Sporting codes across the school spectrum use the annual winter holiday break for national competition – and KartSport is no different.
This year’s Automec Air-sponsored National Schools Championship in Dunedin is the 12th such gathering with this weekend’s event – hosted by the KartSport Dunedin club at its Silverstream Raceway near Mosgiel on Saturday and Sunday – attracting over 60 karters from over 40 schools from Invercargill, Gore and Riversdale in the Deep South to Red Beach and Mangawhau north of Auckland.
KartSport Dunedin first hosted a National Schools Championship in 2008 and event convenor Neil Shearer says that this weekend’s event is the main national-level meeting – in terms of numbers and logistics – on the club’s 2015 calendar.
‘It’s such a good event to host, too,” says Shearer. “We encourage our members, particularly the younger ones, to travel to get experience competing against drivers from other parts of the country, but in this case they can get that experience at their home track.”
The recent Kiwi one-two at the Le Mans 24 Hour race has focused world-wide attention on this country’s ability to produce world-beating drivers, with co-winner Earl Bamber, co-runner-up Brendon Hartley and class runner-up Mitch Evans all getting their career start here in karts.
The three were all regulars at early National Schools Championship meetings with Evans a member of early St Kentigern squads in 2004 and 2007 and Hartley a member of the winning Palmerston North Boys High squad in 2005.
Nick Cassidy, now a three-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner and BMW Junior Academy driver currently competing in the Japanese Formula 3 championship, is also a former three-time New Zealand Schools’ class title holder who helped his school, Auckland’s Marina View, win the Primary/Intermediate title in 2005.
More recently Christchurch 14-year-old Marcus Armstrong, now contesting the CIK-FIA European Karting Championship, won his class and helped Medbury School win the Primary/Intermediate title in 2013.
Class and schools’ title winners don’t just go on to forge successful careers behind the wheel either. Christchurch driver Andrew Errington helped his school, St Andrews College, win the Secondary Schools title and Bruce McLaren KartSport Award in 2008 (at Dunedin) and 2009.
He is now pursuing an engineering degree specialising in motorsport in the UK, and attributes his career choice to the research he did on New Zealand motor racing great Bruce McLaren after his first win.
Four schools have entered teams in the Secondary competition, six in the Primary/Intermediate one.
St Thomas of Canterbury and Christ College are sending the most Secondary teams with four each, with host school Kings High from Dunedin and James Hargest College from Invercargill with two each.
Dunedin and Mosgiel are well-represented in the Primary/Intermediate division with the city’s Balmacewen Intermediate entering four teams, St Brigids/Kavanagh College three, and Silverstream and East Taieri Schools (the two closest to the track) two each.
A special feature of the popular annual Schools’ event are the Bruce McLaren KartSport Awards presented in association with the Bruce McLaren Trust and now, Toyota Racing New Zealand.
Each year two awards are offered and this year the awards – and prize of Hot Laps in a Toyota Finance 86 Championship TR 86 race car – will go to the winners of the two most popular eligible classes at the event – once they produce and present a project at their school on the career, achievements and values demonstrated by the driver the award honours, New Zealand racing great Bruce McLaren.
There is also a major prize for the winner of the Vortex Mini ROK class. He or she will win free entry and the use of a kart and engine at the ROK Cup International Final event in Italy in October.
KARTSPORT NZ NATIONAL SCHOOLS’ CHAMPIONSHIPS
SECONDARY SCHOOL HONOURS BOARD
2003 Rangitoto College, Auckland
2004 St Kentigern College, Auckland
2005 Palmerston North Boys High, Palmerston North
2006 Waimea College, Nelson
2007 St Kentigern College, Auckland
2008 St Andrews College, Christchurch
2009 St Andrews College, Christchurch
2010 Palmerston North Boys High, Palmerston North
2011 Auckland Grammar School, Auckland
2012 Palmerston North Boys High, Palmerston North
2013 Burnside High School, Christchurch
2014 Palmerston North Boys High School, Palmerston North
PRIMARY/INTERMEDIATE SCHOOLS HONOURS BOARD
2003 Rangeview Intermediate, Auckland
2004 Waimea Intermediate, Nelson
2005 Marina View School Auckland
2006 Russley Primary & St Kentigern Intermediate ChCh & Auckland
2007 Albany Primary, Auckland
2008 Waikari School and Kaikorai Valley College, Dunedin
2009 Newbury School, Palmerston North
2010 Taradale Intermediate, Napier
2011 Windsor Primary/Chisnell Wood Intermediate, Christchurch
2012 College Street Normal School Palmerston North
2013 Medbury School, Christchurch
2014 Palmerston North Normal Intermediate/Newbury Primary School, Palmerston North