Matthew Hamilton was the top Kiwi finisher at the 22nd annual SuperKarts USA (SKUSA) SuperNationals meeting in Las Vegas over the weekend, the Christchurch-based international finishing third overall in the premier US domestic Pro Shifter class.
Hamilton twice topped the class time sheets in practice before qualifying 7th quickest then carding a 6-4-6 run through the heats. That saw him start the class final (or ‘Main Event’ as the Americans call it) from P5 where he moved quickly up to fourth, then back to sixth in the opening laps, before working his way up to third by lap 10, and staying there for the rest of the race.
Next best Kiwi finisher at the meeting was Texas-based expat Nathan Stewart who finished sixth in the Master Shifter class, one place ahead of Matt Hamilton’s wife Tiffany Hamilton (nee Chittenden).
Stewart, who qualified fifth quickest, and had a best heat race finish of fifth started the Master Shifter Main Event from P4 and spent the entire race in sixth place.
Tiffany Hamilton had a harder job, despite being 5th fastest in one of the practice sessions. After qualifying 12th quickest she carded an 8-11-10 run of placings through the heats to start the Main Event 8th to Stewart’s fourth.
From P11 at the end of the first lap however, the British-born, now Christchurch-based female ace moved relentlessly forward, to 9th by the third lap, and 8th by the seventh, where she stayed until picking up 7th on the final lap.
Madeline Stewart from Wellington was the next best finisher out of the seven Kiwis who made the trip to Las Vegas. The current NZ #2 in the KZ2 class was the only Kiwi entry this year in the premier KZ class at the SuperNats meeting, where she came up against the likes of two-time World Karting Champion Paolo de Conto, former Formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello, and eventual class Main Event winner, Leonardo Lorandi.
Though she struggled to find a grip set-up that would work in the cooler early evening track temps that were typical of the class’s timetable, the 18-year-old persevered, and made it into the Main Event after setting the 28th quickest time in qualifying. With more grip thanks to the earlier Main Event time Madeline made up 10 places in the first lap on the KZ Main Event and kept chipping away at the drivers in front of her until she was up to P17 when the chequered flag came out.
There were mixed fortunes, meanwhile, for the other three Kiwis who contested this year’s SuperNats meeting.
Jacob Douglas stepped up to the KA100 Junior class for the meeting and though a dnf in his second heat saw him start that class’ Main Event back in P27 he made it up to P17 at one stage before slipping back to 20th, his kart not handling as well as it should after clipping a kart which had stopped after a first lap pile-up.
Young second-generation karter Jay Urwin from Tauranga wasn’t so lucky. Though he qualified 5th quickest in the Micro Swift class then won the first heat before finishing 4th in the second and 10th in the third he made the Main Event only to be forced out – and listed as the race’s first dnf – with just a lap to go.
Like younger sister Madeline, Ashleigh Stewart also struggled to find enough grip in the lower temperatures of the early evening. With just a second separating the quickest and slowest drivers in the 85-strong Iame X30 Senior class Ashleigh quickly found herself up against it, her weekend ending prematurely with a crash – not of her making – and dnf in the Last Chance Qualifier race.
With over 500 entries over 10 classes the annual SKUSA SuperNats meeting is widely regarded as the biggest kart one in the world, and over the years has attracted the cream of American, European and increasingly Australasian karting talent.
This year’s was no different with the KZ Main Event won by Italian Leonardo Lorandi, the Pro Shifter (nee S1) class by top US driver Billy Musgrave and the Iame X30 class by leading Canadian karter Ben Cooper.