Sarah Bradley made the trek down south to warm weather once again to kick off the ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour Series Round 1 at Hard Rock Stadium in beautiful Miami, FL. After just weeks had passed since her first national event at the WKA Manufactures Cup event in Daytona Beach, Sarah was ready to take on another brand new track and engine package. The course was setup as a temporary track. It was a level playing field for everyone attending the event. A layout with the same characteristics as the world renowned South Garda Karting Complex in Lonato, Italy, it made for some great racing throughout the event.
A strong field of 19 karts entered into the event, it wasn’t going to be an easy task to reach the top 10. Sarah had her sights set on achieving at least a top 10 finish in the final at the beginning of the weekend. She quickly found herself setting a higher bar for herself after the first 2 practice days. She was consistently within the top 8 quick of the field. With room for improvement, she went to work on studying her weak points through the video and data analysis with team Top Kart USA between each session. By qualifying session her times were within just six tenths of the leaders. Prior to the start of qualifying session, the temperature had increased significantly along with track grip starting to lay down. Having set the pressures a little too low caused the kart to handle a bit to freely out of the gate and not reaching optimal speed in time before the end of the session landing Sarah a 11th place starting spot for the remainder of the Heat races.
As the green flag dropped for Heat 1, the drivers were very anxious to get to the first corner. A crash occurred directly in front of Sarah. Having to maneuver through she was held up causing a loss of 1 position when she cleared. With 6 laps left in the race, she kept digging passing 4 more karts to put her in 8th place for the finish. Heat 2, in similar fashion, was a 1st turn wreck. This time Sarah took the inside line as the karts that were collected had shuffled to the outside of the turn allowing her to keep momentum and gain positions. Having a close battle with the top 5 drivers in Heat 2, she crossed the checkers in 3rd place. After an extremely well finish in Heat 2 Sarah was ready to do the same for Heat 3 to end the days event on Saturday. Heat 3 alike the first two races, there was yet another turn 1 incident. This time Sarah got the short end of the stick as another driver turned into her kart causing her to head straight towards the barriers. Crashing into them with enough force to send them flying, and damaging her steering components in the process, that was no defeat for the young driver. Getting her kart back on the track she found herself in 16th position. Getting to work on the karts in front of her, she was able to pull off an 12th place finish even after a 5 second bumper penalty as a result of the crash. With all of the heat races scores added up she would then be looking to start the Pre Final on Sunday’s event in 7th spot.
Sunday started off as a gloomy and raining morning. Everyone was up in the air on what setup to adjust their karts to, if it was worth going out for the warm up session as it was expected to blow over. The race director had put a delay on the on-track activities to give it some time to blow over. After 2 hours the weather began to break and the sun started drying up the track. The team had opted out of the warm-up session since the track was at an intermediate condition between rain and dry setup. The series also cancelling the Pre Final event there was more pressure now as they were going straight into the Final race events.
Sarah was very confident in her starting position that she could pick off drivers and make her goal into the top 5 for the final event. The start of the final event was unlike all of the other race starts for the Micro Rok class throughout the weekend. They all made it through turn 1 clean with no incidents. Sarah had initially lost a few positions on the start but began to get to work throughout lap one gaining positions back right away. A close battle with the young drivers in the Micro division Sarah was able to bring home a 6th place finish on the conclusion of the race for official result.
Sarah looks to bring her momentum and learning experience from this event back down to Miami, FL for Round 2 of the Rok Cup USA Florida Winter Tour next month during February 13-17.
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