So Close but So Far: The Kiwis in Lonato

Fellow-racer-turned-mentor Daniel Bray said it best yesterday morning when – describing the last-minute derailing of both Matthew Payne’s and compatriot Dylan Drysdale’s 2019 FIA Karting International Super Cup (KZ2) campaigns at Lonato in Italy on Sunday – he said, ‘motorsport is a hard game.’

The pair were competing at the same meeting and venue – the combined FIA Karting World Championship (KZ), International Super Cup (KZ2) and FIA Karting Academy Trophy Series final at the South Garda kart track in Italy’s north-east – where 14-year-old fellow Kiwi Jacob Douglas qualified 4th and ended up 9th in the final FIA Karting Academy Trophy Series race of the season.

New Zealand KZ2 class champion Matthew Payne (pic – Fast Company/Umberto Fraenkel-Sportinphoto)

Like Douglas, Payne and Drysdale both showed true top 10 pace in their group in practise on Friday, yet Drysdale just missed getting into the KZ2 Super Cup Final, and Payne – who did make the cut – didn’t make it past the first lap.

For reigning NZ KZ2 class #1 Payne (Ricciardo Kart/Vortex/Bridgestone) it must have been particularly galling. The 16-year-old from Papakura topped the time sheets in his first group free practise run on Friday before slipping back to P20 in the second but then was back amongst the front-runners when he improved to P5 in the third session.

He then set the 7th quickest lap time in his stream (the field of 120 was split into 3 streams) with a best lap of 46.485, good enough for P23 when the times from the three streams were combined.

Former NZ title holder Dylan Drysdale (pic – Fast Company/Umberto Fraenkel-Sportinphoto)

Hopes were then high as he started Saturday’s qualifying heats, working his way to what turned out to be an event-best 4th place in the first, then consistent 7th place finishes through the next three.

At this stage Payne was looking at a starting spot for the Final the next day in the late teens, however that was not to be.

As the pressure ratcheted up in the final two heats the young Kiwi got bumped back to an uncharacteristic 17th place at the line in his fifth heat on Saturday afternoon, then back to 10th place in the final qualifying heat on Sunday morning.

Not a bad record as far as the 120-strong entry was concerned, Payne starting the Final from P22 place on the grid. However an early clash then full-blown crash on the opening lap put paid to any chance he might have had to move further up the field, the results sheets listing him 34th in the Final wash-up.

While it is hard not to feel for Payne, Dylan Drysdale’s event was even more frustrating. After being right on the pace in practice the 19-year-old former Palmerston North, now Lenato, Italy-based Birel Kart/Vortex/Bridgestone driver ended up back in P37 after qualifying practise.

A consistent 11-10-13-11-14 run (after starting each from P11) through the Saturday heat races gave him some hope of making it to the Final. And in theory his P10 finish in his last heat race on Sunday morning meant he was tied on points to make the last grid spot………only for a time penalty for a start infringement to relegate him to P18.

That put him back to 39th – which, out of a total field of 120 is nothing to be sneezed at – however only the top 34 make the grid for the Final……

To which all Daniel Bray could add last night was; “I’m gutted for him. To get that close then not make it to the Final would have been a very bitter pill to swallow indeed! With the speed he showed through the week he really deserved to make the show.”

Motorsport, indeed, is a hard game!

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