SOUTH AFRICAN KARTING CHAMPIONSHIPS BEATS OFF THE CAPE OF STORMS
Early on Race Day at Round One of the South African Rotax Max Challenge it seemed as if Cape Town’s notoriously unpredictable weather had put the entire 2012 Championship series in jeopardy.
A torrential down pour early in the morning saw the Killarney Kart Circuit awash with giant puddles on crucial corners, and it was only thanks to the efforts of WPMC Karting Section chief John Hoal and his hardy team of marshals that the track was swept dry enough to stop karts simply aquaplaning straight off the track with no grip at all.
As is the Cape’s wont, the downpour then abated to “occasional light rain throughout the day”, as the weathermen would have it, and racing got underway.
The turnaround in weather was in complete contrast to practice during the two days leading up to the event, and this in turn would put some fancied runners out of contention throughout the day, as choosing between dry tyres and wets was largely a thumb-suck decision. Notable amongst these were the two fancied Cape Town drivers, Ricky Perdigao and Chad Daniel, who set the pace early on.
The Maxterino class for drivers aged between eight and 13 was once again dominated by 2011 champion Clinton Bezuidenhout from KZN, but he was given a torrid time by some of the young Cape drivers. Notable amongst these was young Mathew Isaac, a karter who has benefited from the South African Kart Racing Academy (SAKRA) program for young disadvantaged karters. The tiny Isaac drove brilliantly to place second overall, to finish ahead of the fancied Chayse Augustus from KZN. Another Cape driver that scored his first race win was Giordano Lupini. However, he was unfortunately excluded on a carburettor technicality and thus didn’t feature in the overall results.
In the Junior Max class for drivers aged between 12 and 15, Cape Town drivers were again to the fore, and this time the win went to home-town youngster Jurie Swart. The win was slightly fortunate as the pace man all weekend was Eugene Denyssen, who won two of the four races, but was penalised five places in one race for a driving infringement. Benefitting from this was the ever-improving Keagan Masters from Gauteng who won the first race and placed second overall ahead of Denyssen, with the consistent Shayur Harpal a deserving fourth in this very competitive class.
Senior Max Challenge was won by the highly-fancied Mathew Swanepoel who took two wins, a second and a third. The upset result, however, was from Cape Town’s David Perel, making a come-back to karting, who placed second and won the final of the four races in fine style to take the runner-up spot from Chad Maciver. Another fancied Gauteng runner, MacIver won the first race, but a tangle-and-off-off-track excursion put him back in the field in race two and he had to fight his way back into contention, eventually placing a fine second in the final race. Richard Upton from KZN did well to stay out of trouble in the tricky wet-dry conditions to place fourth and this relative newcomer is obviously a talent to watch.
Wet-dry-wet conditions played a huge role in the DD2 Gearbox class, the fastest class in this SA Championship karting series. Gauteng’s Marc Murray qualified on pole and led early on, but as the track began to dry out there was nothing to stop Leeroy Poulter from scoring a clean sweep of race wins.
That result makes it sound easy, but Murray and Poulter traded positions all day, and both drivers turned in brilliant performances in a display of clean, never overly-aggressive, but highly entertaining driving. Luca Canderle was very consistent to place third overall in DD2, while a disappointed driver was Gauteng’s Nic Verheul, who was very quick in dry practise but battled to find a wet set-up.
The DD2 Masters Category, for drivers 32 years old and older, saw a brilliant performance turned in by John van Wyk to win the category. In fact these older drivers, who also carry a 7 kg weight penalty in their karts while running in the same race as the “regular” DD2 competitors, were pretty much on the pace with the younger competitors, as weight doesn’t play such a big factor in wet running. The relatively unknown Connor Hughes did brilliantly to place second behind Van Wyk, with Richard van Heerden third and Erwin Sterne fourth.
All in all, a great day’s racing in which the drivers had to be at their sharpest to cope with the changing conditions, and make the right calls as far as tyre choice and kart set-up was concerned.
The next round (the second of four rounds) of the SA Rotax Max Challenge 2012, will be held in Port Elzabath in June. And the overall winners of the Rotax series will represent South Africa in Portugal in the 2012 Rotax Grand Finals in November.