Excitement builds ahead of first KartSport NZ Endurance title meeting

| Photographer Credit: Vicky Jack

Teams-based Endurance racing plays a major part in KartSport competition elsewhere in the world. So excitement is building for the first such event here, the 2019 KartSport New Zealand Briggs National Endurance Championships meeting in Wellington on Saturday November 30.

Being organised and run by the KartSport Wellington club at KartSport Wellington Gazley Raceway, Kaitoke, the event is part of KartSport New Zealand’s original initiative to breathe new life into club racing via a new low-cost, low-maintenance fun class based around US small engine specialist Briggs & Stratton’s dedicated 206cc LO206 4-stroke kart engine.

With the company’s enthusiastic backing the simple, practical 4-stroke engine has revolutionised the ‘grass roots’ of the sport in the US and has quickly established itself here.

Though it was always intended as a club-level ‘non-championship’ class, there has been strong interest from owners in some sort of ‘extra-club’ level event or events – and the inaugural Briggs National Endurance Championships meeting is the result.

“You only have to look at YouTube these days to see how popular the team-based endurance scenes in Europe, the Middle East and the ‘States are,” says KartSport Wellington club President – and keen ClubSport LO206 class competitor – Brent Melhop.

“Here, clubs – notably KartSport Christchurch – have run ‘enduro’ events before. But our new event is different. It’s a true teams event for up to three drivers sharing the one Briggs LO206-engined kart over four hours witha minimum time for each driver of 1 hour and even a Pace Kart, plus drive-through penalties for those deemed to need them.

“We’ve already received just over 25driver entries but would obviously like more and can accommodate up to 34 karts (102 drivers!). Drivers ideally are a current member of a KartSport NZ-affiliated kart club with an appropriate licence but for former karters or other motorsport driverswho want to come back, or those with other relevant experience, a KartSport NZ Day Licence will be available.

“With no practice day before ‘the big day’ and the track closed for practice the week before it is all about providing close, fun racing with good bang for your buck on the day.”

Two weight breaks (Light & Heavy) will apply, as they do at ClubSport LO206 Sprint events. In this case though they take the combined weight of the kart (with no fuel tank) and all three drivers (suited up with Helmets and ready to race); 332kg for the LO206 Light category, and 382kg for the Heavy one.

“What we’ve tried to do,” says Melhop, “is make the playing field as level as possible. Obviously there is going to be some horse-trading going on in terms of who you select as your team mates. We’ve already got a couple of fathers and sons, and we’ve got some top former karters coming back. Most of our current ClubSport LO206 guys are getting together to share a kart and expenses. We even have the just crowned North Island Rotax Max Heavy champion, Marco Giltrap, coming down from Auckland to anchor a team!”

If nothing else the inaugural event will, Melhop reckons, be both a learning experience and; “a lot of fun on which we can build a great future event which hopefully will become an endurance series with up to three rounds.”

“Like any endurance event there will be some Hares, and more than a few Tortoises. The beauty of the Briggs LO206 engine, of course, is that it will run forever. Whether some of the drivers can is another question entirely. Once we’ve done the first one we will obviously all know a bit more about fuel consumption, tyre and chain wear…..plus, how our bodies stand up to a minimum driver stintof 60 minutes.

“Until then it’s all a bit of a guessing game…though I note that in the ‘States their idea of a Briggs LO206 ‘endurance race’ is 24 hours…….”

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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