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Kiwi karters head overseas in record numbers


With events in Japan, the United States and Italy, November is shaping up to be a busy month for the growing band of Kiwi KartSport internationals

This action kicks off in Japan this weekend where Christchurch driver Matthew Hamilton will again represent New Zealand at the annual All Japan Yamaha Championship meeting at at Yamaha-owned Tsumagoi track.

Hamilton is so far the best performed New Zealand driver at the event, finishing third on his first visit in 2008. The meeting is one of Japan's biggest with drivers from around the world joining Japan's best.

As he did in 2008, Hamilton earned the trip and entry to the event by winning the Senior 100cc Yamaha Light class title at KartSport New Zealand's National Sprint Championship meeting at Easter.

Coincidentally the multi-time New Zealand and South Island champion is also one of five drivers from this country who have qualified to represent New Zealand at the Rotax Max category's annual Grand Final meeting being held at the famous La Conca kart circuit in Italy later in the month.

He will only be home from his Yamaha trip to Japan for a couple of days, in fact, before getting back on an aeroplane, this time heading for Italy.

As it turns out Hamilton is also the best performing of New Zealand's Senior drivers at a Rotax Max category Grand Final, having finished third in the Senior Rotax Max class at last year's event in Egypt.

This year he qualified for a place on the New Zealand team by finishing second to fellow international Josh Hart in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class in the 2010 Gen-i Kartstars Rotax Max Challenge of New Zealand.

That means that in Italy Hart will compete in the blue riband Senior 125cc Rotax Max class while Hamilton will compete in the main support category, DD2.

He and Hart will be joined on the New Zealand team by Cambridge driver Andy Schofield (Junior Max) and Masters class (over 32) competitors Hamish Cross from Rangiora and Niki Urwin from Tauranga in DD2 Masters.

Urwin made history in this year's New Zealand Challenge by being the first paraplegic driver to claim a podium place (second) and it looks like he will be the first paraplegic driver (he uses special locally-developed hand controls which he will be taking with him to Italy) to contest the DD2 Masters class at a Rotax Max Grand Challenge event.

The annual Grand Challenge is a week-long affair with 252 drivers from 60 countries around the world signing in on Monday November 15 and spending the week going through Qualifying Time Trials, Heats and if necessary repecharges before class Pre-Finals and Finals on Saturday November 20.

While the Rotax titles are being decided in Italy, meanwhile, two other Kiwis karters, Aucklander Daniel Bray and Bay of Plenty driver Mark Swetman will be competing at the annual SKUSA Supernationals meeting on the other side of the Atlantic in Las Vegas.

Shifter (gearbox-equipped) kart specialist Bray first competed at the SKUSA (Superkarts USA) Supernats meeting in 2007 and since then has divided his time between here and the United States, finishing second in the S1 class at the Supernationals meeting in 2008 and 16th in the Superpro class at the event last year - in a field which consisted of some of the best kart and car racers in the world including seven-time World F1 champion Michael Schumacher!

This year Bray has been contesting the US-wide SKUSA ProTour in the S1 class and heads to the SuperNats meeting in fifth place in the series class points standings.

Having just dominated the F125S class in this season's Mi Sedaap New Zealand Pro Kart Series tour, Bray's travelling mate Mark Swetman is also looking for a good showing at the SuperNats meeting, in his case in the S4 Masters class.

Like the annual Rotax Max Challenge, the SKUSA SuperNationals meeting is a multi-day one which starts on Wednesday November 17 and ends on Sunday the 21st.

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