It has been called the biggest and most competitive motorsport in the world, and for good reason. In the last week in November 2018, over 300 karters from more than 50 countries will be vying for glory in the 2018 Rotax Max Challenge Grand finals, the 19th running of this amazing event.
- The week-long event starts with opening ceremonies on November 24, followed by practise, qualifying and elimination rounds through to the finals on Saturday, December 1
- Our SA team will have entrants in all six World Championship Classes, hoping to add to the remarkable tally of titles achieved in the biggest karting event in the world
- Each entrant from over 50 countries is a champion or vice champion in his or her country
- Each competitor is given a brand new kart chassis, Rotax engine, tyres, fuel, and kart trolley to use in the Grand Finals, at no cost!
To qualify for the world championship, each of the drivers must have secured a championship in one of the sanctioned Rotax karting championships held throughout the world. The exception to this is when a champion cannot attend for some reason, when his or her place is taken by the vice champion from that country or regional series.
South Africa has an extremely proud record in the Rotax Max Challenge. In the inaugural event, held late in 1999 in Peurto Rico, Gavin Cronje from Roodepoort, South Africa, was crowned as world champion, and since then no less than 12 South Africans have won Rotax World Championships. This is an amazing record for such a small country as South Africa, considering that our team is up against countries like America, Germany and the UK as well as Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal and many more highly-populated nations.
What makes the Rotax Max Challenge series such a success world-wide is that the rules preclude any modifications to the engine, and all 125 cc units are factory-sealed for events run throughout a season. This same rule applies in Conde, Brazil for this year’s final. Competitors will draw their engine allocations from a hat, and the same will apply to the identical kart chassis and tyres supplied to each karter.
This year will be the first time that Brazil has been used as a destination for the Grand Finals. The Rotax World Championship has been held in many countries and regions in the past, but for most of the competitors, the Circuito Internacional Paladino will be largely unknown.
Senna was an avid kart racer
Of course, Brazil has a magical history in karting. No less than the late, great Ayrton Senna, arguably the greatest F1 driver in history, cut his competitive teeth in kart racing, and he represented his country in world championship karting events in the late 1970s. In fact Ed Murray, the South African distributor for Rotax, competed in the (pre-Rotax era) event in 1979 when Senna finished runner-up in Estoril, Portugal. Murray declared when he arrived back in South Africa: “I’ve just seen the future Formula One World, Champion, and his name is Ayrton Senna”
With his vast experience in karting, both as a driver and a series promotor, Murray is excited with the mix of youth and experience that comprises the 12-driver South African team for the 2018 Grand Finals.
“At the one end of the scale you have Cris Morgado, a four-time Rotax World Champion and former Formula Three front-runner and Michael Stephen, a multiple Touring Car Champion in our country, who has contested a number of Grand Finals, and came within one lap of winning a Rotax world title in 2016, when he was shunted out of the lead. Michael and Cris, who compete in the Masters Category in DD2 Gearbox, can go head-to-head with drivers half their age as they proved throughout 2018 in our local series
“At the other end of the spectrum you have drivers aged less than 10-years-old. Muhammed Wally in fact took part in last year’s Grand Final in Portugal in the Micro Max class as a nine-year-old, where he finished a creditable 18th, and this year all that experience will stand him in excellent stead. He will no doubt be a great reference for the other sub-teen drivers in our team, Rookies K.C. Ensor-Smith, who is all of 10 years-old.
A week-long race event
The week-long sequence of bedding in new engines and chassis, practising to learn the circuit, qualifying, and then contesting the numerous elimination rounds in the series takes tremendous concentration from the drivers, and from their respective race engineers, who will be travelling to Brazil to support their drivers. Finding an ideal chassis set-up quickly is vital to success in this championship, which is all about pressure. After all, a total of over 300 drivers from all over the world, all of them champions or vice-champions in their home countries, will be vying for victory!
The Rotax Max Challenge is run in South Africa according to international Rotax series rules, so there will be no surprises regarding engine and race set-up. The only changes allowed to be made to the engine are carburetion setting changes. It is this parity of horsepower that makes for such close racing, world-wide, in the Rotax series.
