Hamilton karter Clay Osborne was the top-finishing Kiwi at the second round of this year’s Sparco (Australian) Rotax Pro Tour series in Sydney on Sunday, working his way forward from 8th to 2nd in an all-action Junior Max class Final.
Having finished 8th on his Pro Tour debut at the first series’ round in Melbourne in January, the Waikato teen is now fifth in class in the series’ points standings after his breakthrough podium result in Sydney over the weekend.
Also impressing at the round, held at the Sydney Motorsport Kart Club’s kart track at the big Sydney Motorsport Park complex (nee Eastern Creek) from Friday through Sunday, was Auckland 8-year-old Marco Manson, who finished 4th in the Micro Max class Final and retained third place in the season’s points standings.
Mixed – wet, dry and in-between – weather conditions made it even harder than usual for drivers to combine consistency with speed at the western Sydney track, no more so than for Rd 1 standout, Bond Roby from Auckland.
Rotax DD2 class driver Roby impressed everyone at Melbourne’s Todd Rd track at the opening round with pole, a 2-1-3 run through the heats then 2nd in the Pre-Final and 5th in the Final to head to Sydney 3rd in the series’ points standings.
He couldn’t cop a break in Sydney, however, qualifying 10th and bar a fighting 5th place in the third heat ended a wretched weekend with his third dnf of the round in the Final, a result which saw him slip down the series’ points standings to 8th.
Clay Osborne, Marco Manson and Bond Roby are just three of 11 resident Kiwis contesting the Australian Rotax Pro Tour series this year.
There were mixed results for the other eight, as – again – the changeable weather and intensity of racing in each class played its part.
Josh Bethune proved best of the rest with a strong 5th in the Rotax DD2 class. Then came Palmerston North’s Jackson Rooney (6th in Rotax Light), Josh Richmond (7th in Junior Max), Marco Manson’s older brother Sebastian Manson from Auckland (10th in Mini Max) and Rotorua driver Bradley Hewson (13th in Junior Max).
Michael McCulloch from the Kapiti Coast won a heat but ended up 15th in the Rotax Light class Final, while Clay Osborne’s older brother Fynn Osborne from Hamilton ended up four spots further back in 19th (in the Rotax Light class Final) and top female racer Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington was an early dnf after a trip to the gravel trap,
Though the majority of the visiting Kiwis found it hard to get a handle on the fast, flowing nature of the Sydney track in qualifying and the early heats (an issue exacerbated by passing showers on Saturday) there were some standouts.
Michael McCulloch’s win in the third Rotax Light heat race was one, while a dnf in the Pre-Final meant 15th place at the flag (after having to start the race from the back row of the grid) was all the series’ regular could have expected in the Final.
Josh Richmond’s never-say-die attitude also paid dividends for the young Aucklander who managed to get to 9th spot at the line (complete with a flat tyre) in the Junior Max Pre-Final, then made it to a weekend-best 7th in the Final.
Despite again struggling to find a chassis set-up to work with all the lead she has to carry to make up the Minimum All-Up Weight for the Senior class she now runs in, the diminutive Rianna O’Meara-Hunt remains more determined than ever to ‘crack it’ and get to the pointy-end of the Rotax Light class.
“The main issue now,” she said on Monday, “ is where – on this particular kart running this tyre – all the extra lead has to go. We believe we have found the right position for it with the NZ tyre but still have not found the sweet spot on the Mojo D2 (Rotax) or the MG Yellow (X30) we are running in Australia this year. When you’re not running in it (the sweet spot) it makes the operating window of the kart extremely small.”
Kiwi fans can keep up with action at www.rotax.com.au or www.facebook.com/rotaxprotour. Ipswich in Queensland is set to host the third round of this year’s Rotax Pro Tour over the May 03-04 weekend.