- A super-strong 10-Driver Line-Up for the 2017 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, Portimao, Portugal, November 4-11.
- South Africa is one of the most successful countries in the 18year-history of the Rotax Grand Finals.
- All 10 of our drivers to receive free brand-new karts, engines, tyres, fuel and tools courtesy of Rotax, for the biggest kart-fest on the planet!
- Some 60 countries will take part in this week-long World Championship.
Launched in the late 1990s, the Rotax karting series has been hosting its Grand Finals since late 1999, and South Africa has a proud record in this series. The very first Grand Finals was won by South African Gavin Cronje. Since that time, as the series has grown into a number of classes, South Africans have won no less than 13 world titles in this World Championship of Rotax karting.
The secret of the Rotax formula is that drivers have to earn their place in the finals, unlike other championships, where if a karter’s funds are sufficient, these championships will accept entries. Rotax only allocates a specific number of entries per country, and stipulates that these drivers have to be champions in their countries, or winners of special one-off Rotax championships, such as our African Open race challenge held here once each year.
What’s more, Rotax ensures absolute equality of equipment by supplying each and every driver that qualifies, with a brand new kart chassis, engine, tyres, fuel, tools and kart trolley for the week-long event! No ther race series in the world does anything remotely like this!
No wonder that South Africa is so proud of its history in this championship. And the aim is to improve on this record!
“We have a very strong team for this year’s Grand Finals,” says South Africa’s Rotax importer Ed Murray ( a multiple former SA karting champion) , who as always will be accompanying the 10-driver team to the Grand Finals.
“This year again it is being run in Portimao, and just two years ago Michael Stephen came within two corners of winning the World DD2 Masters Championship, before he was punted off the track on that final lap.
“Michael is again in the team, and like our current SA DD2 Champion, Brad Liebenberg, he brings a wealth of experience to the team. Bradly, as well , has come very close to winning the DD2 class at the Grand Finals, while in Luke Herring we have another enormous competent karter, with valued Grand Final experience.”
Murray says the strong team this year reflects the gratifying growth in Rotax karting in South Africa in 2017, and the increased levels of competition which this growth has brought with it.
“I think we have shown over the years that our South Africans can compete with the best, no matter what the age group.. Indeed, last year we had a South African, 12-year-old Jayden Els, winning the Mini Max Championship!”
The Grand Finals start on November 4 in Portimao and the first weekend’s proceedings include the driver’s drawing for their kart chassis and engines out of a hat to ensure fairness. The practicing and racing gets underway in the week, and there are a series of qualifying and elimination heats that culminates with the Finals being run on Saturday November 11.
As in the past, event will be streamed live over the internet and enthusiasts can cheer on our team from South Africa by logging on to www.kart.co.za.
THE 2017 SOUTH AFRICAN ROTAX GRAND FINALS TEAM
Bradley Liebenberg, DD2 Gearbox Class
Brad Liebenberg is currently THE class act in South African karting. The 18-year-old from Fourways, Gauteng, says that for him motorsport is not just a sport, but a way of life and a platform. ”You need to continuously develop and hone your skills to remain ahead of the competition,” he says.
Bradley’s record in karting and in main-circuit events is proof that he lives by this credo. He has won five South African karting titles, Four African Open titles and he is the first SA driver to win four titles back-to-back in the fastest karting class in the country – DD2 Gearbox – in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
He has competed on numerous occasions in the Rotax Grand Finals, and has come very close to a World Title in the DD2 class, qualifying on pole for the Final before suffering a mishap. In track racing Bradley has also been sensation, competing in Polo Cup, where he won a Rookie of the year title in 2015 and finished a close second in 2016. In 2017 he has had a successful season driving a JCW Mini, and to date has won three races in the GTC2 category.
Watching Bradley race is like watching a man who is destined to win no matter what – even on the rare occasions when he doesn’t win he looks like it is only a matter of time!
Michael Stephen DD2 Masters
Michael Stephen is one of the most successful competitors in the history of South African motorsport! Now aged 36, he has racked up a total of 12 South African Motorsport titles. Seven of those titles are in karting, while the rest have been earned on the main circuit in sedan cars. He is a three-time SA production Car champ (2011, 2012 and 2013), the reigning Global Touring Car champion and is currently leading the SA GTC 2017 series, driving as ever in an Audi.
