Sunday, March 29, 2015
The 39th Annual Florida Winternats is in the record books. Five days in the mid to upper 80's and zero rain. Competitors from all over the world including, the Continental U.S., Switzerland, Hawaii, Brazil, Argentina, The United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and Germany raced on the world famous, high traction, low tire wear track know as "The Fort" in Fort Myers, Florida. First timers always think the layout is easy but soon realize that in order to go fast, you must thread the needle and drive inches off the metal boards. The 1/8th Master class is a 45 and older class giving the more "seasoned" drivers a chance. This class is populated by many track owners and long time racers so driving curtesy is always recognized. Qualifying was tight but in the end it was Joaquin DeSoto coming out on top. During the Main, DeSot led from Start to finish but the second place Peter Breton was only 4 seconds behind after 210 laps and 45 minutes of racing. Round ing out the top 3 was Randy Colvin. GT 1/8th is a growing class bringing in newer racers to the sport. After 5 rounds of Qualifying, Joaquin DeSoto claimed his 2nd TQ of the event. During the main, 2nd Qualifier Rino Lino got by DeSoto on the first lap then lead the race for every lap except one lap when DeSoto briefly passed him. Later DeSoto ran into trouble dropping him back and finishing 6th, while 8th place Qualifier Franco Desiderio picked off the filed one by one running a clean race finishing 2nd...Followed closely in 3rd, was Michigan resident Rick Davis. 1/10 Sedan qualifying was pretty much dominated by DJ Apolaro. Others were close but DJ TQ most if not all of the rounds. DJ lead nearly 100 straight laps in the final when he came in for a tire change. A problem during the change cost him a few positions, leaving the pits in 4th place 6 laps down. With the tire change, Apolaro turned fast laps including a 12.0 which is 1 tenth off the sedan track record set by Apolaro during the 2014 Winternats. Paolo Morganti moved into 1st followed closely by Ralph Burch. The two battled for the top spot but on lap 154 Burch tangled with 3rd place Scotty Gray after Scotty was spun out by another driver. Burch slowly made it back to the pits where Pit man Drew Ellis shook his head and Ralph walked off the drivers stand. Scotty moved into 2nd with Apolaro in chase. Meanwhile bump up driver Steve McNichols and Loren Whiting moved up to take the 4th and 5th positions. Back to the front with only a few laps left, Morganti was cruising with a 3 lap lead while Gray and Apolaro drove at 100 percent trying to catch the leader. Then morganti stripped a belt adding 3 seconds a lap to his times. Only a couple laps left, Morganti did his best to keep the sedan moving through the corners to keep up the speed. He was able to keep a 1 lap lead when the checkered flag came out. Morganti, Gray, Apolaro, McNichols and Whiting for the top 5. Former Winternats champion Michael Salven had a bad week of qualifying. A very fast car but never finished a qualifier leaving him in the D main. Salven bumped up all the way to the B Main with hopes of making the final but tangled with another driver and retired after 16 laps in the B Main. 1/8th Open. 5 Rounds of qualifying had multiple top qualifiers but at the End Paolo Morganti was TQ with Switzerland Driver Simon Kurzbuch right behind him. The start of the A main was like a train. Morganti leading with the fastest laps times. Simon had a rough start falling back to 4th on lap 4. Brazil driver Flavio Elias jumped from 3rd to second on lap 3 but a few laps later traction rolled letting Apolaro take over the 2nd spot moving Elias back to 5th. Around the same time, Ralph Burch hit the high speed "S" flipping over with damage. Limping around to the pits, a quick adjustment and the car was back on the track but Burch was now in last place. Bump Up driver Sebastian Recio retired with engine trouble around the 8 minute mark. The Other Bump Up driver Daniele Ielasi moved into the 4th, 5th and 6th position battling with Kurzbuch and Burch The 3 traded positions until but Burch pulled away. Now Morganti was feeling the heat from Mike Swauger for the top spot. Morganti had a problem leaving Swauger in the lead with a fast car. By this time, Burch moved from last all the way to 2nd until 1st place Swauger clipped a board and lost a tire. Now with Burch in First and Swauger in second the chase was on. Not enough time left for Swauger so he settled for 2nd with Ralph Burch claiming the top spot for the 2015 Winternats. First time at the Winternats, Kyle Branson finshed in 4th just 3 seconds behind ENS champion Simon Kurzbuch in 3rd. The A main final could have easily been a World Championship final. The worlds best pushed for 45 minutes, all with a deep breath after the race was over because they finished one of the hardest tracks in the world.