The 2013 Florida Winter Tour begins this week and just as it has in seasons past, IPK North America is set to unveil something special to the karting community. Already on site at Palm Beach International Raceway for the season opener, IPK will have drivers from around the world converging this week to pilot its OK1 and Praga chassis across six official Rotax Max Challenge Classes.
“I’m really looking forward to this year's Tour and introducing the OK1 brand to North America,” said IPK Team Manager Marco Di Leo. “Our drivers will be sporting the new specific Rotax models introduced by IPK, and our tent is filled with talent once again this season. We're certainly looking forward to more wins and more championships in the year ahead!”
Three of the talents Di Leo speaks of will take to the grid in Rotax Senior when Sam Schippers, Artem Korolev and Wilson Hurtado roll off this coming weekend. Schippers will be making his senior debut after a fantastic season in 2012 saw him win the BeNeLux Championship (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg) and travel to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portugal.
“Last season was a really great year for me,” Schippers said as he prepared for his first trip to race in America. “We won the BeNeLux Championship, were on the podium in the European Championship and also won a Grand Final ticket. I have driven a lot of Max Challenges but the Grand Finals was really something special. Now we'll do our best to win a ticket again!”
“Palm Beach will be my first race ever in Senior Max and we'll do our best,” he continued. “Hopefully we can enjoy a good result with IPK North America. We have had a lot of experience with IPK products and IPK North America is a really professional team with some good results. The FWT challenge is really big, and we've heard a lot of good things.”
Korolev also ended his junior career at the Grand Finals, his trip coming at the end of 2011 and a runner-up finish at the Canadian National Karting Championships. He'll also be making his senior debut in America, but after a much different season last year.
“I was racing Senior Rotax on a regional and national level from my hometown of Ekaterinburg, Russia,” he said about 2012. “Unfortunately, it was not very convenient for us when we had to travel as much as 2000km each race for a low level of competitiveness. In Russia, the KF and KZ classes completely dominate so unfortunately Rotax isn't very competitive. I only raced a little bit in 2012 so I'll be getting back into racing shape in Florida, but I know the people and I'm familiar with the tracks so I think it won't be much of a problem getting used to senior. Marco is setting me up on a new OK1 chassis and I trust his choice completely.”
“In April I'm planning to come back to Canada for the beginning of the season, particularly to make it for the first races of ECKC,” he continued. “We've been with the Goodwood crew for so many years that now it feels like we've become family. I haven't seen them all last year and I'm as pumped as ever to race with them.”
The third senior of the trio saw action with IPK in the past as well, when Hurtado raced in the headlining KZ class at the recent SKUSA SuperNationals. The Colombian warmed up by competing in TaG Senior over the weekend and came to grips with PBIR fairly quickly. Saturday he timed third and qualified eleventh after retiring from heat two, but stormed back to take fifth in the final. On Sunday he started from the back of the pack, was third after two heats, and stayed there in the final to climb up a podium step.
Much like Hurtado, Di Leo himself will also be making a class change in Rotax action, getting behind the wheel of a DD2 kart to ensure IPK North America is represented in all main classes. Longtime friend and teammate Luis Schiavo makes his debut in DD2 Masters rounding out the elder class of the lineup. Pedro Fonseca will be the lone junior as he moves up to begin the season, Victor Prato is the lone entry in Mini-Max and Micro will see a pair of Canadians making their FWT debuts in Xavier Harris and Jeremy Tallan.
IPK North America is already setup at Palm Beach International alongside Praga USA where they had four drivers race the Formula Kart Weekend. Hurtado scored the aforementioned podium in senior, while Praga USA's Juan Correa was second on Saturday in Junior before putting the first Praga win of the season on the board on Sunday. Prato and Jack Miller were racing in Cadet with OK1 and Praga, each advancing directly to the final on both days. The lineups for each squad will significantly increase for the Rotax Max Challenge, and you can follow the action live at floridawintertour.com
IPK North America Driver Roster
Florida Winter Tour Round 1, Palm Beach International Raceway
Xavier Harris - Canada
Jeremy Tallan - Canada
Victor Prato - Venezuela
Pedro Fonseca - Brazil
Sam Schippers - Netherlands
Artem Korolev - Russia
Wilson Hurtado - Colombia
Marco Di Leo - Canada
Luis Schiavo – Venezuela
*Team Facts: IPK North America is based at Goodwood Kartways in Stouffville, Ontario, Canada, where drivers can progress from turning rental kart laps to world championships. The IPK North America race team represents the facility at National and International Championships like the Florida Winter Tour, Pan-American Rotax Max Challenge, Eastern Canadian Karting Championship and Canadian National Championships.
It has also had drivers contest SKUSA SuperNationals, the World Karting Association Manufacturer’s Cup, the Rotax European Championship, the Rotax International Open Championship and the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. IPK North America operates in conjunction with IPK in Verona, HRS Racing Engines, IMAF Racing Seats and Intremax.