Algoa Kart & Motorcycle Club

South Africa Set to Conquer The Rotax World Karting Championships This Coming Week.

This week in Portimao, on the beautiful Algarve coast of Portugal, 10 South African kart racers will take on the world’s best  drivers at the 2015 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.

This year sees the 16th running of the Grand Finals, effectively the world championship for the Rotax karting series which has revolutionised kart racing in the past two decades. The Rotax organisers point out that the 288 drivers competing at the Kartodromo Internacionale do Algarve – part of a huge motorsport complex located in the Algarve’s second-largest city – have earned their place in the finals as the top racers in 2015 in their respective countries, where some 15 000 Rotax karters raced across the globe.

The Rotax series is unique in many ways, most notably that, unlike many other karting championships, only champions, or vice-champions in their  countries may take part in the series. This means that the level of competition in the Grand Finals is the highest in the world, and to ensure even tighter competitions, all drivers compete in brand-new identical kart chassis with brand-new identical engines, supplied by Rotax of Austria. So, no special tuning or modifying!

The Rotax Grand Finals 2015 gets underway on Sunday November 8 with a welcoming ceremony, with the action due to start on track at the Kartodromo  on Tuesday, November 10, after the drivers have taken delivery of their brand new karts via a raffle system. In addition to the karts, each driver receives a kart trolley, tyres and fuel for the week-long competition and tools. No other race series in the world offers this level of support to its competitors.

By a series of qualifying and elimination heats the top 34 drivers from around the world in each of the four Rotax classes will fight for the world championships on Saturday, November 14. The Finals action starts early on Saturday morning, and viewers here in South Africa can follow the action via live-streaming video, by going to www.rotax-kart.com, and activating the video option.

There will also be video coverage of the elimination heats throughout the week from November 10 to 13.

South Africa has an amazing record in the history of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, run each year since 2000. No less than 12 World titles have been won by South Africans in this ultra-competitive karting arena.

Gavin Cronje won the very first Grand Finals in Peurto Rico in 2000 and since then our World Champions include Claudio Piazza-Musso, Mark Cronje, Cristiano Morgado (four titles), Wesleigh Orr (two titles), Leeroy Poulter  and Caleb Williams (two titles). In the 2014 Grand Finals in Spain, South Africa won the prestigious Nations Cup, so this year’s team has a huge reputation to live up to.

 The South African Rotax Max Challenge Team

South Africa has team members competing in each of the four categories. These are the drivers that won their titles after season-long battles in regional and national events at circuits in Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, the KZN Midlands and Vereeniging. The team also includes the winners of the Africa Open championship 2015, a one-day championship with competitors from neighbouring states, run at Zwartkops Kart Raceway in early October. In certain cases, the runners-up in the series are invited to take part in the Grand Finals.

 DD2 GEARBOX

2015 South African DD2 Champion Bradley Liebenberg.  Bradley is only 16-years-old, but this student at Crawford College in Lonehill, Sandton, has made his mark in a remarkably short space of time. He won championships in his rookie year in 2012, including the Africa Open championship in the Junior Max class, and in 2014 he won both the Junior Max and DD2 Gearbox national titles, at the age of 15 the youngest driver ever to win in DD2. He was a revelation in DD2 at last year’s Grand Finals in Spain and was a serious contender for the World Championship in DD2 until falling fowl of the wet weather conditions and on-track collisions in the final. He won this year’s DD2 championship for the second year running, and he is a real threat to win overall in Portugal.

2015 Africa Open DD2 Champion Chad Maciver. Chad Maciver started karting at a young age and in 2007 he was SA GP Junior Champion. Since then, this 20-year-old student at the Vega School of Brand Leadership in Gauteng has a number of karting titles to his credit, including the 2012 Senior Max Regional championship and the South African Senior Max Championship that same year. He competed in the Grand Finals at Portimao in 2012, and so his circuit knowledge and the experience of high pressure competition in a week-long championships gained at a Grand Final is sure to stand him in good stead during this year’s event.

Eugene Brittz.  This 25-year-old media specialist from Pretoria has had a long and impressive career culminating in a South African DD2 championship in 2011, and since then he has been a real championship threat in DD2 each season.

Eugene comes from a motor-sporting family, as his father, Charles, having raced Nissans very successfully for a number of years in the 1980s.  Eugene has vast international karting experience, having raced in the UAE Grand Finals in 2011 where he qualified second, and he has since raced very successfully in America. His third place in this year’s DD2 series in South Africa gave him the berth in the final, as the second-place finisher, Mitchell Licen, is in the middle of University exams .

