Champions emerge at 2023 North & South Island Karting Championships
At the bottom of each island, the nation’s top karting talent made the trek to KartSport Wellington and KartSport Southland for the North & South Island Karting Championships respectively. Held on Labour Weekend annually, the two events give competitors from each island the chance to grab ultimate bragging rights over their peers and earn the right to display their championship title for the following year.
With classes varied at each event, there was a wide variety of brilliant motorsport action on offer, from the youngest competitors in the Cadet class, to the ever-popular gearbox senior drivers of KZ2. While most competitors tackled the championship of their residency, a few made the mission to the alternate island in search of a win.
In Cadet class, in was a case of the Nation’s top two drivers dominating proceedings. Current New Zealand Champion Iver Spence clean-swept the weekend in Southland, winning the title by a whopping 13 seconds over Jett O’Malley & Ollie Finch. While in Wellington, reigning New Zealand number two Ryan Healey had his own clean-sweep en route to winning by nearly nine seconds. Benji Bellamy and Sam Amon would battle, with the pair coming home second and third.
For the North Island Championship, the Vortex Mini ROK class provided a fierce battle for title. Hamilton’s Braxton Kraayvanger would show his pace of late, leading the majority of the final and picking up the win, with the podium placegetters of Seth Comer and Tommy Hart less than one second behind at the finish. Current Goldstar Champion Jack Phillips won on track but was unfortunately excluded post-race with a rear width infringement. In the South Island, Nixon Cripps won every session to add a new title to his list of achievements, with Jack McGrath chasing in second. Magni Whittle produced an excellent late-race pass to wrap up the final podium spot, with George Tucker settling for fourth.
An always intense class, the Junior Rotax fields of both events produced action aplenty. In Southland, three-time Vortex Mini ROK New Zealand Champion Zach Tucker, reigning South Island Junior Rotax Champion Arthur Broughan and local star Jacob Earley battled throughout the event. The final witnessed some high-pressure racing. Tucker would lead the first 24 laps, initially followed closely by Earley and then withstanding Broughan lap after lap. While Earley dropped back slightly, with two laps to go Broughan attempted a pass on Tucker for the lead in turn two, with contact ensuing and sending both drivers into the grass. The crash, which was later deemed a racing incident by officials, saw Earley promoted to first on track and ultimately becoming the winner, while Mainland Series champion Levi McMillian snuck through to second ahead of Broughan in third. Tucker would eventually limp his damaged kart across the line in 10th.
In the North, reigning New Zealand number two Jamie Thompson showed his form this year is continuing. Thompson would qualify pole for the heats, winning one of those and eventually coming from the second row to win the final and the North Island title, bouncing back from 10th place in the pre-final. Miles Baker put together an impressive run of consistent laps to finish second, while Connor Brodie filled the third spot. For some of the junior competitors in the North Island, it was a case of double duties with the Vortex DVS Junior class also on offer. After finishing second in Rotax, Miles Baker would go one step further and pick up the win in DVS Junior, nearly four-seconds clear of second placegetter Cole Turney and a further gap back to Marco Manson in third.
In the first of the senior categories, Manawatu’s Michael McCulloch proved once again his talents, wrapping up the North Island Championship for Rotax Light. While he’d finish more than three seconds clear, the battle for the rest of the podium was tighter. Josh Bethune would eventually prevail in the tussle, ahead of Jacob Cranston and multi-time South Island Champion Chris Cox. The trio would be separated in less than a second. In the South, Caleb Cross continued his dominance of the class by wrapping up a back-to-back South Island Championships, adding to his National Sprint and Kartstars titles from earlier in the year. Australian driver Jackson Souslin Harlow chipped away at his pace throughout the weekend, giving Cross a battle in the pre-final. Unfortunately for Harlow, after starting further back in the grid for the final, he was unable to challenge Cross after he cleared the traffic. Kyle Dawson rounded out the podium positions.
Though the class was unable to reach the minimum required numbers for the North Island Championship, Rotax Heavy was on offer in Southland. The competition was close throughout the weekend, with a returning Jarred Cleghorn initially leading via topping qualifying. However, Dunedin’s Jaxon Harvey would build his speed throughout the weekend and eventually topple Gleghorn in the final to win the championship, with the former finishing second. Arron Black would round out the podium in third.
Two classes running solely in the North Island Championship were Vortex DVS Senior and the gearbox class of KZ2. In DVS Senior, Chris Cox, (who was incredibly competing in three classes across the weekend) would make the most of his trek north from Christchurch to win the final. It was a brilliant final and a true display of the nation’s karting talent with the top three separated by just three tenths across the line! Current New Zealand Junior Rotax Champion Kiahn Burt would mark an impressive title debut in seniors finishing second officially. Regular front-runner Aryton Williams would finish second on track but be relegated 10 seconds back post-race, with Goldstar series champion Jack Strand promoted to third.
New Zealand KZ2 Champion Jay Urwin would add a North Island title to his year’s winnings, stretching out to a 12-second win over Luke Thompson. Though usually a KZ2 Heavy entrant, but without a class available, Manawatu’s Riley Jack rounded out the podium places in third. Meanwhile, finishing the weekend’s action in Southland was the combined class of Briggs Lights and Briggs Heavy who were competing as a non-championship support class. After a brilliant battle, Myles Findlay held off a charging Ryan Jefferies by a mere three-tenths in Lights, with Riley Price wrapping up third place. In Heavies, Taylor Gray continued his winning form ahead of his sister Emma Gray and Sam Rook in third.
With the Island Championship done and dusted for another year, winning drivers will switch from their regular number to an NI or SI plate and wear it with pride until next October. With a couple big meetings left to run in 2023, drivers will look to round out the year strong in hope of a strong start for 2024.