This weekend marks the third installment of “Festival” events organized by ROK Cup Promotions after the first two went off cleanly in 2018. A brand new facility, just yards from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, awaits competitors in Biloxi, Mississippi, a popular tourist town in the South. The Finishline Performance circuit sits at .75-miles in length and will see competition karts run its longer layout for the very first time.
The “Festival” events are one-off competitions, designed to bring a more laid back environment to ROK Cup racing in the States. With an anticipated attendance of 120 drivers, attendance is up 100% according to officials compared to their first two events last year.
Although the weather looks dry, the heat will become a factor. Forecasts call for temperatures in the 90s all three days. Bring the sunscreen and baby powder!
Can Formal get over the hump?
In the premier Shifter division, Danny Formal is still looking to get that first premier victory in the Formula K for Leading Edge. Many pole positions and heat race wins haven’t led to a main event win yet, but the Costa Rican has as good of shot as any here this weekend. Austin Garrison, Max Hewitt, and the CRG Nordam outfit join the ROK program for the first time this year. No introductions will be necessary as everyone knows their potential and it’ll be exciting to see some new faces battling at the top.
Jimmy Cabrera and Rory Van Der Steur are both sneaky-quick drivers to keep your eye on as well. Don’t be surprised to see either one snag the pole or a few heat race wins. Last minute entry, Mathias Ramirez for PSL Karting, will also have a say in the outcome this weekend as he showed tremendous speed in the Winter Tour, winning the final round in Ocala.
Does Brooks make it three of four in Senior ROK in 2019?
Christian Brooks comes in as the reigning Florida Winter Tour Champion in the premiere single speed Senior ROK class. It was nearly an unbeatable season for the Orsolon Racing driver and we’ll see him carry that momentum into the gulf town. Challenging the Californian will be PSL Karting ace, Thomas Nepveu. The Canadian has competed in Europe already this year with the factory Birel ART outfit and will utilize that experience where he hopes to claim his first big Senior win. Axle Cabrera also looks to play a factor as he did in the Winter Tour for AKT Racing.
Junior ROK goes deep
For my money, Junior ROK looks to have the deepest field of talent here this weekend. Luca Mars (Speed Concepts) and Conor Zilisch (Team Felon), however, stand out to me as the favorites in a crowded field. John Burke has been rolling this month with two good performances in Utah and will play a factor with guidance from Supertune USA. Big hitters from the Winter Tour are back, including Alessandro De Tullio (AM Racing), Chloe Chambers (Mike Doty Racing), and Luke Lange (Speed Concepts). Jack Jeffers will make his debut in Junior after a successful few years in Mini, joining Jeremy Fletcher (Zanella Racing), Nikita Johnson (AKT Racing), Paul Bocuse (Speed Concepts), and Jace Park (Speed Concepts) who all moved up earlier this year.
Sorensen leads a pack of hungry Mini’s
Kai Sorensen has had a bright start to his season in events across the country. The young Californian is likely the favorite at each stop on the calendar the remainder of the year, including this weekend. Sorensen’s teammate at Supertune USA, Enzo Deligny, is starting to emerge as a strong adversary after two wins this month at big events in Utah. Micheal Costello, Cameron Weinberg, and Anderson Leonard round out what I believe to be the fast five.
Other pre-race favorites are Ryan Kinnear and Victor Jimenez in Shifter ROK Master; Vatche Tatikian and Ariel Castro in Master ROK; Kai Johnson in Micro; and Alexander Searle and Zach Linsell in Junior and Senior LO206.
Friday starts out with two morning warm up sessions before official Qualifying begins after lunch, followed by the first round of heat races. Saturday brings with it three more rounds of progressive heat races, followed by an entertaining 75-minute enduro event at the end of the day aboard the Finishline rental kart fleet. Sunday will be the final day, with a split in the schedule, allowing for both morning and afternoon categories. The five morning finals roll off at 8:52am, followed by the last four finals start at 12:50pm. All times central daylight time.