Last weekend New Zealand’s latest international single-seater stars, Liam Lawson and Marcus Armstrong, were contesting the opening round of this year’s FIA Formula 2 class championship in Bahrain.
Both featured prominently, Lawson winning the season-opening sprint race and finish third in the feature race, Armstrong coming back from a mechanical dnf in the first race to run as high as 2nd place in the second and power his way from P14 on the grid to P5 at the line in the feature.
Both youngsters – Lawson is still 19, Armstrong, 20, are in the cusp of taking motor racing’s biggest step – to Formula 1 – yet just six years ago over the Easter weekend in 2014, the pair were racing karts at that year’s Sprint Nationals meeting, Lawson taking home the NZ 100cc Yamaha Junior Restricted class title, Armstrong the NZ Rotax Junior one.
As recently as January this year, Lawson – from Pukekohe south-west of Auckland – proved he had lost none of his ‘kart-smarts,’ winning both classes he entered at the KartSport Auckland club’s long-running, two-day, City of Sails meeting. And, had not the first COVID-19 Lockdown forced the cancellation of the 2020 Sprint Nationals meeting in Christchurch over the Easter weekend last year, Marcus Armstrong – the son of event sponsor Rick Armstrong of the locally-founded but now nationwide Armstrong Motor Group – was all set for a return to his karting roots at that event.
Former Australian Supercars Champion, and now budding US IndyCar series front-runner Scott McLaughlin (the current KartSport NZ Patron), meanwhile, proved at the last NZ Sprint Nationals meeting held here (at the KartSport Hamilton club’s Porter Park Raceway over the Easter weekend in 2019) that – like Liam Lawson did earlier this year – you can indeed go back and be competitive, finishing a close second to 11-time NZ #1 Ryan Urban from Auckland in the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class.
Karting has always been seen as the best ‘launching pad’ for a career in motorsport and four of the eight other class title winners at that meeting have since gone on to race cars, most – like newly-crowned Castrol Toyota Racing Series champion and now Australian (Porsche) Carrera Cup Championship entrant, Matthew Payne from Pukekohe (the 2019 NZ KZ2 class title) and current Best Bars Toyota 86 class race-winner and potential 2021 series winner Ryan Wood from Wellington -with conspicuous success.
In an ideal world, of course, you would continue to do both…as a number of entrants at this year’s 2021 NZ Sprint Nationals meeting at the KartSport Canterbury club’s Carrs Rd Raceway in Halswell are already doing.
Last weekend, successful Christchurch-based karting international and now car driver Jacob Douglas and fellow teenager Bo Hill from Nelson were named winner and runner-up respectively in the Rookie of the Year section after stand out performances in the South Island Formula 1600 (Ford) Series.
This weekend they will be back racing each other in the 125c Rotax Max Junior class in their karts.
Other karters with significant car experience expected to feature in their respective classes include Hawke’s Bay ace Zac Stichbury and former Dunedin-now-Auckland-based Josh Bethune (125cc Rotax Max Light), Bethune and locals Jaden Ransley and Matthew Hamilton in Rotax DD2, and Hamilton, fellow Cantabrian Chris Cox and Jamie McNee from Wellington in Vortex ROK DVS Senior.
Karters from all over the country have made their way to Christchurch for KartSport New Zealand’s three-day (Fri-Sun) Armstrong Motor Group-backed 2021 National Sprint Championship meeting.
As well as KartSport New Zealand’s coveted annual National Sprint titles, there are also several subsidised trips to the annual ROK Cup Superfinal meeting in Italy later this year to be won for those competing in the various Vortex ROK classes over the three days.
The winners of both the Vortex Mini ROK and Vortex ROK DVS Junior classes and the first and second place-getters in the Vortex ROK DVS Senior classes will all earn an entry to this year’s Superfinal event as well as the use of a kart, engine and tyres etc at the event, a special OMP racing suit (supplied by NZ importer Racer Products), plus $2000 each from the KartSport NZ/Lascom Motorsport/Dunlop international travel fund, and a share of the KartSport New Zealand/Motul international travel fund.
For those who can’t make it to Christchurch for the 2021 Sprint Nationals event action from it will be livestreamed on all three days and can be accessed free via KartSport NZ’s official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KartSportNZ/