GEAR-UP F-SERIES WRAPS UP WITH A FLURRY OF
CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLES AT NEW JERSEY MOTORSPORT
PARK’S 1.2 MILE TEMPEST RACEWAY
NJMP Saturday Race Report
Stephen J. Mallozzi
When most people think of Tempest, they think of a raging storm. However, I (along with
most of the people reading this report) will have their minds immediately jump to one of the
most incredible karting tracks in the United States. The massive track is a kart racer’s heaven,
with numerous twists and turns and a few different massive straightaways that, at most tracks,
would constitute themselves as the longest.
A couple of weeks have passed since the event, and I apologize for the delay in the race
report. I caught the “Freshman Flu” right before the event and spent the whole week recovering.
Midterms then proceeded to hit me with a truck the following week. Based on my race report
writing abilities, I’d imagine as a driver I’d still be two things: Very slow and full of excuses.
Sounds just like the way it used to be with me behind the wheel. Anyways, enough about me,
onto what you’re really here for: The Saturday race report.
TAG Cadet gave us no shortage of action on Saturday. Alfonso Lombardo has been
unbelievable in every single event that has been, winning seven of the nine heat races that he’s
participated in across Englishtown, PittRace, and GoPro Motorplex. He skipped out of NYRC,
however, so he needed a good weekend to win the championship. Thanks to Lombardo’s absence
at NYRC, Dan Binder, who swept NYRC, and Jesse Coon, who has been consistently running up
front all year long, were still well in the championship fight. Those three would be 1-2-3 in
qualifying, with Binder edging out Lombardo for the pole position by 0.050 seconds. Coon was
P3, but over a second off the pace, with Thomas Chrisman just over a hundredth off of Coon.
Darren Long would round out the top five.
In heat one, we would learn Binder and Lombardo were the class of the field. The would
break away and fight for the lead, swapping positions multiple times throughout the course of the
event. In the end, Lombardo would make a move on lap seven that would put him ahead for
good. Binder fought back hard, but over drove on the last lap and allowed Jesse Coon to pull
within a half second. In the end though, Coon wouldn’t have enough to take P2. Your top five in
heat one would be Lombardo, Binder, Coon, Darren Long, and Holly Thiel. No outside the top
three was within 19 seconds of Lombardo.
Heat two saw lots of the same, except this time, the battle would result in a significantly
closer finish between the top two. Binder and Lombardo continued to make their moves on one
another, switching spots lap after lap. Lombardo was significantly better in the corners, with
Binder having more straightaway speed. This led to a situation with Lombardo leading coming to
the white flag. Binder had a huge run, and tried a pass maneuver in turn 1, but overdrove the
corner allowing Lombardo to get back by. Binder would get right up to the bumper of Lombardo
coming to the checkered, but it ultimately wouldn’t be enough. Lombardo would win, with
Binder second, Coon third, Chrisman fourth, and Long rounded out your top five.
Lombardo would have a chance to sweep the weekend in heat number three. We again
had another battle between Alfonso Lombardo and Dan Binder, as no one was even in the same
universe as those two. Yet again, Binder and Lombardo would swap positions constantly. And,
yet again, Binder would show some serious speed and put constant pressure on Lombardo. But,
yet again (can’t you see the trend here of “Yet again”), Lombardo had enough to fend off Binder.
Alfonso Lombardo would score 75 points in all for the day, fifteen more than Binder in second
who could only muster 60. Jesse Coon would take the final step on the podium, scoring 48 points
on the day.
Formula J was perhaps the class of the weekend. The class was loaded with 21 talented
juniors with a vast majority of them being competitive. Chloe Chambers, Tom Annunziata, and
Annie Rhule all walked into the weekend with an opportunity to walk out a champion. One
competitor would have unbelievable speed all weekend long, but would struggle to stay on track
and fought track position all weekend long. Another competitor wouldn’t even compete on
Sunday. The third would do enough to walk out a champion. We also can not forget to talk about
the fact that all of these people would be competing with one of the nations best juniors: Luca
In qually, Annunziata would edge out Chambers for P1. Rowan Gill would manage P3,
with Aidan Fox P4 and Christian Oldhafer P5. Luca Mars would fall to just outside the top five,
and championship competitor Annie Rhule would start all the way back in P7. All seven of these
drivers would mix and match inside the top five throughout the weekend, with most of them
even running in the lead at least once.
