Australian karter Ben George has won the 2006 Rotax Max Challenge World Final at the Kartodromo de Viani in Portugal over the weekend.
The FIA-authorised event held this year in Viana do Castelo is the international grand final for the Rotax engine classes and has representatives compete from all around the world after qualifying through domestic championships.
George's win is the first world-level victory for an Australian karter since James Courtney won the CIK-FIA Formula A World Championship at Salbris, France on the 14th of September 1997.
George qualified fifth for the event in the premier Rotax division, DD2, where karts feature a 125cc Rotax engine with direct drive and two gears. The 26-year-old then claimed a win and a third in his two heats, before powering on to win the pre-final and final.
George won the 25-lap final by over three seconds from Great Britain's Michael Simpson and Marwan Al Tayer of the United Arab Emirates.
George placed fourth at the same event last year, held in Langkawi, Malaysia. The win caps a strong season for George, who again won the Austrian Rotax Championship and placed third in the European Mojo Rotax Challenge Series.
George, who now races and works full-time for the Team V karting operation in Austria, has built on a successful representation by Australians at the Rotax Max Challenge World Final and this is the first time an Australian has taken an outright win at the annual event.
Queenslanders Scott Auld and William Yarwood have previously finished second and third respectively in the Senior Rotax class. Darrell Smith and Mark Wicks have both taken out the Masters division (over 35 years) in the past, which is run in conjunction with the Senior class, and placed fourth and eighth respectively in the outright results.
George started his karting career in Hobart at the age of eight, racing at the Southern Tasmanian Kart Club as a junior. That club will this weekend host the 2006 Tasmanian Karting Championships, where young drivers will no doubt be discussing the efforts of George and aim to follow in his footsteps.
George won the Tasmanian Junior Karter of the Year in 1996 and like so many other successful karters, was a protégé of Jim Morton, becoming a member of Morton's Tony Kart Australia team.
In 1996 George won an Australian Karting Title in his home state at the Smithton circuit. George beat home Alex Davison to win the Junior National Heavy crown and was also third in Junior National Light behind Mark Winterbottom and Bart Price.
In January 2004 George moved to Austria to further his karting career, driving for the Kart Shop Hochhouser team. George then joined the Team V operation in April 2005 as full-time race and test driver.
Already a multiple Austrian Champion, an Australian champion and third in this year's European series, this win is another highlight in the Tasmanian's illustrious karting career.
Two other Australians competed in the event, both in the Junior Max category. Steel Guiliana finished 10th in Junior Rotax after being forced to start at the back of the 34-kart field for the Final. Australia's other representative in Junior Max, David Whitmore, missed the transfer into the finals.