Few Kiwis get the chance to compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So when a group of Briggs LO206 class karters from Wellington heard about a meeting – the USAC-sanctioning body’s second annual Battle at the Brickyard one next month – open to drivers like themselves it didn’t take long for leave to be organised, entry forms filled in and flights to and from the four-day, July 05-08 event booked.
“That’s right,” says group spokesperson, and current KartSport Wellington club President, Brent Melhop. “What started as me simply telling some of the other Briggs class guys about a meeting I read about on the internet escalated pretty quickly when one of them came back and said he’d just booked his tickets. That made the rest of us go, well if he has, I suppose we should to!”
The result is that there will be seven Kiwi drivers competing in Briggs LO206 category race at the second annual USAC Battle at the Brickyard kart race meeting at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a fortnight’s time.
The seven are Hadleigh Coffey, Shaun Croskery, Glen Dodd, Mike Hanks, Brent Melhop, Kyle Nelson and Shane Sayer. All are from the greater Wellington area, all are members of the KartSport Wellington club, and all bar Hanks – who has been enticed out of retirement by the opportunity to race at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway – are keen Briggs LO206 class competitors.
While karting is seen by many as the first step on the ladder for the Scott Dixons and Brendon Hartleys of tomorrow, Melhop says it is also a great place for ‘mere mortals’ like himself, Coffey et al to get their motorsport fix.
The Briggs LO206 category was set up specifically to cater for this group with a simple low maintenance 4-stroke engine putting the onus on the driver rather than the tuner.
US kart manufacturer Margay has also made entering and running at the meeting easy for the seven Kiwis by offering ‘arrive-and-drive’ lease packages on brand new Margay karts.
All seven Kiwis therefore will run spec Margay Ignite chassis/engine and Bridgestone YDS tyre-equipped karts with four – Dodd, Hanks, Melhop and Sayer – running in the Masters (which in the US is 35+) class, and Coffey and Croskery running in the 15+ Medium class.
Because the karts are also eligible, all seven will also run in the spec K3 Margay Ignite Senior class for the Briggs LO206.
While there they will be immediately recognisable as Kiwis as well thanks to the Carter’s Tyre Service helmet strips they run here.
“We run them on our helmets here so it made sense to leave them on while we are at Indy, says Melhop. “Carters is helping us out with shirts and things so as well as being our way of saying thank you, whenever they see the Carter’s strip spectators will know it is one of those crazy Kiwis who have travelled all the way from down under to be at the meeting.”
The course the Battle at the Brickyard meeting runs on is based on the ‘road course’ at the venue originally created to run the United States Formula 1 GP and the World Championship round of the MotoGP motorcycle championship.
The kart course includes part of the start/finish straight of the Indianapolis 500 course and on the Friday night of race weekend the 300+ karters across the 17 classes entered will get the chance to be part of a parade lap around the full 4.0km (2.5 mile) length of the famous oval.
While they are in Indianapolis the Kiwi karters will make the most of the opportunity with visits to IndyCar team race shops and the Indianapolis 500 museum.