November 29, 2010 - Nick Neri Scores Top Five at Rotax Grand Finals in Italy

In his second consecutive Rotax Grand Finals, Floridian pilot Nick Neri was looking to stand atop the podium. The Ocala Gran Prix/Tony Kart driver who had such an incredible 2010 season, made his mark at La Conca by scoring a heat race win and a solid top five in the main event against seventy-one of the best Rotax pilots in the world.

After qualifying in the second position overall, Neri would start on the front row for all three heat races in his quest for world glory. Working with his tuner, Race Tech Development’s Mike Maurini, Neri would go on to claim the first heat win in dominating fashion leading six of the eight race laps over the Estonian pole position winner from the day prior.

“That is the best way to start off the weekend of racing,” expressed Neri. “The racing here is fierce and to get out front and stay out of trouble was our plan from the beginning. I think we proved with that run that we have a real shot at the race win and becoming the first American Rotax Junior pilot ever to stand atop the podium at the Rotax Grand Finals.”

Friday afternoon would see the second of three heat races for the American pilot as he would look to continue the success from that morning. Starting on the pole position in the B vs. C heat race, Neri jumped out to the lead early as he looked to pull away from the field. After being passed early and losing his momentum, Neri fell down the running order to the seventh position before shoving his way back into line. Looking to work forward, the Florida Winter Tour Champion moved into the top five on the final circuit but was caught up in an incident when the third and fourth place drivers got together. As Neri headed towards the grass to take evasive action, he lost twenty positions and would eventually be classified in the 25th position.

Heat three for the juniors would take place on Saturday morning and with the disappointing finish in heat two, Neri would need a strong run to have any sort of shot at the race win. Starting from the pole position, Neri led early as a trio of drivers pulled away from the field and would battle for the win. Being cautiously aggressive, Neri was passed on the entrance to turn three as he did not challenge to hold on the position. Slotting himself into line, the OGP driver did not take any chances as he crossed the stripe in the second position and would start the prefinal in the eleventh position.

Already making history by unofficially becoming the first American junior driver ever to win a heat race, Neri was looking for more on Sunday morning during the prefinal. With one of the fastest karts on the racing surface, the Floridian battled hard with other Rotax Junior competitors as passes were made every lap. In a very clean prefinal that saw the top ten drivers finish nose to tail, Neri would come home in the sixth position, setting up an outside third row starting spot for the main event.

Starting on the outside of any track is challenging but at La Conca, it is very difficult as the first three racing corners are three consecutive right hand corners. Looking to get to the inside early, Neri exited the first corner in the sixth position and quickly made a move for fifth enter turn three. Unscathed through the first lap of action, Neri would then set his sights on the leader.

“We had a problem in the main event that would hinder our chances for the win,” explained Neri. “I could not get off the tight corners like I could in the heat races and the drivers in front of me would open a gap that I could only close in the high speed section of the track. I worked hard to move forward and defend my position but fell back early.”

Neri fell back to just inside the top ten before the halfway mark of the twenty lap event but then began to work his way back forward. As drivers battled hard, their momentum was slowed slightly as the top eight would run in the lead pack. Neri would move forward three spots only to fall back two the next corners as passes were made with very bold moves. Starting the final circuit in the seventh position, Neri would take part in the most exciting race lap witnessed on the weekend as the top seven would fight for the win. Entering the final corner, Neri would advance forward one position while gaining another on the exit to finish in the fifth position. The top seven drivers were separated by less than four tenths of a second as they were two by two banging wheels for the race win.

Neri added, “That was one of the toughest but most exciting races I have been a part of. It is so hard to pass when you need to defend but we managed to finish with a top five result.”

Along with the heat race win, Neri became the highest American finishing junior driver in Rotax Grand Finals history.

Nick Neri would like to thank his all of his 2010 supporters: Ocala Gran Prix, Tony Kart, Alpinestars, SKF Bearings, Grand Products, Bridgestone, Koene Racing and Race Tech Development.

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Florida Winter Tour
Ocala Gran Prix, FL
March 22-24, 2013

Class - Rotax Sr.
Final 1 - 1st
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