Kiwi karters Arie Hutton and Jacob Douglas played key roles in their respective Finals as this year’s ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy on Saturday, though the outcomes could hardly have been more different.
Hutton, 25, from Palmerston North, led the first 14 laps of the 20-lap Super ROK class Final and ended up in second place after being caught and passed by eventual race winner and former class champion, Alex Machado from Andorra, who charged through the field after starting from P14 on the grid.
Douglas, meanwhile, spent the early part of his Junior ROK Final in a three-way battle for the lead before slipping back to fourth then fifth places until his race was effectively ended when he was called into the pits to replace a lost nose cone with just two laps to go, and was eventually classified as finishing 29th.
It was a bitter-sweet way to start Finals day for the two Kiwis, who had both been amongst the pace-setters in their classes since Thursday.
Douglas, in fact, had crossed the finish line in first place in all three of his Junior ROK heat races, only to be penalised for a move early in the second heat which saw him relegated to P15.
That compromised his grid position for the Final though as it was he started from P3 on the grid and briefly grabbed the lead from pole sitter and eventual race runner-up Enzo Deligny from France at the end of the first lap.
With Saturday the only day the track was completely dry, however, those drivers who had nailed a dry set-up on slick tyres were at a distinct advantage, the race eventually won by Italian ace Riccardo Ianniello who made his way up through the field from P14 on the grid to take a lead he would never lose on lap 11 (of 16).
Arie Hutton found himself in a similar position towards the end of his Final, after he and 2019 Senior ROK class title holder Cristian Comanducci from Italy had run line-astern in first and second place for the first 13 of 20 laps.
Hutton had covered himself in glory from the start, when with a bold move from grid 2 on the outside row, he grabbed the initiative from fellow front row starter Elliot Shaw from Great Britain (in a move the commentator described as ‘Michael Schumacher-like’) and took the lead.
Comanducci closed to within a kart length on several occasions but only Machado was able to catch, pass and edge away from the flying Kiwi, who had closed the Andorran driver’s winning margin back down to just 0.267 of a second as they crossed the finish line. With Machado’s kart leaking water on to the track Hutton was unable to get close enough to mount a serious counter attack.
Hutton will remain in Italy after the Superfinal meeting, where he will complete a post-graduate degree in automobile design in Milan. Jacob Douglas plans to return home straight away however, where he will be required to enter COVID-19 quarantine for a period of 14 days
Arie Hutton travelled to Italy with the support of the Lascom Motorsport/Dunlop/Motul NZ/KartSport International Travel Funds.
Jacob Douglas travelled to Italy with the support of his ROK Cup NZL series winner prizemoney and the Motul/KartSport International Travel Fund.