The prognosis? Karting is in great shape for 2017 and the years ahead!
Round Two of the Rotax Max Challenge South African National Karting Championship 2017 was run at a blustery Killarney Kart Circuit outside Cape Town on April 29. Well over 100 entries were received for the championship meet, (33% more than 2016) the second of four rounds comprising this year’s prestige Rotax-engined series. There are three heats for each class.
DD2 Gearbox: The premier class in South African National Championship karting drew an excellent 24 entries for Round Two of the four-round series, held at the challenging, twisty, bumpy-in-places Killarney Kart Racing Circuit near Table View, Cape Town, on April 29.
This class draws some of the country’s finest talent in any class of motorsport. Heading up the list is Dakar Toyota off-road star Leeroy Poulter from Gauteng, as well as Port Elizabeth’s Michael Stephen, both multiple national champions in karting as well as Production Car racing, while current DD2 champion, young Bradley Liebenberg from Lonehill, is also making a name for himself as a front-runner in Polo Cup and other sedan disciplines.
Cape Town’s Julian van der Watt is already a star in local single seaters, and he headed up Cape Town’s hopes for a win on home turf, backed up by the very impressive Jurie Swart, himself a strong Polo Cup contender.
The ultimate karting showdown was always likely to be between Poulter and Liebenberg, and so it proved in Cape Town. These two swapped the lead countless times throughout the three races, with the first race result going Poulter’s way and the second going in favour of Liebenberg. Always, Van der Watt was in close attendance, waiting to pounce on any mistake these two made.
That mistake came in Race Three, when Liebenberg inadvertently rode up the back of Poulter’s kart in the opening stages, the rather comical incident effectively sidelining Leeroy and dropping Brad way down the field. His comeback drive was superb, thanks in part to a few other altercations between likely front-runners, and his third place in Race Three, added to a second and a first, was enough to secure him the win for the day. Van der Watt’s two-thirds and a win in that final race saw him finish second.
A surprise third overall for the day was Fabienne Lanz, who really got her act together in Cape Town. This talented lady driver had endured an indifferent opening round in Vereeniging a month back, and it was good to see her running in touch with the leaders and closing up in the later stages of Race Three. Fourth overall was Michael Stephen, who also won the DD2 Masters Category (for drivers over 32-years-old), the ever-cheerful ace battling some chronic oversteer and understeer on different corners. Poulter, following a mere 10 point haul in race Three, ended up fifth overall in DD2, and just ahead of Justin Allison, who always seems to consistently be there or thereabouts in any karting event he enters. Poulter was second in the Masters category, ahead of Pascal Acquaah, Marouan Selmi and Conor Hughes.
So the championship battle between Poulter (who won Round One overall) and Liebenberg is nicely poised as the Rotax-engined National karting series heads for the Idube circuit in KZN in a month or so from now.
Junior Max saw 17 entries of the highest quality and the competitive racing in all three races bore testimony to the future that awaits South African National Championship karting in the coming years. In qualifying it was Sebastian Boyd who held sway, but pressed extremely hard by Jason Coetzee and Blaine Rademeyer.
In Race One Boyd and Coetzee swapped places throughout the 15-lapper, but it was Blaine Rademeyer who snuck through on the final lap to take the win and spoil the Capetonian party. Even worse, Boyd was excluded on a technical infringement, and ruined a good race weekend for this Western Province driver. The second race saw Boyd back out front, battling it out initially with Simon Simpson-Heath, with Rademeyer third. Extra excitement was in store when a television cable fell perilously low to the track and the race had to be red-flagged. On the re-start Boyd made no mistake but Rademeyer was nudged wide and dropped way back.
Race three was won by Jason Coetzee, from Sebastian Boyd and Charl Visser. Coetzee ended up overall winner of the day, followed by the very quick Rademeyer, and the consistent Charl Visser who was just a tad off the pace of the front-runners for most of the day on his home track. Fourth overall was Dominic Lincoln who was also in the hunt but never quite made it to the front, followed by the impressive Simpson-Heath and youngster Jayden Els. Sebastian Boyd had to be content with 11th for the day, following his exclusion from Race One.
Senior Max saw the resurgence of Capetonian Luke Herring to the front of the pack. Drawing 14 entries, this was potentially the most exciting field of the day and the races justified the expectation.
Herring had his hands full with the likes of Dino Stermin, and young Jason Coetzee, who parlayed his successful day in Junior Max by running in the front of the pack in this class for drivers aged 14 years and older. The dogfights between Herring, Stermin, and Jordan Sherratt were spell-biding, while another youngster making his mark in Senior Max was Cameron O’Connor, who actually led the pack on occasion!
Ultimately Herring’s two wins in the first and third races (he fell off the road in Race Two) were enough to secure him the win for the day, with Race Two winner Coetzee second. Stermin was third overall, followed by O’Connor who was an impressive second in the final race, with Sherratt fifth and Tiago Rebelo sixth. The racing was ultra-tight all day, and each race result could have gone the way of a number of drivers.
Mini Max, for karters aged 10-13, was all about local lad Jospeh Oelz showing complete domination on his home circuit, and the rest scrapping over the remaining top-six placings like a pack of hungry hound-dogs. Tate Bishop initially ran second, ahead of Aqil Alibhai and Kai van Zijl, but in the later stages Gauteng star Leyton Fourie began to get to grips with the Killarney track and moved up to fourth ahead of Van Zyl
Race Two saw Oelz again dominate with Bishop second, but this time Van Zijl managed to make it stick for third, ahead of Fourie and Alibhai. In the final race Fourie scored a fine second to Oelz, who again managed to draw out a big lead. Overall, Oelz was followed in the day’s standings by Bishop, Fourie, Van Zijl, Alibhai and Sibo Solomon.
Micro Max allows for drivers aged 7-11, and is ultra-competitive in this first year for the class, using very-detuned Rotax water-cooled engines and smaller kart chassis. The engines make a deeper sound than their counterparts in the larger class, thanks to running a straight silencer system with no expansion box design (to further restrict power) and looking at the way these youngsters attack a kart circuit one would have to say that their bite is at least as big as their collective bark!
Some 15 drivers faced starters orders, and from the off in Race One it was clear that there was to be no runaway winner in this class!
Joaquin De Oliveira, Valentino Hoffman and Reeza Levy each enjoyed a win in the three races, while behind them there was a mixed bag of minor placings, illustrating the fundamental competitiveness of this class.
In the end it was local lad Joaquin De Oliveira that took the overall win, thanks to a first, a second and a fifth place, ahead of Hoffman, Muhammed Wally from Gauteng who was particularly feisty for his two second places and a fourth, and Reza Levy.
With the introduction of Micro Max and Mini Max, there were fears that the air-cooled 60cc Maxterino class would be overshadowed this year, but this has been far from the case. There were some 18 entries for this class catering for drivers aged 8-11, and the Cape Town entry was particularly strong.
It was no surprise then that Troy Dolinschek, who comes from a karting and racing family, was the front runner here, but racing in this class was exciting as ever, with lead changes and overtakes measured by each corner, rather than by each lap!
Aqil Alibhai ended up second for the day, followed by Tate Bishop, and Denis Joubert (another famous name in Cape motorsport!) fourth. Joubert was particularly impressive as he is a complete newcomer to karting, in his first season! Jordan Brooks and Muhammed Wally rounded out the top six.