Young Christchurch karter Louis Sharp will be piling up the Airpoints this year as he flies to and from Europe to contest the three-round FIA Karting Academy Trophy Series.
The invitation-only ‘arrive-and-drive’ series is an initiative by the sport’s governing body, FIA Karting, to ‘level the playing field’ for promising young drivers from around the world and Sharp was selected for the position by KartSport New Zealand from a high quality list of local applicants.
This year will be the 11th a series has been run with Sharp, 12, only the second Kiwi – after fellow Christchurch teen Jacob Douglas who contested and finished 11th overall last year – to earn an invite and one of just 50 places on the grid.
Despite his tender years Sharp could hardly be better qualified however.
In the six years he has been competing here in New Zealand he has won 11 titles across two classes, including two NZ titles, five South Island titles as well as NZ Schools, Challenge Cup, Mainland Series and WPKA Goldstar titles.
He is also no stranger to getting on a plane and flying to the other side of the world to compete. Or to making a big impression when he is there.
Last year he won the Mini ROK class B-Final at the big Autumn Trophy meeting at the South Garda Kart Track at Lonato before a week later finishing third in the Singha Trophy (Mini ROK B-Main) race at the annual ROK Cup Superfinal.
Like any other ‘arrive-and-drive’ series, virtually everything a driver needs to compete is provided by the organisers of the Academy Trophy Series – from the chassis (OTK), engine (Vortex, and the same as that run in New Zealand’s ROK DVS classes) and tyres (Vega) to a driving suit and mechanic’s apparel (OMP).
Engines are also regularly swapped so that no one driver is seen to have an advantage.
Travelling with Louis to each round of this year’s Academy Trophy Series will be Chris Cox – himself a multi-time local champion and now one of KartSport New Zealand’s accredited Academy coaches. Chris, says Louis’ father Jason, has been working with Louis since he first sat in a kart and he and his family – who run Rangiora-based kart shop Mainland Karting – ‘have been incredibly supportive right from the beginning of Louis’ career.”
“None of this would have been possible without the help of sponsors, either, ” adds Jason. “Stadium Finance remain Louis’ principal sponsor as we head back to Europe this year for the Academy Trophy programme with support, again, from Mainland Karting, and also Hiab Services and Sutton Tools.”
This year the FIA Karting Academy Trophy series kicks off in early May and includes a round at Genk in Belgium in June before a third and final round at Le Mans in France.
The first two rounds are being held in conjunction with FIA Karting’s annual European KZ and KZ2 class Championship series, while the third and final is being run at the annual KZ World Championship meeting.