Port Elizabeth-born Michael started kart racing at the age of eight, and comes from a racing family. His father Roger (and Michael’s race engineer) is a former kart racer and an experienced Clerk of the Course in local racing. His uncle Neil and cousins Jonathan and Geoff race a highly modified Golf in Eastern Cape championship events.
Professionally, Michael is a highly qualified engineer, and currently runs the Terry Moss Racing Team, with multiple racing activities. He is an active sportsman, competing in triathlons and mountain biking, and his happily married with young children.
Michael is a double winner of the DD2 Masters SA Championship, and in 2015 he came within one corner of winning the World Championship DD2 crown, when he was punted off the circuit. This year he will be out for revenge at Portimao!
Luke Herring, Senior Max
Luke Herring is another of those karters who looks totally composed behind the wheel of a race machine. The Cape Town-based 20-year-old matriculated at Parklands College of Education in 2015, while his karting career began when he was a mere five-years-old.
Known as “Hurricane Herring” in karting circles, he has to date won four South African karting Championships, 10 Western Province Regional titles, and also the Africa Open challenge. He has also represented South Africa in three Rotax Grand Finals, and also competed in other championships in Europe.
Luke says he loves the format of Rotax karting, where National races and some regional events all count towards the overall championships. “The World Grand Final is a great prize to aim for,” says Luke, “ as you will be competing against hundreds of other karters who are all champions in their countries. So even if you don’t win, you come away with so much experience and knowledge!”
Luke takes his karting and fitness extremely seriously, working out with a personal trainer at 5.30 am each day. His second passion is wakeboarding, while his favourite food is sushi!
Benjamin Habig, DD2 Gearbox
Benjamin Habig is a KZN-based racer who says that a place in the Rotax Grand Finals is “the most coveted ticket in the biggest karting finals in the world.” Benjamin should know, as in 2014, as a relative new-comer to the DD2 class, he competed in the Grand Finals in Spain, where he made it to the final and moved up to an excellent sixth position, before he suffered a puncture and had to retire!
“With 60 countries competing and over 15 000 karters vying for an entry to the Grand Finals, it truly is an honour to be selected and represent your country.”
Now aged 19, Benjamin grew up surrounded by motorsport, as his father is former SA National Rally Champion Jannie Habig. He started karting in earnest in 2010, and by 2014 he took a big step up to the DD2 class and narrowly missed out on the SA DD2 Championship that year, finishing in second place after being involved in an incident in the final round. He followed this up with a second place in this year’s DD2 SA Championship, and third in the African Open event.
Currently studying BCom Business Management at Pretoria University, Benjamin has always had to juggle his kart racing with serious studies. This year, the University has given him special dispensation to write his final exams once he returns from the 2017 Rotax Grand Finals in mid-November!
Jason Coetzee DD2 Gearbox
Jason Coetzee, at the age of 15, will be our youngest team member in DD2 Gearbox class, the fastest category in Rotax karting. Based in Cape Town, Jason is currently a Grade 9 student at the famous DF Malan High School.
Jason has come a long way in a short time in karting, having started racing in 2013. In 2014 he won the South African National title in the Maxterino class and received his Western province Colours for karting. He moved up to the Junior Max class the following year and in 2016 won the Western Province Junior Max Championship. He repeated this feat in 2017 and took third places in both the Junior Max and Senior Max SA National Championships this year. The highlight of his season was placing second in the African Open at Zwartkops in August, where he secured his drive in the DD2 class for the 2016 Rotax Grand Finals. Jason has also competed in international events in non-Rotax classes on a number of occasions and racked up some impressive results.
“My goal is to win a World title,” says Jason, whose hobbies outside of karting include wakeboarding and waterskiing. “Everyone gets a fair chance at the Rotax Grand Finals as everyone gets the same chassis and the same engine.”
Jonathan Pieterse DD2 Masters.
Jonathan Pieterse has enjoyed an excellent karting season, having finished as runner-up in both the 2017 South Afican DD2 Masters Championship, for drivers aged 32 years and older, and in the one-day African Open in August. He got the call to join the team late in the day, as the African Open champion Marouan Selmi, had to withdraw for business reasons.
Jono, as he is popularly known, has a karting career that started some 24 years ago. He began racing at the age of 11 and won numerous important South African races as a youngster, including what was then known as the Natal (KZN) Championship. However, Jonathan took a 10-year break from karting, while he established his own automotive repair business in Pinetown, KZN, called Vertex Auto.
