“Cody Hodgson and Bill Lester join Oliver Askew on Team USA”
Ocala, Florida – August 14, 2012 – With the weeklong event finally coming to a close, Ocala Gran Prix solidified another two drivers on Team USA to compete at the 2012 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portimao, Portugal later this year. Rotax DD2 and DD2 Masters pilots Cody Hodgson and Bill Lester will join Rotax Junior standout Oliver Askew as members of Team USA courtesy of their podium results at this past weekend’s United States Rotax Grand Nationals that took place at the Jet Karting of Michiana Raceway Park facility near South Bend, Indiana.
“It was a great week of racing,” expressed Team Manager Nate Grindell. “We had some ups and downs throughout the week but as a team, we all pulled together and worked hard to have our drivers at the front of the pack. Though we did not come out of the weekend with any race wins, we did show that we had the speed from multiple drivers to challenge for podium and top ten results.”
In the Rotax DD2 class, Cody Hodgson would claim the second step on the podium and accompanying Team USA berth later this year. After showing speed throughout the unofficial test days and qualifying in the second position, Hodgson would battle the stout field of drivers and the changing weather conditions to stand atop the podium. Disappointed that he was not able to challenge for the victory, Hodgson was relieved to be back on Team USA after a one-year hiatus from the karting ranks.
Rotax DD2 Masters pilot Bill Lester worked hard in the final to close the weekend in the third and final podium position. Struggling through the heat races with some incidents and not accustomed to racing in the rain, Lester turned up the wick in the all-important final as he sliced his way through the field to come home third.
Having one of his best weekend’s of racing competition, the up and coming Mathias Ramirez impressed all with a second place run in the Rotax Mini Max class. Racing against drivers with much more experience, Ramirez battled hard to stay at the front of the field for the heat races, setting up a solid starting position on Championship Saturday. Falling back from the leader early, Ramirez would utilize his natural skills and abilities to move back into the second position and hold off the advances of his fellow pilots.
Aaron Bass would show improvement in the Mini Max final to cross the stripe in the 17th position while Mikey Hornborg and Vincenzo Sarracino would run into trouble just past the halfway mark and claim the 30th and 31st place results respectively.
A pair of drivers would finish in the top ten in Rotax Senior as Nick Neri narrowly missed the podium and accompanying Team USA invitation. Running in the second and third position for the majority of the race, Neri was passed in the late stages but would hang on for a solid fourth place result. Floridian Jonathon Kotyk would be the next Ocala Gran prix driver to cross the line as he did so in the eighth position, a great improvement from last year’s Rotax Grand Nationals in Utah.
Filling out the rest of the Rotax Senior field, Andrew Evans would claim the 14th position while Brandon Salyer and Annie Hayden would come home 24th and 27th. Not able to complete a lap in the main event, Timothy Venable would be classified in 33rd.
After a solid run in the prefinal, Rotax Micro Max pilot Dylan Gennaro would run into a mechanical failure in the main event. Working through the rain soaked heat races, Gennaro would improve on Saturday claiming an 11th place finish in the heat race, before having an axle failure in the main event to come home 21st. In his first Rotax Grand Nationals ever, Gennaro gained some valuable experience that he will look to utilize in the years to come.
A pair of Ocala Gran Prix drivers would finish Saturday’s Rotax Junior main event in the top five as Oliver Askew and Austin Garrison would be at the pointy end of the field. Askew, already a member of Team USA through his championship at the Florida Winter Tour, would claim the third and final podium position while Austin Garrison showed he has what it takes to run with the top junior drivers in the country as he came home fifth.
Coming from the 34th and last spot on the grid in the main event, female pilot Ashley Rogero would cross the line in 11th while Brian Lockwood, who ran inside the top ten in the main event, would fall to 29th after a broken chain took him out of contention. Floridian pilot Alex Hornborg had a trying weekend as wet weather competition wreaked havoc on his results. Showing that he had the speed to run inside the top ten throughout the dry test session, Alex was disappointed to see weather move into the area for the official competition.
A trio of drivers would compete in the Rotax Masters class as Jerry Brown, Scott Roberts and Rob Maier would all see action. Maier, who crashed hard in testing and chose to sit out Wednesday’s official practice day, would score the Master’s class highest result, as he would claim the seventh position when the checkered flag flew. Roberts, who led a pair of heat races and was in the running for a top five result in Saturday’s main event ran into trouble mid race as he would claim the 17th position.
Karting rookie and 55-year-old Jerry Brown would show his wet weather skills in Thursday’s qualifying effort as he battled hard to turn the seventh quickest lap of the session. Saturday would see the weather turn back to dry for the main event and Brown would come home 16th.
“I think this 2012 Rotax grand nationals was the best showing of Florida drivers I have ever seen. At the same time, it was amazing to see every one under the OGP tent work so well together in such a short period of time. I would like to personally congratulate all the drivers that will be part of this year’s Team USA,” expressed Jorge Arellano. “We will have another team test in Ocala later this year and I look forward to seeing you all there.”
For more information on Ocala Grand Prix, OGP race team opportunities and info on how to get into karting, please visit Ocala Gran Prix online at¬†www.OcalaGranPrix.com¬†or contact them at352.291.0600¬†or via e-mail to:¬†Info@OcalaGranPrix.com.