There will be six kart classes contested in Conde, and all of them will be run using variations of the Rotax 125 cc water-cooled two stroke engine. The classes for younger drivers use regulated, de-tuned versions of the same engine. The most powerful version of the Rotax motor is used in the DD2 class, which features a two-speed gearbox as part of the package. The DD2 class chassis also employs four-wheel disc braking.
For those karting enthusiasts who want to follow the event, video coverage will be streamed live from Wednesday November 28 through to the finals on Saturday December 1. Bear in mind that there is a five-hour time difference between South Africa and Conde in Brazil. So racing will start five hours later than the norm in South Africa.
To get live video streaming coverage of the event, and more details about broadcast times, log on to www. Rotax-kart.com.
The 12 SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM MEMBERS FOR THE 2018 ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE GRAND FINALS
DD2 GEARBOX CLASS, FOR DRIVERS AGED 15 YEARS AND OVER
Arnold Neveling is the 2018 Rotax DD Gearbox class South African National Champion. At the age of 28, Vereeniging-based Arnold Neveling has been racing competitively since 1995, when he was just five years old.
Arnold has an extremely impressive international race CV. In 2005 he was the European Junior Max Champion and in 2006 he finished runner-up in the DD2 European Championship.
In 2007 and 2009 he entered the Formula Renault Northern European Cup where he competed alongside the likes of current F1 drivers Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen. What’s more he finished on the podium twice in this glittering company, against drivers with massive budgets!
Another of Arnold’s passions is rallying, and since 2012 he has been contesting the NR2 class in the Northern Regions Rally Championship. In 2017, he won the NR2 class!
Back to Anrold’s karting career, he has competed in two previous Rotax Grand Finals, in 2005 and 2006. “I have learnt not to have too much ambition in these events because anything can happen. I will just stay focused on giving my very best and make the most out of each situation.”
Benjamin Habig only started karting at the relatively late age of nine-years-old, but he quickly progressed through the ranks to enter the top-flight DD2 class. He was on the pace almost immediately, and represented South Africa at the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals in Spain. On a wet track he qualified 19th for the finals and ran as high as sixth overall before a slow puncture side-lined him! He has since competed at the 2017 Grand Finals in Portugal, and his experience to the SA team will be invaluable in Brazil.
Locally Benjamin has notched up numerous KZN Regional DD2 titles, as his family is based in the Balito area. Quite remarkably, since 2015 Ben has never been outside the top three in the South African National Rotax DD2 Championships. This year he again finished a fine second overall in the South African DD2 championships, an excellent achievement considering that studying takes up much of his time. He is currently in his second year of a B-Com Business Management degree at Pretoria University. Benjamin is the son of former SA Rally Champion Jan Habig.
Wayland started racing karts at the age of six in the GP Junior 60cc class and since then he has progressed steadily through the ranks. This year the 16-year-old competed in the SA Championship Senior Max Class where he finished second overall, his first year on the National Championship trail!
Wayland’s highlight in 2018 so far was winning the Senior Max title at the one-day African Open meeting in July. His win here was enough to secure a berth for him in the DD2 class in the Grand Finals. He also won the Northern Regions Senior Max championship this year.
Wayland has been acclimatising himself to the DD2 chassis and two-speed gearbox configuration in preparation for the Grand Finals, which starts on November 24. He is a Grade 10 student at Rynfield Pinnacle College in Benoni. An avid fitness fanatic, Wayland does contact boxing for a Benoni club and works out at a gym five times a week. That fitness level should stand him in good stead as he takes part in his very first Rotax World Championship event.
Wayland has a very positive approach to the Grand Final in Brazil. He says he is going to take it one race at a time leading up to the final, and if everything goes well, he is convinced he can win it!
