With 29 years at the sharp end of the sport, Auckland’s Daniel Bray, remains one of the country’s foremost karters after dominating the opening round of the Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand ProKart Series opener.
Bray was all-class throughout the weekend at the Stihl Shop Tokoroa Raceway, claiming the KZ2 class victory in the first of four rounds in the ProKart series.
The N-Zed Motorsport driver from Auckland won all three heats on Saturday, bounced back from a rare dnf in the fourth heat to go on to claim both the pre-final and final in a commanding display.
His rivals might need to note that Bray shows no signs of letting up, driven to further success in equal parts by his on-going passion for the sport, and his business interests in karts and coaching.
“I love racing and still have a huge passion for racing and for success,” said Bray. “Also, it is our business and I feel I can help my customers as a racer – being able to understand the tracks and surfaces and what is best needed.
“I think they go together well. The passion is still there and the desire to win. Victory is always sweet.”
Bray said he had a rare failure in the fourth heat, when the sidepod bar fell off and took the air box with it but he stopped before it caused more damage.
“In my 29 years that was a first. It was one of those freak things. This weekend the kart was on rails. It was the same set-up as we ran at Hamilton at the CIK Trophy of NZ and we went fast there too.”
Bray cleared out to win the final from Auckland’s Jason Lee and Palmerston North’s Jackson Rooney, with talented teenager Joshua Parkinson (Auckland) racing at the sharp end of the grid until a dnf in the final dented his hopes.
Bray praised teammate Nathan Crang who was third in the pre-final and eighth in the final in his return from a broken wrist, racing with a brace on the weekend.
In other classes, Tokoroa club driver Connor Wilson was outstanding in the KZ4 class, winning all three heats on Saturday and while a dnf in the fourth heat stalled his progress, he quickly returned to winning ways with emphatic wins in the pre-final and final.
The KZ2 Masters class was dominated early on during the event by Kevin Storr, however series promoter, Steve Brown gradually improved, moving up to second in the pre final and then winning the final from Dave Malcolm with Storr in third.
The Vortex Mini ROK evolved to a two-way battle throughout the weekend. In-form Christchurch rising star, Zach Tucker took out the title over Hamilton’s Miles Baker with the pair at the sharp end of the competition.
Baker took first blood with a win in the opening heat before Tucker edged him in the remaining heats on day one. Tucker, 11, claimed the remaining two heats on Saturday, and all three races on Sunday – the fourth heat, pre-final and final.
The Rotax Max Junior class proved the most competitive, with more than 20 starters and close racing.
Palmerston North teenager, Kiahn Burt was in the hunt throughout the weekend without a victory – finishing fourth, third, fourth, second, and second until the final where he forced his way to the lead with five laps remaining.
He held off the charge from Auckland’s Ashton Phipps, who also had solid results in the heats before winning the pre-final. Phipps, runner-up in the CIK Trophy of NZ two weeks ago, led from the flag until Kiahn pushed through as the pair diced until the chequered flag.
Hawkes Bay karter Tom Bewley had another strong weekend winning the first two heats, but issues in the pre-final had him back on grid 14 for the final.
Blenheim’s Arthur Brougham and Pukekohe’s Emerson Vincent also had their moments, each enjoying a heat win, in what is shaping as the most closely fought class in the Toyota Gazoo Racing ProKart Series.
The series continues in Rotorua (19-20 March), Te Puke (30 April 1 May) with the finale at Hamilton (21-22 April).