With entries looking like topping the 100 mark for the first time since 2012, the lower North Island’s Manawatu & TRC Toyota WPKA Goldstar Series continues to play a key role in the development of the country’s karters.
The KartSport Taranaki club hosts the opening round of the 2017/18 series at Todd Energy Raceway in Waitara on Sunday and WPKA President Chris Rooney says that the growth in entry numbers over the past three seasons has not come about by accident.
“It’s all about getting the mix right,” he said this week. “Series like Goldstar here, and Top Half in the upper North Island, are all about bridging the gap between competing at club level at your local track and stepping up to Island or National level events. At the same time, though, you have to provide the people doing it with the incentive to make the effort. And it’s got to be fun.”
It’s a formula that obviously works. Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley, from Palmerston North, and his fellow Le Mans 24 Hour and now World Endurance Championship title holder Earl Bamber, from Wanganui, both used the Goldstar series to hone their skills.
Four-time Bathurst 1000 winner, and now Virgin Australia Supercars Championship TV pundit, Greg Murphy is another former Goldstar regular and now his son Ronan is following in his father’s footsteps.
Murphy in fact has just fronted a promo video for the series and will attend what rounds he can to help his father Kevin run Ronan – as he did Greg first time around.
To help drivers of all ages make the step up to regional level the WPKA has also enlisted the help of multi-time NZ champion Arie Hutton of Arie Hutton Driver Training. He is a KartSport New Zealand Academy Coach and his track walks on Saturday morning will be a key way for new drivers to learn the nuances of each track before racing starts.
This season’s series kicks off this weekend in Taranaki, before breaking for the high summer months and resuming in Wellington in March 2018 and Hawke’s Bay in May 2018 before the final stand-alone ‘WPKA Championships’ event in Palmerston North in June 2018.
Earlier this week just on 100 karters from across the central North Island and as far north as Auckland and south as Christchurch had signed on for the 2017/18 series. The Junior classes are again the best supported with 20 entries in Junior Rotax, 18 in Vortex Mini ROK and 16 in Cadet ROK.
Several drivers are taking the opportunity to step up to the next age group category.
Included in that list is Christchurch’s Louis Sharp, the reigning NZ and South Island Cadet ROK champion who is heading to Vortex Mini ROK, Liam Sceats from Auckland who is stepping up to Junior Rotax, and top female driver, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington, who will make her Senior debut with a double entry in both the Rotax Max Light and Open classes.
Senior numbers are also up, helped by the addition for the first time of a Briggs LO206 4-stroke kart category which will run with the ClubSport 120 2-strokes.
Back as major prize pool sponsors are Supreme Kart Supplies and Engines from New Plymouth and this time the company which imports and distributes Vortex kart engines and Tony Karts from Italy, has upped the ante even further.
There are now three trips to a premium karting event in Australia with the use of a Tony Kart and Vortex engine up for grabs, two in the Vortex Mini ROK class, and one for Cadet ROK. The company has also put up a Tony Kart chassis as a prize incentive for drivers across the Senior classes who compete at all four rounds.
There will be trophies down to sixth place in each Junior class and third place in each Senior one plus for the first Masters category competitor home in each relevant class at each round. Other prizes include six Stilo helmets supplied by NZ importer Neil Allport Motorsport, sets of tyres supplied by NZ Dunlop kart tyre importer and distributor Lascom Motorsport, and various other merchandise to be distributed at each round.
CALENDAR – 2016/17 Manawatu & TRC Toyota WPKA Goldstar Series
- Rnd 1 Nov 19 2017 Todd Energy Raceway Waitara Taranaki
- Rnd 2 March 04 2018 George Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Raceway Kaitoke Wellington
- Rnd 3 May 06 2018 Chemz Raceway Roy’s Hill Hastings Hawke’s Bay
- Championships round June 03 2018 Manawatu Toyota Raceway Palmerston North Manawatu