Superkart racers Ryan Urban and Teddy Bassick could well return home from the opening round of this year’s Superkarts Australia National Series at Phillip Island this weekend having earned membership to a very special Kiwi club.
With their powerful, purpose-built 250cc 2-stroke engines and sleek ‘lay-down-style’ bodywork and adjustable rear wings the 250cc International karts reigning NZ champion Urban and current NZ#2 Bassick drive are some of the quickest four wheel vehicles to lap the fast, flowing 4.445 km circuit, with times similar to the latest 1000cc MotoGP motorcyles.
The current two-wheel lap record is a 1.28.108 set by works Honda rider, Spaniard Marc Marquez in 2013. The current Superkart lap record, also set in 2013, is a 1.28.419 belonging to Australian driver Russell Jamieson.
The quickest a Virgin Australia Supercars Championship V8 has ever lapped Phillip Island is the Ford Falcon of Kiwi (and KartSport NZ patron) Scott McLaughlin in a time of 1.31.2142 set in 2017. The best lap a GT3 sportscar has done at the track is a 1.27.1505 (young Aussie ace Jack LeBrocq in a Mercedes Benz SLS) two years ago,
The ultimate record lap – a sizzling 1.24.225 – also belongs to a Kiwi (retired single-seater and Supercar driver Simon Wills) driving a V6-powered wings-and-slicks Formula Holden single-seater back in 2000. However there are now few classes of saloon or single-seater racing which allow drivers to dip significantly under the 1.30.000 mark, meaning Urban and Bassick could end up in an exclusive club of New Zealand drivers and riders who have or can still lap Phillip Island at that sort of pace.
‘It’s certainly something that has crossed my mind, but only in terms of the Superkarts,” Urban said this week. “I didn’t realise, for instance, how close Russell’s (Jamieson) best lap was to Marquez’s. I know we’re quick, but to do the same sorts of times as MotoGP bikes….it’s incredible just thinking about it.”
Urban and Bassick packed up their FPE-engined Anderson Maverick karts several weeks ago and shipped them to Melbourne where they were due to collect them today (Thursday).
This year’s Superkarts Australia National Series will be contested over two rounds, the first at Phillip Island (a two hour drive south of Melbourne) this weekend, and the second at the Sydney Motorsport Park (formerly Eastern Creek) in November.
Having twice won the New Zealand title and dominated the local, Superkart Drivers’ Club series at Hampton Downs for the past two years, Urban has set his sights on the Holy Grail of Superkart competition, the multi-round CIK-FIA European Superkart Championships next year. He believes that competing in Australia this year will help him bridge the gap between racing at home and competing on the world stage.
“Russell Jamieson, the guy who has the lap record (at Philip Island) has raced and done pretty well in Europe, and another Aussie guy, Jordan Ford, has just won a round of the British Superkart Championship in an Anderson Maverick like the ones we run so, yeah, if I can go OK in Australia this year it bodes well for me getting to and being competitive in Europe in 2019.”
Urban is quick to credit fellow Superkart enthusiasts Tony Bowden (of BM Fabrications), fellow driver Steve Sharpe of Hansen Products, and long-time collaborator Steve Murch of MSE Turbos for helping him build, tune and race his latest FPE/Anderson Maverick and says he is not going to all the time, effort and expense of crossing the Tasman to finish second.
‘Whatever I do I do it with the ultimate goal of winning and it is the same this weekend. I know it is going to be tough, but hey, if it was easy everybody would be doing it, wouldn’t they?”
Travelling mate Teddy Bassick is also keen to do well, though the 50-year-old’s motivation is slightly different.
“For me,” he said before leaving his Taupo home for Aucland’s International Airport, “it’s more a bucket list thing. I’ve done a lot of travelling with karts, including going to the Rotax Challenge Grand Finals in Portugal, but it has always been as a supporter. It’s always been a dream of mine to race on foreign soil myself, so when Ryan said he wanted to go to Aussie this year the opportunity to tag along and share some of the expenses and experiences etc was too good to miss.”
Having helped so many other karters out at meetings for so long, karma was quick to return the favour too, with fellow racer Clayton Merz, former Tokoroa karter Bradley Tremain (who now works for a Supercar team in Australia) and good mate Steve Murray from the Gold Coast all heading to Philip Island to lend a hand.
The weekend’s format sees practice, qualifying and one race per class on Saturday and two eight lap and a final 10-lap race per class on Sunday.