He then returned to karting to participate in the 2003 Grand Finals as part of the South African team in Egypt. “That was a highlight of my career, as well as being chosen to represent South Africa in Italy in 2016, in the Masters category” says Jonathan.
Married with two children, Jonathan’s other interests are mountain biking and BMX, and he plays golf off an impressive 9 handicap. “I’m really looking forward to competing, once again at the highest level of karting competition in the world, this time in Portugal.”
Sebastian Boyd, Junior Max
Cape Town’s Sebastian Boyd has come a very long way in a very short karting career. He only started karting three years ago, after his cousin Dino Stermin (a past Rotax Junior Max champion) invited him to watch a kart race at Killarney.
To date Sebastian lists his achievements as 2nd in the South African Junior Max Championship in 2016, and winning the Junior Max title in 2017! In between this, he took in the non-Rotax Autumn Cup Finals meet in Italy where he finished 14th in 2016 and third in 2017. So he already has some international experience under his belt.
Sebastian says that, as always, he will be giving his best for the Rotax finals. “I have enjoyed my experience in the Rotax series in the past few years, as this has really been my foundation, as well as my introduction to this competitive sport.”
On a personal note, Sebastian enjoys Piano Art, playing golf and lists his favourite foods as steak, pizza and chicken nuggets!
Joshua Coertze, Junior Max
Joshua Coertze earned his place in this year’s SA Team for the Grand Finals by winning the Junior Max category in the African Open Championship, a one-day meeting held at Zwartkops in late August, 2017. Domiciled in Port Elizabeth, Joshua has done much of his kart racing in non-Rotax classes, but when he took to the Rotax formula, he definitely made it count!
Now aged just 12-years-old, Joshua began karting in 2010, at the age of five and in 177 races to date he can lay claim to 111 podiums and 71 victories. He was Eastern Province Regional Champion in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and won his first national title in 2016.
Joshua attends the Amadeus Independent School in Port Elizabeth where he is in Grade 5, and also lists tennis, ice- skating and cycling amongst his interests.
Leyton Fourie , Mini Max
If there is any karter in the country who can be said to have dominated his particular category in 2017, that young man is Leyton Fourie, of Alberton. The 12-year-old started racing in 2012 and in 2013 he finished second in the Northern Regions Championship for 50 cc Cadet karts. He steadily gained in experience, and in 2017 it all came good for young Leyton.
Competing in the newly-established (in South Africa) Mini Max class, for drivers aged 10-13, he won all Four National Championship rounds and 13 First Overall race places. He not only won the SA Mini Max Championship convincingly, but also won the African Open championship in the Mini Max class.
Leyton’s motorsport heroes are Michael Schumacher and Valentino Rossi. He cites his family support from father Gerald, and mom Tasia, as well as his sister Nicole, as a major reason for his success, as well as his karting team. Leyton says he is going to Portugal to win, and has already spent time at the Algarve circuit (Portimao) in testing. His hobbies include tennis and playing Xbox games and his favourite food is “ chicken and mayo sandwiches.”
Muhammad Wally, Micro Max
Muhammad Wally started karting at the tender age of four, under the tutelage of Leeroy Poulter at the old Kyalami karting circuit. Legend has it, instead of following Leeroy around the track, he decided that he should overtake the multiple SA karting champion. Hi family said that’s when the penny dropped: Muhammad wanted to race from the front!
In the 2017 Micro Max Championship, for drivers aged 7-10, that’s generally where Muhammad Wally ended up. Now aged nine, the Johannesburg youngster had a great season in this fledgling class for Rotax racers, and wrapped up the championship in fine style in the finals at Zwartkops in late September with convincing race wins. He also came very close to a title in the African Open event, just missing out on a first place in that meeting.
“Rotax is the series to take part in, “ says Muhammad. “It is only by invitation, and it is the highest honour to be crowned the Rotax World Champion,”
And this is clearly his aim, come the first week in November in Portimao, Portugal.
For more information on the 2017 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, and Rotax karting in South Africa, visit www.kart.co.za. Also log in to www.kart.co.za to watch the 2017 Rotax Grand Finals on Live Streaming. Some races will be filmed during the week’s elimination heats, and all of the Finals will be streamed live, with excellent commentary in English, on Saturday, November 11, 2017
Published by: Stuart Johnston Communications