Rotax kart­ing at its finest

10 South Africans among 288 driv­ers tak­ing part in 2015 Rotax Max Chal­lenge Grand Fi­nals

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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, 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.


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.

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