Kiwi Karter Hopes To Spring A Surprise In Vegas
The stakes are high but top New Zealand kart racer Daniel Bray stands as good a chance as anyone in the premier S1 class at the 14th annual SKUSA SuperNationals kart race meeting in Las Vegas this weekend.
In fact the 23-year-old is very much the dark horse in the 24-strong S1 pack, having qualified second and won two heat races before an accident ended his debut run at the annual meeting in 2007, then finished second in the S1 class on his return in 2008.
Last year he did well just to qualify for the Superpro (KZ2) class and finish 16th in the final, the 43-strong field headed by none other than seven-time World Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher and including a number of top European drivers.
This year he is back as a genuine podium prospect, however, thanks to the organiser's decision to transfer premium class status back to the S1 class, as well as regular trips to and from the United States to contest rounds of the 2010 SKUSA Pro Tour.
Bray has been driving for a new team - Rocky Mountain Kartworks - this year, and heading into the SKUSA SuperNationals meeting he is fifth in the S1 class points standings in the new pan-USA SKUSA Pro-Tour. Rocky Mountain Kartworks is the US importer of the karts Bray now races and represents in New Zealand, GP Karts.
According to the pundits (not to mention the form book), the man to beat in the S1 class this year is a driver Bray has raced against a number of times, his former Aluminos teammate Fritz Leesmann.
Leesmann heads the S1 class points standings heading into the Las Vegas meeting with competition expected to come from fellow Aluminos driver (the team's driver coach in fact) Tom Dyer, and fellow Pro-Tour front-runners Clinton Schoombee, Jason Toft and Bray.
Interest is also being expressed in former S1 class standout (and current NASCAR driver) Alex Speed, and David Sera, the latter a multi-time Australian champion and member, this year, of a nine-strong contingent of karters from across the Tasman.
The seven-day SKUSA SuperNationals event, run for the past 13 years on a temporary circuit in the car park of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, is the biggest multi-day one on the US karting calendar with over 460 confirmed entries and waiting lists in most of the classes this year.
Daniel Bray is one of two Kiwi karters competing. The other is one of his contemporaries from New Zealand's Mi-Sedaap Pro Kart series, Mark Swetman from Tauranga, who will contest the S4 Masters class (which has 70 entries) with the team Bray has driven for for the past two years, Aluminos.
It's a busy time of the year for karters this week with a further 252 karters from 60 countries (including five from New Zealand and 10 from Australia) limbering up for the Rotax Max category's annual Grand Challenge.
Like the SKUSA SuperNationals meeting in the United States, the Rotax Max Grand Challenge is a multi-day event which starts today and ends on Sunday.