The search is on again for New Zealand’s top Rotax category karters with this year’s Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge series kicking off at the KartSport Manawatu club’s annual Trans-Tasman Challenge meeting in Palmerston North over the weekend.
Just over 80 of the countriy’s top karters are heading to Palmerston North for the new double-header (Rnd 1 on Saturday, Rnd 2 on Sunday) meeting, all keen to follow in the kart tracks of Aucklander Ryan Urban, who last year won his class here and at the annual Rotax Max Challenge series’ Grand Finals meeting at Portimao in Portugal.
Urban’s win at the Grand Final – where he faced off and beat DD2 Masters class winners from over 60 countries – completed a podium trifecta at annual Grand Finals events which Kiwi karters have been travelling to since 2000.
Previously Palmerston North driver Josh Hart and Aucklander Mark Lane had claimed second placings, and Christchurch’s Matthew Hamilton (twice) and Wanganui’s Earl Bamber had finished third.
This season will again see action across five classes but this time over four ‘double header’ weekends for the first time.
Gavin Bright, of series promotor Right Karts, says the double-header format came out of a desire to give drivers committing to the series the greatest possible ‘bang for their buck.’
“Effectively, ” Bright said this week, “we’re running an eight round series but incurring only half the tavelling and accommodation costs that would normally go with it.
“Also, becausee we’ve always run a two-day format at our rounds in past years, everyone is used to it. The only difference really is that each day everyone starts, if you like, with a clean slate and has to qualify, and get through heats, a Pre-Final and a Final rather than qualify and have the heats on Saturday and Pre-Finals and Finals on Sunday.”
Like last year five different weight/age categories, Rotax Senior Light, Rotax Senior Heavy, DD2, DD2 Masters and Rotax Junior, will be contested this year.
Also like last year there are five entries to the annual Rotax Grand Finals up for grabs – for the winners of the Rotax Senior Light, Rotax Junior and DD2 classes, and the winner and runner-up in DD2 Masters.
The winner of the Rotax Senior Heavy class gets a major cash prize plus there is also a major spot prize pool for everyone entered.
Four of last year’s five class winners and Grand Finals contestants, Ryan Urban, Daniel Connor and Daniel Bray from Auckland, and Dylan Drysdale from Palmertson North, are all back for more this year.
Former class winners and Grand Finals representatives Josh Hart from Palmerston North and Mat Kinsman from Auckland, and class winner Zach Zaloum from Hastings, are also returning. As are Dylan Drysdale’s older brother Josh, who has been living and competing across the Tasman for several years now, and former karter and 2003/4 New Zealand Formula Ford champion Tim Edgell. Josh Drysdale is contesting the DD2 class, while Edgell, from Auckland, has entered DD2 Masters.
With former Rotax Junior class front-runners like Dylan Drysdale and fellow Palmerston North ace Jacob Cranston now running in the Senior ranks for the 2016 season, so several youngsters like Ryan Wood from Wellington and Billy Frazer from Auckland have graduated from the Vortex Mini ROK class to Rotax Junior.
There they will be part of a 22-strong field which includes the cream of New Zealand’s Junior class driving talent plus – for the first two rounds, top young Australian driver Tomas Gasperak.
Also crossing the Tasman for the Palmerston North meeting is regular visitor – and current NZ Sprint Championship title holder – Lane Moore who will compete in the Rotax Senior Heavy class where he will meet local class specialists Teddy Bassick, Brendon Hart and Zach Zaloum.
In an interesting twist young guns Dylan Drysdale and KartSport Manawatu clubmate Jacob Cranston will contest two classes this year, Rotax Senior Light and DD2.
Action on track at the KartSport Manawatu clubs’ Manawatu Toyota Raceway on Shirriffs Rd on the outskirts of Palmerston North begins at 9.00am each day with each class getting a tuning run, qualifying session, two 11-lap heats, one 13 lap Pre-Final and one 18-lap Final during the day.