An eight-strong contingent of Kiwi karters is in Las Vegas preparing for the 21st annual SuperKarts USA (SKUSA) SuperNationals meeting this week and weekend.
With over 500 entries over 10 classes the meeting is widely regarded as the biggest kart one in the world, and over the years has attracted the cream of American, European and increasingly Australasian karting talent.
This year is no different with ten-year event veteran Daniel Bray, reigning NZ KZ2 class champion Dylan Drysdale (both from Auckland) and top female driver Madeline Stewart from Wellington spearheading the Kiwi attack in a star-studded KZ class field.
Leading the way is two-time World Champion and two-time KZ class SuperNats race winner Paolo De Conto from Italy, former World Champion and 2009 SuperNats winner Bas Lammers from the Netherlands, and two-time SuperNats KZ class title winner Anthony Abbasse from France in the premier class.
That class has attracted a near-capacity field of 38, which will make some sight round the converted car park course in front of the Las Vegas Convention Centre and Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino.
As well as the professionals the class also has some names familiar to Kiwis, like those of top Australian drivers Joshua Fife and recent New Zealand visitor Troy Loeskow, as well as Supercar series co-driver Macauley Jones
By doubling up and entering the top domestic US class, S1, as well, Paolo De Conto has also raised the bar for one of the other Kiwis, Matt Hamilton.
A winner in the S4 class three years ago, the Christchurch driver is one of 24 entrants in the S1 class and starts as one of the top-rated visitors thanks for two fifth place finishes in recent years and his winning form at the big Streets of Lancaster meeting in California which he has contested for the past three years.
Sydney-based expat Josh Drysdale, the older brother of Dylan Drysdale, is making his event debut in the S2 class where he is part of a 40+ field of top domestic US and Mexican drivers.
Christchurch’s Tiffany Chittenden is returning for another crack at the S4 Masters class, while fellow female Ashleigh Stewart makes her event debut in the class with – at 96 – the largest number of entries, Iame X30. There’s quality as well as quantity in the record-sized field, including 2017 CIK-FIA World Karting Champion Danny Keirle from Great Britain and top Australian driver David Sera.
Also facing a large field – 70 entrants – is 12-year-old Christchurch driver Jacob Douglas in Mini Swift. Douglas, the reigning New Zealand Vortex Mini ROK class champion, is no stranger to racing in the US, having travelled with Matthew Hamilton and Tiffany Chittenden to compete at this year’s Streets of Lancaster meeting.
Finally, set to make his US debut at the SuperNationals meeting in the Micro Swift class is Jay Urwin from Tauranga. According to his father Niki, himself a top karter, the trip is part family holiday, part reward for Jay winning the North Island Cadet ROK class title at Labour Weekend.
The Micro Swift category was only added to the SuperNats class line-up last year but has attracted a field of 36 drivers, most from the US, but others from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France and Great Britain.
Practice at the meeting started on Wednesday (Thursday NZ time) with qualifying on Thursday and the first race heats on Friday. The remaining heats plus last chance qualifiers are on Saturday leaving Sunday free for final warm-up sessions then the winner-takes-all class finals (Main Events).