ULTRA-CLOSE RACING AT ROUND THREE OF THE 2018 ROTAX SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL KARTING CHAMPIONSHIP AT KILLARNEY

  • The Championship table gets a shake-up, with one round still to go in Pretoria in September. (point scoring)

Luke Herring, DD2 winner, inside of Benjamin Habig. Picture: Henrich SauerLuke Herring wowed his home-town supporters at Killarney Raceway on Saturday, August 11, to win the top-flight Rotax DD2 category for two-speed gearbox karts on his home circuit. A multiple karting champion in other categories in previous seasons, Herring scored two wins and a second place to end up the day’s winner in an incredibly competitive field that saw 22 DD2 drivers score points in Cape Town.

Second overall for the day was KZN’s Benjamin Habig, with third place going to Bradley Liebenberg, the reigning DD2 National Champion from Lonehill, Gauteng. Rounding out the top six were Dino Stermin (Cape Town), Roman de Beer (Gauteng) and Jason Coetzee (Western Province).

The finishing line-ups in the first two DD2 races were in doubt until the final corner of the final lap at Killarney. Herring’s winning margin over Habig in Race One was just seven hundredths of a second, and the first eight competitors home in this opening DD2 skirmish were covered by just 2,2 seconds!

In Race Two, Brad Liebenberg nipped the win from Herring with a margin of just two-tenths of a second, while in the third race, Herring took the chequered flag first  from Liebenberg by 1,5 seconds, with Roman de Beer in third place. In this final race, less than half a second covered third  place through seventh! This is competitive racing that is unequalled in any other form of motorsport in this country, and the driver line-ups in DD2 read like a who’s-who of motorsport luminaries in South Africa.

Benjamin Habig really came good in Cape Town, a track that generally favours home-circuit knowledge. Habig set a new circuit lap record in Race Three, and a notable feature of the class was that the new D5 tyres have made the lap times quicker while at the same time making the competition much tighter for the complete race duration.

Going into Round Three of this year’s Rotax Championship, the series had been dominated by Vereeniging’s Arnold Neveling, who won the first two rounds handsomely, in Pietermaritzburg and Vereeniging. However, Neveling suffered an unfortunate neck injury going into the Cape Town event, and he was sadly off the pace for the weekend, eventually ending up 10th overall.

As far as the DD2 championship positions are concerned, with one round to go, Ben Habig now leads the series on 285,67 points, from Neveling on 282, and Herring who has shot up to third place in the title chase on 274 points. Michael Stephen from Port Elizabeth lies fourth on 272 points, ahead of Liebenberg on 267,83. It should be noted that out of the 13 Nationals in total, drivers only score their best 10 results, so there will be plenty of changes as the Rotax “circus” heads to Pretoria in late September. The first three rounds represent nine races run so far, with four races to be run in each class at the final National in September.

DD2 Masters winner Michael Stephen. Picture: Heinrich SauerIn the DD2 Masters category for drivers aged 32 and over, Port Elizabeth’s Michael Stephen was once again the pace-setter, although in the first race he had to give best to the hard-charger from KZN, Jonathan Pieterse. Stephen won the next two races to take the win for the day’s racing, ahead of Pieterse, Gary Lennon, Conor Hughes and Brett Britto. The DD2 category is run as a race-within-a-race in the DD2 events and the older drivers score points in both categories, hence Stephen’s championship lead in the Masters category and fourth place in the overall DD2 series.

The Senior Max class, for drivers aged 14 and over, attracted an impressive 16 entries. The first race saw an upset even before the start as the championship leader after two rounds, Wayland Wyman, failed to start after suffering mechanical problems.

Senior Max winner Jason Coetzee leads Andrew Rackstraw. Picture: Heinrich SauerLocal driver Jason Coetzee was in fine form and he took Race One, but only after some almighty battles with Andrew Rackstraw who ended a scant six tenths of a second behind in second place. KZN’s Dominic Lincoln was third in this opening salvo, followed by Edenvale’s Nicholas Verheul.

