Young Auckland karter Maxim Kirwan got his first major off-shore campaign off to a great start with a 4th place finish in the Cadet 9 class at the opening round of the 2019 SP Tools Australian Kart Championship presented by Castrol Edge (AKC) at Ipswich in Queensland over the weekend.
Wellington-based Ryan Wood also impressed with 7th in the Iame X30 senior class.
Kirwan, just eight years of age and in only his third full season in a kart, set the 7th quickest lap time in the Cadet 9 class qualifying session and after slipping back to 12th in the first heat and 9th in the second worked his way up to 6th in the other two heat races earning himself a P7 starting spot for the Final.
The young Aucklander then kept a cool head early on and started a charge forward on the fifth lap – at one stage setting the fastest race lap – which got him up to 5th place then 4th behind winner Patrick Buckley, fastest class qualifier and Heat 3 winner Ky Burke who was second and James Cittolin who was third.
It was an impressive first 2019 AKC hit-out for the youngster, particularly in only his second run in the new Parolin 950 chassis the team he is driving for this year, Shamick Racing is running.
“Fortunately, they had a baseline setup from their time with Parolin in Italy last year,” Maxim’s father Paul Kirwan explained on his return home this week.” Marco Parolin also gave some direction on changes to the kart so it was fairly sharp by the end of practise on Friday.”
In qualifying the top 20 Cadet 9 drivers were all within a second of each other on the 1,024 metre long Ipswich track with Maxim just 0.35 of a second off pole with the 7th quickest time.
In the first two heats Paul says that Maxim found himself pushed offline and dropping several places before being able to muscle his way back into the conga line of karts. But he is a quick learner and from the third heat had adjusted his driving style to suit and didn’t let it happen again.
There were contrasting fortunes, meanwhile, for the two Kiwi karters contesting the Iame X30 class.
Ryan Wood had a productive weekend, qualifying 11th and – bar a late race plummet down the order from 7th to 14th in the first heat – was able to work his way forward in the other heats, Pre-Final and Final.
In the latter, which he started from P11, Wood was up to 8th place by the end of the first lap and 7th a lap later. Though he slipped back one place before the chequered flag came out he was elevated back up to 7th as penalties were handed out further up the chain.
Top female driver Rianna O’Meara-Hunt, also from Wellington, was looking forward to a similar result, having finished 6th at the AKC Shakedown meeting at the Ipswich circuit a fortnight, but instead struggled this time to find a kart set-up to suit the tyre (new to her) the class runs on.
“ Whatever changes we made to the kart we could not get rid of an understeer,” her father Marty Hunt said on Monday. (Fellow Kiwi and O’Meara-Hunt’s race engineer) “Ryan Urban threw everything at it to try to fix it, but to no avail/”
That said, with 45 entries the Iame X30 class was oversubscribed and O’Meara-Hunt worked her way forward after qualifying back in P25.
She made it to 14th place in the first heat, 16th in the second and to a round best 12th in the third before signing off with 13th in the fourth heat.
That saw her start the Final from P20 on the grid and after being shuffled back as far as 24th made the most of a torrid final quarter of the race to finish 22nd
“By driving clean and smart, making sure we finished every heat, with no penalties and as far up the field as the kart would allow, Rianna did all she could,” said her father.
Auckland teenager Liam Sceats had a similar weekend in the premier Junior category KA2 (Vortex ROK DVS), showing good speed and racecraft after qualifying 12th quickest. He made it up to 10th place in the first heat, and though he failed to finish the second, then finished back in 20th in the third, made it back up to 13th place in the fourth.
That’s where he started the Final and where – give or take the odd passing move – he stayed for the first seven laps before being sent packing back down the order to 19th on lap 8, then to 20th on the last lap.
The opening AKC round at Ipswich attracted over 300 entries from across Australia as well as New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Italy. The 2019 AKC title chase now head south to Newcastle where the second of the five rounds will be run over the March 29-31 weekend.