April 26, 2012 (OCALA, Fla.) - Descending on the tight and twisty Andersen Race Park in Palmetto, Florida, the Ocala Gran Prix race team was hungry to continue their Florida Karting Championship Series (FKCS) winning ways. In a weekend that saw tricky weather conditions with on and off rain and high winds, OGP prevailed to end the weekend with an astounding, nine pole positions, six main event wins and seventeen podium results.
With grumbling in the paddock of Rotax motors being quicker and more powerful than other specified TaG motors, Ocala Gran Prix chose to make the switch to the bone stock IAME Parilla Leopards for both the TaG Junior and TaG Senior divisions. Working to get up to speed on Friday's unofficial test day, the OGP drivers once again rose to the top to silence the critics by taking the top two positions in TaG Junior and sweeping the TaG Senior podium while placing another two drivers in the top eight.
"I wanted to prove that it is not the Rotax motors that make Ocala Gran Prix drivers win," expressed OGP President Jorge Arellano. "We have a team of great drivers, very skilled tuners and experience that is second to none. I think with all of that put together, it is a recipe for success and we proved it again this weekend."
Leading the way in TaG Senior was Floridian pilot Jonathon Kotyk. In a fierce battle with multi-time race winner and champion Nick Neri, the duo would battle hard throughout the race with contact coming on the next to last lap. With Kotyk taking the win, Neri would be penalized for avoidable contact and eventually be classified in the seventh position. Benefiting and claiming podium results, were fellow Ocala Gran Prix drivers Annie Hayden and Brandon Salyer who came home second and third respectively. Andrew Evans would cross the stripe in eighth.
While all drivers would make the switch to Rotax motors for the Rotax Senior race, Neri would rise to the top to take the checkers while Kotyk and Evans garnered podium results for an OGP 1-2-3. Brandon Salyer would score another top five result while Annie Hayden would come home seventh. Nick Neri would also take the overall win in the Open Shifter class while Salyer, in his first ever shifter kart race would come home ninth.
The TaG Junior class was much the same as TaG Senior as a pair of Ocala Gran Prix drivers stole the show. Florida Winter Tour Rotax Junior champion Oliver Askew turned his pole position into a race win while Alex Hornborg kept his consecutive FKCS podium streak alive to come home second.
Both Askew and Hornborg would see action in the Rotax Junior class and would be joined by fellow OGP pilot Brian Lockwood. With rain on and off throughout the day, Askew would come home second when the final checkered flag flew while Lockwood would cross the stripe tenth. Hornborg would recover from a first corner incident to drive back through the field and claim the 11th position.
Female pilot Ashley Rogero would be untouchable in the junior ranks as she claimed the pole positions and main event wins in both the KPP Junior and Yamaha Junior classes. Looking to make a run at the World Karting Association Manufacturer's Cup titles, Rogero chose to forgo the TaG and Rotax Junior classes to hone her skills in the lower horsepower divisions.
Providing Ocala Gran Prix with another victory this past weekend was Olivier Bellanger in the Rotax Mini Max class. In a rain soaked final, the young driver remained calm and held his own to best the rest of the hungry competitors. Koleton Mitchell would cross the stripe in sixth while Aaron Bass would be seventh. Just outside the top ten would be Mikey Hornborg in 12th and Mathias Ramirez, who after receiving a start line infraction penalty, would be classified in 13th.
Looking to add to his 2012 win total, Bellanger would be denied in the TaG Cadet class but would garner the best result of Ocala Gran Prix drivers in the eighth position. Mitchell and Ramirez would be classified in 12th and 14th respectively.
Pulling quadruple duty this weekend, Mathias Ramirez would be back on track in the Cadet Junior Sportsman category where he managed to score a ninth place result. In an uncharacteristic weekend that saw Ramirez run consistently outside the top five, he will need to regroup for the next event to have a shot at multiple championships. Jake Knepper would claim the 11th position while Dylan Gennaro would garner a 14th place result. Knepper and Gennaro would also see action n the Rotax Micro Max class where they crossed the line seventh and sixth respectively.
Showing signs of speed in the Yamaha Sportsman division, a pair of Ocala Gran Prix drivers would claim podium results. While Ramirez would be on the podium for yet another time in 2012 with a second place result, Dylan Gennaro drove to his first podium of 2012 as he claimed the third position. With momentum building towards the second half of the season, Ramirez and Gennaro are hoping they can continue their efforts.
In the over 35 Masters categories, a trio of Ocala Gran Prix drivers would battle to take home three podium results and six top fives in three racing divisions. Leading the way was Florida Winter Tour champion Jason Heffner with a solid second place result in Rotax Masters and fourth place finish in TaG Masters before being relegated to the tail of the order for a disqualification penalty. Hot on his heels was South Florida's John Dalton who would see action in three classes this weekend. Dalton would benefit from Heffner's DQ in TaG Masters to be awarded the fourth position but would improve to third in both the Rotax Masters and TaG Heavy classes to provide OGP with a pair of podium results. Jerry Brown would have his best weekend of FKCS karting to date with a solid fourth place result in Rotax Masters and sixth place finish in TaG Heavy.
"It was a great weekend for the team," expressed Ocala Gran Prix's Team Manager Nate Grindell. "We are looking to continue with our impressive results in future events as we build toward the United States Rotax Grand Nationals and the Rotax Grand Finals later this year in Portugal."