|press release||24 January 2017|
The Australian karting season is set to fire into life this Australia Day weekend at Port Melbourne’s Todd Road facility for the first of the six Rotax Pro Tour rounds this year.
The ‘all Rotax’ affair sees competitors descend on Melbourne from all corners of Australia and a healthy contingent from New Zealand looking to upset the Australia Day celebrations.
Festivities will get underway on Wednesday night for an official welcome function, which will also honour the efforts of Lee Mitchener - who won the World Finals in the DD2 Masters Category in December in Italy.
This weekend’s meeting - conducted over Friday and Saturday - is the first opportunity for drivers to score Series Points towards their Rotax Pro Tour National Series campaign.
Above: Victorian Paul Rodgers knows a thing or two when it comes to racing around the Melbourne International Karting Complex. The JR Memorial Award winner will be one to watch in the over-subscribed Rotax 125 Light category (pic - Coopers Photography)
In 2017, the Rotax Rankings points will see no less than 16 Australian drivers compete internationally. 14 drivers will represent Australia at the World Finals in December and a further two drivers will head to the Rotax US Open.
Many eyes will be on the Rotax Light category which will be the feature category of the season opener and the first to set pole position via the new for 2017 initiative - the ‘Top 5 Shootout’ - where the five fastest after qualifying will have a single lap against the clock.
Several Junior stars that have stepped up to Seniors this season will be taking on many of the established stars of the Pro Tour - particularly New South Welshmen, Cody Brewcynski - who won the Junior Series last year - and Newcastle’s Jordan Pike. The duo will both have FA Karts underneath them. They’ll have a tough assignment against the likes of local star Paul Rodgers (Praga), Kody Garland (CRG), WA’s Brooke Redden and Queenslander, Troy Morrissey. The two Stewart sisters, Ashleigh and Madeline from New Zealand will again be colourful additions to the field.
DD2 will be a closely fought affair with many new competitors coming to the table for this round. Clayton Richards - son of multiple Bathurst 1000 Champion Steve - will make his DD2 debut. Current DD2 Champion Nathan Tigani, plus Troy Woolston and Adam Lindstrom - all members of Team Australia last year - will provide tough challenges, so too Dalton and Tristan Ellery - the sons of former Bathurst 1000 podium placegetter, Steve Ellery. Rapid youngsters, Cody Gillis, Joshua Fife and Joshua Car will also be part of the front pack, so too Kiwi, Dylan Drysdale.
Above: Will Tom Williamson's dynamic duo Joshua Fife (#70) and Cody Gillis (#9) find their way to the front of this year's DD2 category (pic - Coopers Photography)
The Junior Max class is stacked with quality. Queenslander Jac Preston will be looking to make an impression this year after competing in both the Australian and New Zealand Rotax Series last year. Another Queenslander, Lachlan Hughes has returned to Patrizicorse Ricciardo Kart for 2017 and will be strong, whilst New Zealand lady racer, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt was super impressive at the final round of the 2016 Series at Dubbo and will be one to watch in the huge Junior Max field.
There will (literally) be a heavyweight battle in Rotax Heavy with many of Australia’s best karters lining up for Todd Road. Local drivers Aaron Hindle and Aaron Rintoul are expected to lead the fight, however they will be kept honest by regular front runners, Lane Moore (CRG), Tony Kart’s Chris Farkas, Scott Simpson (CompKart), V8 Utes Champion Kris Walton and Kiwi, Brendon Hart who brings extensive international experience to the table.
Above: Kiwi Junior Max Competitor Rianna O'Meara-Hunt will lead a healthy contingent of Drivers from New Zealand for this weekend's event (pic - Coopers Photography)
DD2 Masters sees Scott Howard return to racing in Australia after last weekend winning a major race in Malaysia and the return of multiple national Champion, Matthew Wall - who’ll line up in a Shamick Racing OTK. Well respected Porsche Carrera Cup racecar preparer and engineer, Ashley Seaward will be in the thick of the action, as will Queenslander Troy Bretherton.
Junior Max Trophy welcomes a range of youngsters to the Pro Tour to get their feet wet in Pro Tour competition using a control Intrepid chassis and axle, while Micro Max and Mini Max give the youngest contestants in Australian karting their chance on the national stage.
Mini Max in particular features a high quality group of youngsters that always turn on a great show. Victorian James Wharton is back to defend his title, returning with a wealth of overseas experience after representing Australia at the Rotax World Finals in Italy and competing at the SKUSA SuperNationals in Las Vegas.
Above: Reigning Mini Max Champion James Wharton (#13) returns to defend his Australian title (pic - Coopers Photography)
Qualifying and heats for the opening round of the Rotax Pro Tour will begin on Friday, January 27 with Pre-Finals and Finals conducted Saturday. Entry is free to the public and the Todd Road karting facility is located off the Westgate Bridge at the Todd Road exit.