All out for Por­tu­gal

Top karters have last chance to qual­ify for Oc­to­ber’s Ro­tax Grand Fi­nal

The Witness - Wheels - - RACING - STU­ART JOHN­STON

DUR­BAN’S mul­ti­ple world kart­ing cham­pion Cris Mor­gado made news by los­ing a race, but he still has a last chance to earn a place in the Ro­tax Grand Fi­nals in Por­tu­gal in Novem­ber on Oc­to­ber 11, when the African Open cham­pi­onship re­turns to Zwartkops. Last week­end saw a large field or karters com­pete in the fourth and fi­nal round of the 2015 South African Ro­tax Max Chal­lenge for a chance to earn an en­try in the four Ro­tax Max classes in the Por­tu­gal fi­nals.

This is the most closely-fought kart­ing se­ries in the world with close to 300 driv­ers from 60 coun­tries com­pet­ing, and all of them are top class driv­ers as they are cham­pi­ons from their var­i­ous coun­tries.

No less than 23 DD2 gear­box karts took to the track in the coun­try’s premier kart­ing class, while in the Max­terino pri­mary school class for driv­ers aged be­tween eight and 13, there were 22 en­tries.

The points sys­tem is de­signed to re­ward driv­ers who are ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive all sea­son, but may fall foul of bad luck in one or more races along the way. It is a sys­tem that saw var­i­ous driv­ers ar­rive at Zwartkops with a good chance of tak­ing the ti­tle as long as they fin­ished well up the or­der.

Max­terino

This class for driv­ers aged be­tween eight and 13-years-old has pro­duced the best rac­ing of the sea­son in the se­ries, and the fi­nal round at Zwartkops was no ex­cep­tion. It is not un­usual to see the lead change a num­ber of times per lap on ev­ery lap, and Zwartkops on Septem­ber 26 again pro­vided plenty of thrills with­out the spills. In the fi­nal race of the day the cham­pi­onship fight came down to Cameron O’Con­nor from Gaut­eng and Ai­dan Stry­dom from Cape Town.

In the end, O’Con­nor fin­ished just 1,2 sec­onds ahead of Stry­dom in that fi­nal race to take the ti­tle by just one and a half points. Cape Town’s Charl Visser ended up win­ning the day’s rac­ing ahead of O’Con­nor, Stry­dom and Jay­den Els, who won two of the four races, with the very quick Kwanda Mokoena fifth and the equally tal­ented Jospeh Oelz sixth.

Ju­nior Max

A strong field of 17 en­tries saw the rac­ing fre­netic in this class for driv­ers aged 12 to 16 years old. And in Race One it seemed to all go wrong for Cape Town’s Dino Ster­min as he was punted out not once but twice to DNF in the first race.

This looked to put Delon Thompson of Benoni in pole po­si­tion to take the ti­tle, and two sec­ond places at Zwartkops seemed to wrap things up for him. How­ever, a poor fin­ish in eighth place in the fi­nal saw Thompson just pipped to the ti­tle, as Ster­min fin­ished the day with two con­vinc­ing race wins. The day’s rac­ing saw Cape Town’s Jason Coet­zee win on points gar­nered, ahead of Thompson, new cham­pion Ster­min, Joshua Dias, Blaine Rade­meyer and Daniel Du­miny.

Se­nior Max

The big­gest news go­ing into the fourth and fi­nal round at Zwartkops was that Cape Town’s Jonathan Aberdein, who had pre­vi­ously led both the Se­nior Max and DD2 cham­pi­onship, was con­cen­trat­ing solely on the Se­nior Max ti­tle. This proved to be a wise de­ci­sion as Jonathan, the son of for­mer saloon car ace Chris Aber­dien, dom­i­nated Se­nior Max, win­ning all four races.

His su­pe­ri­or­ity was not so marked that he scored run­away wins, but it was enough to see him draw clear as his ri­vals squab­bled amongst them­selves and thus fell back as they jock­eyed for the mi­nor plac­ings. Thus Aberdein’s first Na­tional ti­tle was well de­served, and he will be a wor­thy com­peti­tor for South Africa at the Grand Fi­nals in south­ern Por­tu­gal in Novem­ber.

Chief amongst the driv­ers fight­ing for mi­nor plac­ings was past SA cham­pion Luca Can­derle, who ended up sec­ond for the day, ahead of Jor­dan Sherratt, Fa­bi­enne Lanz, Ivana Ce­tinich and Robert Whit­ing. These five were all close to­gether through­out the day and made for en­ter­tain­ing rac­ing even though Aberdein had the edge.

DD2 Gear­box

With 23 en­tries, the field for the DD2 event was most im­pres­sive, and made more so as there were some wild-card en­tries in the form of past Euro-Cup cham­pion Arnold Nevel­ing from Vereenig­ing and Nathan Parkins, a cham­pion from the X30 se­ries.

With cham­pi­onship leader Aberdein with­draw­ing from the ti­tle race to con­cen­trate on his non-gear­box Se­nior Max ti­tle chase, the way was left clear for Bradley Lieben­berg from Lone­hill to score his sec­ond DD2 ti­tle (he won the 2014 cham­pi­onship) ahead of past cham­pion Eu­gene Brittz, who found him­self lead­ing the ti­tle chase af­ter Aberdein’s with­drawal.

How­ever, things didn’t work out for Pre­to­ria-based Brittz, who had var­i­ous prob­lems all day that saw him fin­ish out­side the top six.

In fact the as­sured, su­per-cool Arnold Nevel­ing won the day’s rac­ing with three wins out of four, with Lieben­berg fight­ing all the way, swap­ping the lead with Nevel­ing and win­ning Race Three.

Ben­jamin Habig from KZN, who suf­fered var­i­ous bad luck in 2015 and was thus never re­ally in con­tention for the ti­tle, fin­ished third for the day, ahead of Parkins, Chad Maciver and Michael Burch­holz.

DD2 Mas­ters

In the DD2 Mas­ters cat­e­gory, with driv­ers aged 32 years old and older com­pet­ing along­side their younger (and lighter) ri­vals in the DD2 class, Ron­nie Bap­tista from Potchef­stroom won the 2015 ti­tle and his first berth in the Grand Fi­nals.

The man he beat to the cham­pi­onship was Cris­tiano Mor­gado, a mul­ti­ple SA and World DD2 Mas­ters cham­pion, who was look­ing good for yet another cham­pi­onship but fell out of the fi­nal race at Zwartkops.

It was a great ef­fort from Bap­tista, who only re­turned to the Ro­tax se­ries this year af­ter a lay-off, and this is his first SA ti­tle.

Sec­ond on the day at Zwartkops was the ever-im­prov­ing John van Wyk, ahead of Mor­gado, and hus­band-and-wife pro­tag­o­nists Nick and Jen­nifer Ver­heul.

PHOTO: MOTORPRESS

2015 SA Ro­tax Max Chal­lenge DD2 cham­pion Bradley Lieben­berg (12) leads Nathan Parkins (13) and Arnold Nevel­ing (44) at Zwartkops in the fi­nal round of the cham­pi­onship.

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