Everything got a little more serious today when the track went hot for Qualifying Practice and again for a handful of Qualifying Heats. With each class having as many entries as they do, one slip up has great impact.
The weather held steady today, albeit a bit colder than yesterday. The slightest of rain came down briefly in the late afternoon and although mechanics had their trolley’s each with a stack of rain tires, none were used.
The leading headline would be that of Matheus Morgatto earning the pole position in his final lap of Qualifying Practice in Junior ROK over 90 competitors. The Florida Winter Tour Champion had a splendid winter in Florida on the ROK package and transitioned right into some fantastic results competing in ROK Cup Italy. That experience showed right away with his pole position.
However, in his first heat, Morgatto fell to the carburetor gremlins who attacked on lap one, dropping the Brazilian to last place, eventually rebounding to 25th. A third place finish in his second heat keeps his hopes alive of making the A-final and possibly a podium.
There’s no shortage of opportunity for Team USA and Team Canada in Junior ROK. Connor Zilisch, Dale Curran, Ugo Ugochukwu, and Joseph Brienza were all in the middle of the fight at the top of each of their heats. Zilisch had a solid, steady day with a 3-4 score. Ugochukwu pulled off two wins, but a bumper penalty dropped him to second in his opening heat — behind Canadian Curran. Brienza faded in his opening heat but regrouped and finished a solid third, tallying a 10-3 score so far.
A lot still unknown in Mini ROK
Alex Powell scored the pole position in Mini ROK. Although he competes frequently in North America, he is not under the Team USA roster. To find an entrant from North America, we look a bit further down the sheet to Kai Sorensen in 17th. Nikita Johnson, Miguel Costa, Carson Morgan, Jack Jeffers, and James Egozi all fit inside the top 41 as well.
With the class split into two series, even a mid-pack run in qualifying can set you up for a decent starting spot and a chance at some really solid results that can get you to the front on Saturday. Kai Sorensen did just that and took advantage of his third place starting spot to finish second in his opening heat. In the same heat, Johnson captured fourth, Morgan 13th, and Jeffers 14th.
Delattre regroups in Senior ROK after pre-grid mishap
Emma Delattre ran into a pre-grid issue with her engine that left her at the back of the pack as Senior ROK Heat C-D took the green. Starting 32nd rather than 12th, the Connecticut resident kept her focus and pushed past 17 karts to get back inside the top 15. Two top ten runs on Friday should have the Lennox Racing Team member set inside the A-Final on Saturday.
Also in Senior ROK, Eduardo Barrichello had a steady day qualifying 15th and running 6th in his heat. Jim McKinney and Marco DiLeo recorded a 46th and 49th in qualifying respectively, followed by 22nd and 23rd in their heat together.
Formal remains steady in Shifter ROK
After qualifying 10th, Danny Formal had quite an eventful heat race. As the green light was about to come on at the start, the Costa Rican got absolutely crushed and ran over by the kart behind him. Formal kept his composure, somehow, and was able to launch as the race started despite having a kart crawling up his sidepod. Formal clawed his way back to sixth, where he started, and will look to find 3-tenths of a second to match the leaders on Friday.
Castro leads the charge in Expert
Ariel Castro leads the charge early for North America in Expert ROK. With a third in qualifying and a second in his heat, the Florida resident is in contention. Gaia Magno, Erik Jackson, and Adrian Donkers are also in the top half of the category and give the North Americans an even stronger chance at a podium or two on the international stage.
Gessel getting his feet wet in Super ROK
Jace Denmark-Gessel is the lone flag-carrier for USA in Super ROK. The young Arizonian made the leap up to the direct drive class this weekend and has run solid. A 13th in qualifying out of 31, the Ryan Perry Motorsports driver aims for a top ten this weekend with two more heats on Friday.
As we move into Friday, expect many more heat races. Junior and Mini ROK have four to five more heat races each, while the other categories each have two. By the end of the day Friday we'll have a good feeling where each driver has settled in and those with chances at glory.
We expect those who are upfront to stay there. We'll look to Formal and Delattre to move up a few places from where they were on Thursday as they both had to overcome bad luck just to finish where they started.