Mixed Conditions Challenge Top Half Karters

Karters from all over the country were challenged by mixed weather and track conditions at the opening round of the 2021 Giltrap Group Top Half Series hosted by the KartSport Rotorua club at its Century Batteries’ International Kart Raceway high in the Mamaku Ranges west of the lakeside Bay of Plenty tourist town over the weekend.

“With 142 competitors taking to the track, Saturday morning practice and afternoon racing certainly proved a challenge in the wet conditions” said the series’ Managing Partner, Simon Church. “Sunday dawned with blue skies, however the early races were still run on a wet track, and it wasn’t until Rotax Max Junior which was the fifth class out the gate that the call was made to go out on dry tyres.”

Jackson Rooney won Rotax MAX Light (pic – Fast Company/Emilee Jane Photography)

Class by class Lascom Motorsport sponsored Cadet ROK saw three different drivers in the hunt for round victory with Lucas Bell, Zach Hemphill and Braden Watson sharing heat race wins. Auckland competitor Lucas Bell showed greater consistency to take overall round honours by finishing every race in the top three, however Hemphill had a very fast drive in the Carter’s Tyre Service-sponsored class GP catching round winner Bell and making the pass with a few laps to go to take the win by 0.4 of a second. 

Two time series’ Cadet ROK champion Maxim Kirwan was one to watch in the next class up, the SD European-sponsored Vortex Mini ROK, and he showed his pace once again grabbing two race wins on the Saturday afternoon. Recently crowned class National Schools’ champion Marco Manson came back on Sunday to take both wins however Kirwan followed Manson across the line in both heat races on Sunday giving him the round win.

Victory in Vortex Mini ROK went to Maxim Kirwan (pic – Fast Company/Emilee Jane Photography)

Hamilton driver Miles Baker showed that he is going to be one to watch over the series, however, after having a consistent weekend of heat racing he took victory in the class GP  by 3.7 seconds. 

The extremely competitive 125cc Rotax Max Junior class, proudly sponsored by International Kart Supplies, saw Emerson Vincent, Sebastian Manson and Jay Urwin all run into on track drama or post-race penalties, leaving the way open for up-and-coming CRG driver Ashton Phipps to take the round win by a massive 16 points from Mitchell Sparrow and Tayler Payne, prompting Simon Church to say that; “the stand out drive of the weekend for me has to go to Ashton Phipps with the largest points lead for the round in any class.”

Junior MAX winner Ashton Phipps (pic – Fast Company/Emilee Jane Photography)

The biggest field of the weekend (with 31 entered) was in the Urban Performance-sponsored 125cc Rotax Max Light class. Competition for a place on the   podium was intense though young Auckland ace Josh Richmond was sitting right up there on points until he struck a mechanical issue on track resulting in a DNF.

That left Palmerston North’s Jackson Rooney with a ten point lead over the country’s top female driver Rianna O’Meara Hunt going into the final heat race of the weekend resulting in O’Meara Hunt finishing up 2nd on count back. Invercargill driver Luca Burns showed that all his recent competition across the country is developing his results finishing up in a strong third position for the weekend. 


Meanwhile Bay of Plenty ace Darren Walker dominated the KartZone Rotorua-sponsored 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class winning every heat race comfortably and the class GP by 8.3 seconds over Rotorua local Adam Bell. Youngster Hayden Knight ended up tied on points for second place with long time competitor Aaron Cunningham.

Veloce Karting competitor Ayrton Williams did team boss and class sponsor Chris van der Drift proud in the Veloce Karting-backed Vortex ROK DVS  Snr class, taking the win over recent kart-turned-car racer Kaleb Ngatoa. Williams finished in the top two in the class heats and also won the Carter’s Tyre Service class GP, in that case from Hawke’s Bay driver James van den Berk.

KZ2 winner Nathan Crang (pic – Fast Company/Emilee Jane Photography)

There was a real ‘changing of the guard’ look and feel in the Employment Law Advocacy-backed KZ2 class this year with youngster Nathan Crang taking over as the driver to beat by taking three out of four race wins. Quick Southlander Luca Burns backed up his strong result in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class to come away with second in the KZ2 field with class debutant Clay Osborne from Hamilton an impressive third.

Stainless Welding-sponsored Rotax DD2 had plenty of on track action with only one point separating the top three finishers of the weekend however Speedway Champion Sam Waddell was the winner on count back from Graeme Smyth. Recent Top Half Series class champion Jason Lee came home in third by one point however Lee went on to take victory in the GP as Graeme Smyth set a new class lap record.

Lucas Bell, 1st Cadet ROK (pic – Fast Company/Emilee Jane Photography)

Finally, James Russell also had a dominating weekend on track grabbing himself three out of four race wins in the Super Metal Recycling-sponsored ClubSport 120 class from Neil Surtees and Paul Hutchison. Russell continued his dominating performance into the class GP however Shannon Nobel impressed by setting a lap time 0.5 seconds faster than Russell in the GP.

This year’s Giltrap Group Top Half Series is run with the support of the following valued sponsors; 

  • Main Sponsor: Giltrap Group
  • GP Series: Carters Tyres 
  • Cadet ROK: Lascom Motorsport
  • Vortex Mini ROK: SD European 
  • 125cc Rotax Max Junior: International Kart Supplies 
  • Vortex ROK DVS Junior: Supreme Kart Supplies 
  • 125cc Rotax Max Light: Urban Performance 
  • 125cc Rotax Max Heavy: Kartzone Rotorua 
  • Vortex ROK DVS Senior: Veloce Karting 
  • KZ2: Employment Law Advocacy 
  • Rotax DD2: Stainless Welding 
  • ClubSport 120: Super Metal Recycling 
  • Spot Prizes: Neil Allport Motorsport, Tool Shed & BOP Kart Supplies

Summing  up his impressions of the meeting Simon Church reckoned that …. “With nearly 500 racing laps completed everyone certainly got their fair share of track time! 

“Congratulations must go to everyone who competed, not just to the class, heat and GP race winners. A huge thank you to all those people who put in a massive effort to make the weekend happen. We hope to see you all again at Round 2 in Auckland at the end of the month!”

CALENDARGiltrap Group Top Half Series 2021

  • Rnd 1: KartSport Rotorua July 31/Aug 01
  • Rnd 2: KartSport Auckland Aug 28/29
  • Rnd 3: KartSport Eastern Bay of Plenty Oct 02/03
  • Rnd 4: KartSport Hamilton Nov 13/14