Covid-19 “Curveball’ only makes returning Pro-Kart Series stronger

| Photographer Credit: Graham Hughes

It seems like an age since the KartSport Manawatu club hosted the opening round of this year’s Giltrap Group Pro-Kart Series at Manawatu Toyota Raceway in Palmerston North back in late February.

There, over a hot and sultry two-day event, top-rated Auckland karters Graeme Smyth, Mat Kinsman and Joshua Parkinson all came away with something for their efforts in the premier Giltrap Group Racing KZ2 class. And the expectation was that the action at the next round – set down at that stage for the KartSport Rotorua club’s Century Batteries International Raceway over the March 21-22 weekend – would be just as fast and just as furious.

But it was not to be.

Joshua Parkinson (#89) and Mat Kinsman (#30) in KZ2

Instead, like all organised sport the COVID-19 Lockdown kept karters at home, forcing the unprecedented outright cancellation of the 2020 NZ Sprint Nationals meeting in Christchurch which was to have  been run over the Easter weekend, and the postponement (at the time) of all other KartSport NZ-sanctioned events.

Private promotor Steve Brown, the man behind the long-running 125cc/6-speed gearbox-based ProKart Series, was adamant at the time that once restrictions on movement and gathering were eventually lifted he would be back – bigger and better than ever.

But few at the time were thinking beyond the end of the next week, let alone to a time when travel restrictions would be lifted and he would be able to come up with a modified calendar which would see 100 karters heading to Tokoroa this weekend for the second of five rounds, and the third, fourth and (final) fifth rounds also all rescheduled.

“And for that,” Brown said this week, ”everyone who is entered owes KartSport New Zealand, and the clubs we have been dealing with, a huge vote of thanks. Everyone has worked together – for the greater good, if you like, of the sport – to come up with dates, the officials and the 101 other things we need to make sure a round of our series runs smoothly.”

Marco Giltrap (#NI) in 125cc Rotax Max Heavy

Proof of the on-going appeal of racing a pure-bred 125cc/6-speed gearbox equipped KZ2 class kart is the number of entries received this weekend – 22 – including those of Rnd 1 protagonists Graeme Smyth, Mat Kinsman and Joshua Parkinson from Auckland – plus that of KartSport Southland member Luca Burns who is making his way all the way to the South Waikato from Winton to be on the grid.

In the KZ2 Masters class surprise Rnd 1 winner Kevan Storr (main picture) from Pukekohe, defending series title holder Jared MacKenzie, and series promotor Steve Brown are 3 of 9 entered while in the cost-controlled ‘spec’ kZ4 class run concurrently there are 12, including defending class title holder, Regan Hall, and impressive class newcomer, KartSport Tokoroa club member Nick Tombleson from Taupo.

Entries across the Rotax (Light & Heavy Snr) and Junior, as well as the Vortex Mini ROK support classes are just as strong, boding well for a weekend of top class racing in a series well and truly back on track.

Ashton Phipps (#42) in Vortex Mini ROK

Series results after Rnd 1

KZ2

1= Mat Kinsman & Joshua Parkinson; 3. Sam Wright;  4. Graeme Smyth; 5. Daniel Bugler; 6. Riley Jack.

KZ2 Masters

1. Kevan Storr; 2; Jared Mackenzie; 3. Steve Brown; 4. Andrew Hunt; 5. Tim Loughran; 6. Dave Malcolm.

KZ4

1. Regan Hall; 2. Sam Dashfield; 3. Aaron Wooley; 4. Mitch Brown; 5. Nick Tombleson; 6. Clint Beaumont.

125cc Rotax Max Light

1. Clay Osborne; 2. Fraser Hart; 3. Jackson Rooney; 4. WIlliam Exton; 5. Fynn Osborne; 6. Ashton Grant.

125cc Rotax Max Heavy

1=. Marco Giltrap & Ashley Higgins; 3. Luca Burns; 4. Darren Walker; 5. Brendon Hart; 6. Simon McRae.

Rotax Max Junior

1. Dylan Grant;; 2=. Sebastian Manson & Jay Urwin; 4. Kiahn Burt; 5. Jenson Bate; 6.Logan Manson.

Vortex Mini ROK

1. Ashton Phipps; 2. Arthur Broughan; 3. Blake Dowdall; 4 .Judd Christiansen; 5. Hugo Neale; 6. Blake Corin.

Ross MacKay

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines a day job editing NZ4WD magazine with contract media work, weekend Mountain Bike missions and towing his 1989 Nissan Skyline drifter to grassroots meetings around the North Island.

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