Bradley Liebenberg won the Rotax Max Challenge DD2 final at Saturday’s prestigious Rotax African Open meeting after emerging from a dramatic last lap incident that took place on the final corner with the chequered flag in site of the leaders.
With only the final of three races counting towards the championship there were three karters fighting for the lead – Eugene Brittz, Liebenberg and youngster Keagan Masters. Liebenberg made a dramatic dive inside of Masters on the final sequence of two corners leading onto the home straight, and the result was that all three karts careened off the track. The unfortunate Masters was out, while Liebenberg managed to limp to the finish line ahead of Brittz, while Chad Maciver finished a scant few hundredths of a second behind Brittz to take third.
The scrimmage was adjudged a “racing incident” and Liebenberg’s win was confirmed. As the winner of karting’s top class in South Africa, he automatically qualifies for an entry into the effective World Championship of karting, the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, which is being held in Spain in November.
Other drivers who deserved mention in this ultra-competitive race were Benjamin Habig, son of multiple SA Rally champ Jan Habig, who unfortunately fell foul of an early race coming together, and Nathan Parkins who finished fourth. Seasoned female racer Fabienne Lanz impressed finishing fifth while Rachel du Plessis (daughter of Roelf) and Ivana Cetinich are getting closer to the sharp end of the field.
With a massive entry for DD2 of well over 20 karts, the DD2 Masters class was run as a separate race on Saturday. As expected it was won by multiple Word DD2 masters champion, Cris Morgado from Durban, but the big surprise was the way he was pushed by Gauteng’s Marouan Selmi. In this class populated by top-level investment bankers and other professionals from their mid thirties to early fifties, Selmi got quicker and quicker all weekend, eventually setting a quicker lap time than Morgado, and finishing a scant nine-tenths of a second behind the World Champion.
As the African Open winner, Morgado will take his place on the grid in the Masters category in Spain in late November. Third behind Selmi was the ever-green John van Wyk, again having a good run, ahead of the equally impressive Erwin Sterne.
In the Senior Max non-gearbox class, Cape Town’s Luke Herring was the strong favourite to continue his dominance of the class as he has done in the National series this year. However, he ran out of brakes in one of the pre-finals and then fell victim to a clash of karts early in the final, and this was not to be his day.
A man who came good after struggling all year was Cape Town’s Eugene Denyssen who won the class after a race-long battle with Julian van der Watt who finished second. Michael Buchholz lost touch with thse two but finished a good third, ahead of Jurie Swart, Fabienne Lanz and Jonathan Abderdein(son of former SA modified saloon star Chris). Denyssen will thus take his place on the Grand Final grid in Spain in the Senior Max class.
In Junior Max, DD2 winner Bradley Liebenberg (who entered both classes) was quite dominant, finishing some five seconds ahead of Cape Town’s Kohen Bam. However, as the rules state that a driver cannot compete in two classes at the Grand Finals, a delighted Kohen Bam thus gets the fourth and final free entry to the Grand Finals in November.
On track at Zwartkops on Saturday Kohen was followed across the line by Delon Thompson, Luca Munaretto, Delano Fowler, and his brother Henry Bam. This was a nice reward for the mad-keen-on-karting Bam family from the Mother City who have been karting for many years.
In the Maxterino class, for youngsters aged 8-13, there was a huge field of more than 30 karts. The surprise winner was Blaine Rademeyer (who until now has competed in the similar rivalclass for juniors), finishing a scant three tenths of a second ahead of Jason Coetzee, with third placed Cameron O’Connor finishing just a further tenth of a second behind in third.
The growing competitiveness of this class has been gratifying for the organisers, and bodes well for the future of karting in this country. As the Maxterino winner, young Rademeyer wins a free air ticket to spectate at the Grand Finals in Spain.
In the non-national championship classes there were some massive fields. Interestingly the recently-revived Clubmans
In the Cadet class for drivers aged 5 to 8 years old, young Joshua De Pavia won, ahead of Samara Garland and her brother Joshua Garland. The sight of these tiny karters racing with outsized helmets on their heads has to be the cutest thing you’ll see in motorsport.
ABOUT THE ROTAX KARTING SERIES
Rotax dominated the six speed shifter karting classes is the eighties, introduced the tandem twin 250 which became the only engine to have in 250cc karts from the mid-eighties.Rotax entered the 100cc CIK World championship karting in the eighties and dominated this completely until the mid-ninety’s when they decided to take a different route.
The Austrian firm employs 1100 people, turns over more than 500,000,000 Euro/year (R 7.5 billion) as an engine manufacturer and makes( amongst others) BMW motor cycle engines, Sea Doo, Ski Doo, Johnson, Evenrude, – 98 models in all. Karting is a small but important part of this firm’s output and having access to technology and facilities of this calibre makes the difference.
- The Rotax karting series is unique worldwide and arguably the most popular motorsport series in the world with National Championships run in more than 60 countries.
- The Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final has run since 1999 and South Africans have won many classes.Previous SA world
champions include – Gavin Cronje, Claudio Piazza, Mark Cronje, Cris Morhado, Wes Orr,Leeroy Poulter, Caleb Williams. Morgado has won the masters title 3 times. Most of these drivers are at the front of SA Rallying and circuit racing today.
- The four-round Rotax Euro Challenge has been running since 2004 and South Africans have won several classes. Champions s include Arnold Neveling, Wes Orr,Cris Morgado, and Leeroy Poulter.
- Regional / Zone Rotax championships include thePan American, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Benelux, Central Europe, Canadian American and our African Open.
- This is the fourth running of the African Open and we have a growing interest from neighbouring and not so close countries like Angola.
- Rotax has a long history in South Africa in 125 and 250 shifter classes. The new age Max series was introduced in 1999 and growing to absolute dominance by 2005. It is once again the dominant force in karting.
- Rotax in 1997 introduced a 125cc water cooled, electric start, fixed jet carb, automatic clutch, low noise, low maintenance engine. With the same or better performance than the prevailing kart engines of that time,and ease of use you could now race for 50 hours insteadfifty minutes. Noise levels came down dramatically.
- A level playing field is the key aim of the Max series so constant feed back to the factory from the distributors and the warrantee system to help improve the product continuously. Changes are generally made only to improve ease of use or reliability.
- Rotax used the basic original Max engine to develop a range of motors to suit all ages staring with detuned versions Micro Max for 7 to 10 year olds, a little faster for 10 to 13 years called Mini Max and then Junior Max for 12 to 16. Unrestricted it is used for 15 years and older. Currently in South Africa we use a 60cc Maxterino for the for the pre-teen drivers.
- Rotax DD2 was introduced a few years ago as a next step. The direct drive does away with sprockets and chains so for a change you can keep your hands and yourkart clean. Although Rotax are famous for their six speedkarting and Aprillia GP bike motors a two speed gearbox was chosen to keep things light and simple. Paddle shifts and electronic cut out makes F1 type shifting easy. The top performing class today and very popular indeed!