ROK Florida Winter Tour Palm Beach: Friday

A rundown of the top contenders in qualifying.

Andre Martins
Andre Martins slides into turn one at Palm Beach Karting in Shifter Master. Photo: Nick Leone/Kart360

It seems more often than not, we are caught off guard by the increase in pace that a handful of competitors attain. The “off season”, although very short, can leave us scratching our heads when it comes to the pace some drivers find. It's said that the best way to improve is to step back to come back stronger. Palm Beach International Raceway would be the first location in which most drivers begin their 2018 season. With a variety of complex and technical corners, Palm Beach provides drivers with both excitement and a challenge.

Junior ROK was the first to take stage, with 36 drivers attempting to claim the all beloved pole position. Tyler Gonzalez was certainly a favorite to claim pole, after an all dominant 2017 season. However, the surprise attende Ugo Ugochukwu had other things in mind, out qualifying Morgatto and Gonzalez by a comfortable margin.

A 20 minute, non-stop qualifying session would determine who would sit pole come heat one for the Mini ROK class. Some driver opted to remain stationary for the first half of the sessions, while others went at it from the get go. The term “early bird gets the worm” fits quite well, as Kai Sorensen decided to go out early, claiming the fastest lap to take pole in the early stages. Carson Morgan and Alex Powell would help form a trio very familiar with one another.

We all know Ryan Norberg as one of the quickest Americans at the moment, and after nearly claiming victory last weekend in Miami, we expected a similar situation this weekend. Battling with 29 other drivers for pole, Norberg seemed to put his Birel ART on pole with ease by nearly two tenths over Ryan Macdermid. With Arthur Leist suffering a mechanical failure on his outlap, what seemed to be his biggest threat was out of the picture, at least for the heats.

Drama under the closing stages of Micro ROK qualify were beyond nail biting. Caleb Gafrarar seemed to have pole position wrapped up, and with second to go pulled into pit lane. Awaiting the session to conclude, comotion from announcer Stephen Mallozzi meant things were about to get interesting. With mere seconds to go, Danny Dyszelski took pole position, as Gafrarar stood helpless in pit lane. Despite this, the times were close, meaning the following heats will be a spectacle to watch.

Much similar to the drama in Micro, Master ROK experienced an exact replica in the closing stage. Gaia Magno had pulled in, after extracting his maximum out of his Orsolon Racing OTK machine. With just moments to go, as Magno watched helplessly, Gabriel Iemma swooped pole from under him. Wesley Phillips followed closely just one tenth off the duos near identical time.

Shifter Masters has been run by Andre Martins thus far, being quick in practice and taking pole position over Farshad Bagheri. Peter Licciardi followed the two, but has the task of closing a time margin of over three tenths to pole and two tenths to second. Much like races previous,we can expect to see Martins and Bagheri providing the highlight reel all weekend.

Shifter Senior is a spectacle of excitement, action, and passion that sees the paddock hault activities to observe what unfolds during each session. Qualifying was nail biting as first through seventh are separated by just over one tenth of a second. Marijn Kremers took pole early on over Robert Wickens, Daniel Formal, and Rubens Barrichello. The Dutch Birel ART factory driver seemed to be our pole sitter until, once again, Robert Wickens put in a late session stunner, just surpassing Kremers time by seven hundredths of a second. Formal would take third with Rubens in fourth.