Palmertson North’s Fraser Hart and Christchurch’s Matthew Hamilton were the top finishing Kiwi karters at this year’s Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals event in Brazil, the pair finishing the Rotax DD2 Masters Final third and fourth respectively.
This year’s event was the 19th consecutive one organized by Austrian engine manufacturer Rotax with Hart and Hamilton two of nine New Zealand-born drivers who qualified to compete. Five others did so via this year’s Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge Series, and two more earned a spot on the Australian team thanks to successes this year across the Tasman.
The venue for the event was the Circuito Internacional Paladino at Conde, a city in the state of Paraiba in Brazil’s far northeast. It started on November 24 and finished with a Finals day on Saturday December 01. New Zealand was one of 50 Rotax territories represented, the nine Kiwis part of a 360-strong entry across six classes.
The full list of Kiwis and where the finished in their respective Finals was:
Rotax DD2 Masters
3. Fraser Hart
4. Matthew Hamilton
22. David Malcolm
27. Ryan Wood (Aust)
28. Sam Waddell
31.(dnf) Jono Buxeda
10. Josh Hart (Aust)
15. Zac Stichbury
18. Fynn Osborne
Hart and Hamilton were two of the pace-setters from the start of the event in the DD2 Masters class. Hamilton was second only to eventual class winner Christiano Morgado from South Africa after the qualifying practice sessions, and went on to win won two of his three heat races and finish second (to Hart!!) in their Pre-Final.
Hart was ranked fifth after qualifying practice then finished second in two of his heat races and third in the third, before winning the second of two Pre-Finals to start the Final alongside Morgado.
South African Michael Stephens got the jump on Hart to follow compatriot Christiano Morgado in second place for the first four laps. However Hart won the place back and held it from lap 5 until lap 9 when Finnish driver Antti Ollikainen forced his way through and held the spot until the flag.
Hart maintained third place as Michael Stephen came under pressure from Matthew Hamilton.
Having started from P10 Hamilton was relentless in his charge forward, getting to P8 in two laps, P5 by lap 10 and P4 on the last lap.
The third Kiwi in the category, Dave Malcolm from Auckland, also qualified for the DD2 Masters Final and made up 15 places to finish 22nd overall.
After being sixth quickest in the Rotax DD2 class following timed practice then finishing third in each heat race and third in his Pre-Final Wellington teenager Ryan Wood looked set for a podium of his own, and another for Australia in the Final.
It was not to be however, time penalties as a result of contact seeing him plummet down the finishing order from sixth on the road to 27th.
The other Kiwis contesting the category had mixed fortunes. Sam Waddell from Tauranga ended up 12th in his Pre-Final and started form P28 in the Final while Jono Buxeda from Tuakau finished an event-best 3rd in his second qualifying heat and 7th in his third, ended up back in P20 in his Pre-Final and on grid P24 for the Final.
A strong start and first half of the Final saw him up to P13 by lap 13 though that was when his luck ran out, a three-kart incident on lap 16 seeing him out of the race (though officially classified 31st) with just four laps to go.
The other Kiwi in the Australian camp, Fraser Hart’s brother Josh, (also from Palmerston North) qualified sixth in the Rotax Senior class, finished seventh in his Pre-Final and stated the Final was P11. From there he spent all 20 laps battling for a spot in the top 10.
Behind him, young second-generation karter Zac Stichbury (Havelock North) put on a passing master-class, making up 21 places to finish the Rotax Senior Final a hard-won 15th.
Finally, New Zealand’s rep in the Rotax Junior class, Fynn Osborne from Hamilton, was 14th quickest after the practice heats, and after an 11-09-14 run through the qualifying heats started 10th and finished 11th in his Pre-Final to start the Final from P17 and finish it in P18.