 SENIOR MAX CHALLENGE

2015 South African Senior Max Champion Jonathan Aberdein.  Jonathan Aberdein has had a remarkable career in karting. He started just four years ago, and in 2015 he was on course to win both the Senior Max titles and DD2 titles in the SA Championship, before opting to concentrate on winning the Senior Max crown, which he did in fine style. This year Jonathan also competed in the European Max Challenge series, and highlights include qualifying third in Germany and setting a fastest lap in Italy. His international competition will stand him in good stead in Portimao, where the level of competition is the highest in international karting. Jonathan’s father Chris is a former SA saloon car champion. Jonathan is based in Cape Town.

2015 Africa Open Senior Max Champion Jordan Sherratt. Jordan Sherratt is 16-years-old and hails from the beach town of Umhlanga in KZN and he attends the Two Bridges School in Durban North. He started karting in the Cadet class at the age of six, and he has since won two titles in the Junior Max Class, in 2013 and 2014. This year he did not compete for a National Championship karting title as he has also embarked on a car racing career, racing a Ford Focus in the local Extreme Festival and a Nissan 350Z, and he is also on a short list for a drive in the Audi TT series in Europe in 2016.

He decided to enter the Africa Open Championship as a one-off karting event and won all three heats in the Senior Max class. He has already competed in Grand Finals in New Orleans and in Spain, in 2013 and 2014. This talented youngster could be a real threat in Portugal this year.

 DD2 MASTERS

2015 Africa Open DD2 Masters Champion, Michael Stephen.  Michael Stephen, 34, has won a total of 11 South African Championships, seven of them in karts and four of them in production cars. He has competed extensively in international karting, and in 2003 he finished fourth in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals held at Zwartkops, near Pretoria.

Since then he has made a name for himself in Production Car racing, winning three SA titles for the Audi team, which he manages as well. As this media release was being prepared he was in contention to win his fourth SA Production Car title for Audi, on November 7.

Michael returned to kart racing this season in the X30 gearbox class, and he was the DD2 winner in the one-day Africa Open Championship at Zwartkops, beating out a top field of drivers in this most-competitive class in South African karting. Michael is married to Tracy and has a 15-mothn-old daughter, Gia.

2015 South African DD2 Masters Champion Ronnie Baptista. Ronaldo Baptista, known as Ronnie to his friends in the karting fraternity, won both the SA DD2 Masters title and the Regional title in 2015. It was a fine effort, after a sabbatical from karting. This depot manager, in his family’s business in Potchefstroom, is in his mid-30s, and started racing eight years ago in the DD2 class, winning the Northern Regions championship in his second season. Ronnie’s success this year has seen him get quicker and quicker all season. He loves all sports and was a keen soccer player until recently and plays action cricket and out-door cricket. This will be his first experience of a Grand Finals event.

John van Wyk. John van Wyk has been karting for a number of seasons in the DD2 Masters series and is now in his early 50s! He has been consistently competitive running in the top three in this category for drivers aged 32 and over. This season he only competed occasionally in South Africa, as he is now based in London.

His place in the team comes after the unfortunate withdrawal of multiple World DD2 Masters Champion, Cristiano Morgado, from KZN. Cris, who won the World DD2 Masters title in 2011, 2012 and 2013, was in Portugal practicing for this year’s Grand Finals when he suffered a recurrence of a neck injury and was advised by his doctors to withdraw from the event. John van Wyk, who loves his karting, and has competed in previous Grand Finals for South Africa, stepped into the breach.

 JUNIOR MAX

2015 South African Junior Max Champion Dino Stermin.  Dino Stermin is 16-years-old and only started karting two years ago. Thus his achievement in winning the very competitive Rotax Junior Max title is quite remarkable, as he was competing against many youngsters who have up to a decade of racing experience! Dino was awarded the Driver of the Year trophy in the Western Province in his very first season in 2014, and his 2015 Junior Max National title rewarded the faith shown by karters in his “home town. He hails from Bellville where he attends Fairmont High, and is on track to also win this year’s Cape Town Regional championship in Junior Max. As far has other interests are concerned, Dino lists “singing” as a major passion. Let’s hope he will be singing the South African anthem after the Junior Max Final in Portimao on November 14!

2015 Africa Open Junior Max Champion Delano Fowler.  Delano Fowler is just 16, but he has already logged a decade of karting experience, having begun racing at the age of 5! He began showing serious form last season when he finished second in the Western Province Junior Max series and third in the South African Junior Max Championship. His win in the Africa Open Championship rewarded a few years of running right at the sharp end of the field in Junior Max.

A student at the Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch, where he is in Grade 10, Delano lists cycling and PC gaming as his hobbies. He also began racing Formula Vees on main circuit at Killarney in 2014.

* Whilst not competing as South Africans, three young karters who are based in South Africa will be competing as Portuguse nationals in the Micro Max series in Portimao. South Africa does not run a Micro Max series here, so these youngsters do not form part of the official SA Team. Those competing are Cameron Dias, Joshua De Paiva and Daniel Paiva.

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