Karters from all over New Zealand are on their way south for this year's Sievwright - Blasting Panel Paint-backed KartSport New Zealand National Sprint Championships meeting to be contested at the Invercargill Oil Shop Raceway at Invercargill's Sandy Point over the Easter weekend.
The importance of the annual National Sprint Championship meeting means that a number of drivers and team/family members have already made the long trip south at least once - either in January or more recently this year for the big Spirit of a Nation meeting last month. And the majority of entrants are already on their way - by road - or about to fly down (today) Monday or Tuesday so that they are ready when the track opens for testing on Wednesday.
"The detour around Kaikoura adds about three hours to the trip, so it becomes a 13 rather than a 10 hour trip (from Picton to Invercargill), so we left a day earlier (Saturday) than we have in previous years when the coast road through Kaikoura was open and it was pretty much a straight run down the Island," says Daniel Bray of Auckland-based team N-Zed Motorsport.
As well as competing himself (in both the KZ2 and Rotax DD2 classes) Bray's team is running a number of other drivers at the meeting, his team transporter leaving Auckland with nine karts and related engines, wheels, tyres and spares on board.
All up the trip (from Auckland to Invercargill) should take around 24 hours split across two days. That might sound like a long time behind the wheel of a van or truck but for Bray, a former SuperKarts USA Pro Tour champion who for the past ten years has raced with success in Europe and the US it is par for the course.
"When I was based in the States, " he says," we would drive the team truck from Northern California to Colorado which is close to 2000km. Auckland to Invercargill is something like 1600km, but you get a three hour break in the middle when you cross Cook Strait, so it doesn't seem as long."
This year's Sievwright - Blasting Panel Paint National Sprint Championship event has attracted 128 entries over 10 classes with Bray one of three class title winners from the last time the National Sprint Championship event was hosted by the KartSport Southland club (2011).
That year Bray won the Open class title, Ryan Urban won KZ2 and Daniel Kinsman (all three from Auckland) won 100cc Yamaha Light. This year Bray has entered KZ2 and the new Rotax DD2 class, Urban is joining him in Rotax DD2 and also running in 125cc Rotax Max Heavy, and Kinsman is running in both 100cc Yamaha Light (where he will be defending his 2016 title) and 125cc Rotax Max Light, where he won the NZ Sprint title in 2013 and older brother Mathew has been the NZ title holder for the past three years.
Ten class titles will be contested over the two days of racing (five on Easter Saturday and five on Easter Sunday) at Invercargill with the biggest fields in 125cc Rotax Max Junior (22), Vortex Mini ROK (20), 125cc Rotax Max Light (19) and Cadet ROK (15).
Daniel Kinsman will be one of four drivers defending titles won at the 2016 National Sprint meeting in Hamilton. Jaden Ransley from Christchurch is the reigning Junior 100cc Yamaha champion, Mathew Kinsman is current NZ #1 in 125cc Rotax Max Light, and Matthew Hamilton from Christchurch is the current NZ KZ2 class champion.
The chance to earn a National title is not the only reason for the healthy entry in the 9-13 yrs Vortex Mini ROK class. Claiming the 2017 NZ title at Invercargill earns the winner a trip to - and entry in - the annual ROK Cup International Finals meeting in Italy in October.
Included in the deal is the use of a kart, engine, tyres and pit space, as well as an airfare to and from courtesy of the KartSport/Dunlop travel fund, and a contribution to expenses from the Motul NZ travel fund.
Drivers expected to vie for the Vortex Mini ROK title and prize include Liam Sceats, Luke Thompson and Mason Potter from Auckland, Clay Osborne from Hamilton, South Island title holder Zac Christensen from Christchurch, and Bo Hill from Nelson.
Drivers to look out for in the Senior classes include defending title holder Matthew Hamilton (ChCh) and multi-time former South Island title holder Chris Cox (Rangiora) in Open, Hamilton, Daniel Bray and former Junior class standout Dylan Drysdale (Auckland) in KZ2, Bray, Ryan Urban, Mathew Kinsman and fellow Aucklander CJ Sinclair in Rotax DD2, Ryan Urban again in 125cc Rotax Max Heavy, and the Kinsman brothers Daniel and Mathew in both Senior 100cc Yamaha and 125cc Rotax Max Light.
Aucklander Callum Hedge can expect intense competition in the Rotax Max Junior, meanwhile, from top female driver Rianna O'Meara-Hunt, fellow Wellingtonian Ryan Wood, William Exton from Picton, Joshua Parkinson from Auckland and Adam Godwin from Christchurch.
Hedge, Wood, Exton and Parkinson will also come up against each other - as well as top Christchurch driver Jaden Ransley - in Junior 100cc Yamaha, while defending Island title holders Louis Sharp (Sth) from Christchurch, and Kiahn Burt (Nth) from Palmerston North will go head-to-head for National honours in the 6-11 yrs Cadet ROK class.
Local drivers expected to feature in the results include Scott Waters and George Keast in125cc Rotax Max Heavy. Former club member, now Auckland-based Mark Elder, should also do well in Open.
The track at the Invercargill Oil Shop Kart Raceway opens on Wed for testing with qualifying on Easter Friday and racing on Saturday and Sunday.
The first five class titles - Vortex Mini ROK, 100 Yamaha Junior, 125cc Rotax Max Light, 125cc Rotax Max Heavy and KZ2 - will be contested on Saturday, the remaining five - Cadet ROK, 125cc Rotax Max Junior, Open, 100cc Yamaha Senior, and Rotax DD2 - on Sunday.
For those who can’t make it to the track the meeting will be live streamed over the internet, courtesy of the Giltrap Group, at https://livestream.com/i-filmsport/KartSportNationalSprintChamps2017
Spectators are welcome with action on the track each day between 9.00am and 4.30pm. For more information go to www.kartsportsouth.com