Marcus Armstrong readies for latest Rotax round

Marcus Armstrong

Marcus Armstrong. Pic: Fast Company/Graham Hughes

When 13-year-old Christchurch karter Marcus Armstrong lines up to contest the fourth round of this year’s Rotax Max Challenge New Zealand kart series at KartSport Bay of Plenty’s Fagan’s Valley Raceway near Te Puke this weekend he won’t be lacking in race fitness.

Three week’s ago he finished a close second in class to fellow young gun Dylan Drysdale at the third round of the 2014 Rotax series in Hamilton.

And last weekend – after spending the weekend between testing at the Castelletto track – Armstrong qualified third and finished a fighting eighth in the Junior Rotax class at the second round of the 2014 Rotax Euro Challenge in northern Italy.

“He certainly gets around,” said New Zealand series organiser and spokesman Gavin Bright.

“Last year he won the Junior class in the Challenge and represented New Zealand at the annual Grand Challenge in the United States and this year he’s doing our Challenge, the Euro Challenge plus the nationals, schools and any other big meeting he can fit in.”

Armstrong is one of over 70 Rotax Max category karters who will be contesting this weekend’s meeting and is a good result in the Arai Junior Max class could see him back at the top of the series points standings.

The youngster – the reigning New Zealand Sprint champion in the class – is the defending Challenge series title holder but has been in fight-back mode this year after breaking a chain in the Final at the first round at Palmerston North in February.

In his sights is local hero, Taylor Harte, from Mount Maunganui, whose top five consistency sees him head to his home track on top of the Challenge series’ Junior class points table with 246 points, three more than Armstrong and seven more than round one class winner Michael McCulloch from the Kapiti Coast.

In the other classes, Aucklander Daniel Kinsman now leads older brother Mathew Kinsman in the Logitech 125cc Rotax Max Light standings after a return to the top step of the podium at the most recent round in Hamilton.

Before that it was defending class title holder – and recently crowned 2014 class New Zealand Sprint champion – Mathew who was leading the points chase, having won the class at the first and second series rounds this year.

However a ninth to his brother’s first place at Hamilton was all it took for the positions at the top of the points table to be reversed, Daniel now with a six point lead over Mathew heading to Te Puke with Cambridge’s Andy Schofield third, Daniel Connor, from Helensville, fourth and young Aucklander Reid Harker fifth.

Having won his class at all three rounds held so far this year current New Zealand 125c Rotax Max Heavy Sprint champion Ryan Urban from Auckland is the definite favourite in the Platinum Glass 1125cc Rotax Max Heavy/Masters class.

However, former UK Rotax class title holder and representative Tiffany Chittenden, now living in Christchurch, is – like her teammate Marcus Armstrong – coming off a strong performance last weekend, in her case at the annual Sunbelts two-day meeting in Marlborough and Nelson.

She is currently second in the Masters standings, while former New Zealand sprint class champion Ryan Bailey from Auckland is now second non-Masters Heavy class contestant behind Zach Zaloum from Hastings.

Again making his presence felt, meanwhile, is former class winner and New Zealand representative Niki Irwin. Paralysed from the waist down in a motocross accident, Urwin is a bona fide race and class threat in a specially adapted kart with hand controls and is currently seventh overall and fifth in the Masters points standings.

There will be action on the track at Te Puke both days with qualifying and the first heats on Saturday and the Pre-Finals and Finals for each class on Sunday.

Once this round is completed the Challenge series takes a ‘winter break,’ resuming in mid-August in the Hawke’s Bay.