Young gun Payne heads Kiwi Rotax contingent to Australia

Young Pukekohe driver Matthew Payne heads a six-strong contingent of Kiwi karters contesting the fifth round of this year’s Australian Rotax Pro Tour at the Eastern Creek kart track in Sydney this weekend.

The 12-year-old in his debut season across the Tasman claimed his third round win in the Junior Max Trophy class at the fourth series round in Queensland last month and leads top Australian driver Reece Cohen in the class points standings

Payne was one of seven Kiwi karters to contest the meeting at Warwick in inland Queensland.

After qualifying third quickest and carding two thirds and a second through the heats he finished third in the Pre-Final then beat pole sitter and heats 1 & 3 and Pre-Final winner Lucas Lichtenberger to the line to take the Final and round victory.

Payne has raised eyebrows across the Tasman with his ability to quickly learn new tracks and get up to speed, but this weekend faces one of his toughest tasks, taking on arch rival Reece Cohen on Cohen’s home track.

Dylan Drysdale from Palmerston North is also doing well in Australia this year, heading to the Sydney event in fourth place in the Junior Max class after a storming drive from 18th to eighth in the Final at the fourth round.

Also finishing eighth in his Final in Queensland was Auckland driver Aarron Cunningham who will again be flying the Kiwi flag in the DD2 Masters class this weekend.

Looking for better luck, meanwhile, are Wellington sisters Ashleigh (Rotax 125 Light) and Madeline (Junior Max) Stewart who both had rounds to forget at Warwick.

Joining Madeline and Dylan Drysdale in the Junior Max class is Drysdale’s KartSport Manawatu clubmate Kaleb Ngatoa, while expat Kiwi Josh Drysdale (Dylan’s older brother) is again running in the DD2 class.

This weekend’s meeting in Sydney is dedicated to the memory of Kiwi Jason Richards, the Nelson-born kart champion and V8 Supercar ace who died of cancer in 2011.

A year earlier Richards had accepted an invitation to race in the DD2 class at a round of the Rotax Pro Tour and supported the sport on both sides of the Tasman.

“In honour of Jason, the Rotax Pro Tour dedicates one round each year to be the Jason Richards Memorial – an event that recognises drivers who demonstrate the same kind of attributes that Jason did,” says series’ spokesman Liam Meegan.

The winner of The Jason Richards Memorial Award will be the driver, says Meegan, who ‘has the ability to win, never gives up and is fiercely determined.’ The recipient will receive a Jason Richards Memorial plaque and have their name engraved on the perpetual trophy.

The winner of the DD2 Final at the event will also will a Jason Richards Cup in recognition of Richards’ participation in the category.

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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