Brilliant, close kart racing, multiple winners and a little drama in Benoni
Splendid close racing, championship lead changes and a fair bit of drama were all the order of the day as the South Africanl Karting Championships visited Formula K at the East Rand town of Benoni on Sunday. At first glance, it may seem that some drivers may have dominated, but all of them had to work hard for success through a hard-fought weekend of Rotax MAX karting.
That was indeed the case in the premier DD2 gearbox class, where Cape driver Joseph Oelz may have won all three heats en route to a maximum points haul. In truth however, Oelz was made to work very hard for it. Firstly by local pole man Brandon Smith, who was ultimately pipped by championship leader, Cape Town’s SA champion Sebastian Boyd. Oelz certainly had it his own way over Smith in race 2 but he had to fight off another Cape contender in Jason Coetzee in the final.
So Oelz took the day as Boyd fought back to second overall from Smith, Coetzee, Nicolas Spanoyannis, Wayland Wyman, Niko Zafiris and Divan Braak. Boyd provisionally retains the championship lead, but his advantage is a quarter of what it was over Oelz, with Smith and Coetzee also still very much in contention.
It was each man for himself as PE lad Michael Stephen, Jonathan Pieterse from Durban and local Eugene Brittz shared out the over-32 DD2 Masters wins, but consistent Cape lad Andrew Thomas beat Brittz to third overall. In the races, Stephen came out on top of a frantic 5-kart dice toward the end of race 1 before Pieterse reversed the order of the top two in an easier race 2 after both Verheul and Brittz went out early.
Pole man Brittz then came back to win the final from Verheul, as Stephen, Pieterse and the most impressive Andrew Thomas duelled for third. Verheul who ended fifth, got the day from Carlo Gil, Erwin Sterne and Tinahe Ncube as Stephen’s double overall victories see him on top of the championship log, while Pieterse overtook Verheul for second, with Thomas a fine fourth in the provisional title race after two rounds.
A splendid afternoon of Senior MAX racing also saw three different winners in three races. Cape Town lad Tate Bishop overcame local hero Kian Grottis and Durban’s Riley Horner, with the top three split by four points after a fraught day’s racing. Bishop won the first race, but there was drama for former championship leader Andrew Rackstraw when he was excluded on a technicality. Grottis then took a close second race win and Rackstraw bounced back to take the final.
Jack Rowe took fourth for the day from Olerato Sekudu, Tyrone Sterne, Yifan Li and Hamza Jassat. Rackstraw’s penalty also had ramifications on the Senior title chase, where reigning champion Bishop now holds a handy lead over Grottis and Horner. Erstwhile leader Rackstraw is ready to pounce again in fourth ahead of Sekudu and Li.
There was a turn-up for the books in under-15 high school Junior MAX when local wildcard Jayden Goosen essentially came, saw and conquered to take an albeit super-tight overall win. Opening race winner, Gauteng’s SA junior champion Muhammad Wally, KZN’s Troy Snyman and Goosen each won a race as they dominated the podium places, but Goosen’s double second clinched the day.
Former championship leader Reza Levy lacked the pace to contend up in Jozi as he held Cape compatriot Matthew Wadeley off for fourth ahead of the consistent Karabo Malemela and quick karting lass Tyler Robinson who was let down by a final race retirement. It was a good day for Wally in the championship as he now takes a provisional ten point lead to KZN over former leader Levy and Snyman just five points behind in third.
Wian Boshoff is another driver whose results may appear dominant following a three-win under-13 Mini MAX overall victory, but it was far from easy. The home hero had to fight off his arch rival from the Cape, Joaquin De Oliveira to win the first race and then deal with East London star Caleb Odendaal early in the second and third races, but Odendaal lost ground both times and had to fight back.
Odendaal was lucky to grab third overall behind Boshoff and de Oliveira after Kent Swartz lost four places to a track limits penalty in the middle race. Erich Heystek ended up fifth from Berlin Robinson, Jordon Wadeley and Sabelo Ntuli in that competitive 16-kart pack. All of which means that Boshoff has now moved into a slender single point title lead over de Oliveira, leaving Odendaal with some work to do and Swartz and Heystek ready to pick up the pieces.
Reagile Spice Mailula is one kid on a mission — the Jozi kid remains unbeaten in under-11 Micro MAX. He too had to work to keep that unbeaten record intact after a lights to flag first heat win and had to fight hard to beat Mattao Mason and Joshua Moore for a splendid second race and held Mason off in the final. Masson ended second overall from Moore, Aadam Kajee, Kegan Martin, Keagan Beaumont, Rafael da Silva and Taylin Pate on a packed grid, leaving Mailula with a very handy title advantage over Mason, Martin and Moore.
The baby Bambinos were perhaps the hardest fought and most dramatic class of the weekend. The drama started when opening race winner and championship leader Michael Danks was excluded on a technical infringement leaving Matthew Shuttleworth to take the win from Santi Frade and Liam Wharton. Jack Moore then bounced back from a difficult first race to take the second from Maddox Mason and Shuttleworth and Mason took the final from Moore and Shuttleworth.
So Shuttleworth took the day from Moore, Mason, Frade, Siyabonga Ntuli, Brodi Cooper Dowling, Logan Billau and Wharton. Danks’ technical woes also contributed to a significant championship table reshuffle, where pending WOMZA ratification, Moore moves into the Bambino championship lead from Shuttleworth up from fifth, Mason from seventh and Frade, who jumps from sixth to fourth.
All in all it was an exceptional day’s racing with packed grids in the primary school classes, which all points to brilliant future growth for Rotax MAX Challenge South Africa. In another remarkable first, not one protest was tabled at Formula K over the weekend, which must be something of a record in recent karting history in another weekend universally viewed as a great success.
The Rotax MAX Challenge South Africa focus now shifts to iDube in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands on the second weekend of July, but not before the various championship contenders each races a round or two of their local Rotax MAX Challenges in the Cape, Gauteng and KZN. Each of those may very well have an affect on their end of year national championship scores. Watch this space!