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Local karters leverage track advantage at Manawatu event

Report from KartSport New Zealand
More than 140 karters from all over New Zealand gathered at the KartSport Manawatu club’s Manawatu Toyota Raceway over the weekend for the annual ‘Championships’ round of the Manawatu & TRC Toyota-backed 60th anniversary WPKA Goldstar Series.

They put on a fine show too, with the action on track fast and furious across all ten classes. However, only a small number of visitors could stop local club members claiming the lion’s share of the wins across the five heats and six standalone class or group Grand Prix races held over the weekend.

Case in point came in the Supreme Kart Supplies-sponsored Vortex Mini ROK category which was dominated by Judd Christiansen. The local youngster finished every race he started in the top three, backing up the speed and consistency which over the three earlier rounds of this season’s series won him the overall Goldstar title in the Vortex Mini ROK class.

South Islanders Izaak Fletcher (ChCh) and Arthur Broughan (Blen) ended up joining Christiansen on the class podium, while category newcomer, Maxim Kirwan from Auckland, grabbed a race win in heat one and showed he will be force to be reckoned with in future series.

Christiansen got an early jump on the rest of the field and looked set to run away with the Vortex Mini ROK GP race as well, only for a red flag to bunch the field back up again. Arthur Broughan took the fight to Christensen when racing resumed. Christensen’s passes allowing him to edge away again to cross the finish line just over half a second ahead of Brougham and almost a second up on Izaac Fletcher.

Levin-based international Logan Manson was another KatSport Manawatu club member to take on a field of top visiting drivers – in his case in the Rotax Max Junior category – and win; this time from Hayden Lines from Auckland with Jenson Bate from Palmerston North tieing for the final place on the podium with the 2019/2020 WPKA class title holder Ryan Bell.

As if winning a class is not enough Michael McCulloch from the nearby Kapiti Coast led home a KartSport Manawatu club ‘podium lockout’ of the Bayswater Group-sponsored 125cc Rotax Max Light class. McCulloch had a strong weekend with two race wins across the five heats and was able to hold off clubmate and 2018 Rotax Grand Final representative Fraser Hart by two points, and fellow local young gun Jackson Rooney by three.

The ‘Manawatu effect’ was also evident in the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy category, won this time by local Ashley Higgins finishing either first or second overall in each heat race he started to easily claim the class round win.

Hawke’s Bay ace Zach Zaloum and reigning class North Island title holder Marco Giltrap, from Auckland, were the only other competitors to take 125c Rotax Max Heavy heat race wins over the weekend.

Giltrap also took the opportunity of picking up his award for being the class winner over the three-round 2019/20 series at the prizegving function on Saturday night.

The Silvester Clark-sponsored Open class was yet another to fall to a KartSport Manawatu club member, Riley Jack taking the win from fellow teens, Sam Wright from Auckland, and Daniel Hall from…….Palmerston North.

Finally, local ace Scott Dalley managed – somehow – to turn the tables on evergreen class winner/pace-setter and proponent, Stephen Muggeridge from Whakatane, in the Briggs Supply Company-backed ClubSport 120 class. Not by much, because there were only two points separating the top three (Dalley, Muggeridge and Derek Lawrence) but it was enough.

A good-natured Muggeridge hardly left the meeting empty-handed either, taking home a ‘massive amount’ of silverware from the series’ prize giving on Saturday night, just one of his prizes a trophy for the WPKA Goldstar Series’ Highest Points Scoring Driver over the series.

Amazingly, winners in the four other categories contested at the two-day ‘Championships’ meeting, were from outside the Manawatu district.

The country’s top female driver, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt (from Wellington!!) came out on top in the Vortex ROK DVS Senior class, two heat wins allowing her to win the round from Chris Cox from Rangiora and Jacob Cranston from….Palmerston North!

Members of the KartSport Wellington club, led by William Chronis, also dictated the pace in the Briggs Supply Company-backed Briggs LO206 class. Chronis was the stand out driver in the budget-friendly 4-stroke club/fun class, denying series champion Ian Smith the round win by just two points. Smith was extremely consistent all weekend finishing all five heat races on the podium however Chronis had a bigger drop come the final standings.

Another Wellington local, Brent Melhop, took home the ClubSport class Master GP Champion title as well as the LO206 Briggs Overall Master Champion trophy at the prizegiving.

It was Christchurch drivers who claimed the final two class wins at the Championships meeting, with Jacob Douglas, who is being guided by Kartsport New Zealand Academy coaches Matt Hamilton and Tiffany Chittenden, taking the Vortex ROK DVS Junior class from National Schools Champion Liam Sceats from Auckland and Ayrton Willimas from Cambridge.

Another hard-charging youngster from the Garden City, Zach Tucker, was once again the stand out Cadet ROK class driver throughout the weekend, winning 4 of the 5 heat races as well as the standalone class GP race very much as he liked.

Hawke’s Bay ace Grayson Stowe took a step up over the weekend, though, and showed that the WPKA Goldstar Series has helped him with his race craft, eventually finished second overall ahead of Jaxon Waugh.

A highlight for many at the track on Sunday were the Senior and Invitational GP races. With 30 competitors on track for the Senior GP it was one of the bigger senior GPs races run over the series this season. Eventual winner Jackson Rooney starting from near the front, with the other likely local prospect, Riley Jack, starting mid pack and young Auckland ace Sam Wright starting from grid position 30.

Incredibly, Wright made his way to second place at the flag with Riley Jack coming home in third. Wright then went one better in the Invitational GP starting it from P15 but winning it by almost 9 seconds from Jackson Rooney and Auckland-based international Josh Richmond.

As well as a plethora of class prizes awarded at the 2019/2020 Manawatu & TRC Toyota Goldstar Series prizegiving function on Saturday night a number of special achievement prizes were also awarded.

These included the Mainland Karting Most Improved driver, awarded to Rotax Junior driver Mitchell Rawson from Te Awamutu, who showed his improvement over the series through both race craft and race pace. There was also a prize for the female driver who amassed the most points over the series, which went to Gemma Winters from Tauranga.

The Mainland Karting Highest Points Scoring driver from the South Island, meanwhile, went to Christchurch youngest Zach Tucker who enjoyed a clean sweep of Cadet ROK class and GP trophies on Saturday night.

The WPKA Club shield was awarded to Kartsport Manawatu for 2019/2020. And the Phil Davy Spirit of Goldstar Award this year went to current WPKA President Chris Rooney.

Chris earned the award ‘for his outstanding management of the WPKA Goldstar Series, having helped double competitor participation in the past few years.’

Chris’s club, Kartsport Manawatu was also awarded the WPKA Club shield, albeit by a margin of just half a point.

“ Our club is extremely proud to have won this shield, “ Chris said. “It shows the hard work and determination that all Manawatu drivers put in over the 2019/2020 WPKA Goldstar Series.

The WPKA Goldstar Committee would like to thank the following 2019/20 sponsors, without whose continued support the series would not be possible.

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