Race Report (Yes, a Race Report!): KartSport NZ Club Day

As many of you know, we only cover kart racing topics on KartSportNews. Not car racing, not bike racing, and typically not what ex-karters are now doing after they’ve disappeared from the sport. And we don’t normally cover sim racing either. But this is different.

With real racing on hold, we’re happy to report on sim racing events around the globe, on the provision they are dedicated karting-related events, such as those organised by a kart club.

The following report came through from Kartsport New Zealand.

FIRST KARTSPORT NZ ‘VIRTUAL CLUB DAY’ A SUCCESS – MORE PLANNED

KartSport New Zealand’s first ‘Virtual Club Day’ was held on Easter Sunday evening and its success – on all sorts of different levels – means more are already being planned, says the organisation’s National President.

KartSport NZ ran its first iRacing ‘virtual club day’ on Easter Sunday evening. Here is a screen shot from inside eventual winner Angus Claasen’s Trophy Truck (pic – KartSport New Zealand/iRacing)

“Without a doubt,” said Graeme Moore this morning. “I thought my phone was going hot on Sunday afternoon as we were putting the finishing touches to the event together. But yesterday and even earlier today (Tuesday) it’s just been ballistic with people wanting to tell me how good it was.”

Like every other admin body of a sporting organisation here and around the world KartSport New Zealand was left in a quandary once the true ramifications of the COVET-19 virus hit home.

Even before the lockdown, for instance, the jewel in the local sport’s crown, the annual National Sprint Championship meeting over the Easter weekend had to be called off, and once the lockdown was in place karters were effectively stranded at home in their bubbles for four weeks.

Le Mans 24 Hour race winner and former F1 driver Brendon Hartley, currently back ‘home’ in lockdown in Taupo, was one of the current stars on the world motor racing stage to contest the inaugural KartSport New Zealand Virtual Club Day on Easter Sunday evening (pic – KartSport New Zealand)

While he and his fellow Executive members have been using the time – and the internet and various face/time apps – to keep on top of admin across the club-based organisation, Moore says he couldn’t help think that the karters themselves – the people on whose behalf he and the other officials were doing the work – were missing out.

It didn’t help, either, that every time, he says, he tuned into the TV news at 6.00pm there would be a story about how F1, IndyCar or the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship was launching some sort of ‘e-series’ on an ‘iRacing’ platform.

Enter Travis Smith, a keen young karter and Tech Officer from Dunedin. Smith is also right into his Sim racing and on hearing his Dad, KartSport New Zealand’s National Technical Officer Colin Smith, discussing the possibility of ‘doing something on iRacing’ with Graeme Moore, immediately put up his hand to help.

Christian Hermansen from Palmerston North, 3x NZ Minisprint speedway champion and Goldstar series karter getting to grips with his new Sim set up. Christian started the final from grid 42 and finished 7th (pic – KartSport New Zealand)

The result was the inaugural KartSport NZ ‘Trophy Truck’ race meeting at the Laguna Seca circuit in northern California. The event included practise and qualifying sessions before 3 x 5-lap heat races and a reverse grid 20-lap final complete with one compulsory pitstop to have enough fuel to make it to the end.

Though it was only promoted on KartSport NZ’s Facebook page (err, incorrect guys, we popped it up on KartSportNews too – MW) it attracted a 48-strong field which included everyone from first-time SIM racers to Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Brendon Hartley, currently (conveniently) ‘locked down’ with his wife at his home in Taupo.

KartSport New Zealand and sponsors Carter’s Tyre Service, and the Giltrap Group covered the cost of hosting the event on the iRacing ‘network’ and it was live-streamed on the KartSport NZ Facebook page.

Because, Moore says, he is acutely aware of the financial strain many typical KartSport families are now under thanks to the COVET-19 lockdown entry costs per driver were kept to a minimum – hence the use of the generic ‘Trophy Trucks’ rather than some sort of virtual Kart.

“Obviously karts would have been a better ‘fit,’ but the Trophy Trucks provided us with a pretty much level playing field in terms of set-up, plus because of that they are one of the cheapest options on the iRacing program.”

“Now that we’ve run our first club day we will look at our options going forward. One of those might well be to go to a virtual kart if we can access a simple, cost effective option but in the meantime we will stick with the cheaper options on iRacing, it is “Club Day racing after all”.

As it turned out the race was won by 18-year-old Sim specialist Angus Claasen, from Hamilton who led home karter and similarly experienced young Sim racer Max Donnelly from Whakatane.

Classen, who is one of the country’s best young track cyclists, said he took up Sim racing a year or so ago and is now a regular on the iRacing platform. He said he enjoyed his first KartSport NZ ‘club meeting’ and reckons he will definitely be back for more.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I had a good time out there against some pretty cool drivers and I particularly liked the fact that the car was kept simple and had a fixed set up. It made the racing close and gave all the competitors an even chance.”

Three-time former NZ Kart champion Chris van der Drift, who went on to enjoy a stellar international career in single-seater racing cars in Europe and latterly in Porsches in the Carrera Cup Asia championship series before returning home to live and race out of Hamilton, was the best of the sport’s Pro drivers in 8th place with Brendon Hartley 11th and Tom Alexander 12th.

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