Round number two of the Florida Winter Tour Rotax championship in Palm Beach was everything we expected it to be. A more than well organized event, exciting racing, and cut throat competition would be a few ways that we would describe the weekend. It's no secret that numbers are down around the world in Rotax competition, but despite a field size of 92, the saying less is more fits quite well here.
MAXSpeed continues to organize, staff, promote, and run events as well as anybody. It's the only thing they have 100% control of and at this point that's the best thing they can do for their customers.
Heartbreak and Comebacks
Tyler Gonzalez and his new team Speed Concepts Racing are off to a phenomenal start in 2017. After finishing no lower than third, and taking two wins in each round of this year's winter tour, the young Floridian is on rails. Kicking off the weekend in the biggest field, Gonzalez would face 31 drivers hungry to steal glory following his win in ROK the previous weekend.
One driver in particular would be PSL driver Ryan MacDermid, who has been plagued with a series of challenges this season. Looking to turn his season around, the young canadian was off to a positive start, qualifying third. Unable to fully shake the plague, the Canadian would only go backwards from there. After incidents in the final, Macdermid would find himself outside the top 10 to finish 12th.
Now, we mentioned heartbreak and comebacks, and for good reason. For Thomas Nepveu, we held our breathe after a horrific flip exiting the opening corner during heat 3. We witnessed him be dragged face-first with kart on top of him for a solid twenty five to thirty feet. Any incident as such would spell end to most, however, Nepveu wasn't leaving without a fight. Strapping a new helmet on, he took to the final with intentions to win. To his disliking, he would come up short to Gonzalez, after overcoming such gruelling events.
It was a short lived victory for Gonzalez, as heartbreak would strike from a five position penalty given out for a driving infraction, handing the official victory over to none other than Thomas Nepveu. Dylan Gennaro would be moved to second, with Henry Cubides to third. The penalty would shake things up in the championship, allowing as many as nine drivers with some degree of chance at winning the series title in Ocala.
Ramirez is not to be underestimated
We can all admit that expectations leaned toward Austin Garrison, Arthur Leist, or Ryan Norberg to take victory in the final. Mathias Ramirez had other things in mind, fighting till the very last lap of the weekend. Ramirez would be edged out by both Leist and Norberg to qualify third, however took victory in heat one, two, pre-final, and ultimately the final. Nearly losing all grip in the rear of his kart as he dropped a wheel in turn one with two laps till checkered, Ramirez put his head down, retaking the lead from Austin Garrison within the same lap. The Andersen Racing driver was relentless in fighting, rightfully taking victory and shaking up the championship fight.
The pre-race favorites of Norberg and Garrison had some missteps this weekend. Ryan Norberg was potentially enroute to a heat one victory, but suffered a connecting rod failure, and Garrison was possibly dealing with engine issues for most of the weekend. Arthur Leist has had a rough series of occurrences lately with DNF`s, and struggling for pace. Although he is still very much in championship contention sitting in third, a recurrence of Palm Beach must be prevented in order for him to take the championship. Norberg will continue to hold the championship lead over Garrison, turning Ocala into a near certain dogfight.
Kingsley is running away with it
Jeff Kingsley is getting closer and closer to the DD2 Championship as each round passes. The Canadian PSL Birel ART driver was challenged early in the weekend, but was unable to be stopped come Sunday. Birel ART dominated the field with Robert Wickens, Ethan Simioni, Davide Greco and Igor Mukhin repping the red army with pace. They and factory Formula K kart driver Gary Carlton would give Kingsley a hard fight with hopes to end his reign.
In the heats, Greco and Kingsley both took victories, as Robert Wickens would lurk and Gary Carlton continued to find the speed he so desperately needed. Come Sunday, Carlton undoubtedly persevered through the obstacles of chassis issues on Saturday, which put him over one second off pace earlier in the weekend.
Starting fifth in Sundays prefinal, Carlton worked his way to the lead looking to set himself up for a duplicate result as the previous weekend. Carlton had it out with Igor Mukhin, as Mukhin opted to use new tires for the prefinal giving him the advantage. It was until an overly ambitious move by Mukhin ended Carlton's race handing Kingsley the win.
In the final, an incident in turn one would stop both Wickens and Carlton from any shot of victory as over a half track gap between them and Kingsley was opened. An incredible start by Juan Diego Villacis saw him lead the field for three laps with Kingsley impatiently behind. Lap after lap Villacis would block heavily into turns one, three, and eleven, until Kingsley decided enough was enough. Kingsley made the pass and didn't look back, cruising to victory with a nine second gap to Greco. Greco would later receive a penalty for a driving infraction, moving Marco Signoretti to second, and Cedrik Lupien to third.
Egozi shows up just in time Micro Max was incredible from the first green thrown of the weekend. Alex Powell, Emmo Fittipaldi, James Egozi, Jeremy Fletcher, Miguel Costa, Nikita Johnson, and George Zouein all put on a race to remember. Despite Alex Powell out qualifying the both of them, it would be Emmo Fittipaldi and James Egozi stealing the show. Emmo Fittipaldi showed excellent composure throughout the weekend, looking set to take victory in the final.
With two heat wins, and the prefinal to his name, all that was left was to carry that same momentum into the final. He did just that, however James Egozi carried just a hair more. The two swapped for position the entire race, until James Egozi retook the lead and held it to take victory. He now holds the championship lead with Fittipaldi in second and Powell in third going into the last round in Ocala.