The breadth of both participation and talent of karting in New Zealand has again been exemplified after the first stage of the 2022 Gazley National Sprint Championships in Wellington at the weekend.
The five winners from Cadet ROK, Rotax Max Junior, Vortex Mini ROK, ROK DVS Senior and ROK DVS Junior categories were spread from Wanaka, Canterbury, Manawatu, Hawkes Bay and Waikato after fierce competition from over 90 karters at the Gazley KartSport Wellington track at Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.
To manage the return of the National Sprint Championships in the new Covid-world, KartSport New Zealand devised to split the championships with the second group of five classes to be decided at the same venue on 27-28 August.
There were two repeat winners in Zach Tucker and Clay Osborne. Tucker, the 11-year-old rising Christchurch karter, guided his Aluminos kart to triumph in Vortex Mini ROK, backing up his title win in the same class last year. Meanwhile Osborne from Morrinsville, who won the Rotax DD2 national honours last year, made a return to the track to dominate the final of the Vortex ROK DVS Senior for his Josh Hart Racing crew.
Palmerston North’s Kiahn Burt, 13, claimed success in the Rotax Max Junior final in his Arrow Kart from Tasman Karts, while Hawkes Bay 14-year-old Tom Bewley sealed a superb season, guiding his Praga Kart to victory in the final of the ROK DVS Junior.
There were celebrations at Kartsport Dunedin who celebrated the first Cadet National Champion in their club in diminutive Wanaka-based George Tucker.
The early action in Cadet ROK saw Manawatu’s Tommy Hart top in qualifying and the first heat, while Tucker won the second heat off the front row of the grid. The pre-final went to Southland’s Nixon Cripps with stunning drive, pushing to the front four lap from the finish.
Cripps was also fast in the final but after failing the post-event technical inspections, Tucker was elevated to the top of the podium with Hamilton’s Zach Hemphill second and Taranaki’s Jayden Buttimore third.
Rotax Max Junior is a long-held title of significance, with former winners including current Formula 2 race star Marcus Armstrong.
Auckland’ 14-year-old Sebastian Manson set the standard with wins in qualifying and heat one with Tom Bewley, doubling up in classes, taking out the second heat and the pre-final.
A bunch of karts went out of the reckoning after a first-lap skirmish in the final, with Tokoroa club hopeful, Jay Urwin held up considerably as a result. Five laps from the finish the leaders Bewley and Manson, managed to collide which left Kiahn Burt, who had started on the second row of the grid, to hold off the fast-finishing Urwin and Daniel Pye (Wellington) for the podium honours.
Waikato hopeful Mikes Baker claimed the qualifying in Vortex Mini ROK class, while Zach Tucker shone with both heat wins. Manawatu’s Marco Manson prevailed in the pre-final after a Tucker DNF mechanical. Tucker need not have been too concerned, as the Canterbury driver pushed to the lead on lap seven in the final and held to off Manson and Cooper Insley (Auckland) for the title.
Clay Osborne was in a league of his own for much of the day in Vortex ROK DVS Senior, winning qualifying, heat one and the pre-final. From pole in the final, he had defending champion Michael McCulloch and William Exton biting at his heals, but Osborne was always in command to claim the honours.
Bewley has been a form karter in Vortex ROK DVS Junior for much of the year, and was on-song in Wellington. The Hawkes Bay karter was fastest in qualifying and while he had a hiccup in the first heat, Bewley won the second and the pre-final.
The final appeared a tougher challenge especially with National Schools Champion Urwin proving the fastest in the final heat and pre-final.
However, calamity at the first corner eliminated half the field, including Urwin and Manson, and from there the honours were Bewley’s to lose, although he was pushed hard, finishing just 0.1s ahead of Canterbury’s Dylan Jessop-Collins and Hamilton’s Jake Young.
The format was exciting, and the track excellent despite the overnight wet which made for a tricky start to the day. Once clear, it proved a superb occasion, with real credit to the local organisation and support from local councils.
Bring on the second slice of the cake in two months.