DD2 MASTERS, FOR DRIVERS AGED 32 AND OVER
Cristiano Morgado is the world’s most successful Rotax kart driver, the only driver to win four World titles to date, in 2003, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Cris has had an amazing international career in karting (he won two European Championships in 2005 and 2008), and also in single seater cars. In 2006 he was runner up in the extremely competitive British Formula Three Championship, while prior to that he took pole position at the International Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, in 2004.
Cristiano’s list of achievements go on and on, but most recently, to South African kart fans, he is best known for his hat trick of victories in the DD2 Masters Grand Finals in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Cris has made a serious return to karting this season after an injury-forced lay-off, and he earns his place in this year’s team thanks to his win in the African Open meeting in July.
Cris hails from Durban and is currently 39-years-old.
Michael Stephen took over the mantle from Cris Morgado as our most competitive DD2 Masters driver. He has had an enormously successful season, winning the 2018 South African DD2 Masters Rotax Karting Championship and the 2018 Sasol GTC (Global Touring Car) Championship in an Audi A3.
This 2018 SA Rotax DD2 Masters title represents a hat-trick of DD2 Masters titles for Michael, and his GTC title was also his third in a row. In fact Michael has won no less than seven South African karting championships in his career, and an astounding 17 South African motorsport titles in total, having won in Production cars and Touring Cars prior to the current GTC Formula being instated.
Michael is no stranger to the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals and was on his way to a DD2 Masters World title in 2015 when he was taken out of the lead and the race by his nearest competitor with just one lap to go! Thus he has more than a few scores to settle when the SA team heads to Brazil, come the last week in November.
A very successful sportsman and a qualified engineer, 36-year-old Michael has won various Civic awards in the Port Elizabeth area and since 2010 has managed the extremely successful Engen-sponsored Terry Moss Racing team, also based in Port Elizabeth.
Jonathan Pieterse has a karting career that started some 23 years ago. He began racing at the age of 11 and won numerous important South African races as a youngster, including what was then known as the Natal (KZN) Championship. However, Jonathan took a 10-year break from karting, while he established his own automotive repair business in Pinetown, KZN, called Vertex Auto.
He then returned to karting to participate in the 2003 Grand Finals as part of the South African team in Egypt. “That was the highlight of my career, as well as qualifying more recently to represent South Africa in Italy, and Portugal at the Grand finals as a DD2 Masters driver. I also competed in Spain at the 2017 Winter Cup where I finished 2nd in the master’s category” says Jonathan.
Jonathan had a very successful 2018 karting season, competing at the sharp end of the field in both the DD2 masters and the Senior Max classes. He finished third in DD2 Masters and fifth in Senior Max.
Married with two children, Jonathan’s other interests are mountain biking and BMX, and he plays golf when the karting season takes a break. “I’m really excited to compete at the highest level of karting competition in the world, in Brazil. What I’m looking forward to the most at the Grand Finals this year is that I get to compete in my third consecutive Finals and hope to take some good experience and maximize my opportunities.”
SENIOR MAX CHALLENGE, FOR DRIVERS AGED 14 AND OVER
Dominic Lincoln is 15 years old and is in Grade 10 at Kearsney College in KZN. He hails from Balito on the KZN north coast, and lists Ferrari as his favourite car brand, and Sebastian Vettel as his favourite race driver.
Dominic has been karting since 2013 and by 2015 he had graduated to the Junior Max class, where he proceeded to win the KZN Regional Championship at his first attempt, and finished sixth in the National Championship. He followed this up with another KZN Regional title in 2016 and a second place in the African Open that year. In 2017 he placed second in the Junior Max Nationals and the African Open, while in 2018 he moved to Senior Max, winning the SA National Championship title at his first attempt! This will be Dominic’s first appearance at the Rotax World Championship of Karting, the Grand Finals.
JUNIOR MAX, FOR DRIVERS AGED 12-15
Charl Michael Visser:
Charl Visser hails from Durbanville and at the age of 14 has been competing in kart racing since 2012. In his first racing season he set a 50 cc Cadet class lap record at Killarney. The following year he moved to the Maxterino class, where he was again quick. He finished fifth in the South African Challenge in his rookie year, followed this up with two third places in 2014 and 2015, and in 2016 it all came good when he won his first South African title in the Maxterino class.
