New Zealand's top Rotax Max category karters get another chance to gauge their form against their counterparts from across the Tasman at the opening round of this years' Right Karts KartStars Rotax Max Challenge of New Zealand in Palmerston North on Saturday.
Round organiser KartSport Manawatu has invited four Australians to compete at the meeting, Tyler Greenbury and Lane Moore in the Senior classes and Thomas Randle and Reese Sidebottom in the Junior ones.
Greenbury, from Toowoomba, in Queensland, was a member of the winning Australian team at the the Rotax Max category's annual Grand Challenge at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates last year, finishing seventh in 125cc Rotax Max Light.
Fellow Queenslander Moore, meanwhile, won the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class on his first visit to KartSport Manawatu's Manawatu Toyota Raceway at Shirriffs Rd this time last year and is the reigning New Zealand champion in the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class, having returned for the New Zealand Sprint Nationals in Invercargill last Easter.
Randle and Sidebottom are also highly rated, Randle having finished eighth in the Pro-Junior (KF3) class in Australia's Castrol Edge CIK Stars of Karting Series last year, and Sidebottom a three-state champion in the Midget class.
This year's is the 13th annual Right Karts KartStars-backed Rotax Max Challenge of New Zealand and once again the six-round series has attracted a bumper entry, withunprecedented numbers (there could be as many as 29 karts on the grid at some of the rounds this season) in the Arai Helmets Junior Max class.
Returning to defend their 2011 Challenge titles are Right Karts 125cc Rotax Max Light class champion Daniel Kinsman and Strata Networks 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class title holder Aarron Cunningham, while moving up to the Right Karts 125cc Rotax Max Light class to take on Kinsman and the likes of last year's class runner-up Kane Taylor, is last year's Arai Formula Junior class winner Reid Harker.
Returning to the Arai Junior Max class meanwhile is one of the pace-setters from last year's title chase, Christchurch young gun Scott Manson, and joining Aarron Cunningham back on the grid in the Strata Networks 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class are last year's Masters category winner Steve Currie and 2010 series category winner and fellow New Zealand representative, Niki Urwin.
Annual Rotax Max Challenge series are run in over 60 countries around the world with national winners meeting at an annual Grand Challenge. The first was in Puerto Rico in 2000, the latest in November last year in the United Arab Emirates.
This year the Grand Final will be held at the recently opened Portimao motorsport complex in Portugal with four places available for New Zealand drivers, the overall winner and runner-up in the premier Right Karts 125cc Rotax Max Light class, the winner of Arai Junior Max and the winner of the Masters (over 32 years) division with the Strata Networks 125cc Rotax Max Heavy class.
New Zealand enjoyed its best performance to date at the Grand Final in Italy in 2010 with Palmerston North international Josh Hart finishing second in the premier Rotax Max Senior class and Christchurch driver Matthew Hamilton finishing third in DD2.
Prior to this the best result was kart-turned-car star Earl Bamber's third in the Junior class when the Grand Final was held in the Canary Islands in 2004.
Saturday's opening series round is the first of six with subsequent rounds to be held at Tokoroa, Hamilton, Te Puke, Auckland and KartSport Rotorua's new track in the Mamaku Ranges.
Rnd 1Feb 18 Manawatu Toyota Raceway Palmerston North
Rnd 2 April 14-15 Pinex Raceway Tokoroa
Rnd 3 May 05-06 Agrisea Raceway Hamilton
Rnd 4 July 28-29 Fagan's Valley Raceway Te Puke
Rnd 5 August 25-26 Moselle Panel Paint Raceway Auckland
Rnd 6 October 06-07 KartSport Rotorua Raceway Mamaku