Hawke's Bay kart racer Tom Bewley had an early 13th birthday present on Sunday when he won his first North Island title in six years of racing.
The win came in the Junior Rotax class, one of seven classes contested over two days of North Island Sprint Championships racing at his home club, the Kartsport Hawke's Bay's track at Roy's Hill, off State Highway 50 west of Hastings.
Claiming pole position through the 22-kart qualifiers and two heats on Saturday - and the pre-final into the final, the Havelock North Intermediate School pupil had to battle determinedly through the 28-lap decider, surrendering the lead after just two laps and then drifting to fourth after a nudge from behind and a wide berth on a bend.
Father and former Australian Super Touring Championship racer Dwayne Bewley said Tom, lapping at about 32 seconds, then hunted down leader and eventual runner-up Logan Manson, of Levin, before hitting the front with about three laps to go.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
It was one of two wins for the home club, with seven-year-old Grayson Stowe claiming Cadet ROK-class honours in a small field. Zac Stichbury was second in the Rotax Light senior class and Jamie Van der Berk third in the BVS Senior class.
Dwayne Bewley said his son had managed podium finishes in all his North Island and New Zealand championships racing over the years, but Sunday, the day before his birthday, was the first time he had taken any of the titles.
Apart from Bewley's wins at other levels, his biggest moment was being named last year by Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin as the first participant in McLaughlin's new mentoring programme.
McLaughlin was unable to be present to see the win, but keeps in touch with the new prodigy, including sending messages during the weekend from the US, where the Kiwi superstar was a few hours away from the first IndyCars start of his career in Florida.
Unfortunately it was a different result, with McLaughlin crashing out just under half-way through the 100-laps of the Grand Prix of St Petersburg street race, in which fellow New Zealander Scott Dixon was third and sealed the IndyCar Championships for a sixth time.