Karters from all over New Zealand – plus special guest driver Scott McLaughlin who is flying in from Australia – are making their way to Hamilton this week for KartSport New Zealand’s Porter Group-backed 2019 National Sprint Championship titles meeting over the Easter weekend.
The three-day meeting – which this year is being hosted by the KartSport Hamilton club at Porter Group Raceway (opposite the city’s airport) – is a staple on the New Zealand karting calendar and has attracted 160 entries over 8 classes.
The entry in the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class of reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion and runaway 2019 series points leader Scott McLaughlin has helped raise the profile of this year’s meeting already. However the 25-year-old Supercars series star is by no means the only kart-turned-car ace returning to the track where it all started to take on the current kart specialists this weekend.
Also returning to the track where he got his start on four wheels is Hamilton-born Chris van der Drift, the winner of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title for the past two years and fresh from two wins from two starts at the opening round of the 2019 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia series at Sepang in Malaysia.
The former multi-time New Zealand kart champion moved back to Hamilton (from Singapore) last year and has since set up a kart shop in the city, prompting his return to his racing roots which will see him run in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class.
Back too, after last running – not to mention taking home the New Zealand title that year – at the Hamilton track in 2012, is Australian ace David Sera.
An 18-time national title holder at home, Sera – from Melbourne – now combines competing at selected meetings with development and marketing of his own branded karts and coaching talented youngsters through his Sera Driver Development and now Erebus Academy programmes.
Sera and van der Drift will have their work cut out to beat defending 125cc Rotax Max Light class title older – and 7-time NZ champion Daniel Kinsman, however, the Auckland driver having topped the class for the past two years.
Older brother Mathew is in a similar position, though in his case he has not one but two titles to defend, having won the Rotax DD2 one for the past two years as well as the NZ KZ2 class one at Rotorua last year.
Taking the battle to Mathew Kinsman in the KZ2 class this weekend is a mix of youth – in the form of teenagers Matthew Payne and Joshua Parkinson from Auckland, Connor Davison from Hamilton, and Ryan Wood from Wellington – and experience in Auckland-based international Daniel Bray, 2018 North Island title holder Graeme Smyth, and runner-up (as well as current North Island Open class title holder) Jacob Cranston from Palmerston North.
Ryan Wood is also going up against Mathew Kinsman in the Rotax DD2 senior class. What this class lacks in quantity (12 entries) it more than makes up in quality, with entries from one of New Zealand’s most successful internationals, and multi-time NZ #1, Matthew Hamilton from Christchurch and multi-time South Island champion Chris Cox from Rangiora, as well as established class front-runners Jason Lee and Bond Roby and category super-veteran David Malcolm, from Auckland, and kart and Speedway Super Saloon racer Sam Waddell from Tauranga.
With 25 entries it is the 125cc Rotax Max class which will be the largest Senior one at the Porter Group event over Easter. Here again, there is a mix of established class stars like Daniel Kinsman and fellow Aucklander Daniel Bray who are set for a battle royal with David Sera and last year’s class runner-up Zac Stichbury, reigning Island title holders Jaden Hardy (NI #1 from Auckland) and Chris Cox (SI #1) plus a fresh new-wave of super-talented recent Junior category race, series and title winners.
Included on that list is top female driver Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington, Jackson Rooney from Palmerston North, Ryan Crombie and Ashton Grant from Auckland, Braeden Snowden from Whangarei, Michael McCulloch from the Kapiti Coast and Fynn Osborne from Hamilton.
The 125cc Rotax Max Junior class has also attracted an absolutely top class field, which, with 31 confirmed entries, makes it the largest single category at the meeting.
With last year’s title winner, Australian ace Jaiden Pope now running in the Senior Iame X30 class across the Tasman, the way is now open for one of New Zealand’s top Junior karters to step up.
The big question of course, is which one?
Reigning class North Island champion Jackson Rooney has also moved to the Senior ranks, leaving his South Island counterpart William Exton in the box seat. That said the Picton ace certainly won’t want for competition with the likes of young Aucklanders Liam Sceats, Joshua Richmond, Dylan Grant and Nathan Crang, two-time Vortex Mini ROK class NZ #1 Jacob Douglas from Christchurch, fellow former Vortex Mini ROK front-runners Mitchell Sparrow from Tuakau and Logan Manson from Levin, top local driver Clay Osborne and emerging female racers Breanna Morris and Stella Carter from Auckland, all focused on a place on the podium.
With Douglas, Manson and Sparrow now battling it out in the Junior Rotax class picking a likely winner of the 2019 NZ Vortex Mini ROK title is as hard as it is in the Rotax class.
There’s certainly no lack of incentive for the likes of Tom Bewley from Havelock North, Ollie Workman from Nelson, Emerson Vincent from Pukekohe, Jay Urwin from Tauranga, Jaxon Harvey from Mosgiel, Sebastian Manson from Auckland and reigning South Island champion Louis Sharp to go for broke; as well as the #1 plate the winner of the Vortex Mini ROK title at Hamilton this weekend earns one of two trip prizes to compete at this year’s ROK Cup International event in Italy in October.
The other trip prize goes to the winner of the Vortex ROK DVS Junior class which has attracted 10 entries including those of Jacob Douglas, Joshua Richmond, William Exton, Ben Stewart from Wellington and reigning North Island champion Liam Sceats.
Finally with both 2018 NZ #1 Blake Corin from Tauranga and 2018 NZ Schools and North Island #1 Judd Christiansen now contesting the Vortex Mini ROK class the Cadet ROK class title battle is shaping up to be a North vs South affair.
Arthur Broughan from Blenheim won the 2018 South Island title at Labour Weekend last year so has some form, but he will come up against the best of a new-wave of North Islanders like Aucklanders Maxim Kirwan and Marco Manson.
As well as the top Kiwi karters of course there will be a lot of interest in how reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion, Kiwi Scott McLaughlin, goes in a Tony Kart in the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class at the Porter Group-sponsored National Sprint Championship meeting on what was the Christchurch-born but Hamilton-raised Shell V-Power Racing Ford Mustang driver’s home track.’
“I’m primarily there to enjoy a great weekend of karting at a track I know and love with a great bunch of people,” the reigning Virgin Australia Supercars series’ champion, and runaway early 2019 points leader, said when he officially announced his entry. “Part of my role as Patron of KartSport New Zealand is to inspire the next generation of kids coming up through the ranks, and I truly can’t think of a better way to do that than by racing a kart myself.
“As to how I go, I won’t really know until I see who else is there, but put it this way, I’m a competitive person and I haven’t entered just to make up the numbers.”
This year’ Porter Group National Sprint Championship meeting has attracted 158 entries, including the 18 in McLaughlin’s class.
A similar number would have been competing in the Cadet class at the Hamilton track back in 2002 when, aged 9, McLaughlin won the class title at the North Island Sprint Championship meeting over Labour Weekend.
Since then he has won many more titles, particularly in recent years as his Supercars career has taken off, yet – as he says – karts and karting still play a big part of his life. Something Kiwi fans will get to see at Hamilton this weekend.
For those who can’t make it to Hamilton, the event will be livestreamed on Easter Saturday and Sunday both here: https://livestream.com/i-filmsport/KartSportNationalSprintChamps2019 and on the KartSport new Zealand Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/KartSportNZ/
Event Timetable and Entry List is here: http://www.kartsport.org.nz/events/2019-national-sprint-championships