It's easy to gauge that Hawke's Bay driver Zac Stichbury is getting a little anxious to leave the karting ranks.

"I want to try to get a car some time next year ... sooner if possible. It's always been the dream to follow a career similar to dad's but at this stage I'm keeping an open mind as to the class of the car," Stichbury said.

The 15-year-old Napier Boys' High School Year 11 student was referring to his father, Ashley, who died in 2002. He was a former kart and TraNZam champion and one of New Zealand's best V8 Touring Car Championship drivers. He also raced Formula Fords and his CV included two Bathurst campaigns.

Stichbury knows some top finishes at the 50th annual Blossom Meeting hosted by his KartSport Hawke's Bay club at the Roy's Hill track this weekend could enhance his chances of receiving some attractive offers. It will be Stichbury's second Blossom and he will tackle two classes, Junior Rotax and Junior Yamaha.


"I entered Junior Yamaha to bring the numbers up and have a bit of fun. But the priority is to podium in Junior Rotax," Stichbury said.

He will be one of 18 starters in the class. Fancied rivals include Wellington's 2NZ who won the Max Challenge to earn a ticket to the world championships in Spain, Blenheim's William Exton, Palmerston North's Jackson Rooney who makes regular trips to Aussie and won the class at the Bay club's club day last weekend and Stichbury's clubmate, Ronan Murphy, who is a son of Kiwi motor racing legend Greg Murphy.

Other Bay starters in the class who will relish the home-track advantage are Jamie van den Berk, Jackson Whitfield and James Aston. Stichbury is more than happy with his preparation for Blossom.

He finished fourth at the recent Te Puke-hosted round of the Rotax Max Challenge and set a new lap record for the class at the track.

"It was my first time in the dry there but third time racing at the track," Stichbury recalled.
"Jackson [Rooney] was a convincing winner here last weekend. But I had an old engine and old tyres because I was saving my rebuilt engine and new tyres for this weekend."

After one round in the five-round Top Half Series Stichbury is third in his class. Rotorua will host the second round on September 16 and Hamilton the third on September 30.
The Hamilton-hosted North Island championships at Labour Weekend will be another big meeting for Stichbury and he may compete in the Rotax Max Light class there.

This weekend's meeting has attracted 70 entries across the eight classes - Cadet Rok, Vortex Mini Rok, Junior Yamaha, Junior Rotax, Rotax Max Light, Rotax Max Heavy, Clubsport 120 and Briggs. Organisers have noted there are more youngsters than adults in what has become a family event but also because many school-age competitors are getting a feel of the venue in the countdown to next July's National Schools meeting in the Bay.

Friday will be a testing day for drivers. On Saturday each class will five 12-lap clockwise heats plus a final.

On Sunday each class will have four 12-lap anti-clockwise heats plus a final before the meeting ends with Grand Prix for each class. The senior and junior Grand Prix will be 28 laps while the Mini Rok Grand Prix will be 21 laps and the cadet Grand Prix 18 laps.

"I prefer anti-clockwise at our Bay track but you can't complain because you've got to race both ways."

Luck wasn't on his side at last year's Blossom.

"I got caught up in every accident which was a pain. But I was really pleased with the third placing in the final after starting fourth.

"There's always a bit of luck involved particularly when you've got new drivers and mixed grids. But it's good fun and there can be carnage."

With more than 250 laps to be completed during his races this weekend Stichbury is grateful he has a good fitness base from his commitments as a striker or winger for his school's 3rd XI soccer team.

Stichbury encouraged fans to come along this weekend.

"The club is always looking for new members and there will be have-a-go days for those considering giving the sport a crack later in the summer," he added.