The Celso Scribante kart circuit in Port Elizabeth is tight and very narrow, offering few overtaking opportunities, which led to some ‘Desperate Dan’ out-braking manoeuvres in Round 2 of the Rotax Max Challenge SA Karting series on 30 June.
The track’s two 180-degree hairpins favoured those drivers with a “get out of the way or we both crash” approach, sending one or two top contenders to the back of the field after some distinctly robust challenges.
Series founder Ed Murray said: “The current layout is unfortunately not acceptable in the modern karting idiom, where the trend is towards faster, more flowing circuits.”
He was also critical of the organisers for not running Regional classes in support and not posting results after the meeting.
“In the early ’90s karts ran without protective bodywork,” Murray said, “and drivers had to be very delicate not to tangle with each other.
“But modern karts have sturdy bodywork to avoid wheel tangling and it’s all too easy to get away with a desperate lunge down the inside, and send rightful front contenders to the back of the field.
“Most of the old tarmac is still there and could be easily upgraded, so as to get back to the original layout of the circuit, effectively cutting out the hairpins. “
One such kamikaze contender was Mathew Swanepoel.
He who looked to be in for a stand-out result in the hotly-contested Senior Max category, but was involved in two contentious incidents and had to play catch-up the whole weekend.
Similarly, in the Junior Max category, Eugene Denyssen’s race weekend was set back after being bumped out of things in the second race, but he nevertheless bounced back to win the third race.
Bumping and boring apart, the quickest drivers generally emerged at the top of their classes in all the categories, although it was a close-run thing in many cases.
Notable amongst these was Gauteng’s Chad MacIver, who had a clean sweep in the Senor Max category, thus bolstering his chances for the 2012 title after, after he was quick in Round One at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit in April but fell foul of that round’s inclement weather and resulting on-track chaos!
A clean sweep in all four Port Elizabeth races saw MacIver add to his third-overall finish in Cape Town and head up the points table going into Round 3, which will be run at iDube in KwaZulu-Natal early in August.
Conversely, Mathew Swanepoel, who won at Killarney, could only manage fifth overall for the day.
Cape Town’s Luke Herring finished second overall for the day – largewly by staying out of trouble – with a second, two third places and a fourth, ahead of the very quick Ricky Perdigao and David Perel.
Clinton Bezuidenhout went into the Scribante meeting expecting to win and duly emerged with four race victories to his credit. Bezuidenhout, at the ripe old age of 13, already has seven years of karting experience behind him, and this showed in the early stages as his less-experienced competitors played catch-up.
However, by the end of the meeting on what for many of them was a strange circuit, many Maxterino youngsters were closing in on Bezuidenhout, and in fact second-placed youngster Chase Augustus actually posted a faster time than Bezuidenhout in the final race.
Third overall was Aidan Strydom (son of former motorcycle drag-racing champion Wynand Strydom), followed by Dillon van Vuuren in an impressive performance for a relative newcomer, Neha Harpal and Shane Vosloo in a strong field of youngsters.
This class was the usual hard-fought bun-fight, with the ever-improving Keagan Masters (who was second in Round One) taking the overall result with two race wins and a second – he was bumped to the back of the field in the fourth race and fought his way back from fifteenth to fifth!
Second was the very consistent Jurie Swart from Cape Town, who won overall on his home circuit in Round 1, backing up his two thirds and one second in this round PE championship leg with a final-race win.
Wesley Vosloo was a very impressive third, ahead of the much fancied Eugene Denyssen, who took a hard-fought win in the third race and backed it up with a second and a third, but was again one of the victims of first-lap argy-bargy in Race 2, which put him out of overall contention. Close rivals Shayur Harpal and Aedan van Vuuren claimed fifth and sixth.
The action was as close as ever in the premier class, with two double world champions competing. After four hotly-contested races, former world title-holder Caleb Williams came close to a full house, with three desperately close wins, but he was chased hard by karting returnee Justin Allison from Bloemfontein, who has shown impressive form considering that he’s based far away from the karting “hot spots” of South Africa and thus gets far less practise than most of his rivals.
His three seconds and a fifth placed him ahead of defending SA champion Eugene Britz, who won Race 2, and the consistent Luca Canderle, who was a little off the pace all weekend.
The seeming dominance of Caleb Williams in the results belies the nail-bitingly close racing in the showcase category, where Williams’ biggest winning margin all weekend was just 0,86 seconds after a 20-lap race!
Indeed many of the races saw the lead change several times in the final few corners.
Current World DD2 Masters champion Cristiano Morgado won the “adult” class, finishing sixth overall behind Nic Verheul and putting himself in contention, once again, for a slot in the Rotax Grand Finals in Portugal at the end of November. Second in DD2 Masters was the consistent John van Wyk, followed by Erwin Sterne and Marouan Selmi.
Round 3 of the SA Rotax Max Challenge National Karting series will be run at the Idube circuit in KwaZulu-Natal on 9, 10 and 11 August.