Celebrity Charity Kart Challenge popular with drivers and fans alike

Relish Communications

One of the most popular outdoor attractions at this week’s CRC Speedshow is the Right Karts Celebrity Charity Kart Challenge and excitement is already building among invited drivers and fans ahead of the two-day event taking place at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds.

Run for the first time at the 2013 CRC Speedshow, Right Karts Challenge – held on a temporary street-style course in the Ideal Wheels live action arena – pits stars from different motorsport disciplines against each other in identical Rotax Max karts with the heats and winner-takes-all final proving a very popular attraction for the 30,000-plus fans at the show.

“It’s a ‘must-see’ entertainment session when you’re at the show,” says director Ross Prevette. “The grandstand starts filling up at least an hour before the celebrities head out and by the time they do the crowd is at least three or four deep at the fence.”

Last year the Challenge included legendary local motorsport identities Rod Millen and Graeme Crosby and was won by former Bathurst winner Jason Bargwanna from speedway midget ace Michael Pickens and V8 Supercar ace Shane Van Gisbergen.

This year the celebrity line-up is led by recent V8 Supercar series race winner Fabian Coulthard and includes speedway midget star Brad Mosen, Super Lap class winner Kat Benson, rising rally ace Ben Hunt and V8 SuperTourer class young gun Simon Evans.

Coulthard is a bona fide former karting champion, having won the New Zealand Midget class title in 1992 then the New Zealand Junior Restricted 100cc Yamaha titles in 1994 and 1995.

Like younger brother Mitch, Simon Evans also put together an impressive CV in karts before turning to cars.

However experience in karts is definitely not a prerequisite for the Right Karts Challenge, as three of the other celebrities in this year’s challenge are happy to attest.

Evergreen racing veteran Ken Smith just missed a podium when he competed in the Challenge for the first time at last year’s CRC Speedshow despite professing to ‘less than half an hour in a kart’ in the 71 years before.

“They didn’t have them when I started out,” says Smith, now 72 and looking forward to his 57th consecutive national season this summer. “They’re good though, hard work but very direct, you have to have your wits about you to keep them on the boil.”

Kart racing had definitely arrived when Property Tutors-backed V8 SuperTourer racer Angus Fogg, now 45, got his start in racing. But that start was behind the wheel of a Mini, not a kart.

“Which was just the way it was,” says former Cambridge man Fogg. “My Dad was a farmer who was into restoring cars so when I wanted to go racing I got an old Mini and started with that.”

Having been a regular exhibitor at CRC Speedshow over the years Fogg – like any other race fan – has enjoyed checking out the latest karts and watching them race in the live action arena, and says that he was honoured to be asked to compete in the Right Karts Challenge.

“Just being invited was a buzz, not just for me either. With two of the guys in my crew, plus my main sponsor, running their boys in karts I know a bit about what I am getting myself into through them.”

Like most racing drivers, Fogg has a healthy respect for the pint-sized racing machines and is not taking his invitation to compete in this year’s Right Karts Challenge lightly.

“When I had my first go in a kart I couldn’t believe show quick they are,” he says. “You’re open to the elements, there’s no roll cage and no seat belts and everything is happening at a million miles an hour, so yes, there’s a lot to take in. You’re always there to win, but by the same token I want to keep it (the kart) out of the tyres (the trackside tyre barriers) and have some fun as well.”

Top female racer Kat Benson shares similar sentiments, and to make sure she is up to speed come race weekend, is doing a couple of test days at the Mt Wellington kart track.

Like Fogg, the 30-year-old Auckland racer, the reigning NZ Super Lap Pro Street class champion in her Burger Fuel-backed Mitsubishi Evo 7, has been a regular exhibitor at CRC Speedshow and considers it a privilege to be invited to enter the Right Karts Challenge.

“CRC Speedshow is a fantastic event and I feel quite honoured to be involved this year. It’s going to be an all-new experience for me but my aim is to hold my own…and raise some money for Cure Kids.”

Cure Kids is Benson’s charity of choice, and each driver is asked to nominate one when they accept their invitation. CRC Speedshow puts up $500 each day, with the money going directly to the charity of choice of the final winner.

Action in the Right Karts Celebrity Charity Kart Challenge on the specially-built, KartSport NZ-approved temporary kart circuit in the Ideal Wheels action arena starts at 3.00pm each day with interviews and practice. Right Karts provides six karts (most on loan from their owners who will also race them in demo events KartSport New Zealand is running at the event) and the 12 celebrity drivers are split into two groups of six for practice and individual timed runs to determine heat race grid positions.

There are the two Challenge races comprising six drivers each with the top three in each race heading to the Final.

The full list of celebrities and the disciplines they are from contesting the Right Karts Celebrity Charity Kart Challenge races at CRC Speedshow this year (in alphabetical order) is:
Kat Benson – NZ Super Lap (Time Attack)
Fabian Coulthard – V8 Supercar
Simon Evans – V8 SuperTourer
Angus Fogg – V8 SuperTourer
Ben Hunt – Rallying
Jono Lester – Sportscars
Brad Mosen – Speedway
Nick Ross – NZV8s
Ken Smith – F5000
Andrew Stroud – Motorcycle racing
‘Fanga Dan’ Woolhouse – Drifting

The final two competitors in each challenge will be selected from the Kiwi Young Guns participating at this year’s show.

Celebrity Charity Kart Challenge popular with drivers and fans alike

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