Postcard from Europe #1

History shows that KartSport Mt Wellington has provided a few drivers who have honed their skills on their home track and subsequently gone on to become successful in kart and motor racing around the world. However, not many of the Cadets have travelled overseas to race at such an early stage in their career.

Last December, Mt Wellington Cadet, Lee Zeltwanger, along with his mother and brother began a year of residence in Switzerland. Although both the Zeltwanger boys were born in New Zealand, both can speak German. The purpose of the year in Switzerland was to perfect their German. However in March this year their father, Rainer Zeltwanger, joined them and it didn't take long for karting to become part of the curriculum.

A kart was purchased equipped with a Rotax Minimax and after some practice on the hometown track, Lee entered a round of the Rotax Challenge, held at the Mirecourt Track across the border in France.

The Mirecourt track is 1250m long, has got 6 left and 8 right hand corners and is fairly flat because it’s beside the local airport. On the day before racing, Lee had 7 practice runs and looked fast in the last 3 sessions.

In the time trials Lee qualified 3rd so he was certainly on the pace. In the first heat he had a great start and was 2nd at the first corner. He couldn't catch the kart in front but extended his lead over the 3rd placed kart to about 6 kart lengths by the end of the race. After the race the tech officers checked the side pods and Lee’s tyres were 5mm inside the line of the side pods. Unfortunately this meant being relegated 5 places and starting from grid 7 in heat 2.

In the 2nd heat Lee did not get a good start but made it up to 5th during the race. After this heat, a father of another driver started looking very closely at Lee’s kart. He then disappeared into the tech shed, re-emerging with a tech officer. The tech officer advised that Lee was running an old style coil which had been banned since 31.03.2012. For that Lee got disqualified from the heat.

Despite relegation and disqualification, Lee started the final on grid 10 and made his way up to 5th. Trying to overtake the 4th placed driver at the end of the start/finish straight the driver pulled in on him and Lee spun off the track. He finished the day in 8th place.

Lee had very good lap times all day so it was clear that he was competitive in this class. He raced on a very nice track with a bunch of guys that he had never raced against before.

More practice on the home track and then he contested the Kappelen Trophy (round 1) at the Lyss Track in Switzerland. This was the same weekend as the Mt Wellington Club Champs.

On the days before the event it was a sunny 30 degrees, but just in time for race day a cold front arrived. The temperature droped to 12 degrees and it poured with rain. In the class that Lee was racing in he was not allowed to run wets so the racing was on slicks. Given our recent wet winters in Auckland, not a big problem for a Mt Welly driver.

With a field of 21 drivers, time trials and the first heat were in the pouring rain with the drivers trying to stay on the track rather than race.

In the first heat Lee’s spark plug fowled and he just made it over the finish line with the engine spluttering and eventually cutting out. The second heat was dryer and Lee got a good start and finished second.

In the final the track was still damp but racing was a lot closer. The first placed Kart pulled away at first but Lee caught up to him and the last 4 laps were bumper to bumper. On the last bend before the finish line, the first placed driver ran a bit wide and Lee made his move. It was a drag race to the finish but Lee won the final and the day by a margin of 0.03 seconds.

He got a very nice trophy for his efforts.

The second round of the Kappelen Trophy is to be held later this month and Lee will be joined by Sebastian Bainbridge, both flying the Mt Wellington Flag.

POSTCARD FROM EUROPE #2

 

We escaped over the Swiss border into Germany with the silverware buried deep in a suitcase. Well it wasn’t quite that dramatic but we did manage to take out first and fifth at the second round of the Kaplan Trophy and left for Germany at the end of the weekend. As I wrote before, Lee took out first place in the first round and Lee and Sebastian were keen to do battle at round two.

Sebastian took delivery of his kart at the beginning of the week before the event that was held on the following Saturday. We had arranged to lease a kart from the Swiss Hutless Team Manager and I thought it was a pretty good deal. It included fitting Sebastian into the kart when we picked the kart up and running him on race day. Pretty easy on Dad I must say with tyres and gas included. It was a Swiss Hutless chassis and was the same size as the slightly smaller chassis (1010mm) that is used in the NZ JR class fitted with a Rotax Mini Max engine. The age range for this class is 9 to 14 and like JR’s, overlaps other age groups. It was easy to get used to the electric start and setting the carbi at the beginning of the day.bainbridgeswiss12.gif

 

The week before the race we visited the Swiss Hutless factory which is in the village of Lyss which is also the home of the track where the Kaplan Trophy is held. Originally the chassis was the German Hutless but production was moved to Switzerland several years ago, hence the name Swiss Hutless. The Manager of the factory gave us a two hour tour of the factory and he was a mine of information. He seemed to know quite a bit about his competitors and the different philosophies applied to chassis building. He explained production at every stage. All of the componentry such as hydraulic brakes, hubs, stub axles and axles along with the chassis itself are produce in the same factory.

 

As I said, Kaplan Trophy is held at Lyss, one of the four Swiss kart tracks. The track is about 100 metres longer than Auckland. There are plenty of other tracks across the border in both France and Germany and these boarders are only 30 minutes away from where we were staying. We did visit a CIK track in France and another in Germany. The main facility at Lyss is quite new and on three levels. The ground level has storage for people who want to leave their karts at the track along with workshops and a showroom. There is also a covered dummy grid for the hire karts. The second level has a large outside area with a restaurant and bar. The top deck allows great views of the whole track although not from one point.

 

I think that we would all imagine that the Swiss would run a pretty safe outfit. Well our Colleen P would have a fit if she should ever see it for herself. For a start all classes practice together. Sebastian’s shared his first outing with six year old cadets and middle aged men in shifter karts with a low level of driving skills. Lee has been here long enough to have got used to it but Rainer said Lee has pulled off when he thought it became too dangerous. Karts join the track as they wish and drive from where ever they are pitted. The pit is no place for slow pedestrians like myself. I could go on but the loss of one young life at this track a couple of years ago says it all.

 

After a couple of decent practice days we were ready for race day. No scrutineering of karts and no checking of gear. However, there was a drivers briefing in German, French and English. No problem with the flags as they are pretty well the same. During practice, Lee and Sebastian were 4 thousands of a second apart with Sebastian taking pole and Lee number two after the time trials. Flag marshals were out on the track but no flag points and not a lot of protection. On reflection we are fortunate to have a well regulated sport in NZ.

 

The meeting was CIK format and Sebastian and Lee maintained their grid positions all day. Unfortunately Lee made contact with another kart in the final which put him back to 5th with Sebastian taking out 1st. Both of the boys drove well and cleared out from the field for most of the day.

 

We made contact with Mitch Evans while he was at Silverstone getting ready for the weekends GP3 racing. The traveling Mt Welly kart team becomes the Mt Welly supporters team when we head for Hokenheim next week. We are hoping to see Mitch in the pits during practice which will be a thrill for the boys. Mitch sits on 100 points and leads the competition by 11. It’s easier to follow the GP3’s from hear in Europe as coverage is not great in NZ.

 
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