ROONEY, KIRWAN AND WOOD BEST OF KIWI BUNCH AT AUST. KART CHAMPS OPENER AT TAILEM BEND
A storming drive from P18 on the grid of the TaG 125 class to 3rd place in the Final earned Palmerston North karter Jackson Rooney top resident Kiwi status at an all-action opening round of this year’s SP Tools Australian Kart Championship presented by Castrol Edge (AKC) at the new The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia on Sunday.
Rooney, who won the TaG 125 class at the final round of the 2019 AKC in Melbourne in August last year, got his 2020 season off to the best possible start by claiming pole position in qualifying on Saturday morning. However a fraught run through the three heat races later in the day saw him with two dnfs and a 10th place.
Sunday was another day, however, and a 6th place finish in the fourth heat saw him start the 20-lap Final from P18 on the grid.
With everything to gain and nothing to lose, Rooney made up 8 places in the first 2 laps then spent the rest the race resolutely working his way forward, 3rd place, a justifiable reward for his speed, tenacity and racecraft, and enough to seen him head to the second round of the 2020 AKC in 7th place in the series class points standings.
The next best Kiwi finisher was Auckland’s Maxim Kirwin who ended up 4th in the Cadet 9 (Cadet ROK) class Final and 5th overall in the series points standings after the first of 5 rounds.
The 9-year-old qualified 8th out of the 20-strong field and got as high as 3rd in the heat races. That earned him P6 on the starting grid for the class Final in which he got as high as 3rd place but ended up in a still impressive 4th place by the time the chequered flag came out.
There was little separating Wellington’s Ryan Wood and Auckland’s Josh Richmond in the Iame X30 class, meanwhile.
Richmond qualified 11th, Wood 15th and from that point on the pair were never far apart. Richmond made it up to P3 in the first heat, Wood to 7th. In the second heat it was Wood who got a break, finishing 9th to Richmond’s 13th , the latter the result of a nose-cone penalty.
In the third heat the pair crossed the finish line with Richmond in 5th, Wood 6th, and in the fourth (heat) Wood managed to get to 4th place, Richmond to 6th.
That gave Wood P5 spot on the grid for the class Final where, after a strong start saw him up to P3 on the opening lap, he dropped back to cross the finish line where he started (5th)
Josh Richmond found himself in a similar position, holding P7 until the dying stages of the Final only to be caught and passed by two other drivers which dropped him back to finish 9th at the flag which became 8th when a driver ahead was penalised. Despite that the pair are well-placed points-wise with Wood 6th overall after the opening AKC round and Richmond just 2 points back in 7th.
Australia’s elite Junior age-group class – KA2 (Vortex ROK DVSJ) – was where the bulk of the 12-strong Kiwi contingent were competing with AKC rookie Luke Thompson from Auckland impressing with the third quickest lap time in qualifying and going on to finish his weekend with an excellent 8th place in the class Final (and 7th overall in the class points standings) just one spot behind the top Kiwi in the class, Thomas Bewley from Hawke’s Bay, who ended up 7th in the Final but back in 13th place the series’ class points standings.
Auckland ace Nathan Crang was the next best Kiwi qualifier in P14 followed by Thomas Bewley (P19), Jacob Douglas from Christchurch (P26), and Aucklanders Liam Sceats (P29) and Mason Potter (P30)
Luke Thompson was again the best finishing Kiwi through the heats with a P4 and a P6 grid for the Final, but it was Thomas Bewley who put in one of the drives of his career so far in the KA2 class Final to finish 7th, one place ahead of the equally impressive Thompson.
Bewley is part of a Repco Young Driver Scholarship programme being supported by Kartsport New Zealand patron Scott McLaughlin and on Tuesday the reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion Tweeted;
“Super proud of Tom in his first Australian race weekend. Started 15th in the Final and finished 7th out of 47 competitors – unreal drive! Congrats buddy, more to come yet!”
Nathan Crang actually started the KA2 Final closest to the front (P6) but came under immediate and concentrated attack from all sides, slipping down the order first to P10 then (on lap 9) all the way down to P23 before his race ended a lap later with a broken chain. Despite that he had done enough earlier in the weekend to be 10th in the overall series points standings.
Luke Thompson started the Final from P11 on the grid, Thomas Bewley from P15, Mason Potter P17, Jacob Douglas P26 and Liam Sceats P33. Bewley’s charge up the order was definitely a highlight, but in terms of sheer number of passes made to would be hard to match dynamic Kiwi duo Jacob Douglas and Liam Sceats who ended up 10th and 13th respectively.
Bar a brief period mid-race where he sat in P15 for a couple of laps, Douglas’ trajectory – on his lap chart anyway – was virtually straight up, the 14-year-old making multiple passes per lap early on – then literally a pass a lap as the race wound down.
Liam Sceats was – if anything – in an even more determined mood, setting the fastest race lap as he scythed through the field from P33 to P13.
With Nathan Crang a dnf, Mason Potter (25th) was the only other Kiwi finisher, both in the KA2 class and across the 12 entrants who started the weekend. After the weekend’s round Potter is 17th overall, Douglas 22nd,and Liam Sceats 24th.
Jamie Thompson qualified 16th quickest in the (well oversubscribed with 59 entries) Cadet 12 (Vortex Mini ROK) class but missed out on making the Final after finishing the heats in P45.
Aucklander Sam Wright was the only resident Kiwi in the KZ2 field and – unfortunately – failed to finish the class Final after qualifying 10th quickest, and getting as high as 7th in the heats.
That saw him start the KZ2 Final from P8 but that was to be as good as it got.
“I made a pass and then I was just a passenger unfortunately,” he said of the clash of wheels and karts which ended his race.
The meeting also marked the debut of Auckland karting international Daniel Bray’s dedicated Melbourne-based N-Zed Motorsport team which this year is running three of the resident Kiwis – Nathan Crang and Luke and Jamie Thompson – alongside three Australian drivers, Matty Smith and Blaine Densley in KZ2, and Ryan De Borre in Cadet 9.
Bray, who as well as being an accomplished driver, engine builder and team owner/manager, is also an accredited KartSport New Zealand Academy Coach, was overall very happy with the way the weekend went.
“All and all an awesome weekend for N-Zed Motorsport and our debut in the AKC, “ he said. “All our drivers qualified in the top 30% of their classes, and overall a lot of racing lessons were learned, which is what is needed to make winning drivers.”
New Zealand’s ‘flying Kiwis’ will be back in action across the Tasman at the second round of this year’s AKC at Puckapunyal in rural Victoria between April 17 & 19.
SP Tools Australian Kart Championship presented by Castrol Edge
- Round 1 – February 28 – March 1 – South Australia
- Round 2 – April 17-19 – Victoria
- Round 3 – June 19-21 – Queensland
- Round 4 – July 31 – August 2 – New South Wales
- Round 5 – September 11-13 – Victoria