Kiwi karters Clay Osborne and Sebastian Manson claimed heat race wins and round podiums at the third round of this year’s Sparco (Australian) Rotax Pro Tour series at Ipswich in Queensland on Saturday.
Osborne, from Hamilton, ended up the best of the 13-strong group of Kiwi Rotax category specialists who crossed the Tasman for the gala day/night & Queensland title round, winning the third Junior Rotax heat outright and finishing second in the Final held under lights on Saturday night.
Sebastian Manson also won the third heat in his class – Mini Max – and finished third in his class Final.
Wellington’s Ryan Wood also claimed a spot on the podium (placing third in the Rotax Light class Final) but didn’t quite get a win in a heat race like Manson or Osborne, despite always being a factor and crossing the line in second place in both the first heat and Pre-Final, and in third in the second heat.
There were mixed fortunes for the other 10 resident Kiwis who made the trip to Ipswich.
Palmerston North’s Fraser Hart enjoyed a strong start to his 2019 Sparco Rotax Pro Tour campaign by qualifying and finishing 5th in the Rotax DD2 class. There was a strong Kiwi link to the winner of the class and #1 Queensland plate as well, Scott Howard, the President of the Ipswich Kart Club.
Howard and his crew chief, expat Aucklander Dale Verrall, are both good friends of fellow karter Stuart Marshall, who sustained a serious concussion in a speedway crash in Auckland earlier this year.
Howard, who ran Marshall’s regular number – 13 – as a mark of respect for the injured driver, and Verrall were both booked to travel to Auckland on Sunday to offer support for Marshall and his family and both were determined to bring the #1 Queensland plate with them to show their mate.
“I’m stoked to get this one for Stu,” Howard said.
Next best resident Kiwi finisher, meanwhile, was Sebastian Manson’s younger brother Marco, who qualified and finished sixth overall in Micro Max.
Clay Osborne’s older brother Fynn – the recently crowned NZ 125cc Rotax Max champion – found the going harder in Rotax Light, however, ending up 9th in the Final.
Jackson Rooney from Palmerston North (11th) and fellow series regular Michael McCulloch from the Kapiti Coast (13th) also found the mix of wet and dry weather and track conditions plus running under lights more of a challenge in the Rotax Light class,
Not as much though as top NZ female driver, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington.
A round and State title winner as a Junior just two years ago now, the slightly-built racer endured another difficult weekend thanks to all the lead needed on her kart to reach the heavier Minimum All Up Weight of the Senior class, with a best finish of 14th in the Pre-Final before claiming a hard-won 20th in the Final.
The other Kiwi female who contested the meeting, Auckland’s Breanna Morris, had a better run in Junior Max, qualifying and finishing the Final 7th. Fellow Auckland-based Junior Josh Richmond, meanwhile, was hobbled by a mystery electrical fault in qualifying (13th) and in the first two heats (21st & 12th) but made some progress (when the fault was identified and fixed) in the third heat (9th).
He got – albeit briefly – up to 5th place in the Junior Max Pre-Final before a crash saw him side-lined and starting the Final from the back row of the grid. With nothing to lose he put his head down and worked his way up the field to finish the Final in 10th place!
Finally, Josh Bethune from Auckland ended up being first resident Kiwi home in the Rotax DD2 class after qualifying and finishing 10th in the Final. Fellow Aucklander – and Rnd 1 standout Bond Roby – qualified 4th and crossed the finish line in 2nd place in the second heat and 3rd in the third but failed to finish either the Pre-Final or Final.