Karting is the perennial proving ground for talented racing drivers of all ages. No fewer than eight classes tackled the Killarney tarmac for the penultimate round of the 2018 WP Championships, showcasing the drivers that choose to hone their on (and off) track skills in racing machines of the small and open-wheel variety.
The bright colours of the spring flowers were unfortunately matched at one stage by the unwelcome sight of the red flag. Nonetheless, the racing thrilled drivers and spectators alike, with the pit lane buzzing to the sound of drivers, mechanics and parents all searching for the perfect setup, while desperately scratching in the toolbox for the ever-elusive size 13 socket.
The Micro Max class dished up an eight-kart train for lap after lap. Even the boldest of betting men would have been nervous to pick a winner in such a closely fought battle. To watch these 7 – 9 year old drivers running defensive lines, using the tow and making late moves under braking is truly amazing. Ethan Stier deserves a special mention for his first pole position as he chases down the class front-runners. The future of South African motorsport appears to be as bright as those flowers.
Of all the extraordinary battles seen on track, perhaps none were more exciting than the titanic fight between Rotax Mini Max drivers Kyle Visser and Mikhail Fernandez. These young men have been in a year-long fight for the overall title and Saturday was no different. Lap after lap, maturity and race craft far beyond their years was demonstrated – these boys are barely in high school!
The only non-Rotax class on the day, Mini Rok, provides an alternative to Mini Max for those who prefer Vortex engines to Rotax. With tight racing and a growing field, the class continues to entertain the grandstand.
The top nine drivers in Junior Max were split by only half a second in qualifying. Let that level of competition sink in. These youngsters define the professionalism needed to race with the very best, keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats all the way to the flag. Any one of the top six drivers had a shot at the overall win.
The premier DD2 class, where top speeds in excess of 125kph are achieved, provided more side-by-side action courtesy of Jason Coetzee and his highly experienced “team mate” Jurie Swart. Johnny Thomas had his share of the fun upfront as well, with the sight of three-abreast racing through Kosmic Corner (at the end of the back straight) resulting in heart palpitations for most mothers and a few fathers. Luckily, these three men make it look easy and the level of talent is truly something to behold.
The DD2 class includes DD2 Masters, which provides the over-30 racing community with a highly competitive and very fast way to go racing. Smooth lines were the order of the day for the strong Masters field.
Jason Coetzee deserves another mention, because not only did he battle at the sharp end of DD2, but he showed his lightning-quick pace in the Rotax Senior Max Class too. The year long battle with Andrew Rackstraw seems to have just tipped in Coetzee’s favour, with only one race left in the championship.
As he woke up on his farm in Worcester that morning, Johan Hamman could not have envisaged the day ahead of him in Clubmans. The veteran racer found himself flat on his back right at the end of the first heat, after a major incident at the second hairpin of the 180s. Despite some nasty roasties on his arm and back, he came back so strongly in the second and third heats that he secured yet another overall victory over a field of ambitious drivers, on average two decades younger than him. The pace demonstrated on the day made it clear that Clubmans racing is as serious as any of the other classes, but still runs to a budget (in relative terms of course – this is racing!)
Unfortunately, the Bambino class was not in attendance due to insufficient entries. This is the youngest class, where nursery school sandwiches are swapped for 60cc karts and the cutest racing kits on the circuit. The class is looking to attract more drivers, and parents of nursery school and grade 1 children are encouraged to contact WPMC karting for more information on how to get into the sport.
The day’s action would not be possible without the efforts of the karting community, which includes hundreds of people made up of committee members, officials, parents, mechanics, suppliers, friends, families and of course committed and brave drivers. Everyone keeps coming back for 2-stroke action, because there is truly nothing quite like it.