The dramatic iDube circuit outside Pietermaritzburg once again emphasised the enormous wealth of driving talent that exists in the SA Rotax Max Challenge National karting series. iDube is a take-no-prisoners venue, rewarding speed and race-craft, while punishing mistakes, thanks to its unique hillside location. When the sun set on Round Three of the 2016 Rotax Max Challenge National Karting Championship on June 18 this past weekend, the lasting impression was one of admiration for the talent that was show-cased in all the highly-contested National Championship karting classes.

DD2 Gearbox. With Cape-based title contender Julian van der Watt electing to sit-out this round of the four-round SA Championship series and make his final bid for the title at Vereeniging in Round Four in July, the way was open for a straight fight between Port Elizabeth’s Michael Stephen, Lonehill’s Bradley Liebenberg (the current 2015 DD2 title-holder) and KZN ace Benjamin Habig. A “wild-card” was Bloemfontein’s Justin Allison, while Jordan Sherratt, last year’s Senior Max champion, was also in the mix.

Qualifying saw just a couple of hundredths of a second separate the top drivers, and in particular the stage was set for an almighty tussle between Stephen and Liebenberg. These two swapped the positions all through the day, but in the end it was the youngster from Lonehill, Liebenberg, who took all three race wins by the narrowest of margins from Stephen. Liebenberg’s decisive passing was a stand-out feature of this tussle, to counter Stephen’s great race-craft in defending his position whenever he got his nose in front.

Benjamin Habig was right in contention, as was Justin Allison from Bloemfontein, who got faster as the day’s racing progressed. Habig’s race weekend was blunted after Durban’s Jordan Sherratt made an over-ambitious lunge in Race One, and in the overall positions, the top four were Liebenberg, Stephen, Allison and Habig. Robert Whiting headed up a bunch just behind these pace-setters to place fifth overall, ahead of Edenvale’s Nic Verheul, who enjoyed a good weekend to place sixth overall.

DD2 Masters. In the DD2 Masters category, run as a race-within-a-race for drivers aged 32 and over, Michael Stephen scored three straight wins, as he has now done in all three rounds of the 2016 Rotax Max Challenge nationals to date. As the series rules state that drivers may only score their top ten National results out of the 13 National races contested over the four rounds, Stephen is almost certain to take the DD2 Masters championship – needing only to start one race in Vereeniging!

Verheul’s second place in the Masters Category at Idube was notable as it marks a return to a serious focus on karting, as he enjoys his new-found form in the Masters category. Third in the Masters division at IDube was Jonathan Pieterse.

Junior Max. A top quality field of 16 karters took the green light at Idube for the Junior Max category for drivers aged 13-to-16 years old. Qualifying saw a surprise pole winner in young Karl Pitzer from Mozambique, ahead of Cape Town’s Jason Coetzee and KZN-based Daniel Duminy. Somewhat off the pace was erstwhile championship leader, Sebastian Boyd, from Cape Town.

But come race-time it was Gauteng driver Cameron O’Connor who put together a brilliant weekend’s racing. Scoring three straight wins. O’Connor thus left Pitzer and Coetzee were left to squabble over the runner-up positions in all three races, with Pitzer ending second for the day ahead of Coetzee. Duminy, Tiago Rebelo from Gauteng and Blaine Rademeyer. The competitiveness of this class saw the top six finish between two and four second of each other in each 15-lap race!

Senior Max. A wild-card entry in the Senior Max division was Jurie Swart from Cape Town, who, going into the Idube race, had only competed in a single regional event at his home track this year, Killarney. Yet after qualifying, Swart saw himself lining up right behind championship leader Dino Stermin (also from Cape Town) and come race time, Swart was the class of the field! He won the first race from young Stermin, took a third in the second race and bounced back to win the final race at iDube, to place just ahead of Stermin who won the second race and ended up with two second-place finishes. Robert Whiting from KZN was third, followed by Joshua Dias, Fabien Lanz, and Mitchel Licen, another driver having a welcome return-outing in this competitive class.

Maxterino. The amazing pool of driving talent we have in South Africa is show-cased by the performances in the two 60cc karting classes, Maxterino and Mini Rok. The competition amongst the drivers sees them separated by 100ths, rather than tenths of a second, and in qualifying it is not unusual to see up to six or eight young karters running nose to tail. As indeed was the case in all the races for these youngsters, aged between eight and 13-yars-old.

In Maxterino there were huge dices in all three races for the lead between Kwanda Mokoena, Charl Visser and Troy Dolinschek. None of these three established any sort of ascendancy, with the result of each race coming after countless passing and re-passing manoeuvres between this trio. At day’s end, Cape Town’s Charl Visser ended up the winner with a second and two wins to Kwanda Mokoena’s first race win, followed by a second and a third. Troy Dolinschek was third overall after an extremely impressive final race that saw him just edged into second. Behind these were the equally inspired Jordan Brooks, Joshua de Paiva and Tate Bishop.

Mini Rok Charl Visser earned a well-fought double to win Mini Rok ahead of Kwanda Mokoena, Visser’s win seeing him earn the Driver of the Day award from the iDube organisers for winning two race-categories. Mokoena and Visser each had race wins in this alternate 60 category, as did Jayden Els, who saw his efforts somewhat blunted after a clash in the final race saw him finish out of the top bunch. Joshua Coertze was impressive again, to end up third overall, ahead of Daniel Patrizi, Els and Saood Variawa, who rounded off the top six.

Micro Max and Mini Max Demonstration Relay At the end of the day’s racing the Rotax importers once again staged a fun-relay for younger drivers wanting to experience the new Micro Max and Mini Max karts, slated for introduction in the not-too distant future. Adding some fun to the proceedings were some of the top older drivers who “gate-crashed” this teenage party, notably Bradley Liebenberg, who is once again looking good for the top karting title in the country!

Rotax Mini and Micro Max Grand Prix The final round of the SARMC National Karting Championship will be held in Vereeniging on the 15th and 16th of July 2016 and being the final has four point scoring races for each class. The following day, Sunday the 17th of July 2016, features the Rotax Mini and Micro Max Grand Prix where South Africa’s top youngsters from the National 60cc classes will go head to head for the first time in the new Rotax formulae.