Skipping the last double-header round of this year’s Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge kart race series at Rotorua could just have been the best decision young Hamilton karter Connor Davison ever made.
The reason was a date clash with a round of a car series. In theory cars are Connor’s next step. But with his debut Junior Rotax class win against some of the best young drivers in Australasia at the sixth round of the 2018 series at Te Puke over the weekend he proved that he still has a very bright future in karts.
Despite it being his first major meeting back in a kart, and in conditions which remained wet and supremely challenging all weekend, the 14-year-old qualified quickest and was never out of the top three in the four class races.
He won the first heat race from second quickest qualifier and fellow Hamiltonian Fynn Osborne, finished second to Osborne in the second, then second again – this time to top Wellington-based Junior Ryan Wood – in and Pre-Final.
Leading Australian Junior Jaiden Pope (who won the class NZ Sprint title at the Nationals on a visit earlier this year) and Ryan Wood both crossed the finish line ahead of him in the Final. But the win went to Davison when Pope was disqualified over a driving infringement and Wood received a 10 second penalty (putting him back to third) for a pushed backed nose-cone infringement.
Palmerston North driver Jackson Rooney continues to head the series points standings in the Junior Rotax class, despite a weekend at Te Puke which didn’t go his way, however.
Rooney was quick in qualifying (3rd) and finished second in the first heat and third in the second. Losing a wheel in the Pre-Final meant he had to start the Final from the back of the grid though, and he was only able to make it back up to 12th place by the time the chequered flag came out.
Davison aside, the other youngster to impress in the rain was eventual Junior Rotax final runner-up Dylan Grant from Auckland.
The smooth, unruffled style of second-generation racer Zac Stichbury shone out in the Senior classes, the 17-year-old from Hawke’s Bay extending his series lead in the Rotax Light class with wins in both the Pre-Final – from Scott Manson and top local driver Corey Green, and in the Final, this time from Green, Dylan Grant’s older brother Ashton Grant, and Joshua Bethune.
In Rotax DD2, meanwhile, Auckland’s Jason Lee qualified quickest and won three of his four races, only to concede the class Final to series points leader Jono Buxeda and hard-charging Joshua Bethune, the latter contesting both the Rotax DD2 and Rotax Light classes.
In the tricky conditions experience obviously told because the top Masters class competitor, Fraser Hart, was the quickest qualifier in the combined Rotax DD2/DD2 Masters field and was first past the post in both heats, as well as the Pre-Final and Final.
Fellow Masters category fast man Matthew Hamilton was never far behind, the pair running one-two overall as well as in the Masters category in both the Pre-Final and Final. But with his dominant performance at Te Puke it is Hart who now has the series points lead over former leader Hamilton, albeit by the same margin, just two points.
Series competitors now have until late September to prepare for the final – this time a double header – round of this year’s Challenge series, the KartSport Hamilton club hosting it at its Speedworks Kart Raceway opposite the city’s airport over the September 22-23 weekend.
2018 Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge Series
Results – Rnd 6, Te Puke
1. Jono Buxeda; 2. Joshua Bethune; 3. Jason Lee; 4. Sam Waddell; 5. Simon Davies
Points after Rnd 6 of 8
1. Jono Buxeda 532 points; 2. Simon Davies 466; 3. Sam Waddell 422; 4. Jason Lee 416; 5. Kaleb Ngatoa 407; 6. Bond Roby 396.
Rotax DD2 Masters
1. Fraser Hart; 2. Matthew Hamilton; 3. Dave Malcolm; 4. Darren Walker; 5. Nik McDonald; 6. Callum Orr
Points after Rnd 6 of 8:
1. Fraser Hart 528 points; 2. Matthew Hamilton 526; 3. David Malcolm 493; 4. Garry Claxton 474; 5. Tim Wakefield 454; 6. Callum Orr 338
Rotax Max Light
1. Zac Stichbury; 2. Corey Green; 3. Ashton Grant; 4. Joshua Bethune; 5. Jaden Hardy.
Points after Rnd 5 of 8:
1. Zac Stichbury 526 points; 2. Ashton Grant 507; 3. Joshua Bethune 496; 4. Jaden Hardy 496; 5. Scott Manson 332; 6. Corey Green 252.
1. Connor Davison; 2. Dylan Grant; 3. Ryan Wood; 4. Joshua Richmond; 5. Bradley Hewson; 6. Liam Sceats.
Points after Rnd 5 of 8:
1. Jackson Rooney 513 points; 2. Ryan Wood 507; 3, Fynn Osborne 497; 4. Breanna Morris 457; 5. Dylan Grant 446; 6. Riley Spargo 437.
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: Raceworks Kart Raceway Hamilton Sat-Sun Sept 22-23
2018 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final: Nov 24-Dec 01 Conde Paraiba Brazil