The South African Rotax MAX Challenge (SARMC) came to a close this past weekend after a highly competitive season. While several champions successfully defended their titles, the class rookies were most impressive. This season, drivers from all over the republic competed for national honours and the chance to represent South Africa at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals (RMCGF).
Competing across four rounds held in the provinces of the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, a typical championship round consists of a full day of practice on a Friday, followed by race day on Saturday. Unlike the African Open, whereby drivers advance to a final, a national championship round sees drivers scoring points during three heats (except for the last round), with the driver with the most points at the end of the day declared the winner. Competitors are, however, allowed to drop their three lowest-scoring national rounds. Points scored during four selected regional rounds also add to the final points total to determine an overall champion.
After battling one another throughout the season, the Bambino championship went down to the final heat, with seven-year-old Adriaan Steyn (privateer) triumphing over Luhan De Wet (NBR). The former rookies went toe-to-toe throughout the season and the weekend to make this season’s championship one of the most exciting in recent years. Rookie Ronald Venter (NBR Team) impressively finished third in the championship.
Rafael Da Silva (NBR), one of only three drivers to retain their titles in 2023, secured the national Micro MAX championship by claiming the overall victory in the final round, further emphasising his talent and dominance of the class. Following another closely contested round, the driver of Portuguese/Lebanese descent edged out some determined competition at the weekend. Recording two heat victories and two runner-up finishes, the Johannesburg resident added the 2023 title to his 2022 national and African Open titles. Rookies Brodi Cooper Dowling (Xtreme Racing) and Ronaldo Koen (WORR Motorsport) finished an impressive second and third, respectively.
East London’s Caleb Odendaal (WORR Motorsport) became the second driver in 2023 to retain his title and the only champion to hail from the Eastern Cape. Fending off the challenges of several talented competitors throughout the season, Odendaal, who entered the final round with a sizeable lead in the championship, maturely managed his weekend. What he lacked in outright pace, he made up with some skillful driving to record three podium finishes. Going winless for the first time this season, Odendaal did enough to clinch the title ahead of Kegan Martin (RKT) and Reagile Mailula (TGRJA). Eleven-year-old Odendaal now boasts three national championships in four seasons and two African Open titles. As South Africa celebrates Women’s Month, we acknowledge the achievements of women in motorsport. In only her third season of karting, twelve-year-old Emma-Rose Dowling (TGRJA), a rookie in the Mini MAX class, finished in an impressive sixth in the championship.
The Junior MAX championship was hotly contested this season, with rookie Kent Swartz (TGRJA) emerging as the winner. Despite a tough challenge from championship runner-up Wian Boshoff (WORR Motorsport), Swartz’s exceptional performance in the final round, where he won all four heats, secured him the title. Jonno Wilson finished a comfortable third in the championship. It is also noteworthy to mention the achievements of two female drivers who have made a name for themselves in the class. Georgia Lenaerts (NBR) finished fifth, while Gianna Pascoal (WORR Motorsport) claimed seventh in the championship standings.
KC Ensor-Smith (TGRJA) won the 2023 Senior MAX title after a fierce final round, adding to his collection of national championship trophies. The 2022 Junior MAX champion led the championship standings heading to the final round but still had to outscore his rivals to secure the title. Claiming two of the four heat victories on offer, Ensor-Smith finished fourth overall to take the title ahead of Troy Snyman (Punjabi) and Muhammad Wally (WORR Motorsport). Hannah Daniel (privateer), who only competed in two championship rounds, finished 19th.
The Western Cape’s Sebastian Boyd (BirelArt) defended his DD2 title despite facing tough competition from multiple champion Bradley Liebenberg (Xtreme Racing). Liebenberg had been performing consistently well throughout the season, but Boyd’s double-heat win in the final round helped him secure the top spot in the championship standings. Going into the finale, Liebenberg had a slight lead, but Boyd managed to win the championship by just one point. Kian Grottis (TGRJA) secured third in the championship, with top-placed rookie Nicolaos Vostanis (Xtreme Racing) claiming fourth after an impressive season.
Kyle Lawrence (Kabuki Motorsport) won the DD2 Masters title after battling seasoned racer Jonathan Pieterse throughout 2023. Lawrence made a triumphant return to competitive racing in 2023, claiming five heat victories from the season’s thirteen. Despite Pieterse’s dominance in the final round that saw the KwaZulu-Natal driver take three heat wins, he lost the title to Lawrence by 4,5 points.
Drivers who missed out on a national title, still have a chance to participate in the RMCGF. The African Open, taking place at the Zwartkops Kart Raceway on 1 October, offers the opportunity for winners to secure a place in the ‘Olympics of Karting’ held at the Bahrain International Karting Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain.
Published by: Motorsport Fanatix
Picture Caption: DD2 Champion – Sebastian Boyd
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