Words: Stuart Johnston | Photo: Dirk Erasmus
Round One of the 2014 SA Rotax Max Challenge Karting Championships in Port Elizabeth at the weekend signalled a huge up-swing in karting’s premier formula. No less than 25 karts scored points in the super-quick Rotax DD2 Gearbox class, with nail-biting racing in all three races counting towards Round One of the four-round SA champs for 2014.
When the dust settled after the final bend in race three it was the experienced Eugene Britz who won the day, his win in Heat One and second place in Heat Two being capped by a somewhat surprising Race Three Victory after his two closest rivals went farming in the closing stages of Race Three on the tight Celso Scribante circuit.
Benjamin Habig, son of multiple SA rally champ Jan Habig, was looking good to win the final race, but he was overly forceful in keeping the very quick Mitchell Licen behind in the final stages and their resulting entanglement saw some of their pursuers sweep past. Habig placed second overall for the day, ahead of Licen, followed by former champ Arnold Neveling, making a return to Rotax racing after some super drives locally and abroad a few seasons back. Luca Canderle was fifth and Ryan Frost sixth in a race that saw no less than eight SA National Champions taking part!
In the DD2 Masters division for drivers 32-years-old and over, World Champ Cris Morgado was looking good for a win after keeping pace with the youngsters in the earlier races, but a first corner incident in the final race put him out. He ended up tied in first place (Masters Division) for the day with Pretoria’s Erwin Sterne, with Richard van Heerde third.
In Senior Max Challenge, it was Eugene Denyssen who came through to take the win overall for the day, despite only scoring one win in Race Two and that was by a default. Julian van der Watt actually won all three races, but he came in under weight in Race Two, which saw him slip to third overall for the day in the standings behind the consistent, second-placed Luke Herring.
Richard Upton was a deserved fourth, followed by Hilton Pieters and Michael Burcholz. An interested and welcome returnee was Jennifer Verheul (nee Murray) who raced very successfully in local and International Max Challenge races over a decade ago, before going on to a successful single-seater and sports car career in South African “long circuit” national racing. Jennifer placed ninth overall for the day.
In Junior Max, Jordan Sherratt from Natal got the nod to lead the championship going into Round Two, being credited with two wins and a third place after an incident-filled afternoon. Sherrat bumped karts with fellow Natalian Clinton Bezuidenhout in the final race, which led to an off-track incident that excluded the very-quick Bezuidenhout from the results. Cohen Bam from Cape Town was very impressive in taking three second places, ahead of Stuart White, Delano Fowler, Brittany Cohen and Jonathan Dolinschek from the Cape.
In Maxterino, the feeder class to the Rotax National Series, there was an excellent entry of 15 karts. Cape Town’s JP Hamman lead impressively in Race One but bad luck put him out on the final lap. He fought back to win the final race, but Charl Visser’s victories in Race One and Race Two saw him heading the points table as the karters prepare for the next National Championship Round in June.
A highly impressive performance came from young Kwanda Mokeona from Gauteng, who placed second overall, coming second in two races. Dario Busi was third overall, Jason Coetzee finished fourth ahead of Hamman, and sixth was Tristian Losch.
For the first time, the Cadet class formed part of a Rotax National Championship event. This was won by Cape Town’s Troy Dolinschek, from Jordan Brooks.