The fourth and final round of the 2018 Rotax South African National Karting Championship at Zwartkops Kart Raceway on Sunday, September 30, provided thrilling racing in all six classes in this championship-decider.
The event was notable for the hard-but-clean racing which was largely incident-free at the sharp end of the fields and some amazing dog-fights for the championships that lasted until the final laps of each of the four races in each class, comprising this grand finale to what has been an excellent year for the Rotax series.
The finals held in near-perfect weather illustrated once again the success of the Rotax formula, which sees all drivers compete with factory-sealed, un-modified engines that places the emphasis on driver-skill and kart chassis set-up.
DD2 GEARBOX (For drivers aged 15 years and over)
This DD2 twin-speed gearbox class is the fastest National Championship karting class in South Africa and draws the cream-of the-crop as far as driver quality is concerned. This year has seen massive fields of up to 25 karts compete in this jewel in the crown of Rotax kart racing here over the 13 races held at Idube Raceway in KZN, Killarney in Cape Town, Vereeniging kart circuit, and Zwartkops Kart Raceway near Pretoria.
As with all the National championship classes, the DD2 drivers arrived at Zwartkops having completed nine races in the previous rounds, with a further four races held in Round Four to decide the championship. Drivers could also score their top six regional results in 2018, but these can add only a maximum of 35 points to the final championship total. Making the championship (and the fourth and final round) more intriguing is the regulation that drivers only score their top 10 National Championship races out of the 13 races run in total in 2018. So at Zwartkops, drivers who had competed in all the nine races to date were then adding their best results to their scores and discarding their weakest points-scoring positions as the day’s racing unfolded.
Heading up the points table after three rounds was KZN driver Benjamin Habig, narrowly ahead of Vereeniging’s Arnold Neveling with Port Elizabeth veteran Michael Stephen in third place. The 2017 DD2 champion, Bradley Liebenberg from Lonehill, was lying fourth, but still well within reach of yet another DD2 championship title.
Adding spice to the mix was Roman de Beer, a karter with vast experience who has since carved a name for himself as a top single-seater racer.
It was Brad Liebenberg who took the opening race from Neveling and Habig, with Cape Town’s Luke Herring finishing a strong fourth. The racing was characterised by excellent tight racing as the lead changed many times, the racing being hard but fair from these top drivers in the top South African karting class.
De Beer bounced back in race Two to finish a fine second to Neveling, who then added another win in Race Three together to remain favourite going into the fourth and final race. Ben Habig saved his best effort for the final race to score a fine and popular win from Neveling and Liebenberg, who never found that final edge to challenge for the title. So the title went Neveling, with the narrowest of points margins over Habig, with Liebenberg ending third in the championship, followed by Cristiano Morgado from KZN in fourth place, Luke Herring in fifth overall, and Michael Stephen in sixth, in the final points tally.
DD2 MASTERS (For drivers aged 32 and over)
The DD2 Masters category is run as a race-within-a-race for older drivers in the DD2 category, and these drivers score points in both the DD2 category and in their own championship. From Round One at Idube back in late March, Stephen has dominated the Masters Class, and indeed was a contender for the overall DD2 title early on in the season.
But Michael was strangely off the pace at Zwartkops and never in the hunt for a win in the Masters class, which was dominated by Cristiano Morgado. Indeed, Morgado’s four straight wins at Zwartkops in Round Four saw him edge to within just four points of Stephen, who thus added yet another DD2 Masters South African title to his name. Morgado was nevertheless satisfied with his come-back season, having already won the African Open title in August.
KZN’s Jonathan Pieterse was third in the championship. A driver who had a fine outing in Round Four was Marouan Selmi, who qualified as fastest DD2 Masters driver and added three podium finishes to his name. But having missed previous championship rounds he was never in contention for the title.
SENIOR MAX (For drivers aged 14 and over)
The high-horsepower Senior Max category turned out to be a straight tussle between KZN’s Dominic Lincoln and Cape Town’s very busy Jason Coetzee also competing in the top DD2 class. Another strong title contender was Gauteng’s Wayland Wyman, who actually lead the championships before Round Four.
At Zwartkops on September 30 it was all about Lincoln and Coetzee. Young Coetzee ended up taking two wins, in Races Two and Four, while Lincoln won the opener and Race Three. But in the end, not being able to drop a technical DQ at an earlier championship round made the difference, and Dominic Lincoln was a popular KZN-based champion!