Heat one was a good sample of just how wild the weekend would be in Formula J.
Thomas Annunziata looked as if he was quickest early and jumped out to a decent lead.
However, on the exit of the main straight chicane on lap three. Christian Oldhafer, another top
five man, would also wreck out on that third lap. This would open the door for a three kart battle
for the lead between Mars, Chambers, and Aidan Fox. Rowan Gill was also in the battle for the
lead for the majority of the race, but in the end fell off by about a second. These four would swap
around throughout the entirety of the race. In the end though, Chambers would end up on top
with Mars second, and Fox P3.
Heat two saw an incredible comeback by Thomas Annunziata. From twentieth place on
the starting grid, he would slice his way all the way up to P5 at the end of heat two. Annie Rhule
would also find her way into the top five, and she would show she has the speed to run up front
on Tempest. Again, Fox, Chambers, and Mars would separate themselves from the rest of the
pack. Chambers would again win the race, but Fox came within seven one-hundredths of a
second of the lead at the stripe. Oldhafer would rebound from 21st to finish inside the top ten.
Heat three saw the fight open up to six karts right off the bat: Annunziata, Chambers,
Rhule, Flynn, Fox, and Mars. Shockingly, yet again Thomas Annunziata experienced problems
early and was done by lap four. Tom Annunziata was obviously very happy to see his Saturday
come to close, as he would end with two DNF’s and just one top five. That still left five go-karts
fighting for ten laps for the top spot. Aidan Fox would come out victorious and run second no
more, as he would win heat three by just over a tenth. Luca Mars would come home second, with
Flynn third, Rhule fourth, and Chambers would fall all the way down to P5. This would lead to a
dramatic points situation, as both Fox and Chambers would score 61 points overall on the day.
However, Chambers held the tie-breaker, meaning she would stand on the top step of the podium
ahead of Fox. Luca Mars would take the final step on the podium with 56 points.
On Saturday, Formula TAG was the Justin White show. White walked in with the
Championship basically locked up. There would be no championship drama for the top two
spots, as Race Liberante had a big lead in the race for P2 in the championship. He started out by
putting it on pole in qualifying. He’d be followed by Garrett Johnson, who made his return to
karting for this event. In third it was Adam Pettit, fourth was Alex Gelcius, and rounding out the
top five was Race Liberante, who struggled mightily in qualifying.
Justin White would run away without an issue in heat one. However, two of our top five
starters, Alex Gelcius and Adam Pettit, would make contact early, and would end up finishing
way back in 19th and 20th. Race Liberante would work his way up to P2, with Garrett Johnson
coming home P3, and Julia Boos and Dylan Beckwith both managing to find their way into the
Justin White would again run away with heat two, winning by a whopping 4.2 seconds of
Race Liberante. Garrett Johnson would end up right behind Liberante at the line, with just a tenth
separating them. Jake Heavlow and Julia Boos would round out the top five. Boos would just
edge out sixth place finisher Dylan Beckwith, as just under a half tenth separating the two at the
Ready for something that is going to sound familiar? Justin White would run away with
heat three, winning by a whopping 6.8 seconds. Race Liberante would tumble down the order a
little falling back to P4, as both Jake Heavlow and Garrett Johnson would both pass him.
Heavlow and Johnson would run neck and neck all race, but ultimately, once Heavlow got by
Johnson, Heavlow didn’t give the spot back up. Julia Boos would end up rounding out the top
five. Just outside the top five were Adam Pettit and Alex Gelcius, who each rebounded after
wrecking in heat one.
The points would obviously have White in first and Liberante in second. The third
position went to Garrett Johnson, who stood on the podium in his first time back in a kart in a
couple of years. The big storyline here however, was the lack of speed throughout the day
prompted Race Liberante to switch off of his trusty Rotax engine and switch over to an X30.
Formula Shifter would be headlined again by “The Mustache Man”, Kyle Apuzzo.
Apuzzo walked into the weekend looking to walk away with two championships. He started out
his weekend strong, as he would qualify on pole by over seven tenths of a second. Only one
driver, the 4 machine of Carlos Lopes who qualified second, was within a second of Kyle
Apuzzo. Owen Clark in his 405 Birel was P3, with Lucio Masini being less than two one-
hundredths of a second behind earning the fourth spot on the grid for the pre-final. Chris Kierce
would round out the top five in the 20 kart formula shifter field.
