After several years now of double-header race meetings, the Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge reverts to a single-round format for the third round of the 2018 series at Tokoroa this weekend.
“Just a way to mix things up and keep everything fresh,” said series promotor Richard Bethune of Rotax engine importer Right Karts this week. “You’ve got people who like the double-header format and people who don’t, in much the same way you’ve got people who like the CIK-style of racing and those who prefer the old heats-only way.
“We had both (CIK on Saturday and heats on Sunday) at the first double-header round at Palmerston North in February. We go to a single round CIK format over two days at Tokoroa this weekend, then we are back to the Palmy format for the Rnds 4 and 5 double-header at Rotorua in May.
“From there we go back to the single CIK-format over two days for Rnd 6 at Te Puke in August then the CIK-format on both days at the double-header final at Hamilton in September.
“Believe me, come the end of the season no one is going to be able to complain to me that ‘the race format didn’t suit my style of driving” because each round is effectively a new challenge.”
Drivers to look out for at Tokoroa this weekend include Jonathan Buxeda from Tuakau in Rotax DD2 and Jackson Rooney from Palmerston North in Rotax Junior, the big winners at the Palmerston North double-header meeting in February.
Both drivers dominated their respective classes over the two days, each qualifying quickest and taking heat and Final wins on Saturday (Rooney also set a new class track lap record in his Final) then consistently moving forward and winning at least two heats each to claim class wins again on Sunday.
The pair did so in the face of intense competition too, in particular Jackson Rooney who faced the cream of New Zealand’s current crop of Juniors.
Top-ranked Wellington driver Ryan Wood won the second heat and Pre-Final and finished a close second to Rooney in the Rotax Junior Final on Saturday, then won two of the five class heats on Sunday.
The Osborne brothers, Clay and Fynn, from Hamilton, were also right there on both days finishing third (Fynn) and fourth (Clay) in Saturday’s Final and second (Clay) and third (Fynn) in the points on Sunday with current class North Island champion Ryan Crombie fourth and Wood fifth.
In the other classes, Christchurch’s Matthew Hamilton looked set to dominate DD2 Masters on both days only to come off second best in a clash and fail to finish the Final on Saturday. That left the way open for local ace Callum Orr to claim the top spot on the podium that day – from Simon Hunter and Fraser Hart.
Hamilton was back to his best on Sunday, however, winning three of the heats and finishing second in one of the others.
Ashton Grant and Jaden Hardy shared the spoils in Rotax Max Light, with Grant qualifying quickest and winning the Final on Saturday but Hardy claiming three heat wins to Grant’s one on Sunday, to take the Rnd 2 win from Grant and Hawke’s Bay teenager Zac Stichbury.
Now in its 19th year the New Zealand series has again attracted a talented group of karters of all ages, all keen to qualify for a spot on the local squad which attends the annual Grand Finals meeting which this year is being held in at Conde in the Paraiba province of Brazil between November 24 and December 01.
2018 Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge Series
Rnds 1 & 2: Manawatu Toyota Raceway, Palmerston North Sat-Sun Feb 17-18
Rnd 3: Stihl Shop Tokoroa Raceway, Tokoroa Sat-Sun April 21-22
Rnds 4 & 5: Century Batteries International Raceway, Rotorua Sat-Sun May 19-20
Rnd 6: Te Puke Auto Electrical Raceway Te Puke Sat-Sun Aug 04-05
Rnds 7 & 8: Agrisea Raceway Hamilton Sat-Sun Sept 22-23
2018 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final: Nov 24-Dec 01 Conde Paraiba Brazil