability yet to take the win. Alessandro De Tullio was the winner in heat three, after starting 10th, and perhaps the young man has found the right combination after a rollercoaster of heat races. He will start from the sixth position.

Pedro Cabrera and Gonzalo Aponte have led the Master ROK category throughout Saturday and into Sunday. Aponte has had the stronger pace, but his DNF in heat one has given Cabrera the pole position for this morning. Aponte will begin the day outside pole, followed by Rodrigo Ospina, Miguel Gransaull, and Marc Julien.

In Shifter Master, out front it’s been a battle between Vicki Brian and Farshad Bagheri. Both of them picked up heat race victory, with Bagheri earning two. Beyond those two, it’s been a battle of attrition as Richard Heistand, Jesse Carrasquedo Sr., and Jim Lewis have all DNF’d at least once. For now, it appears it’s a two horse race between Bagheri and Brian, but Heistand could get into the picture today as we’ve seen with him in the past.

Micro ROK was another of the categories with three different heat race winners, started by pole winner Alex Powell. Powell went on to disappointing results in heat’s two and three, earing a bent tie rod in heat two as he defended in the final lap. Matheus Ferreira picked up three positions to get the second heat win, followed by the day’s leader Jesse Carrasquedo Jr. winning heat three which was preceded by two second place finishes. Those results have the VCI/AM Engines driver leading the field to the green today ahead of Ferriera, Paul Bocuse, and Powell. Emmo Fittipaldi and Miguel Costa, two front runners from the Florida Winter Tour, haven’t quite left their mark yet and will look to do so today.