Proof that the sport of karting is well and truly back on its feet (or rather ‘back of all four wheels’) in the wake of a year’s interruption courtesy the COVD-19 Coronavirus came conclusively yesterday (Sunday April 04) on the final day of competition at this year’s Armstrong Group-backed three-day KartSport New Zealand National Sprint Championship meeting in Christchurch.
After being forced – by the first major COVID-19 lockdown – to cancel the 2020 National Sprint title meeting which was to have been held at the KartSport Christchurch club’s track at Carr’s Rd in suburban Halswell over the Easter weekend last year, many in the sport believed that it would take years to get the momentum of true national level competition back.
On the strength of the quality of the racing at the same venue over the past three days – and particularly of that in the Vortex Mini ROK Junior class and the two Rotax Max (Light and Heavy) Senior classes contested on Sunday, however – that fear appears to have been wildly unfounded.
Leading the way to the 2021 #1NZ title in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class, for instance, was reigning South Island champion William Exton from Blenheim.
Exton, won the New Zealand tile in the 125cc Rotax Max Junior title the last time a NZ National Sprint title was held (Easter weekend in Hamilton in 2019) and completed a seamless transition to the Senior ranks on Sunday by qualifying on pole, and winning two of the three heats as well as both the pre-Final and Final, all from legendary local driver Matthew Hamilton.
To his credit Hamilton – a four-time winner of the #1NZ plate in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class, including the first one contested back in 2001 – beat Exton to win the second heat.
After that though Exton was unbeatable, eventually reaching the finish line in the Final 0.386 of a second in front of Hamilton and almost three seconds ahead of third placed Clay Osborne.
There was also some stunning race action – not to mention drama – in the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class, the title won for a second time (the first was in 2016) by Waikato ace Campbell Joyes.
Heading into the Final it looked like the 2021 title would remain in the hands of evergreen Aucklander Ryan Urban who won it the last time it was contested (at Hamilton in 2019) and who qualified quickest and dominated all but one of the heat races (and the Final) on Sunday.
However Urban ran off the track after hitting dirt left by another driver’s off track excursion early in the Final and retired soon after, leaving both the race – and with it the #1NZ title – for Joyes to win from local veteran and former six-time class title holder Simon Hunter and fellow local event returnee Scott Manson.
The other class title contested and won on Sunday was for the Vortex Mini ROK class and like the 125c Rotax Max Light one was won in fine style by the reigning South Island title holder, Zach Tucker.
Local ace Tucker was pushed hard in the heats and Pre-Final by Arthur Broughan from Blenheim and fellow Christchurch driver Izaak Fletcher but in the Final ran is own race from the front to add the #1NZ plate to the #SI one he earned late last year.
Such was his domination of the class, that Tucker was awarded a trip to the ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy later this year, where he will join fellow class and title winners Jacob Douglas (Vortex ROK DVS Junior) and Michael McCulloch (Vortex ROK DVS), and Vortex ROK DVS class runner-up Matthew Hamilton.
The other class titles run over the weekend went to:
- Jacob Douglas from Christchurch – Vortex ROK DVS Jnr & 125 cc Rotax Max Junior
- Rotax DD2 – Clay Osborne from Hamilton
- Vortex ROK DVS – Michael McCulloch from Paraparaumu
- Cadet ROK – Henry Fisher from Christchurch