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World class Cunningham heads CIK entry list


Defending title holders Wade Cunningham and Tyler Richardson head a star-studded entry list for New Zealand's annual international kart meeting at Hamilton later this month.

Defending title holders Wade Cunningham and Tyler Richardson head a star-studded entry list for New Zealand's annual international kart meeting at Hamilton later this month.

Cunningham, the former New Zealand kart champion who won the World Karting Championship in 2003 and the Indy Pro Series motor racing championship in the United States in 2005, again heads the entry list for the blue riband Formula 100 class sponsored by MG Motorsport New Zealand.

The 22-year-old Aucklander who is now a bone fide star on the United States motor racing scene surprised everyone when he entered the 2006 CIK Trophy of New Zealand presented by Karcher meeting at the Hamilton Kart Club's RV Wholesale Supplies Raceway in January last year.

But he proved he had lost none of his karting skills by claiming his third CIK title in six years from one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the annual trophy race.

Also grabbing the opportunity to return to his karting roots for a second time is one of New Zealand's other kart-turned-car stars, Hamilton-born Chris Vander Drift.

Vander Drift has been competing with success in single-seater racing cars in Europe for the past three years and last year was the quickest F100 class qualifier at the CIK meeting. However he had various problems in the heats, Pre-Final and Final, leaving the way open for Cunningham to dominate.

Joining Cunningham and Vander Drift on the grid at the three-day January 26-28 meeting will be several other highly rated internationally experienced drivers including Cunningham's younger brother Mitch, who has been competing in Europe for the past two years, top Australian driver Jason Burns, last year's class runner-up Paul Cameron and Wellingtonian's Will Thomason and Karl Wilson.

It is a local hero, Tyler Richardson, who heads the entry in the Junior Intercontinental class sponsored by TSR Kart Supplies however, the Morrinsville teenager's favourite status due in part to his perfect performance at last year's meeting.

There he qualified quickest and won all five races to claim the Junior ICA title from Aucklanders Henry Thomas-Kircher and James Stead.

Both will be back to try and break Richardson's winning streak this year, with other strong competition expected to come from Aucklanders Matthew Kinsman, Mitchell Evans, Tom Blomqvist, Richard Moore, Wellington's Jamie McNee, and top South Island drivers Matthew Penrose and Chris Cox.

In the absence of last year's winner Matthew Wall, favourite status in the newly named KZ2 (ex ICC) class sponsored by Lubricants New Zealand is shared between last year's fastest qualifier Jason Lee and last year's runner-up Ryan Grant.

A dark horse is Ryan Urban, another multi-time New Zealand kart champion who recently won the prestigious SuperStars of SuperKarting race in the United States.

There will also be considerable interest in the arrival of top Rotax Max Challenge driver Simon Evans in the gearbox class.

Like fellow young gun Graeme Smyth, Evans will join gearbox category regulars Daniel Bray, Dan Smith and another recent convert, Auckland's Michael Wheaton, in the class for the CIK meeting.

Supporting the three international classes will be five Challenge Cup categories, Cadet, Junior Restricted 100cc Yamaha, Junior 100cc Yamaha, Senior 100cc Yamaha Light and 125cc Rotax Max Heavy.

This year's CIK Trophy of New Zealand presented by Karcher meeting has already enjoyed an unprecedented buildup courtesy BMW New Zealand's decision to link it to its new Formula BMW Drive Experience programme.

The Formula BMW Drive Experience is a joint venture between BMW New Zealand and the organisers of the Formula BMW Asia single-seater motor racing series with the winner earning an all-expenses-paid-trip to BMW's annual Formula BMW Evaluation event in Bahrain.

The first three placegetters in the three international classes - Junior Intercontinental A, Formula 100 and KZ2 - plus the winners of each of the eligible support classes at the meeting will be invited to join the inaugural New Zealand Experience programme at Pukekohe two days after the Hamilton meeting.

A selection panel made up of representatives from BMW Motorsport New Zealand and KartSport New Zealand will also select a further three competitors considered worthy of the opportunity but who for whatever reason did not finish in the top three in one of the International classes or first in a support category.

To be eligible, drivers must be New Zealand resident holders of a KartSport New Zealand competition licence no younger than 15 years and no older than 24 years on January 30 2007.

At Pukekohe Park Raceway the karters will enjoy a day at BMW New Zealand and the Formula BMW Asia series' expense learning about the Formula BMW series racing car and series and completing a number of laps of the circuit in a specially imported test and demonstration car.

During the day they will be observed by and meet with officials from the Formula BMW Asia series and from BMW New Zealand and they will be required to present themselves and their recent karting results to the selection panel before the overall winner of the scholarship evaluation opportunity is selected.

For the first time in recent years the 2007 CIK Trophy of New Zealand presented by Karcher meeting will be televised, with TV1's award-winning Powerbuilt Motorsport programme screening coverage on Sunday February 18 with repeats on Sky Sport.

The 2007 CIK Trophy of New Zealand presented by Karcher meeting will be the third run with the support of Karcher Ltd, one of KartSport New Zealand's corporate partners.

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