Talented young Palmerston North karter Jackson Rooney returns to Australia’s Rotax Pro Tour at Puckapunyal in rural Victoria this weekend as part of a seven-strong Kiwi squad.
Rooney, who qualified second quickest and ended up 11th in his series’ debut at the opening round in Melbourne back in January, is one of four New Zealand-based drivers who will line up in the Junior Max class.
Two others – Rianna O’Meara-Hunt and Ryan Wood – have already claimed class wins at previous rounds of the series while the third – Sam Wright from Auckland – recently won the Junior Max title at the New Zealand Schools’ Championship, making for perhaps the strongest line-up of New Zealand drivers in one class at a round of this year’s Australian Rotax Pro Tour.
With the final round of New Zealand’s Giltrap Group-backed Rotax Max Challenge the weekend after in Hamilton, running with a pro team (Tom Williamson Motorsport) at a round of the Australian series the weekend before is the perfect build-up says Jackson’s father Chris.
” After a positive test weekend last weekend our goals are to compete at the front of the field this weekend and learn from each experience. Qualifying is the key on a very fast Puckapunyal track, if you do not qualify well your job is a lot harder for the rest of the weekend.”
Cooler weather – with rain predicted for Friday, Saturday and Sunday – should also favour the Kiwis, in particular recent Coffs Harbour round Junior Max class winner Ryan Wood.
Wood, 13, from Wellington, qualified on pole before carding a 2-2-2 run through the wet heats on the Saturday then finished seventh in the Pre-Final in the dry on Sunday and winning the Final – and with it the round – by just 0.034 a second from top Australian driver Harrison Hoey with shootout and Saturday heat winner Broc Feeney third.
It was a good weekend, too, for the other Kiwi Juniors, with fellow Wellingtonian Rianna O’Meara-Hunt qualifying fifth and finishing fourth, and Sam Wright from Auckland qualifying third and finishing the Final in seventh place.
In the Senior classses Melbourne-based Wellingtonian Ashleigh Stewart and younger sister (and South Australian round class winner) Madeline are both back in Rotax karts this weekend with Madeline third in the Rotax 125 Light class points standings.
The other New Zealand-born driver competing at Puckapunyal this weekend is expat Josh Drysdale in the DD2 Senior class. The Melbourne-based older brother of reigning New Zealand KZ2 class champion Dylan Drysdale is also in with a real chance of a podium this weekend having qualified third before winning all three wet Saturday heats and finishing third in the DD2 class Final at Coffs Harbour last month..
Once this weekend’s round at Puckapunyal is done and dusted 2017 Rotax Pro Tour contestants will focus on the final round to be held at Albury/Wodonga over the September 16-17 weekend.