Fast-rising second-generation karter Zac Stichbury claimed a breakthrough Final race and class round win in the Rotax Max Light class at the third round of this year’s Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge at Tokoroa on Sunday.
Now driving for former Rotax class race winner and NZ rep Daniel Connor’s DCR team, Stichbury, the 16-year-old son of Anna and former kart and NZ Formula Ford and V8 Touring Car champion, the late Ashley Stichbury, qualified third and claimed second and third places in the heats on Saturday before a third in the Pre-Final then win in the Final.
Though it is his first major win at a national level the signs have been there since the start of the young Hawke’s Bay driver’s 2018 season.
He finished third at both the first and second rounds of this year’s Giltrap Group Rotax Max Challenge series, then second to defending title holder Daniel Kinsman at the National Sprint Championship meeting at Rotorua over the Easter weekend.
Making the win even more impressive was the slow-burn nature in which it came about.
Experienced Christchurch driver Scott Manson was impressive on his return to the class and series after a break, claiming pole position in qualifying and going on to win both heat races, the first from Rnd 1 winner Ashton Grant and Stichbury, the second from Stichbury and Grant.
It was Grant who set a new class lap record in the second heat then won the Pre-Final from Manson, Stichbury and Rnd 2 winner Jaden Hardy.
Manson got the jump on pole-sitter Grant at the start of the Final, however, and led the race until the last lap when Stichbury – who had started from P3, briefly gone back a place before getting back to P3 then passing Grant for second on lap 15 – made his winning move.
Stichbury’s was by no means the only stand out performance at the third round of this year’s Rotax Max Challenge either.
Though both were pipped for the top spot in their qualifying sessions, Rnds 1 and 2 class winners Jono Buxeda (DD2) from Tuakau and Jackson Rooney (Rotax Junior) from Palmerston North went on to win all their class races.
In Rotax DD2 Buxeda finally got on top of tyre wear issues to win the first heat from Aucklander Jason Lee and Tauranga’s Sam Waddell, then the second heat, Pre-Final and Final from Waddell, Lee and Kaleb Ngatoa from Marton.
Both Fynn Osborne and Ryan Wood qualified quicker, meanwhile , but it was Jackson Rooney who absolutely owned the Rotax Junior class races, winning both heats and the Pre-Final before lowering the class track lap record after coming back from P3 to win the Final from Hamilton trio Fynn Osborne, Connor Davison and Fynn’s brother Clay Osborne.
Reigning North Island class champion Ryan Crombie from Auckland and Wellington’s Ryan Wood featured in the Final early on – Wood leading for some time before being caught and passed for the lead by Rooney – but both earned 10 second time penalties afterwards, relegating Crombie from P3 at the line to P9, Wood from P4 to P10.
Finally, only a loose fuel line prevented Christchurch international Matthew Hamilton from completing a clean sweep of his Rotax DD2 Masters races.
After claiming pole position in qualifying Hamilton won both heats and was leading the Pre-Final when he holed a fuel line and his kart’s engine lost power, causing a dnf.
That left the way open for Fraser Hart to pass and go on to win the Pre-Final though Hamilton stormed back from P18 on the grid to win the Final from Hart, Orr, and Auckland pair Garry Claxton and Dave Malcolm.
Now in its 19th year the New Zealand series has again attracted a talented group of karters of all ages, all keen to qualify for a spot on the local squad which attends the annual Grand Finals meeting which this year is being held in at Conde in the Paraiba province of Brazil between November 24 and December 01.