Wayland Wyman rounded off an excellent season by battling for the lead on occasion at Zwartkops, but had to be content with third in the championship, ahead of Edenvale’s Nicholas Verheul, who endured a rather torrid final round at Zwartkops culminating in transmission problems in the final race. KZN’s Jonathan Pieterse finished in fifth place in the championship after a very good season, with another impressive KZN driver, Shrien Naidoo, finishing in sixth place.
JUNIOR MAX (Drivers aged 12-15)
In terms of sheer intensity, the Junior Max category for younger teenage drivers matches the DD2 class, and the skill levels here illustrate the success of the Rotax karting series which nurtures drivers in various categories from the tender age of five years old!
In this age-group, each and every driver rivals Superman for the desire to achieve the impossible and this was illustrated by the qualifying session for Round Four, which saw the top eight drivers in this category set times within just 0,165 seconds of each other!
Jarrod Waberski from Gauteng had led the early title charge at Idube, but since then his season had fade somewhat, and going into the Zwartkops final round it was going to be a straight fight between Cape Town drivers Charl Visser and Joseph Oelz. Things looked just a little bit shaky for Visser in Race One as he suffered a bad start and had to work his way up to fourth place, while Oelz won impressively from pole-man Kwanda Mokeona from Gauteng and the ever-improving Leyton Fourie from Alberton, in third.
But Visser regained his composure in Race Two to win and then proceeded to also win the next two races, despite some intense pressure from Leyton Fourie. Oelz dropped off the pace slightly in the final races but nevertheless held on to an excellent second place in the championship, followed by Fourie, Aqil Alibhai, Mokoena and Waberski.
MINI MX (For drivers aged 9-13)
Kyle Visser is the younger brother of Charl, who won the Junior Max championship, and the hard work and dedication shown by this Cape Town family paid off with a brothers double of National titles at Zwartkops. Kyle Visser had a difficult start to the season with wet-dry race conditions at the tricky Idube circuit, but he began building momentum in Round Two at Vereeniging and his title charge began on his home circuit in Cape Town, when he won all three races there.
At Zwartkops Kyle Visser was possibly the most impressive driver of all as he strung four straight wins together under considerable pressure, to clinch the 2018 Mini Max title. En route he had to fight off the likes of Jordan Brooks, who had dominated the Vereeniging round and never gave up in his pursuit of the Capetonian. Brooks’s Zwartkops showing saw him end third in the championship (behind second-laced Fernandez), and ahead of young Joshua De Paiva, who scored three fine third places at Zwartkops but unfortunately fell out of the final race.
De Paiva once again had a busy race day as he was also contending the Micro Max series and here he was well in the hunt for his first national title!
MICRO MAX (for drivers aged 7-11)
The Micro Max class is a brilliant formula as it showed on September 30 that any one of half a dozen youngsters can fight for the lead in this, the National Championship class for the youngest drivers on the South African karting scene.
The two main title contenders, Joshua De Paiva and Muhammad Wally, were involved in some amazing dogfights for the lead throughout the day, and until the final lap of Race Four, the South African title was still in the balance.
As things turned out, Muhammad Wally retained his South African Mini Max title to win the championship by a scant four and a half points from De Paiva. Wally and De Paiva each won a race at Zwartkops, the other race wins going to Troy Snyman of KZN who finished third in the championship, and Gauteng’s KC Ensor-Smith. Cape Town’s Reza Levy finished fourth in the championship, followed by another Cape Town driver, Reese Koorzen, with Ensor-Smith sixth in the championship
*The six winners of each National title at the 2018 Rotax South African Karting Championship gain entry to a place in the 2018 Rotax Grand Finals, the World Championship of Rotax karting. No less than 360 drivers from over 50 countries are expected to compete this year in Brazil over the last week in November, with the final race day on December 1.
Unique to any other racing series in the world, each driver is presented with a brand new kart chassis and engine, as well as tyres, fuel, a kart trolley and tools. This enables absolute parity of equipment in this karting series, as all karts are checked for legality after each on-track session. No other race series in the world offers such prizes for winning a championship in their home country, one of the reasons that the Rotax series is the biggest karting championship in the world.
For more information on Rotax Karting in South Africa visit www.kart.co.za