This could be a big year for our drivers in the major US events, with several Kiwis set to make an impact The countdown has begun for one of the busiest fortnights on the international KartSport calendar with our top drivers competing in America.
Four of the top Kiwi karters will be competing at the 14th annual Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final in New Orleans this week, and eight are gearing up for the 17th annual SuperKarts USA (SKUSA) SuperNationals event in Las Vegas, California, the following weekend, November 23-24.
In the past, the dates of the two big events have been close, but this is the first year the annual Rotax event - which this year has drawn 365 class winners from 60 regional or national challenge series around the world - has joined the 600-plus entries for the showcase of karting in the United States, the SKUSA meet.
New Zealand will be represented at the Rotax event at New Orleans' Nola Motorsports Park kart track by brothers Mathew and Daniel Kinsman (who finished first and second in the 125cc Rotax Light class in the 2013 New Zealand Challenge), Stuart Marshall (Masters winner) from Auckland, and Marcus Armstrong (Junior) from Christchurch.
Joining SKUSA series regular Daniel Bray - the 2011 US champion in the premier S1 class - at the SuperNationals meeting on a converted car park circuit in downtown Las Vegas will be Matt Hamilton and Marcus Armstrong, Mark Sweetman, Warren Parris, Snow Mooney, Jordan Morris and Logan Brown.
New Zealand has been sending a team to the annual Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final since the first event held in Puerto Rico in 2000. The best result for a Kiwi driver so far was in 2010 when international karter Josh Hart finished second in the premier 125cc Rotax Max Light class.
Others to have shone at the event are Matthew Hamilton and kart-turned-car star Earl Bamber, who recently won the international Porsche Motorsport Scholarship to race in next year's Porsche €200,000 Mobil 1 Supercup. They've done well with third place finishes (in the DD2 class for Hamilton) in 2009, and (in the Junior class for Bamber) in 2004.
The Kinsman brothers were also selected for last year's Grand Final with 20-year-old Daniel contesting the Rotax Light class and 22-year-old Mathew DD2.
"Last year I went there confident but really struggled in qualifying and that put us on the back foot all weekend," said Daniel.
Mathew, meanwhile, gets to step up from DD2 to the premier Rotax Light class this time around.
With the two events so close it was inevitable that at least one of the drivers would do b
oth and that driver is 13-year-old Marcus Armstrong. This year will be the second time Armstrong, the son of Christchurch car dealer and Porsche GT3 Cup racer Rick Armstrong, has competed at the SKUSA SuperNationals event.
The young fella showed he had the pace to make the final last year (starting the final from seventh spot on the grid) and with another year's racing under his belt, he'll be one of the drivers to watch in the Junior Shifter S5 class - especially after winning the Junior Rotax class in the New Zealand Challenge this year.
With a race win at the big SummerNationals meeting in Colorado in July, Auckland-based international Daniel Bray is the Kiwi with the greatest chance of success at the meeting, with the 26-year-old still capable of claiming his second SKUSA series win if he gets a good result at Las Vegas.
Three of the other seven Kiwis contesting the Las Vegas meeting are already winners; Jordan Morris, Warren Parris and Logan Brown all won trips to compete at the event valued at over $6000 each as part of a promotion for the 2012 Formula 125S KartSport Pro Kart series.