2017 Florida Winter Nationals report

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The nitro season is in full swing in Florida and the track known as “The Fort” was again the site for the 41st running of the Florida Winter Nationals. Drivers from across the country and Europe took this opportunity to have some fun in the sun. At first glance, the course layout looks overly simple and for those drivers competing for the first time at “The Fort”, they may feel fairly confident with their early practice runs. That is until they look at the lap times being posted and find themselves significantly off the pace. They soon realize that to negotiate this line sensitive course, you have to thread the needle at near full speed only inches off the “steel” barriers that are anchored to the surface. Those barriers and tricky chicanes have humbled some of the best in the world and sent them back to the pit area in pieces. Some drivers told stories of crashing so hard that their car was spread across three lanes of the racing surface. Even with all this, the Florida Winter Nationals remains one of the premier races in the country and to take home a win at this famous track is truly a significant accomplishment.

Qualifying

Five rounds of qualifying spread over two days was used to seed the mains in four classes, 1/8th GT, 1/10th Sedan, 1/8th Masters 4WD and 1/8th Open 4WD. With the exception of a couple of very light showers on Thursday, the weather was perfect through qualifying and into the mains. Paolo Morganti took the top spot in GT followed by Joaquin Desoto Sr. and Charles Parsons. In 1/10th Sedan, DJ Apolaro outpaced Ralph Burch for the TQ, with Rafael Angulo rounding out the top three. Joaquin Desoto Sr. was the quickest in the Masters class with George Martinez and Chuck Moon running two and three. The 1/8th Open saw DJ Apolaro grab his second TQ of the event followed by Paolo Morganti and Mark Green.

“B” Main Transfers

With the racing format locking in the top eight drivers to the finals, that left two transfer positions available for the B Main competitors. Some close racing was seen in all of the B’s with Massimo Fabiani and Franco Desiderio advancing to the finals in GT. Jerry Guerra and Nick Altieri drove their way into the final in 1/10th Sedan. Veteran drivers Rick Davis and Per-Hakan Persson rounded out the field for the Masters final and in 1/8th Open, Tony Rice and Melvin Aulston would start in positions P9 and 10.

1/8th GT Final

Paolo Morganti took advantage of starting P1 and jumped out to an early lead. He paced the field through fuel stops to lap 87. Joaquin Desoto Sr. assumed the lead and never looked back. Charles Parsons drove a consistent race, running in the 3rd position flag to flag.  Rick Davis and Hector Montaner both ran in the back of the field during the early stages of the race. They worked their way up mid-way through the race to round out the top 5 respectively.

1/8th GT Final Results

  1. Joaquin Desoto Sr. – Serpent
  2. Paolo Morganti (TQ) – IGT8
  3. Charles Parsons – Serpent
  4. Rick Davis – Serpent
  5. Hector Montaner – IGT8
  6. Chris Remus –
  7. Peter Brenton – Serpent
  8. Christian Boni – IGT8
  9. Franco Desiderio – Serpent
  10. Massimo Fabiani – IGT8

1/10th Sedan Final

Sedan TQ DJ Apolaro jumped out to the early lead with Ralph Burch right behind him. Burch made a pass for the lead on lap 10 and set sail until mechanical issues after contacting the outer barrier sidelined the driver. Rafael Angulo, Eduardo Cabel and Bobby Horan battled for positions 2 through 4 for most of the race. Jerry Guerra came from the back of the field to drive his way into the top 5. Ralph Burch rejoined the race but could only mount a 7th place overall. DJ maintained the lead until lap 92, when Cabel took over the point. Eduardo led the field until lap 123 when Apolaro resumed the lead. They would finish in that order, with Angulo and Horan running 3 and 4 and Guerra coming home in 5th.

1/10th Sedan Final Results

  1. DJ Apolaro (TQ) – Capricorn
  2. Eduardo Cabel – XRAY NT1
  3. Rafael Angulo – Capricorn
  4. Bobby Horan – Serpent
  5. Jerry Guerra – Mugen
  6. Jim Piersol – XRAY NT1
  7. Ralph Burch – Serpent
  8. Nick Altieri – Serpent
  9. Frankie Vega – Capricorn
  10. Jarrett Parsons – XRAY NT1

1/8th Masters

The start of the Masters Final saw George Martinez and Chuck Moon overtaking polesitter Joaquin Desoto Sr. to run 1,2 and 3. Desoto would get past Moon for 2nd and re-took the point on lap 32. He would lead the race until lap 88. Peter Breton took a turn leading the field until Chuck Moon assumed the lead at lap 100. Skip Starkey started the race in 8th and was driving a patient race and steadily working his way through the field and by lap 121, had taken over the lead. Moon had been off the track for repairs and came back turning some very quick lap times, although he was down quite a few laps. With four and a half minutes left, Starkey had a six lap cushion on the hard charging Moon. With three to go, that cushion was now four laps. Starkey was running the 45 minute event with a no tire change strategy. When Moon returned to the track he was on fresh tires and the lap times showed it. At the one minute mark, Starkey’s lead was down to one lap and it looked like his strategy was going to come up short. As the two crossed the line to start the final lap, the lead was down to a half lap. As they rounded the final left hand turn in the infield, Moon was ten feet behind Starkey. Moon’s car launched harder and the pair drag raced through the tricky chicane and ran full throttle to the line, neither lifting. As they crossed the line virtually side by side, Skip came out on top to take the win.

1/8th Masters Final Results

  1. Skip Starkey – XRAY RX8
  2. Chuck Moon – Serpent
  3. Per-Hakan Persson – Mugen
  4. Greg Esser – Shepherd
  5. Don Jones – Serpent
  6. Rick Davis – Capricorn
  7. Joaquin Desoto Sr. (TQ) – Serpent
  8. Peter Brenton – Serpent
  9. George Martinez – Capricorn
  10. Tod Roman – Shepherd

1/8th Open

1/8Th Open TQ DJ Aploaro took the early lead and maintained it until lap 27 when Mark Green took over. Paolo Morganti had trouble early and was off the track for repairs. Roniel Regalado was running a solid race in the top 5. He and DJ would swap the lead several times throughout the event. Merlin Depta was running a very consistent race in the middle of the field. Paolo was able to return to the race and was pushing hard to make up ground. Late in the race the order was Apolaro, Regalado, Green, Morganti and Depta. With 30 seconds to go in the race, Apolaro suffered a mechanical failure on the back straight allowing Regalado to get by for the lead. Morganti got around Green and they both passed Apolaro. At the checkered flag, Regalado would take the win followed by Morganti, Green, Apolaro and Depta in that order.

1/8th Open Final Results

  1. Roniel Regalado – Capricorn
  2. Paolo Morganti – Capricorn
  3. Mark Green – Serpent
  4. DJ Apolaro (TQ) – Capricorn
  5. Merlin Depta – Serpent
  6. Melvin Aulston – WRC
  7. Marco Vanni – Shephard
  8. Drew Ellis – XRAY RX8
  9. Ralph Burch – Serpent
  10. Tony Rice – Serpent

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