TOP AUSSIES CROSS TASMAN
FOR ROTAX SERIES OPENER
Top Australian karters Jordan Boys and Liam McLellan from Victoria and brothers Trent and Lane Moore from the Gold Coast will take on New Zealand's best Rotax category karters at the opening round of this year's Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand in Palmerston North this weekend.
Host club KartSport Manawatu has been running a Trans-Tasman Challenge meeting for the past three years with this year's hosting the opening rounds of both the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand and the 2014 New Zealand Pro Kart Series.
As well as the four from Australia, the event will also see the local series debut of top UK female driver Tiffany Chittenden. A former British Challenge champion and Rotax Max Grand Finals competitor in 2007, Chittenden is now living in Christchurch and will contest the Masters class in this year's Schwarzkopf Professional-supported New Zealand Challenge.
This year's is the 15th annual multi-round Challenge series for Rotax-engined karts run here and the prospect of winning one of four places on the team which represents New Zealand at the annual Grand Finals (the first was in Puerto Rico in 1990 and subsequent ones have been held all over the world) has again proved irresistible with Gavin Bright, spokesman for event organiser, Rotax importer Right Karts, confirming a 70+strong entry across the four classes.
"We'll be at capacity (36 karts) in Logitech Rotax Light thanks to so many of our Juniors from last year moving up yet we've still got 20 Juniors as well as 18 in the Rotax Heavy Masters class," he said this week.
Jordan Boys, 16, is the best credentialed of the Australia foursome having himself just moved up to the Senior ranks at home.
He had a stellar year in 2013, winning the Junior National Heavy title at both the National Sprint and Queensland State title meetings and claiming two class wins on Australia's Rotax Max category Pro Tour, elevating himself to fourth in KartOz magazine's annual Top 50 rankings.
Liam McLellan, 16, also had a good year in 2013, the young Victorian winning his class at a round of the Rotax Pro Tour as well as his class in both the Junior Top Guns and CIK Stars of Karting Series, leading to a ranking of 14th in the KartOz Top 50.
The Moore brothers, Trent, 27, and Lane, 24, have made several racing trips across the Tasman in recent years, with Lane winning the KartSport New Zealand Rotax Max Heavy class Sprint Championship title at Invercargill in 2011.
Up against Boys and McLellan in the premier Logitech-backed Rotax Light category is a who's who of local talent spearheaded by defending class title-holder Mathew Kinsman and brother Daniel, a multi-time New Zealand representative. Also back are fellow former series front-runners Daniel Connor from Auckland, Andy Schofield from Cambridge and Fraser Hart from Palmerston North while stepping up are recently graduated Juniors Maddison Wise from the Hawke's Bay and Olivia Yardley from Christchurch.
Back meanwhile, to see if he can make it two Arai Rotax Junior class titles in a row is Marcus Armstrong with competition expected to come from fellow Christchurch-based Junior Caleb Cross, top local driver Dylan Drysdale and Hawke's Bay's Trey Nairn.
Also expected to feature are Wellington sisters Ashleigh and Maddison Stewart who this year are contesting both the New Zealand Challenge and Australia's Rotax Pro Tour.
In the combined Platinum Glass Rotax Heavy/Masters category the interest this year will be on whether a Masters class entrant can do the double. Last year Aucklander Aarron Cunningham won the Heavy title but it was the winner of the Masters one, Stu Marshall, who earned a trip to the Grand Finals in the United States.
This year the Masters contingent is strengthened by the arrival of UK champ Chittenden and the return of former winner and New Zealand representative Nikki Urwin , plus the eligibility (both are now 32 years of age) of Cunningham and former New Zealand Sprint class champion and now SuperKart ace Ryan Urban.
The Heavy (under 32) section, meanwhile, has received a boost with two-time former Sprint class champion Ryan Bailey set to take the battle to class regulars Shane Hodgson and Daniel Sayles.
New Zealand's is one of over 60 Rotax Max Challenge series run globally each year with national winners meeting at an annual Grand Finals. The first was in Puerto Rico in 2000. The venue for the 2014 Grand Finals is yet to be announced.
New Zealand's best performance to date was at the Grand Final in Italy in 2010 where Palmerston North international Josh Hart finished second in the premier Rotax Max Senior class and Christchurch driver Matthew Hamilton finished third in DD2.
Prior to this the best result was kart-turned-car star Earl Bamber's third in the Junior class when the Grand Finals were held in the Canary Islands in 2004.
The weekend's opening series round is the first of six with subsequent rounds to be held at Rotorua, Hamilton, Te Puke, Hastings and Auckland.
Jordan Boys (#22) and Liam McLellan (#96) are two of the four Australian karters who will contest the opening round of the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand at Palmerston North over the weekend. Photo credit: Fast Company/IKD (Boys pic) and Fast Company/Ash Budd (McLellan pic)
2014 New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge supported by Schwarzkopf Professional
Rnd 1: Sun Feb 22-23 Manawatu Toyota Raceway Palmerston North
Rnd 2: Sat-Sun March 15-16 The Rock FM Raceway Rotorua
Rnd 3: Sat-Sun May 17-18 AgriSea Raceway Hamilton
Rnd 4: Sat-Sun June 07-08 Fagan's Valley Raceway Te Puke
Rnd 5: Sat-Sun August 16-17 Chemz Raceway Hastings
Rnd 6: Sat-Sun September 20-21 Strata Networks Raceway Auckland
Prepared by FAST COMPANY on behalf of KartSport New Zealand. To find out more about the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand supported by Schwarzkopf Professional contact Ross MacKay on 021 677 919 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org