It all came right for Caleb Huston at the fifth round of this year’s Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand in the Hawke’s Bay over the weekend, the 14-year-old from Rotorua successfully making a last lap, last corner pass on title contenders Marcus Armstrong and Dylan Drysdale to win the Arai Junior Max class Final.
“It’s definitely a weekend I’ll remember for a long time,” young gun Huston said of a round where he started well – qualifying third quickest behind Dylan Drysdale and Michael McCulloch – then finished fourth in the first heat and third in the second and Pre-Final before scoring his breakthrough win in the Final.
Defending class champion Marcus Armstrong from Christchurch quickly worked his way forward after qualifying fourth, but was not as dominant in the cold, crisp conditions that greeted the Rotax Max category karters at KartSport Hawke’s Bay’s Chemz Raceway on the outskirts of Hastings on Saturday and Sunday as he has been at previous rounds.
He and Palmerston North teen Drysdale shared heat race wins but Drysdale beat him to the line in the Pre-Final with Drysdale leading early on and at the end but Armstrong in front through the middle section of the race.
Armstrong then led the lion’s share of laps in the Final, only to be dragged back into a battle for the lead by Drysdale on the last lap, then find himself helpless to do anything about it when a fast-finishing Huston passed both he and Drysdale as the pair tussled for what they thought was going to be the win within sight of the chequered flag.
While it was by no means the end of the world for either Armstrong or Drysdale as far as series points are concerned it was a big deal for Huston, marking the youngster as someone else to watch out for at the final round of this year’s Challenge series in Auckland next month.
Also impressing in the Arai Junior Max field, albeit a little further back, was Maddy Stewart, the young Wellington female showing the benefit of racing in the Australian Rotax series this year with top six finishes in the heats and Pre-Final, and a ninth place finish in the Final.
There was drama of another sort, meanwhile, in the Platinum Glass 125cc Rotax Max Heavy/Masters class, with long-time category leader Ryan Urban put under extreme pressure by local driver Zach Zaloum.
The Hastings’ ace was in top form on his home track, pipping Urban to the post in qualifying before winning both heats and the Pre-Final.
Urban was never too far behind, until the Pre-Final – when he was punted off the track at the first corner and forced to fight his way back into contention after the field had flashed past.
On his way back to a hard-won fifth place Urban set a new class lap record, then – obviously fired up – made the Final his, taking over from early leader Zaloum on the seventh lap and going on to win from Zaloum, former UK Rotax series class winner and representative Tiffany Chittenden, Zaloum’s KartSport Hawke’s Bay clubmate Shaun Reay, and Aucklander Aarron Cunningham.
In the premier Logitech 125cc Rotax Max Light class, meanwhile, it was a case of ‘the Kinsman brothers’ road show’ rolling on, despite the best efforts of Palmerston North driver Fraser Hart.
Qualifying showed pole man Hart’s single-lap pace was every bit as good as that of the Kinsmans but in the races eventual Final winner Mathew and younger brother Daniel had an edge.
Defending class title holder – and reigning NZ class Sprint champion Mathew – won the first heat from Daniel, Cambridge driver Andy Schofield and Hart, but Daniel made a pass on Mathew on the last lap to win the second.
Daniel also led home Mathew in the Pre-Final – with Hart third, Aucklander Daniel Connor fourth and impressive young Christchurch driver Liam Young fifth – but in the Final Mathew took advantage of a set-up change to take the win by a comfortable margin from Daniel, Fraser Hart, Daniel Connor and Mason Armstrong.
Heading into the Hawke’s Bay round Andy Schofield was still a top two threat to the Kinsman brothers but now the pair have a buffer ahead of next month’s Auckland series’ final with long-time sparring partner Daniel Connor in third ahead of Schofield, Mason Armstrong and Hamilton’s Rhys Tinney.
The weekend’s series round was the fifth of six making up this year’s 2014 Rotax Max New Zealand Challenge supported by Schwarzkopf Professional with KartSport Auckland hosting the Final at its Strata Networks Raceway at Rosebank Domain over the September 20-21 weekend.
Class winners at the penultimate round of this year’s Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand at KartSport Hawke’s Bay’s Chemz Raceway over the weekend were Mathew Kinsman (#1 orange kart) from brother Daniel Kinsman (#31) in Logitech 125cc Rotax Max Light, Ryan Urban (#1 green kart) in Platinum Glass 125cc Rotax Max Heavy/Masters, and Caleb Huston (# 38) in Arai Helmets Rotax Junior Max. Photo credit: Fast Company/Graham Hughes
2014 New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge supported by Schwarzkopf Professional
Logitech 125cc Rotax Max Light
1. Mathew Kinsman; 2. Daniel Kinsman; 3. Fraser Hart; 4. Daniel Connor; 5. Mason Armstrong; 6. Andy Schofield
Points after Rnd 5 of 6
1. Daniel Kinsman 438 points; 2 Mathew Kinsman 436; 3. Daniel Connor 401; 4. Andy Schofield 394; 5. Mason Armstrong 350; 6. Rhys Tinney 345
Arai Helmets 125cc Rotax Junior Max
1. Caleb Huston; 2. Marcus Armstrong; 3. Dylan Drysdale; 4. Michael McCulloch; 5. Zachary Thompson; 6. Taylor Harte
Points after Rnd 5 of 6
1. Marcus Armstrong 421 points; 2. Dylan Drysdale 408; 3=. Caleb Huston 403; 3=. Taylor Harte 403; 5. Trey Nairn 398; 6. Michael McCulloch 388
Platinum Glass 125cc Rotax Max Heavy/Masters*
1. Ryan Urban; 2. Zach Zaloum; 3. Tiffany Chittenden; 4. Shaun Reay; 5. Aarron Cunningham; 6. Niki Urwin
Points after Rnd 5 of 6
1. Ryan Urban* 451 points; 2. Zach Zaloum 421; 3. Aarron Cunningham* 408; 4. Tiffany Chittenden* 406; 5. Ryan Bailey 381; 6. Niki Urwin* 371
Rnd 1: Sun Feb 22-23 Manawatu Toyota Raceway Palmerston North
Rnd 2: Sat-Sun March 15-16 The Rock FM Raceway Rotorua
Rnd 3: Sat-Sun May 17-18 AgriSea Raceway Hamilton
Rnd 4: Sat-Sun June 07-08 Fagan’s Valley Raceway Te Puke
Rnd 5: Sat-Sun August 16-17 Chemz Raceway Hastings
Rnd 6: Sat-Sun September 20-21 Strata Networks Raceway Auckland