The fourth and final round of the 2017 Rotax South African National Championship Karting Championship on September 24 saw an entry some 35 per cent larger than the previous year
Going into the fourth and final National Championship round of the 2017 South African Rotax Max Challenge karting series at Zwartkops on September 24, none of the seven championship categories had been decided. This added an extra spice to what turned out to be a typically taut, tight, fast and furious day’s racing.
In the DD2 Gearbox category, the fastest karting category in the country, Bradley Liebenberg from Gauteng went into the final round as odds-on favourite to win, and he duly sealed his third consecutive South African DD2 title with a win in the first of the day’s four races. He had some serious competition on the day from DD2 returnees Nicholas Verheul and Eugene Brittz, but his main competition for the 2017 title, Leeroy Poulter, had unfortunately withdrawn from motorsport for health reasons.
In the remaining DD2 races at Zwartkops, this Sunday past, Bradley pretty much played a protective role to assist his young team mate Benjamin Habig from KZN to record three fine wins in the remaining races. Thus Benjamin Habig ended up winner for the day and, importantly, second in the SA championship.
Eugene Brittz never gave up trying, and nor did Michael Stephen from Port Elizabeth or Nicholas Verheul, but both these two suffered their share of problems. Cape Town’s Jurie Swart was in with a faint title chance, but unfortunately Zwartkops wasn’t kind to his title challenge and he ended up outside the top six for the day, having retired from Race Two. The day’s results sowed Habig as the winner, followed by Liebenberg, Brittz and Justin Allison.
The DD2 Masters category is for drivers 32 years-old and over, but is run as a race-within-a-race in the DD2 category. Thus drivers in this age group score points in the DD2 class and also the Masters category. Indeed, Michael Stephen, multiple South African karting champion, as well as a multiple Production Car Champion, has shown he is still capable of mixing it with the youngsters at the sharp end of the field.
The final round at Zwartkops was fraught with problems for Stephen, however, and he had to contend with strange power losses and then his engine working loose on the chassis! He also had the fast-charging Nicholas Verheul back in action, who surprised everyone by qualifying fastest in the DD2 field!
Nic’s race weekend started well with a third place overall and a win in the Masters category in DD2, but in Race Two he suffered a nasty accident that resulted in a cooked engine. He nevertheless came back to win Race Three from the very quick and consistent Jonathan Pieterse, who found himself fighting for the overall DD2 Masters championship in Race Four.
But this final race belonged to Michael Stephen who came through from 12th on the grid to fourth, and thus claimed the South African DD2 Masters title for the third consecutive year. Pieterse ended an excellent second in the championship (and third for the day), with Pascal Acquaah third overall for 2017.
Senior Max: (Drivers 14 years and Older)
The experienced Luke Herring from Cape Town held a slender points lead over young Gauteng driver Cameron O’ Connor, who has surprised everyone with his speed and cool-headed approach in his first year in Senior Max. But Herring, despite suffering from food poisoning, was brilliant as he fought off O’ Connor to win all four races and thus clinch the 2017 Senior Max title. O’Connor kept his title hopes alive by finishing second in the first three races, but in the final race he became embroiled in a dice that saw him knocked back to fifth. Impressive in this final race was Joshua Dias, who added a second place to his three third-place finishes, ending up third for the day. Daniel Duminy from KZN, Brandon Smith from Gauteng and Jason Coetzee from Western Province rounded out the top six.
Junior Max. (Drivers aged 12-15)
Cape Town’s Sebastian Boyd has been the man to beat in Junor Max pretty much all season, and his strongest competition during the season was Jason Coetzee, another Cape-based driver. But at Zwartkops, Boyd’s big challenge came from young Charl Visser, having is first season in this category, having moved up from the Maxterino class . KZN’s Dominic Lincoln was also a strong contender for the title, as was young Jayden Els from Boksburg (who won the World Mini Max title at last year’s Grand Finals in Italy).
In the end, Boyd made no mistake for the title with two wins, a second and a fifth place at Zwartkops, with Charl Visser’s two wins and a second seeing him just pip Cotzee for second place in the championship.
Mini Max. (Drivers aged 10-13)
The Mini Max class has seen early 2017 domination by Alberton’s Leyton Fourie, who has really come good this year. But the competition has been getting closer with each championship round, and in the fourth and final round at Zwart kops the talking point was whether Leyton would be able to win the title front the front.
He duly did this in fine style ( he only needed a top eight finish to clinch the title) and he followed this up with another win and two seconds to drive home the point that his 2017 Mini Max championship was no fluke.
However, the driver that really came good in tis class in Round Four was young Jarrod Waberski, who also claimed two wins, a third and fourth place, to finish second overall for the day, ahead of Aqil Alibhai. Kai van Zyl from Cape Town, the only driver to challenge Leyton for the title, had to be content with two second places at Zwartkops as his best results, and second in the championship, ahead of Alibhai and Waberski.
Micro Max (Drivers aged 7-10)
Muhammed Wally from Gauteng was really the only driver in the entire day’s race meeting to show complete dominance in his class. He scored four straight wins at Zwartkops to win the 2017 Micro Max championship for drivers aged 7-10, while behind him there was frantic action between the likes of Cape Town’s Reese Koorzen , Valentino Hoffman, and Julius Shwager.
These three finished in that order for the day, ahead of Gauteng’s Joshua De Paiva and Mandla Mlangeni. In the title chase, the fast-starting, smooth-driving Wally headed De Paiva, Hoffman, and another strong Cape driver, Reeza Levy, for championship honours. Incidentally, in this class, the organisers conducted a number of post-race engine strips and all were found to be 100 per cent legal.
This 60 cc class for drivers of pre-high-school age was as big a battle-ground as it usually is at Zwartkops on September 24. The championship winner of this category would be awarded a free air ticket to watch the Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal in November, and here the favourite was Cape Town’s Tate Bishop, although he was facing some strong Gauteng opposition.
No single driver managed to dominate the class, and the race wins were shared by Bishop, Joshua De Paiva, Jordan Brooks and Muhammed Wally. In the end, consistency saw De Paiva take the overall Round Four win, but the 2017 Maxterino South African Championship went to Tate Bishop!
*The winners of all six Rotax-engined classes win free entry to the 2017 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portimao, Portugal, on November 4-11. This fantastic prize sees each of the championship-winning drivers in DD2, DD2 Masters, Senior Max, Junior Max, Mini Max and Micro Max being presented with a brand new kart, engine, tyres, fuel, tools and a kart trolley to compete against champion drivers from 60 other countries. South Africa has a proud record in this series, our drivers having won numerous World Titles at this event since its inception in the year 2000.
The winners at Zwartkops will also be joined in our South African team for the 2017 Grand Finals by various category winners in the recent 2017 African Open race meeting