There were contrasting fortunes for Kiwi karting sisters Ashleigh and Madeline Stewart at the penultimate round of Australia’s Rotax Pro Tour at Puckapunyal in rural Victoria over the weekend.
After sitting out the most recent round of the Australian Kart Championships in Far North Queensland a fortnight ago, Ashleigh bounced back with one of her best results in either series to date, seventh in the Rotax 125 Light class.
Luck, however, was not with her sister Madeline, who after qualifying seventh (out of a field of 27) in the same class and finishing fourth in the Pre Final was forced out of the Final when her kart’s throttle stuck open.
“Definitely a bit of a mixed weekend,” the girls’ father Tony said this week.
The result sees Ashleigh move up the series’ class points standings to 14th with just the final round to go, but former class round winner Madeline drop to fifth.
Held in cold, and on Sunday, sometimes streaming wet conditions, the Puckapunyal round was another standout one for expat Kiwi Josh Drysdale from Sydney in the Rotax DD2 class.
Former Palmerston North driver Drysdale, the older brother of reigning New Zealand KZ2 champion Dylan, qualified fifth and had a best heat finish of fifth before excelling in the rain on Sunday, finishing both the Pre-Final and Final in third place, and elevating himself to sixth place in the class points standings.
Fourth round class winner Ryan Wood from Wellington was again the best of the four Kiwi teenagers in the Junior Max class, qualifying 11th quickest (out of 24) and carding a best heat finish of fourth before finishing the Pre-Final in P10 but storming through the field to again finish fourth in the Final.
Fellow Wellingtonian Rianna O’Meara-Hunt was never far behind, despite qualifying back in 19th position. In her final run in the Junior Max class before a move to a Senior class across the Tasman, she worked her way forward in every race, claiming the fastest race lap each time on Saturday, and finishing the wet Final on Sunday in an event-best sixth place.
“I’m not sure any kart in any class would have made more passes on Saturday,” said Rianna’s father Marty. “Sunday unfortunately dawned wet and our pace was not as strong – finishing the Pre-Final 10th. Rianna had a great start in the final though, driving from P10 to P3, but could not make the kart last and finally finished P6.”
The other Kiwi karters contesting the Junior Max class, recently crowned class NZ Schools’ champion Sam Wright from Auckland, and Jackson Rooney from Palmerston North, found the going a little tougher. Wright qualifying 18th and ending up 11th in the Final, Rooney qualifying 16th and finishing the Final in 14th.
“‘Challenging,’ would be a good word to describe our weekend, ” said Jackson’s father Chris. “For a start it was the first time the new Mojo wet tyre had been used and we struggled in the wet qualifying session to post a fast time.”
” The heat races were also a total nightmare for Jackson. In the first one Jackson worked his way inside the top 10 but was involved in two racing incidents which pushed him towards the rear of the field. Then in the second both Jackson and Sam Wright only got as far as turn 1 when a competitor got turned around in front of both boys and they got hit into the gravel trap.”
Jackson’s luck got no better in the third heat when he fouled a spark plug and the engine stopped on the formation lap, though in the Pre-Final, which he started from the back row of the grid he managed to work his way forward to cross the finish line in a hard-won P17.
From there he fought his way into the top 10 in the Final before eventually finishing 14th.
Points-wise Ryan Wood remained third overall in class with Rianna O’Meara-Hunt now seventh, Sam Wright ninth and Jackson Rooney (after only doing one other round) now 22nd.
The focus for the resident Kiwis now turns to the final double header round of the Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge in Hamilton this coming weekend before a return to Australia for the final round of the Australian Pro Tour at Albury/Wodonga in mid-September.