All out for Portugal
Top karters have last chance to qualify for October’s Rotax Grand Final
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.