The KartSport Auckland club has been welcoming the country’s top kart racers to its annual City of Sails’ two-day challenge meeting over the Auckland Anniversary long weekend at the end of January for close to 50 years now.
This weekend, at the Pool & Spa Maintenance City of Sails event, however, the club will get to host the return to his racing roots of one of the world’s best young up-and-coming racing drivers, New Zealand’s own Liam Lawson.
Last year Red Bull-contracted Lawson, 18, from Pukekohe, finished fifth in the FIA Formula 3 championship. This year he is set to return to Europe next month to contest the 2021 FIA Formula 2 championship as well as Germany’s revamped – now GT3 sportscar-based – DTM series.
That puts the former Toyota Racing Series and NZ Formula Ford champion in elite company on the world stage.
Yet come Saturday and Sunday he will be back where it all started – behind the wheel of a kart at Auckland’s Giltrap Group Raceway.
Which, as it turns out, is fine by Lawson, who got his career start in karts (at the tender age of 7). Before the move ‘up the ladder’ to cars at just 13 years of age in 2015, he had already won two National karting titles, the NZ Junior Restricted class one at the 2014 National Sprint Championship, and the 2014 Junior Restricted title at the NZ Schools’ Championship.
“I loved karting growing up so this is just an awesome opportunity to have another go,’ Lawson said this week.
“Karting is one of the best things a racing driver can do for fitness. No matter how much you train, if you haven’t been in a kart in a while it is a lot a work.”
Running Lawson in two classes – 125 cc Rotax Max Light and 125ccc Rotax DD2 – this weekend is multiple NZ Sprint Kart class title holder and representative Josh Hart from Hamilton.
Hart spent almost a decade himself running drivers in championship events in Europe before returning home and setting up a kart preparation and driver training business under the Josh Hart Racing banner.
Just over 130 entries have so far been confirmed for this weekend’s event.
“Honestly, we would have been over the moon just having Liam turn up, sign some autographs and – perhaps – spend some time with our younger drivers,” said Johnson.
“To have him actually compete – not just in one class either, but in two – really is next level and a mark if you like, of the man.”