With a fighting fourth place in an all-action KZ2 class Final, reigning NZ class sprint champion Dylan Drysdale ended up best finishing Kiwi at the opening round of this year’s SP Tools Australian Kart Championship presented by Castrol Edge at Monarto in South Australia over the weekend.
Despite a shower of rain effectively sabotaging his qualifying efforts the KartSport Manawatu club member, and soon to be Sydney-based 18-year-old worked his way forward in each of his four heat races, then fought a battle royal with Patrizicorse/Ricciardo Kart teammate (and regular New Zealand visitor) Troy Loeskow for second place behind eventual race winner Aaron Cameron in the Final.
Loeskow got the better of his Kiwi counterpart but Drysdale was still a contender for the final podium spot until top Australian driver Pearce Lehane – somehow – found a way past in the closing stages, leaving Drysdale fourth.
“Dylan was unlucky when it rained just as he went out on slicks in qualifying but before then he had been second quickest in practice, so he had the speed,” fellow racer and mentor Daniel Bray said on Monday. “He was quick early on in the Final too, so the good news is there’s plenty more there.”
Top KartSport Mt Wellington Junior Kaden Probst was the next best finisher of the other four Kiwis who competed at the meeting. He qualified 19th and though he only made up places in one of his four heats, showed both pace and maturity to storm through to a weekend best 15th (out of a Cadet 12 class entry of 56) in the Final.
“Saturday just didn’t go our way, with it pretty much being wet and dry at the same time,” he said from Monarto on Sunday evening. “We didn’t get enough grip into the kart for wet qualifying so ended up P20. We lost drive in the first heat and ended up 22nd, then had our wet axle in the kart for the second heat when the track dried. Sunday didn’t start out much better with wets on a wet but drying track but I scraped into the Final and made it from 31st on the grid to P15 at the flag in what turned out to be a pretty good kart!”
Things could hardly have been more different for the other three Kiwis, top KartSport Wellington duo Madeline Stewart and Rianna O’Meara-Hunt, and Madeline’s now Melbourne-based sister Ashleigh.
“Pretty challenging,” is how Madeline and Ashleigh’s father Tony described a weather-affected weekend which started with their flight from Wellington to Auckland being cancelled at the last minute thanks to Cyclone Gita…and didn’t get much better.
Madeline was quick in practice but failed to finish three of the four heats and the KZ2 Final, while Ashleigh was punted off the track in her X30 class Final and had to fight back from the rear of the field to get to 34th place at the flag.
“We were able to get a later flight via Auckland but when we arrived in Sydney, we found that our race bag with all Madeline’s race gear had not arrived,” said Tony. “We were able to borrow and buy some gear for Thursday and Friday practice and luckily our bag was found and delivered late Friday.
“Madeline had a good run through Practice finishing the final practice that sets the order for qualifying 4th quickest. Friday had been a very hot (40+ degree C) day but Saturday arrived very drizzly and humid. The track was wet and just as it became almost dry it would rain again.
“Ashleigh was in the first qualifying group for the big 47 kart X30 field when the track was still quite damp. She struggled with the conditions and qualified 33rd. The track was quite dry as we went to the grid for Madeline’s qualifying but started raining lightly as we were on the grid. We went out on slicks but it began raining harder as the karts left the grid. Some drivers managed to get wets on making qualifying a bit of a lottery.
“Madeline qualified 21st out of the 30 karts and it was raining again when she lined up on the grid for her first heat and it got progressively worse. We made a last minute call to go to wets and thought it was right as the rain got heavier as the field left the grid.
“Unfortunately the rain stopped and it was clear on lap one that the track was not wet enough for the super sticky wet tyres so Madeline was forced to retire after 1 lap.
“Heat 2 was run on a damp track and because Monarto is a track that does not penalise you for running a tight line it makes passing very difficult. There were a lot of crashes throughout the weekend including quite a high speed roll over. Madeline was in two (crashes) in Heat 2, one at the start when someone drove over the back of her, and one towards the end which ended her race.
“We had quite a big job to do between heats to fix the kart only to have the airbox come off in the third race. Heat 4 was run on Sunday morning in cool dry conditions. With a progressive grid format Madeline started from the back row but managed to come through to 17th. She also started on the back row for the Final and did a really great job driving through to 15th before losing the airbox again and not finishing. So overall pretty disappointing but some good passing practice.
“We borrowed an engine for Ashleigh which improved her pace. She started the oversubscribed heat format races from grid 22 with a highest finish of 16th. She then started the final in 33rd and was also making good progress before being hit from behind and sent off the track. She went back to 40th well behind the field but managed to come back to finish 34th.
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt’s race weekend in the KA1 class got off to a similar start, but this time with a night drive from Wellington to Auckland thanks to all flights out of the Capital being cancelled because of Cyclone Gita.
Thursday saw the Wellington 16-year-old learning the track and refining kart set-up and her father Marty says that they felt they were in a good place for Friday’s official practice.
Five official practise sessions in the 40 degree C heat was hard work for driver and crew alike but – as it turned out – did not prepare them for the rain on Saturday.
“Saturday surprised everyone,” said Marty. “It was not on anyone’s weather radar for the weekend – so we leapt once again into the unknown with Rianna having never driven the engine or the tyre in the wet. It was a 50/50 call as to wets or slicks when we went out in the qualifying session and we were well placed on our wets until about 2 minutes to go in the session, when all the slick drivers started to take charge.
Unfortunately the variable weather and track conditions were not the only problem Rianna and the team had to face.
“We had our first engine failure in heat one but put on the spare and managed to go forwards in Heats 2 and 3,” said Marty. “We then strapped the initial engine, which had been rebuilt overnight, back on and it made it through Heat 4 where again we moved forward before another failure as we went out of the gate for our Final…..so, yes, a tough weekend for our introduction to the AKC, with driver and crew very disappointed.”
This year’s Australian Kart Championship is being contested over five rounds with the next at Wodonga on the VIC/NSW border over the April 14-15 weekend.