|16 February 2017|
KartSport at its best will be on show in Palmerston North this weekend as two of New Zealand's premier multi-round series headline the KartSport Manawatu club's two-day Professionals Unique Real Estate Trans-Tasman Challenge meeting.
Sharing top billing at the annual Trans-Tasman meeting are the Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge for 125cc Rotax-engined karts, and the Molecule ProKart Series for 6-speed gearbox-equipped 125cc KZ2 class machines.
Above: 2016 final round KZ2 class winner Daniel Bray (#62) will be in action this weekend (pic - Fast Company/Graham Hughes)
Key to the long-term success (it is now in its 18th year) of the local Rotax Max Challenge is the prize pool - this year up to seven trips to an annual Grand Final event in Portugal are up for grabs for winners and/or runners-up across five classes.
Back to defend his 2015 & 16 class titles is 2015 Grand Final class winner Ryan Urban (DD2 Masters) from Auckland. Back also are fellow Kiwi Grand Final representatives Tiffany Chittenden from Christchurch and Josh Hart from Palmerston North.
Above: Ryan Urban (pic - Fast Company/Graham Hughes)
Chittenden, one of five top female drivers competing at the Palmerston North meeting, looks set, again, to be one of the front runners in the DD2 Master class, while after winning the DD2 class here last year Hart will again do double duty by contesting both the DD2 and Rotax Light classes this year.
In DD2 Hart will again face intense competition from Auckland-based international Daniel Bray, who finished third in class last year. The class has also attracted entries from young guns Ayden Polaschek from Christchurch and Jono Buxeda, CJ Sinclair and James Blair from Auckland, as well as returning racer Jason Lee, also from Auckland.
In Rotax Light Hart can expect competition from the country's top karting siblings, Wellington sisters Ashleigh and Madeline Stewart, and former Rotax Junior class front-runners Jacob Cranston from Palmerston North, Michael McCulloch from the Kapiti Coast and Caleb Cross from Christchurch.
Like Josh Hart, Madeline Stewart will also be running in two classes over the weekend, in her case across the two series. The 16-year-old will run in the Rotax Light class in the Giltrap Group Rotax Max Challenge, and the Wifiplus KZ2 class in the Molecule ProKart Series.
It is the Junior Rotax class which has attracted the largest field across the Rotax classes, with 20 drivers vying for the winner's trip to this year's Grand Final in Portugal.
Names to look out for in this class include the drivers who dominated the final round of the 2016 Challenge series in Hamilton, Callum Hedge from Auckland, Jaden Ransley and Adam Godwin from Christchurch, and Rianna O'Meara-Hunt and Ryan Wood from Wellington, plus Breanna Morris, Sam Wright and Joshua Parkinson from Auckland, Fynn Osborne from Hamilton and former Dunedin but now Auckland-based Joshua Bethune.
Above: Josh Hart (pic - Fast Company/Graham Hughes)
Within the DD2 Masters class recognition of the growing number of competitive drivers 50 years of age has also been made with a "Supermaster' division in which Auckland's Garry Claxton is expected to shine.
The Molecule-backed ProKart Series is also in good heart and is now in its 17th year. Entries have increased significantly with at least 20 KZ2 karts expected to start in the Wifiplus-backed KZ2 class and almost as many in the Aarque Group-sponsored KZ2 Masters/KZ2 Restricted field.
Multi-time former class title holder Ryan Grant and teammate Graeme Smyth are back in KZ2 as are young guns Aaron Wilson and and Logan and Mitch Brown. Also running in KZ2 will be top Auckland driver Mathew Kinsman, fellow former Rotax Max Challenge class winner and New Zealand representative Dylan Drysdale, and one of Australia's best KZ2 class drivers, Troy Loeskow
Loeskow, from Bundaberg in northern Queensland, dominated the KZ2 class at the opening round of the Australian Kart Championship in Newcastle last weekend and will again run under the guidance of top Kiwi team owner/driver/technician Daniel Bray this weekend.
In the KZ2 Masters class, meanwhile, defending title holder Jared Mackenzie from Auckland has some new competition in the form of returning racers, Darren Aislabie from Rotorua, and Terry Corin from Tauranga.
Aislabie is a former New Zealand Sprint champion, while, before he started a successful Super Saloon speedway career, Corin was one of the pioneers of the local Rotax Max Challenge.
Above: Jared Mackenzie (pic - Fast Company/Graham Hughes)
After dominating the KZ2 Restricted class for the past two years, Auckland driver Garry Cullum also has some serious competition this year in the form of returning karters Regan Hall from Auckland and Aaron Wooley from Hamilton.
There will be action on track both days with the event hosting the opening round of the Molecule Pro Kart Series over the two days and Rnd 1 of the Giltrap Group NZ Rotax Max Challenge on Saturday, and Round 2 on Sunday.
2017 Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge
Rnds 1 & 2: Sat- Sun Feb 18-19 Manawatu Toyota Raceway, Palmerston North
Rnds 3 & 4: Sat-Sun March 18-19 Te Puke Auto Electrical Raceway, Te Puke
Rnds 5 & 6: Sat-Sun May 20-21 KartSport Rotorua International Raceway, Mamaku, Rotorua
Rnds 7 & 8: Sat-Sun Aug 12 & 13 AgriSea Raceway, Hamilton
2017 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals: November 04-11 2017 Portimao Portugal
2017 Molecule ProKart Series
Rnd 1: Sat- Sun Feb 18-19 Manawatu Toyota Raceway, Palmerston North
Rnd 2: Sat-Sun March 18-19 Te Puke Auto Electrical Raceway, Te Puke
Rnd 3: Sat-Sun May 20-21 KartSport Rotorua International Raceway, Mamaku, Rotorua
Rnd 4: Sat-SunAug 12-13 AgriSea Raceway, Hamilton