There was no lack of drama in the early going in the pre-final. Two of. The top. Five
drivers would end up suffering mechanical failures in the first two laps. Both Lucio Masini and
Kyle Apuzzo would fail to finish, and they would have to start 15th and 14th respectively. This
would allow Carlos Lopes to take home the checkered, with only one driver, Owen Clark,
finishing within 12 seconds of Lopes. Chris Matthew would manage to come home third, with
Marco Oldhafer (the redhead, not the balding one) ending up P4. Steve Libretto would end up
The final was action-packed. Rory VanderSteur, who did not participate in either
qualifying or pre-final, would move from the back of the pack to P1 in just five laps. Apuzzo
meanwhile would fly through the field, getting to P2 by lap six. Masini would be to third by lap
eight. Those three all came from the back off the field, and spliced through the field like they
were made of Swiss cheese. Now, Van der Steur looked like he had the race in the bag, as he was
seven tenths of a second faster than Kyle Apuzzo. However, coming around to complete his
fifteenth lap, disaster struck. VDS lost a tire, and spun getting back onto the main straightaway.
He would wind up coming home back in the tenth position. This would open the door for Kyle
Apuzzo to walk away with the victory. Lucio Masini would recover from his pre-final problems
to come home in second, with Owen Clark taking the final spot on the podium. Marco Oldhafer
would take P4, just beating Chris Matthew to the line. In Iron Man, it would be Tim Armstrong
taking home the checkered, with Frank Rapisarda coming home second, and Gunnar VanderSteur
taking the final trophy earning position.
Formula Mini Rok
We entered the weekend with four drivers all capable of winning the championship: Dan
Binder, Thomas Chrisman, Lucas Szabo, and Jesse Coon. With only five drivers total in the
class, the fight this weekend was a genuine championship showdown. It would start out with
Szabo taking the pole by just six hundredths of a second over Binder. Coon was only two tenths
off in P3, and Ben Hernandez was under three tenths off in P4. Thomas Chrisman struggled inn
qualifying, ending up over a second and a half off the pace.
Heat one saw Szabo struggle on the start and fall back to P4. Szabo managed to run down
Binder, but had no way of getting around. He made a last ditch effort on the final lap, but to no
avail. Ben Hernandez and Jesse Coon finished about a tenth apart as well, but neither of them
ended up battling for P3 either, and in the end the spot went to Ben Hernandez. Chrisman
rounded out the field in P5.
Heat two saw some relatively uneventful racing, as no driver finished within seven tenths
of another, and the running order remained identical to that of heat one. Ben Hernandez fell
early, but got back around both Jesse Coon and Thomas Chrisman to reclaim the third spot. But
outside of that, not a single pass was made.
I hate to do this because it means I am doing a crappy job (my official job description is
actually “Make Racing Interesting”), but there is simply no other way to put it: nothing happened
in heat three either. The order remained the same, no passes were made, and the only drivers
even close on track were Coon and Chrisman in fourth and fifth. It simply just was not the usual
action-packed day we are used to seeing at the Gear-Up F-Series in Mini Rok. Usually I’m
always discussing how the field is small, but small doesn’t necessarily mean uncompetitive
racing. In this case however, the field brought big-time separation for the most part. This was a
big day in the championship however, as Dan Binder managed to gain 15 points on Lucas Szabo,
36 points on Jesse Coon, and 42 points on Thomas Chrisman.
So get this: John Bonnano was the man of the man of the weekend in F125. I know,
totally shocking considering what an underdog he has been all season (NOTE: For those who are
just reading these race recaps, Johnny B has been utterly dominant, sweeping every F125 event
except Go-Pro). JB walked into this weekend with the championship on lockdown. JB would
also put it on pole position by four and a half tenths over Justin Dittrich. JD would beat out his
teammate David Kool by just a mere two one-thousandths of a second for P2. Frank Runco
would start P4, with Kim Carapellatti P5.
JB walked away with the heat one victory, winning by over 10 seconds. Second place on-
track, the #11 of David Krol, would be disqualified post-race. This would give P2 to Full Tilt’s
Frank Runco, with Carapellatti coming home third. Phil Pignataro would find his way into the
top five, coming home fourth. Justin Dittrich would experience issues with just two to go,
causing him to fall rapidly from P3 to P6 on track. He would officially end up fifth after Krowl’s
disqualification, barely holding off Craig LaRue.
