Two young karters prove rising stars at national sprint championships

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Columns: Races
Two young rising stars stole the limelight with commanding victories at the Manawatu & TRC Toyota KartSport New Zealand National Sprint Championships in Palmerston North.

Matamata’s Jay Urwin, 14, claimed the prestigious KZ2 final – the zenith of KartSport NZ’s titles – while 12-year-old Zach Tucker from Christchurch became the first driver to earn three New Zealand Championships in a row in Vortex Mini ROK, a key development class. There were nine categories decided, attracting over 180 karters from throughout New Zealand to the Manawatu & TRC Toyota Raceway over Easter, marking the biggest event in more than a decade.
As well as New Zealand titles, the championships were the penultimate rounds of the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy KartStars Series which offers $50,000 in prizes, and the ROK Cup, with entry to the ROK Superfinal in Italy at stake.

Tucker, in his final year at Medbury School, was in supreme form throughout, under the guidance of the WKS Kartstore team in Christchurch. He was the fastest in qualifying, and won all three heats, the pre-final and the final ahead of clubmate Henry Fisher and Aryan Lala from Palmerston North. There were three red flag stoppages but Tucker was able to control the restarts to dominate.
Tucker’s third straight title in the class betters the previous two in a row won by US-based pro racer Jacob Douglas, Matthew Penrose and Supercars star Fabian Coulthard. Other previous winners in this category include the likes of Chris Pither, Mitch Evans, Nick Cassidy, Arie Hutton, Louis Sharp and Liam Lawson.

There were 20 karts in the KZ2 category including four-time champion Daniel Bray and experienced fellow Auckland karters Graeme Smyth, Joshua Parkinson and Nathan Crang.
Smyth won two of the three heats with Urwin prevailing in the second and claimed the important pre-final ahead of Bray and Hamilton’s Emerson Vincent to get the front-row start for the 20-lap final.
Urwin had an early skirmish with Bray but once re-establishing the lead, he proved the class of the field in his BirelArt machine, the only driver going under 42-seconds for a lap in the cool conditions, and displaying a confidence that belies his years.
It had been a hectic week for Urwin and his father Niki, who returned from racing with the Birel team at the SuperKarts USA Winter Nationals in Orlando on Wednesday before heading to Palmerston North.
Smyth pushed up to runner-up with Parkinson third, to retain his NZ number 3 plate from last year.
Hometown karter Michael McCulloch from the N-Zed Motorsport team, drove his Parolin kart to victory in the DVS Senior class after winning one heat and finishing on the podium in the other two. With high-flying Ayrton Williams disqualified post-race from second, McCulloch won the title from Christchurch pair, Dylan Jessop and Chris Cox.

The local Manawatu supporters were able to cheer on rising 14-year-old prospect, Kiahn Burt in his endeavours to retain his No1 plate in Rotax Junior racing.
The closeness of this competition was witnessed with Burt, Aucklanders Jamie Thompson and Raymond Mallin each winning a heat. Thompson won the pre-final from Mt Wellington club racer Ashton Phipps and Burt who claimed pole for the final.
While Thompson was able to claim the lead on lap three of the final to hold off Burt, their positions were reversed with the young Aucklander penalised for a start violation.

The DVS Junior class was dominated by Tauranga’s Blake Corin who won two of the three heats, and the pre-final. He was threatened early in the final by North Island champion Ashton Phipps from Auckland and later by Christchurch’s Izaak Fletcher, who had the fastest lap time on the way to runner-up spot. Marlborough’s Arthur Broughan was third.

The Rotax Heavy category saw Right Karts driver Josh Bethune in top form, winning two of the three heats, the pre-final and the final where he cleared out from Australian visitor Lane Moore and three-time national champion in this class, Ryan Urban.

The Rotax Light class attracted 27 starters with the bunched fields providing plenty of tussles and bangs.

Marlborough’s William Exton won two heats and the pre-final to start off the front for the early lead. South Island champion Caleb Cross, who won the opening heat, pushed to the lead with Exton dropping back. That promoted McCulloch, chasing a second title on the day, up to second place with another local, Jackson Rooney into third.  In the tightest of battles at the front, Cross held on to claim the honours and further reward for Matt Hamilton’s Christchurch-based team. Rooney and Bewley, who crossed the line third and fourth would both suffer from pushback bumper penalties, promoting Brad Hewson to the number three spot.
Rooney would gain his moment, doubling up in the Rotax DD2 class, where he won two heats and the pre-final. He made a pass early to claim the lead from Darren Walker and had to withstand challenges before clearing out for victory. Ryan Bell from Bay of plenty grabbed runner-up from Walker with Bethune, who won the third heat, back in fourth.

The Cadet ROK class is subject to an appeal hearing, with Christchurch nine-year-old Iver Spence the provisional winner after winning all three heats.

Updated points in the KartStars Series and ROK Cup will be announced this week as both competitions reach a conclusion at the final round in Rotorua next month.

Caption: Action from championship winners – KZ2 champion Jay Urwin from Matamata (No 21); Vortex Mini ROK champion Zach Tucker from Christchurch (No 33) and Rotax Junior winner Kiahn Burt (Palmerston North, No 1). (Credit: Vicky Jack Photography)


Press Release by: Kartsport NZ Inc. - 11/04/23

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