2021 sees the return – this weekend – of KartSport’s popular upper North Island-focused, Giltrap Group Top Half Series after it was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. This year, however, the series is looking slightly different with a new organising committee, new sponsors, new formats, new classes, new prizes and near record entries.
The new weekend format, which will be rolled out for the first time at the opening round of the new-look series at the KartSport Rotorua club’s Century Batteries International Raceway this (July 31/Aug 01) weekend has already received positive feedback from many of the over 140 competitors entered, with racing commencing on Saturday afternoon allowing for longer heat races plus a new initiative of a GP series being introduced as well.
One thing which hasn’t changed is the series’ tradition of identifying and rewarding of the most improved Junior competitor and most improved Senior competitor over the series, However, the prizegiving functions will look slightly different this year with the round prizegiving being held at the following round on the Saturday night to allow for competitors and crews to get on the road once racing has concluded on Sunday afternoon.
Class-by-class and Lascom Motorsport Cadet ROK will see 15 youngsters signed up for the challenge. Auckland competitor Seth Comer will be one to watch throughout the series after showing his pace at recent events. This year the series will also see a new generation of names familiar to karters past and present as Harrison Cunningham, Tommy Hart & Indi Urwin join the series.
Two-time Top Half Cadet ROK class champion Maxim Kirwan, meanwhile, has stepped up to the SD Euroepan Vortex Mini ROK class, where he will meet recently crowned class National Schools’ champion Marco Manson, who has proven that he has the speed to be the one everyone else will be chasing this weekend.
Marco’s older brother Sebastian will – with Repco Junior driver Tom Bewley, Schools champion Jay Urwin and Emerson Vincent – be one of a number of NZ’s best young karters expected to do well in the International Kart Supplies (IKS) 125ccc Rotax Max Junior category. Ashton Phipps and Oscar Jackson have also shown that they also have what it takes to challenge for the Top Half Series title in this category.
The Urban Performance-sponsored 125cc Rotax Max Light class looks set to feature the biggest grid; and with a record 31 entries to date racing is going to be action-packed. Josh Richmond, Fynn Osborne & Rianna O’Meara-Hunt will be on a mission to stand out throughout the 2021 Giltrap Group series.
The 125cc Rotax Max Light category will also see the return of a number of top speedway competitors keeping race-fit in the off-season, amongst them, Sam Waddell, Sam Wright and Jayden Busch.
The KartZone Rotorua-supported 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class will also feature a strong field with thirteen entries. Bay of Plenty driver Darren Walker will be looking to keep his consistent results throughout the Top Half Series, while Top Half will see the return of Aaron Cunningham and Hayden Knight.
Darren Walker and Sam Waddell are both doing double duty this year too, joining previous Giltrap Group Top Half Series class winner Jason Lee on the grid in the Stainless Welding-backed Rotax DD2 class as well.
Graeme Smyth, meanwhile, will be in the hot seat in the Employment Law Advocacy-backed KZ2 class with the likes of young guns Clay Osborne, Nathan Crang and Luca Burns, as well as experienced class regulars like Regan Hall and Kevan Storr, all ready and willing to step up should Smyth falter in any way.
A new addition to the class roster –Vortex ROK DVS – sees the return of kart-turned-single-seater car racer Kaleb Ngatoa to the series; with competition expected to come from class regulars Ayrton Williams and James Van Den Berk.
Finally, multi-time Giltrap Group Top Half Series’ Super Metal Recycling ClubSport 120 class winner Steve Muggeridge will be looking to add (yet) another title to his name this season…..though both defending class titleholder Shannon Noble and fellow fast-man Conrad Knight are expected to have something to say about that at Rotorua this weekend.
Current class title holders from the 2019 CRC Top Half Series are:
KZ2 – Graeme Smyth
Rotax DD2 – Sam Waddell
125cc Rotax Max Light – Fynn Osborne
125cc Rotax Max Heavy – Adam Bell
125cc Rotax Max Junior – Clay Osborne
ClubSport 120: Shannon Noble
Vortex Mini ROK – Sebastian Manson
Cadet ROK – Maxim Kirwan
Under the new series’ race format racing will now will kick off at 1.00pm on Saturday afternoon with two heat races per class and the remainder run on Sunday.