The 2016 Sofina Foods Florida Winter Tour Presented by Fikse Wheels Rotax weekend kicks off in Homestead this weekend. The Florida Winter Tour has come to be known as the start of the season for many Rotax drivers from around the world and this year is no different with drivers from Europe, Asia, and South America joining the North Americans in Florida. The weather is slated to be a bit of a mix bag with rain scheduled for qualifying on Friday, high winds on Saturday, but Sunday should be a beautiful day just in time for the finals.
This year 130 drivers are on the pre-entry list, however we do know of a few not pre-entered that will be racing and there's always drivers that sign up at the track. Last year, 163 drivers competed in round one, which means we could see a drop in attendance for the third straight year. MAXSpeed continues to put on high-level events, but Rotax themselves have had a difficult past 12 months with the role out of the EVO package, which is likely the main factor in this decline.
Just like in 2015, Kart360 is kicking off our season in Florida with our On Location coverage. The On Location page is your source for live timing, results, photos, the latest breaking news, and more. We will also be bringing back our popular Vlogs that will be uploaded each night giving you our perspective of the event.
Lastly, our first podcast of the 2016 season will air live on Friday evening. We will be discussing some of the big moves in the offseason, what the 2016 season looks like, and the new OK engine as it makes its race debut in just a few weeks at the WSK Champions Cup. On Friday morning look for an announcement on our social channels on when we will go live.
Askew Switches to DD2
In a surprise move, BirelART and PSL Karting have decided to switch Jordan Lennox-Lamb and Oliver Askew at the Florida Winter Tour. We can only assume this is because Askew cannot confirm a full karting schedule this year as he pursues a career in car racing. Askew does not have that much experience in a DD2 package, but was very successful in a shifter in the S2 and S1 categories back in 2012 and 2013. A driver with this talent level will surely not skip a beat and we expect him to be challenging for the race win this weekend. It wont be an easy one as CRG has brought in factory driver Paolo De Conto, while Rubens Barrichello and Robert Wickens will be tough challengers as well.
Stacked Senior Max
We enter 2016 and some of the same questions need to be asked. First and foremost: who will challenge Kyle Kirkwood and Ocala Gran Prix? Could it be his own teammate Austin Garrison? Askew was about the only real challenger in 2016, but he has moved to DD2. Jordan Lennox-Lamb enters as the first major contender. The Brit is fast in anything he drives and will be joined upfront by Lance Stroll. Stroll has been out of a kart for some time now, but the newly announced Williams F1 reserve driver has had plenty of time to get back up to speed.
Defending a title is always very difficult and there are numerous drivers looking to dethrone OGP and Kyle Kirkwood. With 10 capable drivers in the 32+ kart field, there is no shortage of competition. Koene USA’s Rinus Van Kalmthout joins Lennox-Lamb as the favorites to really put heavy pressure at the front of the field. The young driver from Holland is entering his second year in the Senior category and will be an even bigger threat than in 2015. Another driver entering his second year is Christian Brooks. The Californian has joined CRG Nordam for the Florida Winter Tour and with the support of the factory team could be one of the surprises of this championship. We have heard CRG is bringing their full factory team for the Florida Winter Tour, which means we should expect to see Ed Brand, although he is not on the pre-entry list.
More Respect and Cleaner Driving
Over the past few years the driving standards at the Florida Winter Tour in the Junior Max and Senior Max categories, most notably, have not been high, as drivers are often using their pumpers to make passes. MAXSpeed is not afraid to hand out penalties, but sometimes incidents go unnoticed because of so much happening on track. Hopefully in 2016 we will see some cleaner racing and more respect between drivers on track.
This season has one of the best rookie classes moving into Senior with multiple race winners and champions. COMPKART’s David Malukas had an outstanding 2015 season winning the X30 World Championship and finishing second in the SKUSA Pro Tour. In Junior, he didn’t have the best results in Rotax, but the COMPKART has proven its speed on MOJOs so we expect to see him at the front. Koene USA has two drivers moving up. Most notable is 2015 US Open Junior Max champion Trenton Estep. The Texan was very impressive at the end of the season and it will be interesting to see how quickly he gets on with the Seniors. Joining him is teammate Zach Holden. Holden doesn’t have much experience in Rotax, however. The question for him is how quickly will he adapt to the harder MOJO tire. Last but not least is Darren Keane. Keane moved up at the SuperNats and was quick at times, but struggled a little more in the races. We do not expect him to be fighting for the race win, but a solid top five result is a definite possibility.
The Return of Brueckner vs d’Orlando?
In 2014 there were some great battles between Nicholas Brueckner and Michael d’Orlando in cadets, but when the drivers moved up to Junior, Brueckner took to the Junior package a little bit quicker and we did not get to see these drivers battle on track often. 2016 could mark the return of this rivalry as d’Orlando showed last weekend with his win at the FWT Rok weekend that he is capable of winning against the top drivers in the Junior category. Another top Junior, Mathias Ramirez, is back and is surely one of the favorites for the title. These three apear to be the pre-season front runners, but it will hardly be a cake walk with drivers such as Aiden Keel, Samuel Lupien, and Matthew Latifi breathing down their neck.