ROK The Rio: What we learned

By all accounts the ROK takeover of Vegas was a success and should be even better in 2019.

A look down the front straight away at 2018 ROK The Rio
Never a shortage of action from the OMP observation deck over the start finish line. Photo: Johnny Johnson / Kart360

With everyone now back home and recharging after a week in Vegas, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the many happenings that took place. Many drivers are still wondering what could have been had they done this or that; the nine drivers who drove their tails off to become the inaugural set of ROK The Rio Champions are still waiting for the elation to wear off.

The prizes won were nothing short of extraordinary. To kick off the week, Bridgestone Tires hosted the Tire Changing Challenge, pitting a dozen contestants against one another in a tournament of sorts. Brian Bettencourt prevailed, picking up a really slick set of Fittipaldi Wheels, valued at $2,800. Later, Mario Ioffredo and Wesley Boswell, two pairs of the best tire changing hands this side of the Atlantic, dueled for $400 cash in total. Ioffredo won the preliminary contest with Boswell lighting the stage on fire in the main event. In the drivers meeting the following morning, Lucas Szabo won entry to all ROK Cup USA affiliated series in 2019, a value of over $7,000. And lastly, $45,000 in cash was distributed out among the nine categories, including $2,500 to each victor.

On track, nearly all of the finals were thrilling races, including multiple last lap takeovers, including 100cc Senior, Mini ROK, Senior ROK, and Shifter ROK Senior. The grandstands, placed right on top of the penultimate corner, got to witness fearless pass after fearless pass, bringing them to cheers more than a few times. I think credit for this many heated competitions on Saturday had a little to do with the layout, allowing for drag races down the long straight and deep-braking passes in the tight stuff. Although the track was a repeat from 2015/2016, it once again stood out as a well designed course. With that said, I do hope we get to see a new circuit in 2019; that’s what these temporary courses are all about, afterall.

From all accounts, the Vortex and OTK officials in attendance from the factories in Italy were very pleased and excited about the event from start to finish. They were also able to bring aboard their factory partner, OMP, who had branding throughout the paddock. I bring this up because it’s a pleasant sight to see from a company that extends beyond karting, which we don’t see nearly enough of here in the States. The 2019 version of ROK The Rio should bring many enhancements knowing that the factory will be in full support of this event going forward.

And lastly, at the end of the week the schedule for the 21st season of the Florida Winter Tour was finalized and announced. It will be the second year ROK Cup Promotions will put on the popular winter series and they’ve upped the ante big time. The opening two rounds will take place in the parking lot of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, home to the NFL team Miami Dolphins. Each round at the stadium will include a different layout and I can’t be more excited to see what they come up with. The third and final round will be at the Ocala Gran Prix facility, a staple in the Florida karting scene.

 If you missed any of the action, I detailed each Final on Saturday, linked below.

Sebastian Montoya 2018 ROK The Rio
2018 ROK Cup Promotions ROK the RIO – Saturday Report

The 2018 ROK Cup Promotions event calendar culminates at the RIO All-Suites Hotel and Casino with the 2018 ROK the RIO race.

Crowd gathers at 2018 ROK Cup International Final
What we learned: 2018 ROK Cup International Final

Americans stood out in nearly every category, proving our abilities on the international stage.

Mathias Ramirez wins 2018 ROK The Rio Shifter ROK Senior
Ramirez gives GFC Kart massive win in Shifter ROK

Two drivers on new equipment gave onlookers a riveting final to end ROK The Rio 2018.

Ryan MacDermid pumps his fist at the finish of Senior ROK 2018 ROK The Rio
MacDermid attacks at all the right times in Senior ROK Final

He wasn't the quickest, but the Canadian Birel ART driver put in the work.

Sebastian Montoya 2018 ROK The Rio
Montoya defends pole position in Junior ROK Final

It was a frenzy early, but the Columbian found himself back in front when it mattered.

Jordon Musser celebrates at 2018 ROK The Rio
Musser avoids contact in front, wins Shifter ROK Master

In his first ROK Shifter event, Musser continued to get quicker.