Twelve-year-old Christchurch kart racer Louis Sharp is a winner and record-setter at every level of his four-year motorsport career with multiple championships to his name. Now the talented karter faces his biggest challenge to date – making his European racing debut at the ROK Cup Superfinal event in Italy over the weekend of 9-12 October 2019.
Racing at the South Garda Kart track near Lonato, east of Milan in northern Italy, Sharp is one of 134 entrants aged nine to 13-years-old from around the world competing in the Vortex Mini ROK category for the World ROK Cup title.
Sharp qualified for the ROK Cup Superfinal by winning New Zealand’s Vortex Mini ROK National Sprint Championship. He then qualified a second time by winning the New Zealand ROK Cup Championship, an accumulation of points across four major New Zealand events, becoming the first Kiwi competitor to secure both Superfinal qualifying entries. Hawke’s Bay karter Tom Bewley was runner-up to Sharp in the ROK Cup, and therefore earned the second Superfinal entry in the Vortex Mini ROK category.
This is Sharp’s first European competition and the young champion says he’s very excited and a little bit nervous. He’s put in plenty of groundwork, watching races at the South Garda Kart track on YouTube and racing hard to defend his McLaren Racing Mainland Series title at KartSport Canterbury just prior to departing for Italy.
“I’ve been watching previous year’s finals and think I’ve worked out where to pass on this circuit,” Sharp said before flying out to Italy with his supportive family.
Sharp’s main goal is to reach the ‘A’ final with the top 30 competitors – the finals take place on Saturday 12 October, following Thursday’s free practice and qualifying practices and Friday’s qualifying heats on the 1.2 km long internationally-rated circuit. He knows it’s a big goal as many of his competitors have raced at the circuit and at an event with this intensity previously. He is mindful that he is racing for the first time at this highly-regarded circuit in a kart run by a team he’s only just met and it’s a World Cup event. But Sharp knows this is an opportunity to learn; he wants to make the most of the experience as he is young enough to compete at this event next year if he qualifies again.
Sharp is noted for his ability to swiftly get to grips with each new circuit he’s raced on – he has set track records for every New Zealand circuit for his age group, except Auckland, often during his first race meeting there. His only other overseas events – in Australia – saw him break the track record the first time and qualified on pole twice, although the best he has finished is third.
Before the ROK Cup Superfinal, Sharp and other international finalists get the opportunity to master the circuit and learn to work with their teams by competing in the 29th Autumn Trophy event, running 4-6 October, at the same track the weekend prior to the Superfinal.
Sharp says: “The track looks to be very fast and I will need to qualify well to have a chance of making the ‘A’ final. I’m in a good team with the Parolin AV Racing team who have won it in previous years. I can’t wait; it will be so much fun.”
Having demonstrated considerable potential in karts and working hard to achieve further goals, Sharp already has a plan to move into single-seater race cars when he turns 13. Ultimately, he would like to go all the way to Formula 1 or IndyCars. First, however, he knows there’s a job to be done and fantastic experience to be gained in Italy.