Karting kingpins head for the start line
Palmerston North and its KartSport Manawatu kart club have a proud record of producing some of the best drivers - kart and car - in the country.
Former karters Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber are now works Porsche drivers in Europe, Chris Pither races V8 Supercars across the Tasman and both Bamber, from Whanganui, and fellow international Josh Hart, from Palmerston North, have finished on the podium at the Rotax Max category's annual Challenge Grand Final meeting overseas.
This weekend the Palmerston North club hosts the KartSport New Zealand sprint championship meeting at Shirriffs Road raceway.
The next generation of local talent - the likes of Dylan Drysdale, 15, Jacob Cranston, 14, Kaleb Ngatoa, 13, Tom Greig, and Riley Jack, Jackson Rooney and Louis Redshaw, all 11, are set to start the process all over again.
Drysdale won the Junior Rotax class in last year's Rotax Max Challenge series. During the year he won a New Zealand schools title in the Formula Junior class, as well as finishing third in the Junior Rotax class - behind Rotorua's Caleb Huston and fellow Manawatu ace Jacob Cranston - at the North Island title meeting in Rotorua over Labour Weekend.
Cranston finished second in the Junior 100cc Yamaha class at the national sprint Championships in Blenheim last year, was second in the Junior Rotax class and third in Junior 100cc Yamaha at last year's NZ schools championship.
He is a former New Zealand number 1 (in 2012) in the now superseded Junior Restricted 100cc Yamaha class.
Kaleb Ngatoa was the winner of the Junior Restricted 100cc Yamaha title at the North Island Sprint championships in 2013.
This weekend Drysdale, Cranston and Ngatoa will be contesting two classes, Rotax Max Junior and Junior 100cc Yamaha.
Tom Greig, Riley Jack, Jackson Rooney (the North Island Cadet ROK class champion) and Louis Redshaw will be contesting Vortex Mini ROK where they will be up against North Island champion Josh Parkinson (Auckland) and 2014 NZ schools champion Ryan Wood (Wellington).
There's a double incentive in the Vortex Mini ROK class with the 24 entrants aged from 9 to 13 vying to claim the inaugural New Zealand Sprint title (which replaces Junior Restricted 100cc Yamaha) as well as the chance to represent New Zealand at the ROK Cup International Finals in Lonato, Italy, on October 22-25.
This weekend's meeting has attracted 178 entries from as far south as Invercargill and as far north as Whangarei with a number of multi-time national and island champions in the mix.
Christchurch ace Matthew Hamilton leads the way in terms of titles won, with 12 New Zealand sprint championships
Former Christchurch but now Gold Coast, Australia-based Simon Hunter is second in the title tally, having won the New Zealand 100cc Yamaha Heavy title six times and the 125cc Rotax Max Heavy title twice.
Bailey wonthe New Zealand Cadet title in 2000 and then - after a break chasing a career in cars - came back to win the North Island 100cc Yamaha Heavy title in 2009.
An interested observer at the meeting will be recently-retired V8 Supercar driver and now V8 Supercar TV pit reporter Greg Murphy.
There will be action at Shirriffs Rd from Easter Friday with time trials (qualifying). Five class titles will then be contested each day on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday the classes are Vortex Mini ROK, Junior 100cc Yamaha, 125cc Rotax Max, 100cc Yamaha Heavy and KZ2.
On Sunday they are Cadet ROK, 125cc Rotax Max Junior, Open, 125cc Rotax Max Heavy and 100cc Yamaha Light.
- Manawatu Standard