With 127 entries (up from 118 in 2019) for the first round of the latest (61st annual!) Manawatu & TRC Toyota-backed Wellington Provincial Karting Association’s (WPKA) Goldstar Series at the KartSport Taranaki club’s Todd Energy Raceway in Waitara this weekend the local KartSport scene has obviously weathered the COVID-19 storm better than many expected.
As a self-proclaimed ‘stepping stone’ series, aimed at bridging the gap in experience and race craft between club and national level competition a bumper entry like this is very welcome.
For the past 6 to 7 years the big numbers – the 17 to 24 entries per class – have been in the Junior classes; Cadet ROK, Vortex Mini ROK and Rotax Junior.
Numbers across these classes remain strong; 14 in Cadet ROK, 17 in Vortex Mini ROK and 19 in Rotax Junior. Where the big jump in numbers has occurred in the Goldstar series entry this season, however, is in the Vortex ROK DVS Senior class, where this weekend it has attracted 19 entries, with even more expected to ‘jump on board’ at next year’s series rounds.
From modest beginnings two years ago the liquid-cooled, direct drive class has gone from strength to strength, attracting a broad cross-section of drivers from established front-runners like multi-time South Island champion Chris Cox, multi-time former NZ kart and overseas car series champion, Chris van der Drift, the country’s top resident female kart driver, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington, and recent Junior category graduate Ben Stewart from Wellington.
Ben’s father, former NZV8s class driver Phil Stewart, was an early convert to specialist Italian kart engine manufacturer Vortex’s way of doing things and – after running his son in the DVS ‘Junior’ class last season – says it was a ‘no-brainer’ putting Ben into the DVS Senior class when the time came for him to graduate from the Junior ranks.
“Obviously, we could have put Ben in a Rotax Max Light kart, but then he would have had to spend a couple of months learning how to drive with different power and a clutch, and I’d have had to spend probably twice as long getting my head around how to set the kart up to suit the different engine and power characteristics.
“By staying with the Vortex ‘family’ if you like, the transition from Juniors to the Senior ranks was pretty much seamless.’
Stewart also believes that the performance by 2019 Goldstar Series ROK DVS class winner, 25-year old New Zealand representative Arie Hutton, at the Vortex engine group’s ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy in October (Hutton finished second overall after starting the Super ROK class final from P2 and leading 14 of 20 laps) that convinced a number of drivers to make the move to the DVS Senor class.
“Obviously being able to qualify for a trip to the Superfinal by doing well in our local ROK Cup series here is a major incentive. But then to be able to log on and watch one of your own leading a Final, against the best drivers in the class from around the world, I’ll tell you what, that brought home to me what a great thing – as well as great opportunity – we have here in NZ.”
The sport of karting was in its infancy here and around the world back in 1960, but that was the year the WPKA established what in effect was the country’s first interclub competition.
Under the current stewardship of the WPKA it is again in rude good health with 127 entries received over 11 classes by the time entries closed this week for the opening round at Waitara in Taranaki this weekend.
Though originally set up to benefit members of clubs in the lower North Island, canny drivers from further afield have always availed themselves of the opportunity to race at new tracks against different drivers.
Over the past four to five seasons, in fact, the series’ effective catchment has expanded to take in Hamilton and Auckland in the north and Nelson, Blenheim and (this year) Winton in the Deep South.
KartSport Wellington hosts the second round in early March 2021, KartSport Hawke’s Bay the third in early May and KartSport Manawatu the annual stand-alone ‘WPKA Championships’ in June 2021.
2020/21 Manawatu & TRC Toyota WPKA Goldstar Series
- Rnd 1 Nov 28-29 2020 Todd Energy Raceway Waitara Taranaki
- Rnd 2 March 06-07 2021 Gazley Raceway Kaitoke Wellington (Incorp. Rnd 1 2021 ROK Cup NZL)
- Rnd 3 May 01-02 2021 Carter’s Tyres’ Raceway Roy’s Hill Hastings Hawke’s Bay
- 2021 WPKA Championships round June 05-06 2021 Manawatu Toyota Raceway Palmerston North Manawatu (Incorp. Rnd 3a 2021 ROK Cup NZL)