Talk about tenacity. Despite the on-going disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic New Zealand’s 5th annual ROK Cup NZL KartSport Series has been run – and won!
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” the man behind it, Maurice Frost, of New Plymouth-based Vortex ROK engine importer Supreme Kart Supplies and Engines, said this week. “But, yes, we got there in the end!”
This year was going to be the biggest yet for the Vortex ROK engine-based series with the first Senior category – Vortex ROK DVS – joining an expanding class roster alongside its Junior equivalent – Vortex ROK DVS Junior – which was added in 2018, and the two classes on which the national series was based when it was originally set up back in 2016, Vortex Mini ROK and Cadet ROK.
Last year (2019) also marked a breakthrough for the 8-person team which represented the New Zealand series at the annual ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy in October,
His stand-out win in the Bridgestone Trophy – B Main final in the Junior ROK class meant that young Christchurch karter Jacob Douglas was the first Kiwi to stand on the top step of the podium at a ROK Cup Superfinal event.
That history-making performance was backed up by fellow Cantabrian, Louis Sharp, who finished a fighting third and in doing so claimed the final podium position in the Mini ROK class Singha Trophy – B Main final.
Major travel prizes to Italy to compete against other national and/or regional winners from similar ROK Cup series from around the globe have played a key role both in boosting numbers as well as the competitiveness of the ROK Cup NZL series.
So – with an eye on putting together another ‘super’ squad of eight top Kiwi ROK category karters to contest the 2020 Superfinal event at the South Garda kart circuit complex in Italy’s north east in October this year, Supreme Karts worked closely with KartSport New Zealand and affiliated club officials around the country to put together a broadly similar four-round ROK Cup NZL calendar for 2020.
This kicked off at the second round of the Manawatu & TRC Toyota-backed 60th anniversary WPKA Goldstar Series over the March 07/08 weekend. The second round was then to have been held in conjunction with the 2020 KartSport New Zealand National Sprint Championship meeting in Christchurch over the Easter weekend in early April.
It was not to be, however, the COVID-19 coronavirus seeing to that.
Just four days after the final race at the opening round of the 2020 ROK Cup NZL series (March 11) the World Health Organization declared an official pandemic, and just 8 days after that the government closed our borders to all but fellow Kiwis returning home.
It was New Zealand’s Level 4 Lockdown which effectively sent the team at Supreme Karts back to the drawing board, however.
With virtually all Kiwis effectively self-isolating in their own homes until April 28 – when certain limited freedoms were allowed under a less stringent Level 3 protocol – it was not until June 09, when Kiwis awoke to a Level 1 world, where there were now no major restrictions on regional travel around the country, or the sizes of any social or sporting gatherings, that KartSport New Zealand could countenance permitting any new meetings.
Determined to see what started on such a positive note end the same way, Maurice Frost was quick to throw in his lot with the organizing committee of the WPKA Goldstar series – who felt exactly the same way about resurrecting their own – very special – 60th anniversary, 2020 series.
And so, a second round of the 2020 ROK Cup NZL series was re-scheduled to run in conjunction with the third (and final ‘series’) round of the 2019/20 WPKA Goldstar in Hawke’s Bay, now over the July 11-12 weekend, with the third and in this case final round three weeks later (Aug 01/02 weekend) as part of the annual season-ending ‘WPKA Championships’ meeting in Palmerston North.
Since the first ROK Cup NZL series back in 2016 a major carrot for ambitious young karters here – and indeed in other territories where Vortex ROK engines are used – is the opportunity to earn an entry, use of kart and engine at the annual ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy.
Though the prospect of flying to and from Italy might not hold the same appeal this year – thanks to the on-going issue of the COVID-19 virus – that it might have in previous years, at least three of the eight who have qualified this year are planning to take up their places at the 2020 event between October 14 and 17.
Leading the charge is last year’s Bridgestone Trophy winner Jacob Douglas from Christchurch who claimed the 2020 NZ title in the Vortex ROK DVS Junior class with two round wins out of three and who will be competing at the event for the fourth consecutive time.
Set to join Douglas on the Kiwi squad at South Garda complex this year are two other returnees, the country’s top female karter, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington, and the driver she – just – beat to win the Vortex ROK DVS class and title this year, Arie Hutton from Palmerston North.
Last year both showed podium potential at the ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy, with O’Meara-Hunt eventually finishing sixth in the SuperROK class A-Final.
Hutton qualified 7th, and P8, P2 and P3 finishes in the three heat races saw him start the Final from P3.
Unfortunately, that was as good as it got, he now 25-year-old involved in a race-ending crash while in 3rd place on lap 15 of the 20 lap Final.
Heading into the final round of the shortened ROK Cup NZL series in Palmerston North at the beginning of the month Hutton held a six-point in the Vortex ROK DVS class point standings – over O’Meara-Hunt. At the final round, however O’Meara-Hunt claimed maximum points, with Hutton back in 4th place, the pair ending up tied on points but with O’Meara-Hunt getting the nod in terms of the overall series placings.
There was a similar situation in the Vortex Mini ROK class where Blenheim ace Arthur Broughan held a three point lead heading into the final over fellow Mainlander Izaak Fletcher (ChCh) only for Fletcher to come out on top at the final round and claim the series title (on count back) despite a points tie with Broughan.
The winning margins were more clear cut in the other two classes, with Jacob Douglas sealing victory in Vortex ROK DVS Junior with two round wins to second-placed Auckland-based rival Liam Sceats’ one.
Zach Tucker from Christchurch also took out a dominant overall win in the Cadet ROK class (earning a brand new Cadet ROK engine for his efforts) with the only perfect score – 150 points – thanks to being the only driver to win his class at each of the three rounds.
In addition to free event entry, supply of kart/engine/tyres/tent space/meals, all Kiwi participants at the 2020 ROK Cup Superfinal will receive a custom Team NZL OMP race suit supplied by Racer Products, and a share of the Motul/KartSport International Travel Fund.
Vortex Mini ROK, Vortex ROK DVS Junior and Vortex ROK DVS ROK Cup NZL series winners receive $2000 from series promoter Supreme Karts. Other Superfinal seat winners who contest the Superfinal event receive a share of the Lascom Motorsport/Dunlop/KartSport International Travel Fund (value $2000).
2020 ROK Cup NZL – Final results & points after Rnd 3 of 3
Vortex ROK DVS
1. Rianna O’Meara-Hunt 141 points; 2. Arie Hutton 141; 3. Jamie van den Berk 137; 4. Jacob Cranston 136; 5. Brad Still 130; 6. Tyler Edney 128; 7. Campbell MacLachlan 41.
Vortex ROK DVS Junior
1. Jacob Douglas 147 points; 2. Liam Sceats 144; 3. Tom Bewley 133; 4. Ayrton Williams 132; 5. Mason Potter 130; 6. Lilly Rose Taylor 124; 7. Hayden Bakkerus 43; 8. Sebastian Manson 42.
Vortex Mini ROK
1. Izaak Fletcher 142 points; 2. Arthur Broughan 142; 3. Jacob Bellamy 136; 4. Mitchell Corin 131; 5. Jacob Greig-Dickie 84; 6. Blake Corin 50; 7. Lochiel McGregor 42.
1. Zach Tucker 150 points; 2. Jackson Culver 136; 3. Grayson Stowe 135; 4. Aryan Lala 135; 5. William Edmonson 45.