Top Kiwi female karter Rianna O’Meara-Hunt has returned home to Wellington on a high after a breakthrough performance at this year’s ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy a fortnight ago.
Since moving to the Senior ranks, the recently turned 18-year-old has struggled to replicate the form which saw her beat the best Australian Junior karters to a Rotax Pro Tour class win (and with it the South Australian state title) early in 2017.
Her ability behind the wheel has never been seriously questioned though and her results on her European debut in Italy this month prove it once again.
To qualify for the trip to the ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy Rianna won her class – Vortex ROK DVS Senior – at the CIK Trophy NZ meeting back in January this year. Then this month, on her first racing trip outside Australasia, she made her presence felt on the world stage.
First up there was a podium finish (3rd) in the SuperROK class Final at the second round of this year’s Trofeo d’Autunno (Autumn Trophy) meeting at the South Garda kart track at Lonato on Sunday October 06. The quick young Wellingtonian then finished in 6th place in the SuperROK class Final at the annual ROK Cup Superfinal meeting at the same track the weekend after.
As well as being the top (‘A’ Final) finish for a Kiwi at the event it was also far and away the top finish by a female, earning the Wellington teen an extra trophy for being the ‘fastest lady.’
It didn’t exactly come easily either as her father Marty explained this week.
“With 30 determined drivers the first couple of corners were hectic to say the least and while Rianna achieved decent track position from her P6 starting spot, entering turn 1 in P7, by turn 3 she was punted off track eventually re-joining in P12.
“After completing the first lap she also saw that she had incurred a start line infringement (outside of the tramlines) and had therefore received a time penalty, so even though she was in P12 on track, on the time sheets she was actually P23…”
Undeterred, Rianna put her head down and – literally – drove through the field of world class karters to finish P5 on track and P6 on the time sheets, setting the 2nd fastest lap time along the way.
So how come Rianna has struggled to replicate her Junior form in the Senior classes she has been contesting in Australasia this year?
At issue are the Minimum All-Up-Weights (MAWs) that – in theory anyway – take into account different body sizes and weights and provide a supposedly level playing field for everyone.
As a Junior Rianna’s diminutive size never held her back because the MAW for the Rotax Max Junior class here and in Australia is 145kg. Yes she still had to add lead weights to her kart to meet it, but not enough to seriously compromise her performance.
The day she turned 15 however, and became eligible to move from the Junior to the Senior ranks – first in Australia then here in New Zealand – the new MAW she had to meet was 165kg, meaning that to ‘weigh up’ Rianna had to add at least 32kg of lead, to meet the ‘minimum’ weight requirement of the classes.
Setting up a pure-bred racing kart to respond to the ever-changing grip levels at a major meeting like a round of Australia’s Rotax Pro Tour is a hard – not to mention a specialised – enough job in its own right, without having to add what for Rianna is much more than half her body weight again in lead blocks.
Where you place that much lead fundamentally changes both the way a kart handles, and the way it responds to a driver’s steering and braking inputs.
Given a kart she can work with Rianna can do amazing things, however. And that obviously is the key. At both the Trofeo D’Autunno and ROK Cup Superfinal meetings the Tony Kart 401-R that came as part of her prize for winning still had to carry 26kgs of lead to meet the 155kg class MAW.
Auckland-based kart preparation specialist Ryan Urban has spent a sometimes frustrating year working with Rianna on how to make a kart weighed down with so much ‘dead weight’ work, but that work finally paid dividends in Italy.
“Because Rianna’s race weight is so far out of the norm we felt it was wise to work alongside people used to the intricacies of her kart set-up while – of course – also taking on board the knowledge and advice of the local team we were running with, Boscaini Karting,” explains her father Marty.
“Though she qualified 6th for the Final Rianna had actually struggled with the hot, greasy and rubbery track conditions on Friday and because we knew that everyone in the field would be strapping on new tyres for the Final on Saturday our set-up was by nature a bit of an educated guess. One not helped by the fact that the final class warm-up was held at 9.30am but the SuperROK class Final was not to start until 4.00pm.”
As it turned out Ryan Urban’s educated guess turned out to be close to perfect, however.
“The kart worked a treat in the Final,” confirmed Marty. “It was on rails and Rianna was able to drive the wheels off it! It was the stand-out race of Rianna’s two week European adventure and no better time to do it than in a World Cup Final.”
Rianna would like to pass on her sincere thanks and gratitude to the following people;
• Nicola Boscaini and the team at Boscaini Karting for making the Kiwis feel part of the family. A team’s competency plays a vital role in Europe for the end result and I felt exceptionally grateful for the expertise and the racing environment provided.
• Ryan Urban. Your determination to win, your never-give-up attitude and desire to see me succeed is inspiring.
• Hadleigh Coffey. Your work on the tools and the spirit you created inside the team made it such a fun two weeks and one of the best environments I have raced in.
There are also people and companies in NZ that helped make this possible for me; typeface, George Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Limited, Wilford Motorsport and also #93 – thank you.
Thanks also to Supreme Kart Supplies, Racer Products, KartSport New Zealand and the organisations behind them that helped to make this possible.