Dylan Drysdale spearheaded a strong Kiwi showing at the second round of this year’s SP Tools Australian Kart Championship presented by Castrol Edge at Wodonga in rural Victoria over the (April 14-15) weekend.
The 19-year-old, originally from Palmerston North, but now based in Sydney, crossed the finish line in fourth place in the KZ2 class Final at Wodonga. Earlier he had spent most of the race disputing third with Patrizicorse/Riccardo Kart teammate Troy Loeskow, and – after slipping back to P7 at one stage – surged forward in the closing stages to catch and cross the finish line side by side with third placed Aaron Cameron.
It was Cameron who – just – got the final podium spot with Drysdale fourth, Loeskow fifth, and Drysdale’s fellow Kiwi Madeline Stewart enjoying her best finish to date in the KZ2 class across the Tasman, seventh.
“Yeah, the boys did good,’ said their mentor, engine builder and sometime fellow racer Daniel Bray of Drysdale and Loeskow. “We struggled a bit to find the correct set-up and gear ratios in practice but got them right for qualifying.
Drysdale got stuck behind a stalled kart on the grid in the first heat but came back to finish ninth then in the wet second heat Loeskow finished third, Drysdale fourth.
Drysdale then set the fastest race lap on his way to a weekend best second place in the third heat (on Sunday morning) before finishing fifth in the fourth heat then fourth in the Final.
In her debut run in the new Kart Republic kart, Madeline Stewart, from Wellington, qualified fifth quickest and had a best heat finish of sixth before an impressive charge which took her to P7 in the Final.
“We are really happy with Madeline’s 7th place in the KZ2 final,’ said her father Tony. “She had to work hard for it too, as we blew up her race motor in practice on Friday and had to use her practice motor which was about 4 km/h down at the end of the straight.
‘Though she qualified 5th she had to battle hard through the heats. She got a nose cone penalty in Heat 1 which dropped her to 7th and a really bad start in Heat 4 which had her in 22nd at the end of the first lap before finishing 16th.
“She thought the new Kart Republic was very good but we struggled a bit in the cooler conditions in racing as we’ve only ever practiced with it in very hot conditions and we are still learning how to set it up.”
Also enjoying a better run this time was the other top Kiwi female contesting the 2018 Aussie series, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt.
The diminutive 16-year-old, also from Wellington, qualified fourth quickest in the premier direct drive KA1 class then came back from a pair of dnfs (one caused by a fouled spark plug on the warm-up lap, the other when her kart’s engine seized) and eighth placings in the other heat and Pre-Final to finish a weekend-best sixth in the Final.
“It was definitely a great qualifying for us, so we were hoping for more over the weekend,” said Rianna’s father Marty.”
The heats, however, proved a mixed bag with the plug fouling in the first and the wrong set up on the kart for the rain which fell in the second.
The engine seizing in the third heat didn’t help matters….
“Things certainly weren’t looking great at that stage, “ admitted Marty, “but a great drive from the rear of the field matching the leaders times in both the Pre-Final and Final saw Rianna fighting back to finish sixth, so I guess you could say we got there in the end.”
There were mixed fortunes in the mixed weather and track conditions for the other two Kiwis competing at the meeting, Ashleigh Stewart and Kaden Probst.
Ashleigh, Madeline’s now Melbourne-based older sister, qualified 21st and after an up and down run through the heats worked her way forward from P34 on the grid to 22nd at the line in the X30 class Final.
“Ashleigh went really well in practice on Thursday and Friday when temperatures were in the high 30s, very hot, but on Saturday and Sunday it was down in the high teens, cold and overcast and she struggled with the changeable conditions,’ said her father Tony.
“ It was one of those weekends where you never knew if you needed wets or slicks until you got to the grid. Each time we got there we’d get a light sprinkle or rain.
“Heat two we ended up on slicks on a very wet track and Heat 3 was a last minute scramble to put wets on.
“Ashleigh qualified 21st and through a couple of DNFs and tough races, she started the final in 34th. She did a great job however to move forward to finish 22nd in the Final.
Young Aucklander Kaden Probst blew a clutch in practice then an engine in qualifying, leaving him in 38th place overall (out of 50) in the Cadet 12 pecking order. He showed excellent speed and race craft in the heats though, making up eight places (from a P25 starting position) in the first, then 10 in the second.
Things didn’t go so well for him on Sunday, however he still made it up to 20th place in the Cadet 12 Final.
This year’s Australian Kart Championship is being contested over five rounds with the next at Newcastle in May.