SOUTH AFRICAN ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE KARTING CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND ONE –LASERFICHE RACEWAY, VEREENIGING, MARCH 20, 2017.

* LEEROY’S KARTING MASTERCLASS IN DD2

* LEYTON FOURIE DOMINANT IN MINI MAX

* HIGH DRAMA AMIDST HUGE FIELD IN JUNIOR MAX

DD2 and DD2 MASTERS

Leeroy Poulter leads DD2 - Pic by Werner VietRace Three in the DD2 Gearbox category at the Laserfiche Karting Race in Vereeniging on Monday, March 20, was a celebration of the wealth of karting talent that exists in this country. It proved to be the highlight of Round One of the 2017 South African Rotax Max Challenge Karting Championship, with the country’s fastest kart racing class attracting no less than 23 entries in this first leg of the 2017 four-round karting championship.

Starting from pole position in Race Three, Leeroy Poulter knew he had his work cut-out, as pole in Vereeniging can often end up seeing a driver eased out at the first chicane, which is what happened. So, for the first lap former world Rotax champ Poulter ran behind Bradley Liebenberg, the current South African DD2 champion, and a driver right at the top of his game.

In third spot was young Jurie Swart from Cape Town, who had already staked his claim as a contender in this year’s DD2 Championship by winning Race Two on Monday, and showing unflustered pace in seriously talented company that included DD2 Masters Champion Michael Stephen, from Port Elizabeth.

Halfway through the second lap Poulter went for the lead at the bottom end of the Vereeniging track and was knocked wide two turns later which saw him drop back to fourth, behind Arnold Neveling, another super-quick karter making a return this year and a man who can point to a Euro Challenge Junior Max title to his list of credits, won back in 2006.

Poulter needed just one lap to get back up into second spot, and he set about closing the gap to Liebenberg, which he had managed at half race distance. His move on “Bad Brad” was a classic, a run down the inside followed by the deftest of flicks to bring the tail around in mid-corner and hold Bradley out for the left-hander that followed. Liebenberg fought back, but couldn’t make it stick on what was then the outside line, and so Leeroy Pouler heads into Round Two with a pair of wins and a second from the three races, the overall winner for the day.

Brad Liebenberg found himself in the unusual position of failing to score a single victory on the day, but he lies second in the championship after three second places. Jurie Swart, by dint of an excellent win in race Two, lies third overall, ahead of Michael Stephen, Benjamin Habig (pole-setter for race one) and Julian van der Watt. Seventh overall was young Ivana Cetinich, a brilliant showing in her first season of DD2 racing. Arnold Neveling endured plenty of mechanical issues in this comeback race meeting before coming on song in Race Three, and lies in a lowly 21st spot in the title race after just one race finish.

An indication of the standard of racing in this class is that all 23 drivers recorded fastest laps at Vereeniging within a second of one another! In the DD2 Masters category for drivers over 32 years of age, Leeroy Poulter and Michael Stephen filled out the first two spots, followed by Richard Fuller and Jonathan Pieters.

SENIOR MAX

Intense Senior Max Action - Pic by Wener VietIntense. That’s the only way to describe the battle for supremacy in Senior Max with some very experienced drivers fighting up front all day in the Vereeniging heat. Dino Stermin had a very good run in the first two races as did fellow Capetonian Luke Herring, but in the final race, things all went a bit pear-shaped for these two. On Lap One Stermin ran wide and dropped to near the back of the field while a hard fight developed between Cameron O Connor and Herring, who sadly dropped out with a broken chain.

Jason Coetzee and Joshua Dias were always in the hunt, but in the end, Stermin’s two wins in the opening two races saw him head the points table, ahead of Cameron O Connor, who held on to win Race Three after a third and a second place in the first two races. Third overall was Coetzee, followed by Dias, and a rather subdued Daniel Duminy in fifth place for the day, with Tiago Rebelo rounding out the top six. Herring ended up seventh overall, but he had a second a third for the day, so his championship hopes are very much alive, as you are allowed to drop some races in the season to arrive at your final points tally.

JUNIOR MAX

Junior Max Action - Pic by Werner VietCharl Visser stayed out of trouble to head up the Junior Max points table after the dust had settled on the Junior Max Category after three races fraught with incident. The young Capetonian, last year’s Maxterino champ, ran close to the front all day and picked up two seconds and a third place to head for the next round on his home circuit with a slender points lead. Around him, some desperate overtakes saw his main title rivals locked in battles that became overambitious on occasion and costly in terms of points!

The final race was a case in point, where Jason Coetzee, Sebastian Boyd and Blaine Rademeyer all fought for the lead. Boyd was leading on the run to the flag but went wide three corners from home and the final win went to Jason Coetzee. Earlier, Boyd had won Race One, while Blaine Rademeyer had finished way down after an off. But Rademeyer bounced back to win Race Two and so there were three different winners in each of the races. This was made possible, in part, by the grid-formation system in Rotax racing that sees Race One line up according to qualifying times, but Races Two and Three line up according to the fastest laps in the preceding race. It’s a very fair system that enables a driver unlucky enough to be pushed out in a race, the chance to contend for the lead in the next race.

The combined results for the day see Charl Visser leading, followed by Jason Coetzee, Sebastian Boyd, and another driver who kept her nose clean, the very impressive Cameron Dias. Dominic Lincoln lies fifth with Blaine Rademeyer sixth.

MINI MAX

Mini Max Winner Leyton Fourie 546Leyton Fourie had a copybook day in Mini Max for drivers aged 10-13, which drew a very solid field of 14 starters in its first National Championship year. Fourie qualified on pole, set fastest laps in all three races and scored three wins, his last victory seeing him draw well into the distance up front. Behind him there were some interesting scraps, with Kai van Zyl taking second for the day, followed by the impressive Sibo Solomn, a new name from the Cape at the sharp end of the field in junior school karting. Tate Bishop Daniel de Paiva and Aqil Alibai rounded out the top six, with Jarrod Waberski having a rather ragged day after showing plenty of pace, in seventh.

MICRO MAX

Micro Max pic by Wener VietMuhammad Wally took three wins in Micro Max for youngsters aged 7-11, but it was far from plain sailing as he was pushed hard by Joshua de Paiva, second in all three races, after additional tussles with Cape Town’s Reza Levy, who ended third for the day. Levy contended up front for the win in the first two races, went farming in Race Three, but recovered well. Reece Fuller was fourth, followed by Mohammed Moerat – who recovered to a strong third place in the final race of the day – and Valentino Hoffman. There was some great dicing between these drivers for the minor positions.

MAXTERINO

Maxterino pic by Wener VietThere was a very strong entry for this 60cc class, for drivers aged 8-11, with any one of half a dozen drivers in with a shout for the win. Tate Bishop set about things with a vengeance to take the first two races, and despite being knocked to the back of the field in race Three he held on to take the win for the day. Kyle Visser won the final race, to add to his second place in Race Two, and place second overall, ahead of Joshua de Paiva and Troy Dolinscheck, with Muhammed Wally fifth. There were plenty of excursions amongst the front runners, in this class which sees countless overtaking moves each and every lap!

Commenting on Round One of the SA Karting Championship 2017, Rotax importer and series promotor Ed Murray said that with over 100 entries for the first National and three to go, things bode extremely well for karting in 2017.

“It was great to see old hands like Leeroy Poulter and Arnold Neveling make a serious challenge for karting titles after rare appearances over the last couple of seasons. The level of competition these older drivers bring to the party, with their vast international experience, can only benefit the youngsters out on track. There is always something new to learn in karting!”

For more information go to www.kart.co.za, where a streaming video of the day’s racing can be viewed.