Teen’s on mis­sion to re­deem him­self

Hawke's Bay Today - - SPORT - Kart­ing Shane Hurn­dell

Hawke’s Bay karter Jack­son Whitfield will be on a re­demp­tion mis­sion dur­ing to­day’s Na­tional Schools Cham­pi­onship on his home track.

The 15-year-old Karamu High School Year 11 stu­dent will be tack­ling the champs for the third time and he doesn’t have fond mem­o­ries of his pre­vi­ous two. Whitfield can’t even re­mem­ber the venue for the first champs when he com­peted in the Vor­tex Mini Rok class early on in his six-year rac­ing ca­reer.

“Last year it was Blen­heim and I was in the Ro­tax Ju­nior class. Our orig­i­nal ferry cross­ing got can­celled. By the time we got to Blen­heim it was time to race and I didn’t have time to see the track be­fore­hand . . . I didn’t do very well,” Whitfield re­called.

“It’s go­ing to be bet­ter here at home. I know the track, I’ve had plenty of time to re­hearse on it and I couldn’t be hap­pier with my test­ing to­day,” Whitfield said af­ter his four test out­ings on Thurs­day.

“A podium spot is the first goal. But I’ve also got a good chance of win­ning my class,” Whitfield, who is one of nine starters in the Ro­tax Lights class, said.

He hasn’t been short of con­fi­dence since win­ning the Hawke’s Bay-hosted round of the Welling­ton Pro­vin­cial Kart­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Gold Star Series in May. The 58-year-old series in­volves three rounds; Taranaki in Novem­ber, Welling­ton in March and Hawke’s Bay, and at­tracts most of the coun­try’s top driv­ers in their re­spec­tive classes.

“That win was the high­light of my ca­reer. It was huge for my con­fi­dence and I learnt a lot of dif­fer­ent things,” Whitfield said.

The youngest of four chil­dren in his fam­ily, Whitfield got his first taste of mo­tor­sport as a mo­tocross rider.

“My older sib­lings were into mo­tocross. But I didn’t en­joy two wheels as much as four . . . I fell in love with kart­ing,” Whitfield re­called.

“I come out here and en­joy the whole vibe. Ev­ery­one helps one an­other and it’s a whole lot of fun.”

For Whitfield, kart­ing also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to spend qual­ity time with his fa­ther, com­pany di­rec­tor Ross Whitfield.

“Dad can of­ten be away a lot with work so it’s great to have him here as my me­chanic. Dad did jet­ski­ing, wa­ter­ski­ing and mo­tocross in the past so kart­ing was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for him, too, when we got in­volved.”

While grate­ful for the in­put from his fa­ther, Whitfield said the Bay’s na­tional se­nior Ro­tax Heavy class cham­pion Zach Zaloum and his fa­ther Wayne Zaloum pass on plenty of tips to him.

New Ply­mouth-based agent for TonyKart, Mau­rice Frost, has also been a valu­able mem­ber of his team.

With points ac­cu­mu­lated from all five races to de­cide the ti­tle win­ner in each class, Whitfield will have am­ple op­por­tu­nity to use all those tips. He was full of praise for this for­mat.

“Your are re­warded for con­sis­tency.”

A for­mer hockey player, Whitfield said kart­ing is his sport­ing pri­or­ity these days.

“I’m in it for the long haul and I want to see where it takes me,” he added.

Whitfield will be one of five Hawke’s Bay karters in the Furn­ware-spon­sored, Napier Boys’ High School-hosted na­tion­als which have at­tracted 80 com­peti­tors to the Roy’s Hill venue.

Fel­low Ro­tax Lights class competitor, 16-year-old Napier Boys’ High School Year 12 stu­dent Zac Stich­bury, must be con­sid­ered the favourite in their class in the wake of his se­cond plac­ing at the Ro­torua-hosted na­tional cham­pi­onships in April.

Ten-year-old Te Mata School Year 6 stu­dent Tom Be­w­ley will start as favourite in the Vor­tex Mini Rok class. He fin­ished se­cond in the Cadet Rok class at last year’s Na­tion­als Schools Cham­pi­onship and next month the ti­tle win­ner in his class in the Gold Star Series will com­pete in Aus­tralia’s City of Mel­bourne Ti­tles meet.

Napier In­ter­me­di­ate School’s Stu­art Baker and Hast­ings Boys’ High School’s Jamie Van den Berk will tackle the Ro­tax Ju­nior class.

PHOTO / DUN­CAN BROWN

Karamu High School’s Jack­son Whitfield and his fa­ther Ross pre­pare his kart for to­day’s Na­tional Schools Cham­pi­onship at Roy’s Hill.

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