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Hart wins Rotax Max challenge for second time


Palmerston North's Josh Hart has become the first driver to win New Zealand's Rotax Max Challenge for a second time after a dominant performance at the final round of the 2006 series at the Taranaki Kart Club's Waitara track on Sunday.

Untitled Document Going into the final round of the 2006 Ingham Honda Kart Stars Rotax Max Challenge series, Hart - the winner of last year's Challenge - was one of two drivers in with a chance of winning the 2006 Nebulite Windows & Doors Rotax Max Light class.

After the second Time Trial on a streaming wet track on Sunday morning however it was looking ominously like a one-horse race.

In short Hart was simply too good for long-time Challenge rival Paul Cameron - and anyone else for that matter - in the trying conditions, topping the time sheets in both Time Trials then winning the two heats and both the 23 lap Pre-Final and 28 lap Final as he liked.

And though he was only one point behind Hart heading into Sunday's final series round, Cameron had no answer for the defending series champion, finishing fourth in the heats and Pre-Final and third in the Final.

Another young Aucklander, Michael Wheaton, was able to offer Hart some competition, qualifying second in the first Time Trail, then finishing second behind Hart in each race, but that was as close as it got, Hart winning his second Challenge in as many years and in doing so guaranteeing himself a trip to a second Grant (World) Final, this time in Portugal between November 14 and 18.

Second for the round was Michael Wheaton, third Kane Taylor.

The script was - virtually - the same in the Arai Formula Junior class with Hamilton driver Martin Short putting together a clean-sweep of his own to guarantee himself both the class win and trip to the Grand Final in Portugal.

Short, the 18-year-old son of motorsport identity Geoff Short, trailed fellow young gun Richard Moore heading into the Final but like Hart in the Light class, made the most of the track conditions to top the time sheets in the two Time Trials and win the heats, Pre-Final and Final, the latter from Auckland's Mathew Kinsman and Wellington's Jamie McNee.

Short is the second Hamilton driver in as many years to win the Formula Junior class and trip to the World Final, the 2005 prize going to Matthew Wooding.

In the Shift Rotax Max Heavy class, Brendon Hart, Josh's older step-brother, made it a double celebration for the Palmerston North family by winning the day, though overall series victory in the class went to the man who was the dominant factor since the first round, Mt Maunganui's Jared Carlyle.

Hart beat Carlyle to the flag in similar conditions at the Auckland round of the 2006 series earlier in the year but that was only a prelude to his Sunday performance, his pace in the first Time Trial - in which he was a good half second quicker than anyone else - proof that he was going to be hard to beat in the rain.

And so he was, winning the heats, Pre-Final and Final as he liked.

Local man Steve Boyde was not too far behind Hart in the two Time Trials and finished third in the pre-Final and second in the Final.

Third in the Final was Arron Cunningham, older brother of 2003 World Karting Champion and 2005 United States Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham, with Wellington's Nick Rodgers fourth and Hamilton's Phillip Saunders fifth.

Jared Carlyle's points lead was such that the 2006 Shift Rotax Max Heavy series win was never in doubt but it was certainly a hard day in the office for the young Mount Maunganui driver who finished second to Brendon Hart in the Pre-Final but had an early exit from the Final after coming off second best in a clash with another driver.

Brendon Hart also won the Masters part of the Challenge, his clean-sweep enough to leap-frog long time Auckland sparring partners Brent Murgatroyd and Brent Gilchrist in the points standings.

He and Carlyle will now travel to the Australian Rotax Max Nationals courtesy of the organisers of the New Zealand challenge.

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