Hard shunt­ing in Por­tu­gal

SA team have mixed for­tunes and few podi­ums at Ro­tax Max Chal­lenge Grand Fi­nals

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - STU­ART JOHN­STON

UMH­LANGA’s Jor­dan Sher­ratt fin­ished in third over­all in the Se­nior Max class at the Ro­tax Max Chal­lenge Grand Fi­nals, the best place in the SA team that fin­ished in sec­ond place be­hind the USA in Por­ti­mao in southern Por­tu­gal.

The 10-mem­ber South African team scored 1 013 points to place sec­ond be­hind the USA, the win­ning Na­tion on 1 184 points.

In third place was the Nether­lands, with no fewer than 52 coun­tries scor­ing points in this most hotly con­tested kart­ing cham­pi­onship in the world.

South Africa have an amaz­ing record in the 16 Ro­tax Grand Fi­nals held so far since 2000, our karters hav­ing won a to­tal of 12 World ti­tles in that time.

Last year South Africa won the Na­tions Cup for the first time.

Drama in DD2 Mas­ters cat­e­gory

For the first 18 laps of the 20-lap DD2 Fi­nal, Port El­iz­a­beth’s Michael Stephen was on his way to win­ning a 13th Ro­tax World ti­tle for South Africa. Stephen was fastest out of 72 DD2 Mas­ters com­peti­tors in qual­i­fy­ing ear­lier in the week and had won two of his heats go­ing into the fi­nal day of the event, as well as the all-im­por­tant pre-fi­nal, which de­ter­mines the start­ing or­der for the Fi­nal.

Stephen led from the pole in the Fi­nal and was never headed for 18 laps of the 20-lap event.

Then, in a cru­elly ill-judged move, Fin­nish driver Antti Ol­likainen, who was run­ning sec­ond, at­tempted to take the lead at a cor­ner where over­tak­ing was clearly im­pos­si­ble. He col­lected the rear wheel of Stephen’s kart, and pushed the South African off the cir­cuit, and ef­fec­tively out of the cham­pi­onship. The DD2 Mas­ters class was won by Ryan Ur­ban of New Zealand.

The im­petu­ous Finn was later pe­nalised by the race stew­ards for caus­ing an avoid­able accident.

Stephen re­gained the track to fin­ish in 11th place.

It was bit­ter blow for Stephen, who has won a to­tal of three SA kart­ing and four SA sa­loon car cham­pi­onships in a ca­reer ap­proach­ing three decades in the sport.

DD2 Gear­box

Bradley Lieben­berg of Lone Hill, Sand­ton, was com­pet­ing in his sec­ond Ro­tax Grand Fi­nal , hav­ing been in con­tention in the DD2 class last year in Spain. This year he was once again at the sharp end of the 72-kart field in his cat­e­gory, which runs the same two-speed gear­box and four-wheeled disc-braked set-up as the karts run by the DD2 Mas­ters driv­ers.

Af­ter a bril­liant drive in the pre-fi­nal, Lieben­berg lined up in fourth po­si­tion in the Fi­nal.

But amaz­ingly, he didn’t even com­plete a sin­gle lap as he was one of a couple of front-run­ners caught up in a pin­cer-move­ment as half a dozen driv­ers fought for the same piece of track right af­ter the start.

Again, it was bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing for Lieben­berg, as well as his team-mates, fam­ily and fans watch­ing on live-stream­ing tele­vi­sion back home in South Africa.

Nev­er­the­less, just to make it onto the 34-kart grid in the Fi­nals is an hon­our, con­sid­er­ing that all 288 driv­ers com­pet­ing at the Grand Fi­nals are cham­pi­ons or vice-cham­pi­ons in their re­spec­tive coun­tries.

The other South Africans in the 10-driver squad suf­fered mixed for­tunes. Jonathan Aberdein from Cape Town was one of the quick­est driv­ers of all in prac­tice in the Se­nior Max cat­e­gory.

But, bizarrely, as he joined the cir­cuit on his of­fi­cial qual­i­fy­ing run ear­lier in the week, his kart was rammed by an­other com­peti­tor, knock­ing the ex­haust pipe off, and as he failed to set an of­fi­cial qual­i­fy­ing time he was out of the cham­pi­onship.

Mini Max

Al­though not of­fi­cially part of the South African team, three karters from South Africa, but of Por­tuguese na­tion­al­ity, took part in the Mini Max chal­lenge, a non-cham­pi­onship event be­ing run at the Grand Fi­nals for the first time and open to young­sters un­der 13 years of age of Por­tuguese or Span­ish cit­i­zen­ship.

It was amaz­ing to see 11-yearold girl racer Cammy Dias of Vereenig­ing fin­ish an ex­cel­lent fourth over­all in this cat­e­gory, while Daniel de Paiva, also based in South Africa, fin­ished in sixth place.

This se­ries was such a hit that it is al­most def­i­nite that Mini Max will form part of next year’s Grand Fi­nals, and equally on the cards that the South African Ro­tax or­gan­is­ers will be es­tab­lish­ing a cham­pi­onship for this cat­e­gory in 2016, to en­able our young­sters to com­pete.


The South African team at the Ro­tax Max Chal­lenge Grand Fi­nals in Por­tu­gal.

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