The following season he moved to the very competitive Junior Max class, and he showed his innate talent and cool head by placing second in the Junior Max National championship in his first season. This year it is fair to say that Charl was the dominant force in Junior Max, and he won his second National Championship in this class for drivers aged 12-15. Charl is interested in music and football, when he can find spare time away from karting. He was awarded his South African Motorsport colours in 2018 for his excellent showings in three CIK karting events in Europe in 2017.
Aqil Alibhai was a front-runner in the Maxterino series for pre-teen drivers, winning the Northern Regions championship in 2017, and when he moved to the Junior Max category this season it was certain that he would be a force to be reckoned with. Aqil has earned his place in the Grand Finals in Brazil thanks to a fine win at the African Open championship meeting held at Zwartkops in July. He also showed very competitively in the Junior Max National Championship this season, where he ended up fourth overall in the championship standings. Aqil also spent an invaluable year racing karts in the UK.
This talented youngster hails from Gauteng, where he attends St Martins School and is in Grade 6. Apart from motorsports, he’s keen on football, cricket and running.
MINI MAX FOR DRIVERS AGED 10-13
Kyle Visser is the younger of the Visser karting brothers, and this year he made it a “Visser Double” scoring a National Championship win in the Mini Max class for drivers aged 9-13. His brother Charl had wrapped up the Junior Max title on the same day! The Durbanville youngster has only been karting since 2015, and in that very first season he showed huge promise by winning the Western Province regional cadet championship.
In 2016 Kyle won the MR Mini Max Championship and in 2017 he was sixth in the SA Maxterino Challenge.
It all came good for Kyle this season, as he took on the best in this very competitive class. Like his brother Charl, Kyle will be contesting his very first Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final meeting from November 24 to December 1 in Brazil.
MICRO MAX FOR DRIVERS AGED 8-11
Muhammad Wally celebrated 2018 by scoring his second National Championship victory in the Micro Max class for junior-school youngsters. This year Muhammad’s overall victory was in doubt until the final corner of the final race in the final of the four-round championship, and he squeaked through with flying colours.
Young Wally also won the African Open class for Micro Max drivers in 2018.
This year’s Grand Finals will be Muhammad’s second appearance at a Grand Final World Championship. Last year he finished 18th in the Micro Max class in Portugal, his berth in the final being thanks to his 2017 SA title, also in the Micro Max class.
Muhammad is aged 10 and lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng. He started karting at the age of four with Leeroy Poulter who is currently still training him.
He then moved on to Micro Max the year it was introduced to karting in SA. Despite his young age, he managed to win both SARMC and National championships in its inaugural year. He also won the 2017 and 2018 Regional championships.
Muhammad does home schooling with the Cambridge syllabus. In his spare time he loves flying light aircraft, shooting and horse riding.
KC’s full name is Klayden Cole Ensor-Smith and he is currently 10-years-old and hails from Witbank in Mpumalanga. He has been racing since he was six, and from the outset in the Cadet class he was challenging for top positions. He is a relative newcomer on the Micro Max National Championship scene and did extremely well to place sixth in the points table at his first attempt.
KC scored a rather stunning second place in this year’s African Open Championship, and this led him securing his place in Brazil. Initially there was only one invitation for a South African Micro Max driver, but then a second entry was issued by the Grand Finals organisers for the winner of the African Open meeting. As Muhammad Wally had won both the National Championship and the African Open, the entry thus went to the second-placed African Open driver.
KC started his motorsport career at the age if five in motocross and he continued to compete in motocross as well as karting into the 2017 season. Unfortunately, a broken arm in a two-wheeler crash meant that he only finished fourth in the Maxterino class in 2017, otherwise he could have been vying for the Northern Regions title that year.
Apart from karting KC enjoys rugby and guitar. He attends the St Patrick’s Academy in Witbank.
For more information, visit www.kart.co.za
Published by: Stuart Johnston Communications
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