It’s the question on the lips of KartSport enthusiasts on both sides of the Tasman this week; can New Zealand’s top female karters, Madeline Stewart and Rianna O’Meara-Hunt, continue on their winning way at the third round of Australia’s Rotax Pro Tour at Ipswich in Queensland this weekend?
The teenage pair from Wellington made history at Bolivar in South Australia in March by winning their respective classes at the second round of this year’s six-round Pro Tour series at Bolivar in South Australia.
Not only was Madeline Stewart’s win in the Rotax Light class a first for a female driver on the Rotax Pro Tour – now in its 17th year – it was also the first by a female driver in a major Australian karting event in at least 10 years.
Incredibly, it was backed up later on the Sunday afternoon by Rianna O’Meara-Hunt’s own debut Australian win in the Rotax Junior class.
With the wins came SA state titles, and having finished second in class at the opening round of this year’s Rotax Pro Tour in Melbourne in late January, Madeline Stewart also leads the points standings in the Rotax Light class – yet another first for a female driver in Australia.
She does so by a significant margin too, enjoying a 731 point lead over class round 1 winner Brad Jenner with fellow Aussie Troy Morrissey a further 122 points back in third.
Mechanical problems meant O’Meara-Hunt failed to finish the Final at the opening Pro Tour round in Melbourne in late January but her win at the second round means the 14-year-old Wellingtonian has jumped to eighth in the series’ points standings, leap-frogging fellow Kiwi series regulars Ryan Wood (ninth) also from Wellington, and Sam Wright from Auckland (tenth).
Eight Kiwi karters are heading to Queensland this weekend for the Pro Tour round with regulars Madeline and now Melbourne-based older sister Ashleigh Stewart, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt, Ryan Wood, Sam Wright and Christchurch-based Jaden Ransley being joined by Auckland-based international Daniel Bray and multi-time Rotax Max Challenge (Europe as well as NZ) class winner Josh Hart from Palmerston North.
Bray will compete in the DD2 class, Hart in Rotax Light.
To prepare for this weekend’s Pro Tour round (and also the round of the Australian Kart Championship at Monarto in South Australia later this month) Madeline Stewart spent most of her first term school break in Australia testing and her father Tony says that they are confident of her pace this weekend.
“We run on a different tyre this year so it is hard to compare times from this year with last but we think she will be competitive. Madeline will put even more pressure on herself this weekend but we’ll be happy with any solid result.”
As will sister Ashleigh, who this year is at University in Melbourne.
“Yes,” Tony said on Tuesday. “Despite living in Australia now Ashleigh heads to Ipswich having had no practice there. She had four assignments due this week so needed to work on them rather than her karting last weekend. She was seventh there last year though so she’s hoping she can get on top of it this year within the five practicce sessions on Friday.”
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt, meanwhile, has been busy on this side of the Tasman, where she leads the points standings in her class in the Giltrap Group New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge.
She also successfully retained her 3NZ class ranking in the Rotax Junior class at the Sievwright Blasting Panel Paint KartSport NZ National Sprint Championship meeting in Invercargill over the Easter weekend.