Young Christchurch karter Louis Sharp has enjoyed a winning start to his first racing trip to Europe, the 12-year-old storming through the pack to win the Mini ROK class B Final at the annual Trofeo D’Autunno (Autumn Trophy) meeting in Italy overnight.
Now in its 29th year, the Trofeo D’Autunno (final) meeting is one of two held at the South Garda Karting Complex at Lonato ahead of next weekend’s ROK Cup Superfinal meeting which Sharp qualified for by winning the Vortex Mini ROK class at this year’s KartSport NZ National Sprint championship title at Hamilton.
With 101 of the best young karters in the world entered in the Mini ROK class at the Autumn Trophy meeting the field was split into two streams with two Finals, the A for the drivers who qualified in the top 34, and the B for the next 34.
Sharp and fellow Kiwi ROK Cup Superfinal rep Thomas Bewley from Havelock North both proved they had the pace to easily run in the top 10 during their free practise and qualifying practise heats on Saturday (Bewley ending up 22nd in his stream after the heat races and 15th in the B Final) but Sharp ended up back in 25th place in his stream after being squeezed off the track and back to p34 in his second heat.
All that did, obviously, was make the young Mainlander more determined, though, and in the B Final he made up 15 places to take the lead then pull away for the win by just over a second from top Polish driver Franczisze Czapla and Romanian Tudor Tudurachi.
Best of the rest of the 8-strong Kiwi squad at the meeting was top New Zealand female driver Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington who finished 3rd in the Super ROK class Final. Fellow Super ROK class entrant Arie Hutton from Palmerston North was looking a likely winner in that class, with 2nd in the Pre Final, only to be taken out in the Final and finish 7th.
Also showing pace early on were the four Kiwis contesting the Junior ROK class, Jacob Douglas from Christchurch and Aucklanders Josh Richmond, Liam Sceats and Nathan Crang.
Douglas claimed the best heat finish (a 3rd in his second heat) after being the top Kiwi qualifier (10th to Richmond’s 13th in the first group, and Sceats’ 11th and Crang’s 21st in the second) but it was Crang and Sceats who did best in their Finals.
Crang was involved in a first lap incident which saw him shuffled to the back of the field but worked his way back up to finish 11th in the B Final. Liam Sceats, meanwhile, ended up 13th in the A Final after incidents saw both Richmond (26th) and Douglas (27th) end up classified at the back of the pack.
Main photo: The 8-strong Kiwi squad showing off their special Racer Products-organised driving suits (from l t r) Louis Sharp, Jacob Douglas, Liam Sceats, Nathan Crang, Arie Hutton, Josh Richmond, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt and Tom Bewley