Rotax karting at its finest
10 South Africans among 288 drivers taking part in 2015 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals
THIS week in Portimao, on the beautiful Algarve coast of Portugal, 10 South African kart racers will take on the world’s best drivers at the 2015 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.
This year sees the 16th running of the Grand Finals, effectively the world championship for the Rotax karting series which has revolutionised kart racing in the past two decades. The Rotax organisers point out that the 288 drivers competing at the Kartodromo Internacionale do Algarve — part of a huge motorsport complex located in the Algarve’s second-largest city — have earned their place in the finals as the top racers in 2015 in their respective countries, where some 15 000 Rotax karters raced across the globe.
The Rotax series is unique in many ways, most notably that, unlike many other karting championships, only champions, or vicechampions in their countries may take part in the series. This means that the level of competition in the Grand Finals is the highest in the world, and to ensure even tighter competitions, all drivers compete in brand-new identical kart chassis with brand-new identical engines, supplied by Rotax of Austria — so, no special tuning or modifying.
The Rotax Grand Finals 2015 got underway on Sunday, November 8 with a welcoming ceremony, with the action due to start on track at the Kartodromo today, November 10, after the drivers have taken delivery of their brand new karts via a raffle system. In addition to the karts, each driver receives a kart trolley, tyres and fuel for the week-long competition and tools. No other race series in the world offers this level of support to its competitors.
By a series of qualifying and elimination heats the top 34 drivers from around the world in each of the four Rotax classes will fight for the world championships on Saturday, November 14. The Finals action starts early on Saturday morning, and viewers here in South Africa can follow the action via live-streaming video, by going to www.rotax-kart.com, and activating the video option.
South Africa has an amazing record in the history of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, run each year since 2000. No less than 12 World titles have been won by South Africans in this ultra-competitive karting arena.
Gavin Cronje won the very first Grand Finals in Peurto Rico in 2000 and since then our World Champions include Claudio Piaz- za-Musso, Mark Cronje, Cristiano Morgado (four titles), Wesleigh Orr (two titles), Leeroy Poulter and Caleb Williams (two titles). In the 2014 Grand Finals in Spain, South Africa won the prestigious Nations Cup, so this year’s team has a huge reputation to live up to.
2015 South African DD2 Champion is Bradley Liebenberg. Bradley is only 16 years old, but this pupil at Crawford College in Lonehill, Sandton, has made his mark in a remarkably short space of time. He won championships in his rookie year in 2012, including the Africa Open championship in the Junior Max class, and in 2014 he won both the Junior Max and DD2 Gearbox national titles, at the age of 15 the youngest driver ever to win in DD2.
2015 Africa Open DD2 Champion Chad Maciver started karting at a young age and in 2007 he was SA GP Junior Champion. Since then, this 20-year-old student at the Vega School of Brand Leadership in Gauteng has a number of karting titles to his credit, including the 2012 Senior Max Regional championship and the South African Senior Max Championship that same year.
SENIOR MAX CHALLENGE
2015 South African Senior Max Champion Jonathan Aberdein has had a remarkable career in karting. He started just four years ago, and in 2015 he was on course to win both the Senior Max titles and DD2 titles in the SA Championship, before opting to concentrate on winning the Senior Max crown, which he did in fine style.
2015 Africa Open Senior Max Champion Jordan Sherratt is 16 years old and hails from Umhlanga and he attends the Two Bridges School in Durban North. He started karting in the Cadet class at the age of six, and he has since won two titles in the Junior Max Class, in 2013 and 2014. This year he did not compete for a National Championship karting title as he has also embarked on a car racing career, racing a Ford Focus in the local Extreme Festival and a Nissan 350Z, and he is also on a short list for a drive in the Audi TT series in Europe in 2016.
2015 Africa Open DD2 Masters Champion Michael Stephen (34) has won a total of 11 South African Championships, seven of them in karts and four of them in production cars. He has competed extensively in international karting, and in 2003 he finished fourth in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals held at Zwartkops, near Pretoria. Since then he has made a name for himself in Production Car racing, winning three SA titles for the Audi team, which he manages as well.
2015 SA DD2 Masters Champion Ronnie Baptista, known as Ronnie to his friends in the karting fraternity, won both the SA DD2 Masters title and the Regional title in 2015. It was a fine effort, after a sabbatical from karting.
2015 South African Junior Max Champion Dino Stermin is 16 years old and only started karting two years ago. Thus his achievement in winning the very competitive Rotax Junior title is quite remarkable, as he was competing against many youngsters who have up to a decade of racing experience. Dino was awarded the Driver of the Year trophy in the Western Province in his very first season in 2014, and his 2015 Junior Max NaMax tional title rewarded the faith shown by karters in his “home town”.
2015 Africa Open Junior Max Champion Delano Fowle is just 16, but he has already logged a decade of karting experience, having begun racing at the age of five! He began showing serious form last season when he finished second in the Western Province Junior Max series and third in the South African Junior Max Championship. His win in the Africa Open Championship rewarded a few years of running right at the sharp end of the field in Junior Max. • While not competing as South Africans, three young karters who are based in SA will be competing as Portuguese nationals in the Micro Max series in Portimao. SA does not run a Micro Max series here, so these youngsters do not form part of the official SA Team. Those competing are Cameron Dias, Joshua De Paiva and Daniel Paiva.
Each of the 288 competitors from around the world receive brand new karts, engines, tyres, kart trolleys and tools to compete in the 2015 Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal.
The other Cameron Dias races karts at international level.