A faulty starter switch threatened to ruin Hawke's Bay karter Zach Zaloum's return to national championship racing recently.
"My motor had to be restarted three times during the pre-final and it could have stopped at any time," Zaloum said as he reflected on his fourth placing in the pre-final during his assault on the Rotorua-hosted nationals at Easter where he was among 17 starters in the senior Rotax Heavy class.
Despite starting off grid four in the final Zaloum, 26, recorded a convincing win to capture the title he last won in 2013. The salesman for Apollo Food qualified fastest and won both of his heats.
"I was rapt with my form as it was my first nationals after two seasons off. Everything worked well from the start and the kart was mint from day one," Zaloum explained.
A veteran of 17 years racing who won the national schools junior title during his days at St John's College and four North Island titles earlier in his career was in an international field which included fancied Aussie racer Lane Moore.
"It was good for our Hawke's Bay club to have a national champion again. We don't have a lot of numbers these days so hopefully this will provide motivation for some drivers to come back or some newcomers to take up the sport," Zaloum said.
"I know I've been in karting a long time but I've definitely got a few more rounds left in me."
Zaloum's next major meeting will be the Hawke's Bay-hosted third round in the Gold Star series on May 6. He holds second place in the Rotax Light class.
"Michael [McCulloch of Palmerston North] won the first two rounds and is too far ahead of me to catch up but I'll be happy if I stay among the top two," Zaloum added.
He was one of two Bay drivers to podium at the nationals. Zac Stichbury finished second in the 23-strong Rotax Light (Senior) class.
The 16-year-old Napier Boys' High School Year 12 student was competing at his second nationals and first at senior level since moving up from junior level earlier in the year. Stichbury was the second-fastest qualifier, winner of the combined heats and pre-final and started the final off grid one.
With an outstanding drive in an error-free, intense final Stichbury, a son of former New Zealand V8 Touring Car driver Ashley Stichbury, finished second to eight-time national champion Daniel Kinsman of Auckland. Among those who finished behind Stichbury were Australian and world Rotax champion Cody Gillis and 2016 Aussie No 2 and current Aussie state champion Harrison Hoey.
"That was a quality field and that second placing was the highlight of my racing career. Hopefully it enhances my chances of following a career similar to dad's," Stichbury said.
In addition to racing V8 Touring Cars, Ashley Stichbury, who died in 2002, also raced Formula Fords and was a former kart and TraNZam champion.
"I had a test drive of a Toyota TR86 at Hampton Downs the weekend after the nationals and it was an unbelievable 30 minutes. I've put in an application for a scholarship so fingers crossed," Stichbury said.
This weekend he will tackle the third round of the eight-round Rotax Max Challenge Series in Tokoroa. Last year he finished seventh in the series and this season he is running third after two rounds.
"Hopefully I can qualify for the world champs in Brazil in November," Stichbury said.
His clubmate, Jackson Whitfield, finished 15th in the same class. Another Bay driver, Tom Bewley, finished third in the Vortex Mini Rok class final but was relegated from a podium finish on protest and collected a time penalty to be placed 19th in the 29-strong class.
Stichbury, Whitfield and Bewley will be the Bay's best hopes for titles during the Hawke's Bay-hosted July 14 New Zealand Schools Championships. Another major meeting for them on home soil will be the Blossom Grand Prix in September.
Anyone wanting to give karting a go is urged to visit the Bay club's website www.kartsporthb.co.nz and try one of the club's "Have a Go" introduction to karting packages.