High drama as five new Rotax Karting Champions crowned at Zwartkops


Words: Stuart Johnston Communications

Bradley Liebenberg, Jonathan Aberdein, Dino Stermin, Cameron O’Connor and Ronnie Baptista win the 2015 South African Championship titles, as huge fields highlight the final round of the 2015 South African Rotax Max Challenge.

2015 SA Rotax Max Challenge DD2 champion Bradley Liebenberg (12) leads Nathan Parkins (13) and Arnold Neveling (44) at Zwartkops in the final round of the championship

Photo supplied

The winners of the Junior Max, Senior Max, DD2 and DD2 Masters Rotax classes earn a place in the Rotax Grand Finals World Championship in Portugal in November, where close to 300 drivers from 60 countries will compete. And the Maxterino winner earns full National Championship status.

Massive entries for the fourth and final round of the 2015 South African Rotax Max Challenge confirmed this karting series as the most important one to be competing in, at the Zwartkops Kart Raceway on September 26.

This huge entry should be no surprise, as the winners in the four Rotax Max classes each earn an entry into the Rotax Max Grand Finals in Portugal in November. This is the most closely-fought karting series in the world with close to 300 drivers from 60 countries competing, and all of them are top class drivers as they are champions from their various countries.

No less than 23 DD2 gearbox karts took to the track in the country’s premier karting class, while in the Maxterino primary school class for drivers aged between eight and 13, there were 22 entries. And notable through most of the events was the number of different winners in the 16 races that all counted towards championship points.

The championship situation was made more complex going into the final round at Zwartkops as drivers in the series can score their best 10 race results out of the 13 races that make up the points total, while they also add their best regional results which make up 10 per cent of the championship scores.

The points system is designed to reward drivers who are extremely competitive all season but may fall foul of bad luck in one or more races along the way. It is a system that saw various drivers arrive at Zwartkops with a good chance of taking the title as long as they finished well up the order.

Maxterino: This class for drivers aged between eight and 13-years-old has produced the best racing of the season in the series, and the final round at Zwartkops was no exception. It is not unusual to see the lead change a number of times per lap on every lap, and Zwartkops on September 26 again provided plenty of thrills without the spills.

In the final race of the day the championship fight came down to Cameron O’Connor from Gauteng and Aidan Strydom from Cape Town. In the end, O’Connor finished just 1,2 seconds ahead of Strydom in that final race to take the title by just one and a half points. Cape Town’s Charl Visser ended up winning the day’s racing ahead of O’Connor, Strydom and Jayden Els, who won two of the four races, with the very quick Kwanda Mokoena fifth and the equally talented Jospeh Oelz sixth.

Junior Max: A strong field of 17 entries saw the racing frenetic in this class for drivers aged 12 to 16 years old. And in Race One it seemed to all go wrong for Cape Town’s Dino Stermin as he was punted out not once but twice to DNF in the first race. This looked to put Delon Thompson of Benoni in pole position to take the title, and two second places at Zwartkops seemed to wrap things up for him. However a poor finish in eighth place in the final saw Thompson just pipped to the title, as Stermin finished the day with two convincing race wins. The day’s racing saw Jason Coetzee, another very strong competitor from Cape Town, run out the winner on points garnered, ahead of Thompson, new champion Stermin, Joshua Dias, Blaine Rademeyer and Daniel Duminy.

Senior Max: The biggest news going into the fourth and final round at Zwartkops was that Cape Town’s Jonathan Aberdein, who had previously led both the Senior Max and DD2 championship, was concentrating solely on the Senior Max title. This proved to be a wise decision as Jonathan, the son of former saloon car ace Chris Aberdien, dominated Senior Max, winning all four races.

His superiority was not so marked that he scored runaway wins, but it was enough to see him draw clear as his rivals squabbled amongst themselves and thus fell back as they jockeyed for the minor placings. Thus Aberdein’s first National title was well deserved, and he will be a worthy competitor for South Africa at the Grand Finals in southern Portugal in November.

Chief amongst the drivers fighting for minor placings was past SA champion Luca Canderle, who ended up second for the day. Ahead of Jordan Sherratt, Fabienne Lanz, Ivana Cetinich and Robert Whiting. These five were all close together throughout the day and made for entertaining racing even though Aberdein had the edge.

DD2 Gearbox: With 23 entries, the field for the DD2 event was most impressive, and made more so as there were some wild-card entries in the form of past Euro-Cup champion Arnold Neveling from Vereeniging and Nathan Parkins, a champion from the X30 series.

With championship leader Aberdein withdrawing from the title race to concentrate on his non-gearbox Senior Max title chase, the way was left clear for Bradley Liebenberg from Lonehill to score his second DD2 title (he won the 2014 championship) ahead of past champion Eugene Brittz, who found himself leading the title chase after Aberdein’s withdrawal.

However, things didn’t work out for Pretoria-based Brittz, who had various problems all day that saw him finish outside the top six. In fact the assured, super-cool Arnold Neveling won the day’s racing with three wins out of four, with Liebenberg fighting all the way, swapping the lead with Neveling and winning Race Three. Benjamin Habig from KZN, who suffered various bad luck in 2015 and was thus never really in contention for the title, finished third for the day, ahead of Parkins, Chad Maciver and Michael Burchholz.

DD2 Masters: In the DD2 Masters category, with drivers aged 32 years old and older competing alongside their younger (and lighter) rivals in the DD2 class, Ronnie Baptista from Potchefstroom won the 2015 title and his first berth in the Grand Finals. The man he beat to the championship was Cristiano Morgado, a multiple SA and World DD2 Masters champion, who was looking good for yet another championship but fell out of the final race at Zwartkops.

It was a great effort from Baptista, who only returned to the Rotax series this year after a lay-off, and this is his first SA title. Second on the day at Zwartkops was the ever-improving John van Wyk, ahead of Morgado, and husband-and-wife protagonists Nick and Jennifer Verheul.

An Invitation Cadet festival event was run on the day exposing the five to eight year old drivers in their 50cc karts to what lies ahead for them in National racing. Huge prizes including a Maxterino engine and a Cadet engine went to the top scoring competitors. Sa’Aad Variawa won the day followed by Muhammad Wally and Mathew Morrell.

*While the four Rotax-category SA Champions all win entries into the Grand Finals in Portugal in November, karters who failed to make the cut will have a one-off chance to earn a place in the Grand Finals on October 11. The African Open championship is being run at Zwartkops and the winners of Junior Max, Senior Max, DD2 and DD2 Masters in this one-day-only event will be granted entries in the Grand Finals 2015! Expect to see drivers from Angola, Mocambique, Kenya as well as some local top names not normally racing in the series.