The first National round of the 2017 South African National Karting Championship kicks off at the Vereeniging Kart Raceway on March 20. And the programme is a full-house of Rotax classes, catering for age groups from seven-years-old all the way to drivers aged 32 and over!
An exciting aspect of the new season is the buzz around the new Micro Max karting class for drivers aged 7-11-years-old. Although this year Micro Max has been accorded club rather than National Championship status, it forms an integral part of each of the four rounds of Nationals, as the winner will get an invitation to participate the 2017 Rotax Max Grand Finals, to be held this year in Portugal.
“We have had excellent fields in regionals already for this brand new class, only introduced mid-way through last season, so this is a big talking point at the moment,” says SA Rotax importer Ed Murray.
The winners in the National Championship classes as well as the winner in DD2 Masters will also get automatic entry to the Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal in November. The Rotax Max Grand Finals is unique in that champions from around the world are invited to race free of charge in identical, brand new equipment. South Africans have excelled in this winning 12 titles in various classes in the past 18 years.
For 2017 the South African Rotax Max Challenge comprises four National rounds – at Vereeniging on March 20, in Cape Town at Killarney in April, the Idube Circuit in KZN in June and the Zwartkops Kart Raceway in August. A select number of Regional Championship races also count towards points in this year’s championship.
Big news is that big motorsport names will be competing in the Rotax classes for older drivers this year. Multiple Production car champ Michael Stephen, rally and off road champ Leeroy Poulter and Polo Cup ace Bradley Liebenberg will be racing for victory in the DD2 Gearbox and DD2 Masters classes, while other big names will include Julian van der watt (an ace in Formula Ford) and veteran racer Arnold Neveling.
Micro Max Max (ages 7-11)
Joshua de Paiva goes into this year’s series in the Micro Max class as one of the favourites, after strong regional showings so far in 2017. The racing has been close in this tiddler class, which sees drivers graduating from the 50 cc classes enjoying a big step up in power, and Mohammed Moerat won the opening regional a Zwartkops in February, and is expected to run at the front in Vereeniging too. Jayden Goosen and Judd Bertholdt have also been quick, while quick Cape Town drivers include Reza Levy, Julius Schwager and Joaquin de Oliveira. Kzn’s Dhiyven Naidoo could surprize the locals as well.
Mini Max (ages 10-13)
The Mini Max class is running a National Championship for the first time in 2017 and the competition is likely to be fierce. Leyton Fourie has been showing winning pace in Gauteng this season and is expected to set the benchmark at Vereeniging, in close company with fellow Gauteng youngsters Daniel de Paiva, Jarrod Waberski and Aqil Alibhai. Kzn driviers From Cape Town, the excellent Jospeh Oelz is expected to challenge for victory, alongside his coastal fellows, Kai van Zyl and Tate Bishop. Kzn hopefuls Liam de Beer and up and coming Troy Snyman will add to the mix.
Maxterino (ages 8-11)
Tate Bishop from Cape Town is also a strong contender in the 60 cc Maxterino class, and here the racing is always brilliant at the Vereeniging circuit. Other Capetonians likely to run up front include Troy Dolinschek and Denis Joubert.
But home-turf is important in any sport, and there is an ultra -quick pack from Gauteng that numbers Muhammed Wally, Jordan Brooks, Joshua de Paiva, Aqil Alibhai and Bjorn Bertholdt.
Junior Max (ages 12-15)
The Junior Max class is arguably the strongest in South African karting at the moment, with many drivers having graduated from the 60 cc Maxterino series this year, as well as the Mini Max series. Notable here is young Jayden Els who won the World Mini Max title last year in Italy at the Rotax Grand Finals, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the step up in power, and also age group, where he will be running against older drivers.
Blaine Rademeyer from Gauteng is one of the favourites, while lady drivers Cameron Dias and Tiffany Napier have also shown great form here so far in 2017. From Cape Town Jason Coetzee and Charl Visser are expected to run at the sharp end of this very competitive field.
Dominic Lincoln showed serious form in 2016 so he Shrien Naidoo and Troy Snyman will fly the Kzn flag in Junior Max..
Senior Max (ages 14-plus)
Cameron O’Connor from Gauteng has proven a class act in the regionals so far, as has KZN’s Daniel Duminy, while East London lady driver Shannon Jackson and Joshua Dias are also very competitive this year. Jason Coetzee from Cape Town is expected to compete in the Senior Max class as well and as the current Western Province Junior Max champion he will be out to prove himself in the competitive, more powerful Senior Max class from the get-go. Another Capetonian entry is former multiple champion Luke Herring and he will be the man to beat!
DD2 Gearbox (ages 15-plus) and DD2 Masters (32-plus)
The DD2 Gearbox class is expected to draw the biggest entries of all, at the first 2017 National in Vereeniging, and this illustrates the healthy state of karting in South Africa right now. Bradley Liebenberg is still the driver to beat in this class, as he has dominated for the past two seasons, and also proven himself on the main circuit in the Polo Cup series for full-sized cars.
Names to watch out for from the Cape include Umpie Swart, Julian van der Watt, Jonathan Thomas , Tristan de Nobrega and DD2 Rookie Andrew Rackstraw.
They will be up against Kzn-based old hands such as Benjamin Habig, Michael Buchholz, Robert Whiting and Master driver Jonathan Pieterse all of whom can run at the front on a good day. PE driver Bryn High makes a welcome return to karting and with mentor Michael Stephen could quickly become a force to be reckoned with.
Midrand lass Ivana Cetinich is on form and Bloemfontein’s Justin Allison is always a serious contender.
One of the aspects that makes the DD2 event so spectacular is that the DD2 Masters class for drivers aged 32 and over runs in the same race, swelling the field to well over 20 karts. What’s more, some of the biggest names in South African motorsport are competing here this year, including multiple Production Car ace Michael Stephen from Port Elizabeth and multiple SA rally champ (and former World Rotax karting champ) Leeroy Poulter, from Gauteng. These two master-aces will more than likely take the fight to the likes of Bradley Liebenberg for overall honours in the DD2 class as well as the Masters class. Other strong “veterans” here include the likes of Marouan Selmi, Ronny Baptista and Eugene Gous and Kzn’s Jono Pieterse.