It was Lincoln that won Race Two, from Coetzee, Rackstraw and a recovering Wyman. There was plenty of testosterone at play as Coetzee won Race Three to secure the overall win for the day from Lincoln and Rackstraw, with Dubai-based racer Liam Crystal  in a very satisfying fourth, ahead of Verheul and an impressive Reece Oellerman. Jason Coetzee’s points haul of 102 from Cape Town thus sees him move into the Senior Max championship lead with one round still to go.

Junior Max winner Kwanda Mokoena. Picture: Henrich SauerIn the very competitive Junior Max category for drivers aged 12-15, Cape Town’s Charl Visser was the pace-setter all weekend. Charl had qualified fastest by some margin, and scored two dominant wins in Races One and Two.

In the third race he started near the back end of the grid and was working his way through the field when he was unfortunately knocked out of contention midway through Race Three.

Gauteng’s Kwanda Mokoena is enjoying a great return to top form and thanks to being in the hunt for podium finishes all weekend long he ended up snatching the overall Junior Max win for the day! Mokoena was second in Race One after a huge scrap with Alberton’s Leyton Fourie, and backed this up with two third places in Races Two and Three to end up the overall winner. Fourie was second overall for the day, followed by Visser and Cape Town’s Troy Dolinschek. The Impressive Nathi Msimanga was fifth overall, ahead of Tate Bishop, to round out the top six. The Cape Town National was also notable for the excellent pace for Leyton Fourie. In Race Two he finished just 0,126 seconds behind pace-setter Visser. A total of 17 drivers scored points in Round Three in the Junior Max category.

Mini Max winner Kyle Visser. Picture: Heinrich SauerIn the Mini Max category (9-13 years old), Kyle Visser (younger brother of Charl) was in equally dominant mood, and  in fact held it all together to score a perfect Three out of Three for the weekend. Kyle managed to build a slight gap to the rest of the field in the first two races, but for the final Mini Max race of the day, Jordan Brooks was right in contention and the winning margin was down to less than half a second. Brooks scored three second places to just edge out Mikhail Fernandez for second place for the day. The consistent Joshua de Paiva followed Fernandez into fourth for the day, scoring two thirds and a fifth place, ahead of Cape Town youngster Denis Joubert in fifth and Michele Patrizi. Joubert’s performance was impressive as he doesn’t compete in the National series and only races at his home circuit at Killarney. He is the son of former sedan and single-seater racing champion Deon Joubert, and the grandson of past Western Province motor club chairman Denis Joubert who was a top sports car racer in the late 1960s.

The Mini Max entry was also impressive in Round Three, with 17 drivers categorized as finishers.

Micro Max winner Muhammad Wally. Picture: Heinrich SauerMicro Max is for drivers aged just 7-11 years old and is the youngest National Championship karting category. It is also one of the most competitive karting categories in the Rotax series, with no less than 16 drivers scoring points at Killarney this Saturday past. Chief amongst these points scorers was the reigning Micro Max champion Muhammad Wally, back on form after a slow start to his 2018 campaign. The Johannesburg youngster won the first two races, chased by a hard-charging pack that notably included Gauteng’s Joshua de Paiva (second in the first race) and Cape Town ace Reese Koorzen. It was young Koorzen that came through to win the final Micro Max race of the day, ahead of Wally. The overall winner for the day was thus Wally, with De Paiva and Koorzen sharing second place. Fourth overall was Troy Snyman, ahead of Kent Swartz and Reza Levy.

The seventh racing category at Round Three was the supporting class event for 50 cc karts, catering for youngsters aged 5-8 years old and called, appropriately enough, the Bambino class. These karts use a much smaller chassis to accommodate these very young racers. Here Jan Joubert was the overall winner, followed by Anesu Maphumulo, Rayan Karriem, Adam Kajee, Mathew Smit and Eric Norman.

* With just one round left in  the 2018 Rotax karting series, the pace is increasingly competitive in all the categories. The winner in each class will secure an invitation to compete in the Rotax Grand Finals (the World Championship for Rotax-engined karts) in Brazil in late November. For more information about the amazingly successful Rotax series in South Africa, which has been producing South African World Champions since 1999, visit www.kart.co.za