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Star finish for Hamilton in Japan


New Zealand driver Matthew Hamilton was one of the stars at the 30th annual Toyota TDP Challenge Kart meeting in Japan over the weekend, winning the 10-lap Pre-Final and finishing a close-run third in the 15 lap Final.

The Final was won by Australian Matthew Wall from Japanese driver Akito Shimami and Hamilton, but the result was in doubt until the last corner when Hamilton, who had been shadowing Wall in second place, tried to get past.

"I knew Matthew was going to block on the inside so I tried going round the outside, but as soon as I did," explained Hamilton, "Akito came up the inside and I got shuffled back to third. I knew there was a chance that that might happen but you have to go for the win."

After Wall and Hamilton made the Pre-Final a two-man race, eventually won by 0.11 of a second by the young New Zealander, the Final was anything but with as many as six drivers battling in the leading bunch round the high-speed Mobara track.

Positions changed every lap though it was the two Arrow drivers from downunder who did the majority of the leading.

Hamilton and Wall earned all-expenses-paid trips to the annual Toyota-backed Yamaha meeting in Japan after meeting designated qualifying criteria at home. In Hamilton's case it was winning the Senior 100cc Yamaha Light class title at the 2006 KartSport New Zealand Sprint Kart Championships at Easter.

Hamilton's performance in Japan was particularly meritorious, coming just six weeks after the 23-year-old from Christchurch broke a collarbone at a meeting in Hawke's Bay.

Despite only getting full medical clearance to travel to the Japanese meeting a week before he left the multi-time New Zealand kart champion and Toyota Racing Series race winner, was on the pace straight away and qualifying fifth overall in the 140+ driver field.

Akito Shimami, who finished second in the Final, was the fastest qualifier with a best lap of 46.475, just 0.106 of a second quicker than second fastest qualifier, Australian Matthew Wall. An indication of how close the competition at the front of the pack was, Hamilton (in fifth) was just 0.329 of a second slower than Shimami.

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