Revved-up thrills at kart challenge
It was petrol-head heaven at Tapawera Area School, as the grounds were converted into a mud-and-grass track for testing and racing students' self-assembled go-karts.
The inaugural Tapawera Grass Kart Challenge, organised by the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, the top-of-the-south Trades Academy, and Tapawera Area School, proved such a success yesterday that racers were already viewing the event through their rear-vision mirrors, with sights set on the road to next year's racing.
Thirteen teams of four entered the fray, made up from the Trades Academy, NMIT's pre-trade programme, Waimea College, Motueka and Golden Bay high schools, and local teams from Tapawera Area School.
The competing karts were designed and built by students, with assistance from their tutors, to an agreed specification. The karts had to be single-seaters with engines limited to six horse-power, keeping the racing relatively safe with top-speeds of just under 50kmh.
Tapawera Area School caretaker Sandy Phyn lobbied his principal for two years to have a grass kart race on the school's grounds, having seen how much the Tapawera Area School students enjoyed racing last year, at a South Island competition held in Twizel.
He also single-handedly designed the track, which the young racers gave rave reviews.
"It's been ten-out-of-ten. I am absolutely buzzing," Mr Phyn said.
"I am just over the moon, so emotional. I couldn't have asked for any better.
"I was a bit worried about the rain coming in last night. But it was fine, just mayhem this morning, muddy as. We had the crowd roaring."
Southern Grass Kart Challenge co-ordinator Glenys McKenzie was full of praise for the top-of-the-South's first grass kart competition, suggesting it could become an annual event.
Mrs McKenzie, who is also general manager of Southern Group Training - an apprenticeship, training and employment advisory - said grass kart racing gave "hands-on" students an opportunity to learn about technology and engineering, while also having fun, working together, and building something exciting.
"Let's be honest, young men at school want to make, take and break - using power tools," she said.
"This is all about team work, it's about organisation, it's about listening to each other, and it's about time management. And the students also gain automotive skills, engineering skills and group management skills."
David White, area leader of NMIT's trades programme, is already looking forward to next year's event, and thinking of ways to get more teams from the region involved.
He said his students had been stressed-out for the last three weeks, as they finalised their designs, made modifications, and got the karts race-ready.
"It's been a mad rush, which it always is. It's taken a lot of effort to get this up and running," he said, giving thanks to Tapawera Area School for their hospitality.
Mr Phyn thanked principal Kelvin Woodley, the NMIT tutors, the Tapawera locals who helped him prepare for race day, and the racers themselves who were all in good spirits.
He said it was a community effort, ensuring that the event stayed on-track.
"This stuff can't happen in town - it's rural as," he said.
The self-confessed "petrol head" was hoping to see the competition return next year, and said he was now dreaming about starting his own Grass Kart Club in Tapawera.
"This is just the start," he said, still buzzing and over the moon.
- © Fairfax NZ News