An expanded ProKart Series, with three 125cc Rotax classes joining the three existing 6-speed-gearbox/125cc KZ2-based categories, kicks off at the KartSport Manawatu club’s Manawatu Toyota Raceway at Palmerston North this weekend with a star-studded lineup of the country’s top karters set to do battle.
It’s been 20 years since the first, fledgling, series for KZ2 class karts was run here and ProKart Series promotor Steve Brown says that he couldn’t be prouder of the job it has done.
“Before we had a multi-round series there was a gap between racing at club level and doing the Nationals or even the Islands which were multi-day but only once a year events.
“By creating a series and running at different tracks through the year we were able to not only bridge that gap but also raise the level of driving to the point where guys like Daniel Bray can go to Europe and run at or near the front with the best KZ2 drivers in the world.”
The expansion of the series in its 20th year has been enthusiastically supported by sponsors with motorsport promotion company Speedworks Events bringing joint backing for the series overall with it from the Toyota Racing Series.
Contributing as class sponsors, meanwhile, are Auckland printing industry supplier the Aarque Group supporting the KZ2-based classes, and the Giltrap Group (Rotax Light and Rotax Junior) and Manawatu Toyota (Rotax Heavy) the Rotax-based ones.
Auckland international Daniel Bray is just one of the over 20 top Kiwi karters set to compete in the Aarque Group-backed KZ2 class at Palmerston North this weekend. Joining him on the grid will be defending series’ class title holder Mat Kinsman from Auckland, top local drivers Jacob Cranston and Nelson Hartley, multi-time former category title holder Ryan Grant and his recently returned teammate Graeme Smyth, both from Auckland, plus Rhys Tinney from Hamilton and Speedway Saloon champ Sam Waddell from Tauranga.
Set to take the battle to these established KZ2 class players, meanwhile, is a group of fast-rising teenagers, including internationals Matt Payne and Joshua Parkinson, local ace Riley Jack and category regulars Connor Wilson and brothers Mitch and Logan Brown from Auckland.
The Aarque Group-backed KZ2 Masters and KZ4 classes are also again well supported.
In KZ2 Masters the battle up front is again expected to be between Tim Loughran from the Hawke’s Bay and Aucklanders Jared Mackenzie and Kevan Storr. In KZ4, meanwhile, last year’s class winner Regan Hall and fellow Aucklander, multi-time former class title-holder Garry Cullum, are set to resume their rivalry – and battle for a place on the class podium with Aaron Wooley and Gerhard Benadie.
With top-level former NZ Junior class standouts Jackson Rooney from Palmerston North, Michael McCulloch from the Kapiti Coast, Ryan Crombie from Auckland and Fynn Obsorne from Hamilton the Giltrap Group-backed Rotax Light class looks set to be a cracker.
So too does the Giltrap Group Rotax Junior one where reigning South Island champion William Exton heads an equally star-studded entry list which includes the likes of recent Vortex Mini ROK class pace-setter Mitchell Sparrow from Tuakau, Clay Osborne from Hamilton and Nathan Crang from Auckland.
In Manawatu Toyota Rotax Heavy the form driver looks like former NZ-rep Fraser Hart though Tauranga ace Darren Walker might have something to say about that this weekend.
There will be action of track both days this weekend with qualifying and the first run of heats on Saturday before the subsequent heats and class Pre-Finals and Finals on Sunday.
2019 TRS/Speedworks ProKart Series
Rnd 1: Manawatu Toyota Raceway Palmerston North Sat-Sun Feb 16-17
Rnd 2: Stihl Shop Tokoroa Raceway Tokoroa Sat-Sun April 21-22
Rnd 3: Century Batteries International Raceway Rotorua Sat-Sun May 19-20
Rnd 4: Te Puke Auto Electric Raceway Te Puke Sat-Sun Aug 04-05
Rnd 5: Porter Group Park Hamilton Sat-Sun Sept 22-23