The week started off as strong as possible when ROK Cup USA representative, Matheus Morgatto, claimed pole position in Junior ROK. Morgatto made some mistakes in the heats that cost him dearly, setting him up for 19th in the final, only to climb to 11th before a bumper penalty sent him back down the order.
Jace Denmark-Gessell made history by becoming the first American to compete in the elite Super ROK category at the ROK Cup International Final. The Arizona-native competed hard and climbed to 13th in the final, precisely where he qualified on Thursday.
Like Denmark-Gesell, Italian Luca Bosca moved up from Junior to compete in Super ROK in 2018. Bosco took the pole position and was the leader after the qualifying heats, looking to repeat his International Final win a year ago. However, a superb final by Alexandre Machado demoted the Manetti Racing driver down one spot to second.
Italian Christopher Zani made it through the qualifying heats in Shifter ROK as the driver to beat. But on the outlap of the final, a strange haze appeared coming from the backside of Zani's BRM kart. We thought it may have been a cleaning spray heating up on the exhaust, but the former Italian ROK Cup winner retired soon after, giving us the impression it may have been something much more severe.
Perhaps our expectations for Danny Formal were a bit inflated, but truthfully the Costa Rican likely had ideas of winning the ROK Cup International Final Shifter ROK category as well. A few really unfortunate starts due to outside forces, both in the heats and the final, were partly to blame for the lackluster week from the North American karting star.
This is what we mean by Formal having unfortunate luck. In his opening heat, this Maranello launched uncontrollably into the back of the Ward Racing Tony Kart of Formal. While Formal was able to carry on, he lost more than a few spots at the start.
Kai Sorenson had his Lennox Racing Team Exprit rolling through the heats -- mostly. One bad heat that landed the Californian in 10th likely cost him 3 or 4 rows on the starting grid for the final. Starting 14th, Sorensen couldn't get out of the congestion that is the middle of the pack, settling for 17th after a bumper penalty on the Final.
The future stars of the sport rushing the pre-grid gate to watch the category on track before them is always an amusing thing to watch.
One of the best results of the week for Americans was Miguel Costa in his final Mini ROK heat race, winning on the final lap in a closely contested race with two others. The Costa family couldn't help but celebrate with young Miguel as soon as he crossed the scales. The South Florida resident narrowly made it into the Final, standing 16th out of the possible 17 in his Mini ROK Series thanks to the victory.
Perhaps the "most improved" over the week was that of James Egozi. The Koene USA driver arrived a week early, like most did, to race the South Garda Autumn Trophy in preparation for the ROK Cup International Final. The speed we're typically used to seeing from the Miami-area resident didn't cross the pond initially, failing to make the Final. However, as his second week progressed, so did his pace. Egozi had closed the gap to the lead times and made it into the Final easily, with a string of top-7 heat race results, eventually finishing 19th.
Alex Powell (645) was the class of the field in Mini ROK through the heats. The final was not much different as Powell and Energy Corse teammate Kimi Antonelli Andrea challenged one another constantly. The Italian eventually edged the Jamaican in the final by just about the margin you see in the photo, .048.
One of the great but less noticed aspects of the ROK Cup International Final is the abundance of corner workers. In seven corners, there were no less than two workers ready to pounce on an accident in their area; one to hold the flag, the other to pull karts to safety in the grass.
Connor Zilisch was on the precipice of repeating where he finished a year ago in Lonato -- first. Howver, like Sorensen, the Mooresville resident dropped a lot of points in one heat, finishing 18th and dropping him from a likely top-four starting spot to ninth. The added bottleneck of having to start from this spot caught up to him, just two laps in, when his group of karts all collided in one of the more unusual spots on the circuit. The accident collected two other North American and an additional fourth kart, ending all of their chances.
Nichola Zecchinato was one of the three North Americans in the pile up with Zilisch.
Joey Brienza, from Colorado, was also included in the mayhem, but was able to continue unlike the others, finishing 28th.
As luck would have it, a fourth North American that had a legitimate shot at the Junior ROK podium also retired on the same lap as the others, except for something entirely different: a broken front nose bracket. Canada's Dale Curran had been so impressive up until the point his nose cone no longer was connected to his kart.
What the Americas had left was Ugo Ugochukwu. The skilled 11-year old from New York had been no worse than second in any of his heats and was setting sail out front as the full-course yellow flew for the accident that collected all of his compatriots. Soon after the restart, Ugochukwu had lost the lead and a bit of time to the leaders, but kept pushing. Running third, he closed in on the top two but ran out of time after losing five laps to the caution.
The TV cameras were rolling on Saturday for the Trophy races and Main Events.
The lone representative in the Senior ROK Final, Eduardo Barrichello.
Emma Dellatre, the 2018 ROK Festival champion, missed out on the Senior ROK final by a single point. Starting pole for the OMP Trophy, the Connecticut native led for the first 75% of the race, losing the lead with just three to go. Knowing she had to make a move before allowing the new leader to get too far ahead, Dellatre went for it into turn 3, pulling off the pass and giving herself enough room to run the remaining 2.5 laps unchallenged for the win.