FIVE new South African karting champions were crowned at the Zwartkops Kart raceway at the weekend.
The fourth and final round of the 2013 South African Rotax Max Challenge series produced nail-biting racing in all the classes and the impressive entry for this final national bodes well for the health of the sport.
Drivers were allowed to count their best 12 race results over the 16-race national series and many of the overall championships were in doubt until the final race at Zwartkops.
The top DD2 Gearbox class was won by Ryan Frost.
The DD2 Masters title went to Marouan Selmi, while the Senior Max title went to Luke Herring.
The Junior Max category was won by Jordan Sherratt, and the Maxterino 60 class, for drivers aged 13 years old and younger, went to Stuart White.
All of the Rotax class champions will represent South Africa at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in New Orleans in the US, on November 9.
They will be joined by four more South Africans, who won the Rotax African Open Championships held in Cape Town earlier this year. These drivers are Luca Canderle (DD2), Leeroy Poulter (DD2 Masters), Nathan Parkins (Senior Max) and Julian van der Watt (Junior Max).
In addition, South African holder of the World Rotax DD2 Masters Championship, Cristiano Morgado, will be in New Orleans to defend his title, thanks to qualifying by winning the Florida Winter Tour in the US earlier this year.
The Rotax Series provides not only entry to the grand finals for the winners, but free use of brand new engines, chassis, tyres, fuel, oil, tools etc at the championship.
In addition, the winner of the 2013 Maxterino championships, Stuart White and African Open Maxterino champ, JP Hamman, also get free air tickets to New Orleans, although they will not be competing, as the CIK FIA (world governing body) does not allow international competition for drivers under the age of 13.
Rotax will showcase the Micro Max for young drivers but entry is restricted to US nationals only.
Ryan Frost's win in the top DD2 Gearbox class was by no means straightforward.
Frost scored a pair of race victories in the final round at Zwartkops to sew up his title, but he was pushed all the way by Durban's Cristiano Morgado.
Morgado, having already qualified for the grand finals, was competing in the "challenge" DD2 class rather than the masters because of the higher levels of competition in the former category, with its lower weight limit and field of younger drivers.
Eugene Britz was another potential winner who finished second in race one, but a technical glitch spoiled races two and three for him. Luca Canderle from Durban finished third.
In the Rotax Max challenge class, which is still seen globally as the top category in karting, the winner was Cape Town's Herring, who was followed home in the final points tables by Chad van Beurden and Eugene Denyssen. The racing was also nail-bitingly close in this class.
The Junior Max championship went to Sherratt, although the final round of the four-leg series was won by Bradley Liebenberg.
Runner-up in the championship was Jurie Swart of Cape Town, who fell foul of a clash with Clinton Bezuidenhout on Saturday, thus effectively ruining his title aspirations.
Sherratt did stamp his authority on his championship victory by winning the opening race at Zwartkops on Saturday.
The SA Championship feeder class for drivers 13 years and younger, the Maxterino 60 category, was won by Free State's White. Second in the championship was Chayse Augustus from KZN, and third, JP Hamman.
A much-applauded race win on Saturday in Maxterino was that of relative newcomer Kwanda Makoena, who is a potential star of the future in this feeder class, which was supported by more than 20 entries.
Rotax series spokesman Ed Murray says that next year there are plans to further strengthen the great strides made in the Maxterino 60 class this year.
The plan is to introduce a power- restricted formula for drivers between seven and 10 years old, using the existing but detuned 60cc Maxterino engine, but importantly with a lower weight limit so that very young drivers don't have to strap on too much ballast to their karts.
In addition, the Rotax organisers plan to enhance racing for competitors between nine and 13 years old by allowing the use of both Maxterino 60 and Mini Rok 60cc engines, tuned to ensure power parity.
"The growth in regional Cadet 50cc, as well as the national 60cc classes this year has probably been the most encouraging aspect of what has nevertheless been a watershed year for South African karting," Murray says.
"The renewed interest in the Rotax series results in South Africans once again becoming world-class competitors, as we shall no doubt see when our team races in New Orleans at the grand finals on November 9."