New Zealand’s annual Molecule-sponsored, KZ2 class-based ProKart series bursts back into life in Palmerston North this weekend for another season of high-octane kart action.
The KartSport Manawatu club’s annual, this year TRC Toyota Levin-sponsored two-day Trans-Tasman meeting at Manawatu Toyota Raceway again hosts the opening rounds of both the five-round Molecule ProKart series, and eight-round Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge, with over 80 of the country’s top karters entered.
Though the fundamentals – large fields of the fastest sprint karts you can buy – remain the same, Molecule ProKart series promotor Steve Brown has made some key tweaks to the ‘show,’ for the 2018 year.
One is the addition of a second qualifying season for the top ten KZ2 class drivers to sort their starting order (and which will after this round become a full-on Aussie Supercar-style shootout). A second is a name change for the entry-level class; from KZ2 Restricted, to KZ4.
“In both cases it came from talking to the drivers and acting on what they were telling me,” Brown said this week.
“The top ten qualifier idea came from feedback that as the fields get bigger it’s getting harder and harder, particularly at some of the smaller tracks, for the top guys to bank a qualifier (lap) because of the amount of traffic.
“The same went for the change of name. Taking the ‘Restricted’ out of the name really was a no-brainer. The class is still about keeping a lid on costs, but you don’t want to rub guys’ noses in it, do you? It might seem like a small change to some, but the take up – to KZ4 – has already been positive, and we haven’t started racing yet.”
Brown has also added some extra laps (to make up an extra four kms of racing) to the second heat race of the weekend (on Saturday afternoon) to add an extra element to the tyre management equation.
‘Over the two days it isn’t much in terms of race distance but the extra laps are going to tell in terms of the amount of grip you are going to have heading into the Pre-Final and Final later on on Sunday.”
Entry-wise each class has a mix of established stars and ambitious newcomers.
KZ2 sees the return of long-time class ‘King’ Ryan Grant, as well as Auckland-based international Daniel Bray and Hamilton fast man Rhys Tinney, with competition for podium spots expected to come from Mathew Kinsman from Auckland, and his new teammate, top female racer Madeline Stewart from Wellington.
Also chasing podium placings this year will be Palmerston North’s Nelson Hartley (the older brother of F1 ace Brendon) in his full-time return to the KZ2 category. And it will be interesting to see just how well former Junior stars Jacob Cranston from Palmerston North and Matt Payne from Pukekohe go as they step up to run with the established senior stars in the ProKart series.
Like last year the KZ2 Masters will join those in the newly renamed KZ4 class for a combined grid of 20 karts. Drivers in the Masters category to look out for include the Auckland trio of Andrew Hunt, Glenn Ellis and Garry Claxton.
Former New Zealand sprint class title holder Darren Aislabie also impressed on his return to the tracks in the ProKart series last year, while series promotor Steve Brown and fellow class regulars Brett Hollander, Kevin Storr and Enrico van der Griend are never far from the front.
Mixing it up with the Masters class drivers, meanwhile, will be KZ4 class drivers Garry Cullum, Regan Hall, Shaun Curran and Gerhard Benadie (all Auckland), Aaron Wooley from Hamilton, and Jamie Pollock from Wellington.
CALENDAR – 2018 Molecule ProKart Series
Rnd 1: Manawatu Toyota Raceway, Palmerston North Sat-Sun Feb 17-18
Rnd 2: Stihl Shop Tokoroa Raceway, Tokoroa Sat-Sun April 21-22
Rnd 3: Century Batteries International Raceway, Rotorua Sat-Sun May 19-20
Rnd 4: Te Puke Auto Electrical Raceway Te Puke Sat-Sun Aug 04-05
Rnd 5: Agrisea Raceway Hamilton Sat-Sun Sept 22-23