Heat two saw Bonnano dominate yet... wait. Hold on a second. John Bonnano did NOT
win heat two. As a matter of fact, JB finished P11, suffering a mechanical failure on lap three.
This opened the door for “kart racer turned head flagger turned back to kart racer” Justin Dittrich
to take home the checkered flag in heat #2, beating out Piggy by just under a half second.
Carapellatti would find himself third yet again, with Krol fourth, and Runco falling down to fifth
to around out your top five.
I haven’t talked a whole lot about the racing in F125 yet, and that’s because most of the
action happened in heat #3. Dawid Krowl would find himself in the lead at the conclusion of lap
one. Krowl, known for his aggressive defense, tried his best to hang onto the lead, but by lap four,
he was dealing with John Bonnano who weaved his way through the field, and was no match for
the 672 CompKart. Bonnano went right by, bringing Frank Runco with him. Meanwhile, Justin
Dittrich had a very simple points dilemma: Finish one spot behind JB, and he would win the
overall for the day. Dittrich was now stuck behind teammate Dawid Krol, and had to make a
move fast to catch and pass Runco. Dittrich had the speed to finish second, but Krol had other
plans. I said this in my announcing, and I will say this in my race report: I don’t believe in team
orders, so by no means do I think Dawid Krol should’ve given up the spot without a fight. But, I
also strongly believe in driver respect, and Dawid Krol seemed to lack that for Dittrich. Multiple
times Justin Dittrich had the move practically completed on Krol. Multiple times, Krol simply
drove down on Dittrich. You simply expect more out of the drivers at this level of competition,
and certainly expect more out of teammates. JD had a chance to win the day, but Krol refused to
let that happen. Eventually, fed up and watching his chance at an overall day victory slip away,
Dittrich gave a nudge to Krol, and went around, but it was too little too late. Runco was gone,
and would finish P2, and with him went Justin’s chances at an overall daily victory.
JB would win the day with 55 points over JD, who only scored 52. Frank Runco came
home third in the overall points standings, with 51 points to his name. Iron Man saw Carapellatti
win the day with 70 points, Piggy second with 56, and Heinz Keller third with 49 points.
To wrap up our Saturday coverage, we have KZ Shifter. In this event, we have three
familiar main competitors in Apuzzo, VanderSteur, and Masini who all raced and were major
factors in Formula shifter already. However, we also had two newcomers in Alex Manglass and
Stefano Lucente. Perhaps most importantly, there was one man who wasn’t present, and that was
the Jamaican Colin Daley, who elected to skip out on the F-Series and give up his championship
hopes in order to compete in the KZ World Finals in Italy.
Qualifying saw VanderSteur, Manglass, Apuzzo, and Lucente separate themselves from
the rest of the pack, as those three drivers were all within a second of pole, and they were the
only drivers to do so. VanderSteur would earn that right with a blistering lap of 103:794. Alex
Manglass would start outside pole, with Apuzzo starting on the inside of the second row. Lucente
and Tyler Guilbeault in his #54 machine would round out the top five.
In the Pre-Final, VDS would manage to lead flag to flag, although he didn’t run away
with it by any means. The top four would all finish within basically of a second of Rory
VanderSteur. With that being said, none of the top four switched positions even once. They were
all separated by .3 a piece when it was all said and done, but not a single pass was made. Second
place was Manglass, with third being Apuzzo, and fourth being Stefano Lucente. Fifth place
driver Lucio Masini was over 14.5 seconds off your pre-final winner.
Rory VanderSteur would win the 20 lap final comfortably, taking the checkered flag by
more than 2.5 seconds. Lucio Masini was the main source of action in the final, as he would
make his way up to P3, getting around both Kyle Apuzzo and Stefano Lucente to take the third
spot on on track. Lucente would nearly fall outside of the top five, as Tyler Guilbeault put some
real pressure on Lucente over the course of the race. In the end Lucente would hold onto P5 on
track. Now, the reason why I specified “on-track” when discussing finishing positions is because
a big DQ in technical inspection moved everyone up a position (Except VanderSteur). Alex
Manglass, who crossed the line in the second position, was DQ’ed from the event, meaning
Masini was actually second, and Apuzzo had earned another podium.
UP NEXT: SUNDAY FINALE RACE REPORT
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