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This past weekend, more than 120 competitors from Southern Africa came together at the Zwartkops Kart Raceway in Pretoria, intending to secure a ticket to the 2023 Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals (RMCGF) set for a return to the Bahrain International Karting Circuit in Sakhir, the Kingdom of Bahrain. This year’s event saw record-breaking participation, with drivers from Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa in attendance.

Upon arriving at the circuit that hosted the 2002 RMCGF, participants were warmly greeted. Though minor modifications have been made since then, the layout remains mostly unchanged. Despite the recent arrival of spring, competitors were met with warm temperatures.

Jamie Smith had a fantastic day, winning both pre-final heats, which allowed him to start from pole position for the final. Over the 20-lap distance, he went unchallenged to secure the prestigious title. As a result, he joins Sebastian Boyd and Brad Liebenberg at the RMCGFs from December 02-09, 2023.

In the DD2 Masters class, 2022 RMCGF finalist Eugene Brittz made a momentary African Open appearance after sitting out the entire championship season. However, a runner-up finish in Pre-Final 1 and a crash in the second were not enough to deny him another karting title. He does, however, not automatically qualify for a ticket to participate at the RMCGF, as entries are limited. Should a seat become available, he can compete; until then, he receives an air ticket to spectate at the global karting extravaganza, commonly called the ‘Olympics of Karting.’

In what has become the most tightly-contested class in recent seasons, 2022 Junior MAX competitor Erich Heystek surprised all by taking victory in the final. While finishing fourth in both pre-final heats, Heystek, who has not competed in South Africa since his Junior MAX days, fended off the challenge of several more experienced drivers to win the title. He joins national Senior MAX champion KC Ensor-Smith in Bahrain later this year.

2022 National Junior MAX Champion Wian Boshoff, who also competed at the 2022 RMCGFs in Portugal last year, received a ticket to this year’s RMCGF. Despite finishing as the runner-up to 2023 National Junior MAX Champion Kent Swartz in Saturday’s final, Boshoff finished as the vice-champion in the national championship and is automatically awarded the remaining RMCGF ticket.

Reagile Mailula, who recorded the quickest Mini MAX lap at the circuit this weekend, fell foul to an opening lap incident after starting from pole. Despite falling to the back of the field, Mailula fought back to finish fourth in Pre-Final 1 before winning Pre-Final 2. From pole position, he finished more than three seconds ahead of his closest competitor in the final to earn a ticket to this year’s grand finals.

In the most dominant display of the weekend, Micro MAX driver Cristian Verheul claimed victory in all three races. After qualifying in the pole position, he won both pre-final heats before claiming his first major South African karting title. Despite winning the title, Verheul wins a ticket to spectate and not to participate, as only 36 entries are allowed for the Micro MAX class.

Luke du Toit took a convincing Bambino win in the final, beating out some more favoured competition. While others erred in the final, Du Toit kept a calm head to win the 2023 title. While Bambino drivers compete for the African Open title, they do not qualify to participate at the RMCGF.

The team representing South Africa at the RMCGF is:

• Rafael da Silva (Micro MAX)
• Reagile Mailula (Mini MAX)
• Caleb Odendaal (Mini MAX)
• Wian Boshoff (Junior MAX)
• Kent Swartz (Junior MAX)
• KC Ensor-Smith (Senior MAX)
• Erich Heystek (Senior MAX)
• Sebastian Boyd (DD2)
• Bradley Liebenberg (DD2)
• Jamie Smith (DD2)
• Kyle Lawrence (DD2 Masters)

This year sees the 23rd event hosting, where South Africa remains the country with the most RMCGF victories (14).

Published by: Motorsport Fanatix

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