Class winners Jaden Ransley from Christchurch and Emerson Vincent from Pukekohe spearheaded a strong Kiwi showing at the opening round of Australia’s Rotax Pro Tour at the Todd Rd track in Melbourne over the weekend.
Ransley qualified fourth and won two of the three heats as well as the Pre Final in the Junior Max Trophy class and was handed the Final – and with it the round – win after first-past-the-post Callum Bishop received a post-race penalty which relegated him to seventh place.
Vincent, meanwhile, won the first Micro Max heat and finished second in the other two before crossing the line in third place in the Pre-Final then being elevated from second at the line to first in the Final when initial winner – and weekend-long rival – Sebastian Ruiz was disqualified post-race over a weight infringement.
Young Auckland karter Samuel Wright also did well, ending up a fourth in the Junior Max Trophy class behind compatriot Ransley and Australian drivers Brodie Whitmore and Jaiden Pope.
There were mixed results for the other Kiwi karters at the meeting.
Palmerston North’s Brendan Hart finished 12th in Rotax Heavy, Auckland’s Aarron Cunningham 12th in DD2 Masters while Wellington sisters Madeline and Ashleigh Stewart finsihed 14th and 19th respectively in Rotax Light.
Matthew Payne from Pukekohe ended up 20th in Junior Max, Taylor Harte from Tauranga 23rd in DD2 and Connor Davison from Hamilton 24th in Mini Max.
Constantly changeable weather conditions over the two days made it hard for everyone and each of the Kiwis had a story to tell.
“It was showery in the mornings and the track kept trying to dry then another shower would come through,” said Tony Stewart, father of Madeline and Ashleigh. “We never quite knew if it would be wet or dry so the set up was always a compromise.”
The sisters, who this year are running Tony Karts with former racer Tom Williamson’s team, were also thrown a curve ball on the eve of the weekend when Madeline, still classed as a Junior in New Zealand, was told she was a Senior in Australia after a recent rule change regarding ages and when a driver has to move up a class.
As it turned out Madeline adapted quickly, despite the late notice and need to weigh up her kart with 21kgs of lead to meet the minimum all-up weight requirement of the Senior class.
Older sister Ashleigh had a mixed weekend, being quick in the dry but struggling in the wet. That said she worked her way forward in each heat. She slipped back in the Pre-Final but stormed from P30 on the grid to 19th place at the flag in the Final.
After round wins and finishing second overall in the Junior Max Trophy class last year Matthew Payne moved up to the Junior Max class with high hopes this year.
Driving for expat Dale Verrall’s team the young Pukekohe ace showed good speed in the heats and made it up from P23 on the grid to 10th at the flag in the Pre Final. He then got as high as fifth in the Final but was pushed wide and off the track in a slow corner and was shuffled back to near the rear of the field before recovering to greet the chequered flag in 20th place.
Taylor Harte and Aarron Cunningham also had good pace, with Harte finishing the DD2 Pre-Final in an event-high 14th place and Cunningham working his way back to up to 12th in the Final after being caught out on slicks on a wet track in the Pre-Final and falling back to 21st.
The Kiwi contingent returns to Australia for the second round of this year’s Rotax Pro Tour at Warwick in Queensland between February 26 & 28.
2016 Australian Rotax Pro Tour Rnd 1 Todd Rd Melbourne Victoria Fri-Sun January 22-24
1. Emerson Vincent
24. Connor Davison
Junior Max Trophy
1. Jayden Ransley
4. Samuel Wright
20. Matthew Payne
Rotax 125 Light
14. Madeline Stewart
19. Ashleigh Stewart
Rotax 125 Heavy
12. Brendan Hart
23. Taylor Harte
12. Aarron Cunningham