Pitt Race cancelled, OVRP delayed, building foundation for regional program.
Aponte Dialed In for Master ROK Victory
Gonzalo Aponte has always ran well in Orlando and this weekend was no different. However, it wasn't all easy going for the AKT Racing team owner. Aponte qualified on pole and won two heat races, but also suffered a DNF in heat one and ran with slower pace in the pre-final than we had predicted.
In the final, however, Aponte took over the lead early on from Pedro Cabrera and went unchallenged to the win. In second, Cabrera finished with enough points to earn the championship and the ticket to Lonato, Italy for the Internaional Final in October. Rodrigo Ospina ran just behind Cabrera, finishing a half second behind in third.
Vicki Brian and Richard Heistand were the leaders early in the 18 lap final of Shifter Master, but as Brian began to fade a bit, Heistand looked for a way around. Brian defended hard and Heistand made contact on his way around into the lead. The move drew the eyes of the officials and in the end it was a one place penalty for Heistand who eventually went on to win on track.
Brian continued to fade and Farshad Bagheri was able to take advantage and move into second, and later promoted to the win after the penalty to Heistand was handed down. Heistand dropped to second, with Brian finishing third.
It was an emotional weekend for Brian, who ran with a heavy heart this weekend after the recent passing of her father.
Norberg's biggest obstacle in the final was just getting through the opening lap, which has been a bit of a challenge this weekend. With this being his first race of the weekend where he got to start first, he went unchallenged in the opening lap and that was the beginning to a dominating win in Senior ROK for the top PSL Karting pilot.
In the pre-final, Arthur Leist chose to run his two new tires, and while it helped him lead the first half of that race, it wasn't a great long term decision. Leist dropped to third in the opening laps of the final, behind Ryan MacDermid, and didn't have the tires to make any significant challenge for the top two spots after what had been a great weekend. As the race spread out, Norberg was dropping laps 3-4 tenths faster than his competitors and pulled out to a 3.5 second win in the end. MacDermid ran in the second position throughout, followed by Leist. With the win, Norberg picked up the championship, his third different one so far this year.
To start the week, Alex Powell was off to a hot start, putting his Speed Racing Concepts Tony Kart on the pole position and then earning the heat 1 victory. Heat two and three did not go as well, with heat two resulting in a torn up kart and a bent tie rod. Powell and his team kept at it, to their benefit, and turned the corner on Sunday. After starting fourth int he pre-final, he moved to third to start in a fantastic position for the final today.
In the early going of the 15 lap final, Powell and Zanella Racing driver Matheus Ferreira knew exactly what to do -- team up and pull away. As the two stretched their lead, they were light years ahead of the competition and readying for their battle in the final laps. Much like Mars in Mini ROK, Ferreira did not try to defend down the long straight into the most used passing zone on the track. This gave Powell the open door to take over the lead. Powell defended well over the final three corners and picked up the win over Ferreira.
Jesse Carasquedo Jr. had a fight on his hands for third, but the bigger picture was his chance at the championship and he did exactly what he needed to do to lock that down -- finish. With third, Carrasquedo earned the championship over Miguel Costa.
Ramirez penalized, promoting Barrichello to the win in Shifter ROK
Shifter ROK Senior has been kind of a bizzarre category this weekend. With drivers stalling on the start, engine failures, and spin outs, it's been hard to judge who would come out on top. That continued in the final when the man up front, Mathias Ramirez had issues on the grid that had him enter the track just in time to make the race. To get his positions back before the start, Ramirez chose to cut the track which is an automatic penalty in ROK Cup. So before the start, we were already in weird territory. On the start, Ramirez was called for jumping the green flag and Antonio Serravalle fell victim to a stalled kart, much like Danny Formal had happen in the pre-final -- the first time in his 15 years of racing, Formal later said.
Ramirez went on to whip the field with a stellar run, but with the penalties still to be determined, will drop quite a bit. The real race was then for second on track, as Danny Formal held the position for much of the race until Rubens Barrichello managed to get around and pull away in the late stages. AJ Myers was also moving through the field after starting in last due to a DNF in the pre-final. Myers made it up to fourth and was probably a lap or two from getting around Formal, but time had ran up. Formal finished third on track, but will likely be promoted to second after penalties ahead of him.
Myers had a machine to win this weekend, but will have to settle for third. Jimmy Cabrera, again, had a fine pace this weekend but just not enough to get into the mix, finishing fourth. Vicenzo Sarracino finished fifth, his best run of the weekend.
It took nearly five laps for the start of the Mini ROK Final to settle in. By then, Reece Gold, who had started in first, was all the way back in fifth and the lead duo was Alessandro De Tullio and Luca Mars. Gold fought his way through an initial pack of karts that consisted of himself, James Egozi, Ashton Chilton, and Connor Zilisch. Zilisch, who ran as well as anyone on Saturday, didn't have the ideal Sunday he had hoped for and spun in the first half of the final, ending his opportunity for the win.
Gold, now pulling away from the battle behind him, had his sights set on De Tullio and Mars. Running a quicker pace, Gold was inching closer as the laps ticked down. With three and a half laps left, De Tullio spun at the far end of the track and end of the long straight in an apparent self inflicted wound, moving Gold into second and onto the rear bumper of Mars. Mars, by the way, was in the lead after qualifying 16th with brake rotor issues on Saturday morning -- so his move to the front was quite impressive. Down the back straight on the final lap, Mars chose not to defend, giving an open door to Gold who took advantage. Mars, misjudging an overunder opportunity had to back off as the two headed back down the short straight towards the mechanics stand. This misstep allowed Gold enough room that no challenge was given by Mars and the long time Benik-cadet driver took the win and sealed his ROK Cup USA Florida Championship.
Ashton Chilton finished off the podium in third, followed by a hard charging Jeremy Fletcher in fourth. Fletcher had been involved in an accident in the pre-final that brought out the red flag. He was checked out and proceeded to pass 18 karts in the final. Joey Atanosio had the final kart inside the topf five as he too charged hard, up 14 positions.
Gonzalez out duels Barrichello on final lap in Junior ROK
It was a relatively calm start for the Junior ROK category, as Tyler Gonzalez settled into the lead and was followed by Diego Ramos who started in third. Eduardo Barrichello dropped a spot from his outside front row starting spot, but soon would be back into second behind Gonzalez. For the next 17 laps, Gonzalez and Barrichello slowly pushed away from the rest of the Junior ROK field, running nearly identical lap times. Tyler Maxson had brilliantly moved up from fifth to third and was running the fast laps of the race near the halfway mark, but was just too far back to make any serious threats on the leaders.
As the race wore on, Barrichello still sat on the rear bumper of Gonzalez, waiting for the right opportunity. On the final lap, the OGP driver would get to the point, which would be snatched back at the end of the long straight, with three corners to go. Gonzalez held on through the final chicane and hairpin combo, edging Barrichello in a drag race to the line.
Maxson ran comfortably in third as he continues to trend upward in his rookie campaign. Diego Ramos, who wasn't much of a threat on Sunday as he was on Saturday, finished fourth, followed by Matheus Morgatto. Arias Deukmedjian climbed 17 spots to finish sixth after an incident in the pre-final earlier in the day.