WINNING RETURN FOR RED BULL RACER LIAM LAWSON AT BIG AUCKLAND KART MEETING
He came, he saw, and fast-rising young New Zealand racing driver Liam Lawson conquered – in both classes he was entered in to boot – on his return to the sport where he got his start – karting – at the KartSport Auckland club’s annual City of Sails’ two-day challenge meeting over the Auckland Anniversary weekend (Sat/Sun Jan 30-31).
Despite not having raced a kart since his move to cars in 2014, Pukekohe driver Lawson was happy to accept the offer of a drive at this year’s Pool & Spa Maintenance Ltd-sponsored City of Sails meeting from fellow former NZ kart champion and now Hamilton-based team owner, Josh Hart, of Josh Hart Karting.
One drive – in the Rotax DD2 class – then became two when both realised that the way the race schedule was planned they could also run a kart for Lawson in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class.
Bar being pipped for pole in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class by eventual runner-up Zac Stichbury, top female racer Rianna O’Meara-Hunt, Auckland club standout Ryan Crombie and his Josh Hart Karting teammate Clay Osborne, Lawson, 18, made every other move a winning one at this year’s meeting, held in hot, dry conditions at Giltrap Group Raceway.
After starting from P5 on the gird in the first 125cc Rotax Max Light heat race he quickly worked his way forward to be in the lead by the fifth (of 15) lap. Zac Stichbury, son of the late NZ Kart, Formula Ford and V8 Touring Car champion Ashley Stichbury, made Lawson work harder for his wins – which he again claimed from P5 on the grid – in the second and third heats – but Lawson eventually found a way past for the win both times.
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt and Clay Osborne also – albeit briefly – slotted Lawson back to P3 in the longer – 20 lap – Pre-Final (the race which determines the grid for the Final) but, again, Lawson was back where it counted – in the lead – when the chequered flag was unfurled.
Which just left the class Final over 25 laps which – this time – Lawson led from start to finish, with brothers Clay and Fynn Osborne and fellow Hamiltonian Campbell Joyes following him home in a Josh Hart Karting/Hart Kart lockout of the top four placings.
With points from all three heats and the Pre-Final as well as the Final counting Lawson claimed the overall class win from Zac Stichbury, with Fynn Osborne this time, third overall ahead of brother Clay, Campbell Joyes and young Auckland ace Josh Richmond.
Qualifying quickest – and therefore starting each heat race from P1 on the grid made Lawson’s life a little easier in the other class he competed in on Saturday and Sunday, Rotax DD2. However second quickest qualifier Ryan Crombie and fellow Aucklander Jason Lee (who was third quickest) kept Lawson honest.
In the second heat both managed to wrestle the lead away – albeit just for a lap at a time, while in the third heat Crombie made an early pass and held Lawson at bay until lap 10 of 15 when ‘normal service resumed’ and Lawson was back in front.
With Lee a non-starter the Pre-Final saw Lawson lead from start to finish from Crombie and Bay of Plenty driver Darren Walker, but as it turned out, Crombie was not finished yet, spending all 25 laps of the Final locked in a desperate battle for the race lead with Lawson.
All-up the lead swapped one to the other four times, the advantage only going to Lawson – for his second Final race (and class) win at the meeting – with just two laps remaining.
Other class title winners at the Pool & Spa Maintenance Ltd City of Sails meeting were:
- KZ2 – Graeme Smyth
- 125cc Rotax Max Heavy – Aaron Tahu
- ClubSport 120 – Stephen Muggeridge
- Rotax Max Junior – Jay Urwin
- Vortex Mini ROK – Marco Manson
- Cadet ROK – Jackson Culver
1. Graeme Smyth; 2. Joshua Parkinson; 3. Mat Kinsman; 4. Michael Adolph; 5. Nathan Crang; 6, Daniel Bugler.
1. Liam Lawson; 2. Ryan Crombie; 3. Darren Walker; 4. Ryan Nowacki; 5. Tim Eriksen; 6. Daniel Mayall
125cc Rotax Max Light:
1. Liam Lawson; 2. Zac Stichbury; 3. Fynn Osborne; 4. Clay Osborne; 5. Campbell Joyes; 6. Josh Richmond.
125cc Rotax Max Heavy:
1. Aaron Tahu; 2. Aarron Cunningham; 3. Craig Cook; 4. Matthew McBride; 5. Brendon Hart; 6. Brendon Dawson.
1. Stephen Muggeridge; 2. Paul Hutchison; 3. Carl Brennan; 4. Matt Couch; 5. Mike MacDowall; 6. Aaron French
Rotax Max Junior:
1. Jay Urwin; 2. Sebastian Manson; 3. Mitchell Sparrow; 4. Hayden Lines; 5. Emerson Vincent; 6. Ollie Workman.
Vortex Mini ROK:
1. Marco Manson; 2. Maxim Kirwan; 3. Cole Turney; 4. Matthew Johnston; 5. Dylan Brangwynne; 6. Miles Baker.
1. Jackson Culver; 2. Henry Fisher; 3. Set Comer; 4. Zach Hemphill; 5. Lucas Bell; 6. Luke McMillan.