On November 13 to 16 in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, Durban’s ace race driver Cris Morgado will be aiming to become the first karter to win four Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final titles in the 14-year history of what is effectively the world championship of karting.
While numerous other karting series lay claim to hosting world championship events, none can match the sheer competitiveness and global representation of the Rotax series. This year, some 288 drivers from 67 countries around the world will be competing in four classes in New Orleans, a city better known for its jazz and partying than serious motorsport.
And no doubt there will be plenty of partying amongst the South African contingent of karters come Saturday, November 16, if Morgado wins the DD2 Masters category. If he does, he will have scored a hat-trick of victories in this category, to add to the 125 Senior Max title he won in Egypt way back in 2003. Only Ben Cooper of the UK has managed to win three Grand Final Rotax titles in the 14-year running of the event.
South Africa has a huge reputation to uphold in New Orleans, as arguably the most successful karting nation in the history of the series. Since Gavin Cronje won the very first Rotax Max Challenge title in Puerto Rico in 2 000, his success has been emulated by Claudio Piazza-Musso in 2001 (Malaysia), Mark Cronje in 2002 (South Africa), Cristiano Morgado in 2003 (Egypt), Wesleigh Orr in 2004 (Spain) and 2005 (Malaysia), Leeroy Poulter in 2008 (Italy), Caleb Williams in 2009 (Egypt) and 2010 (Italy) and Morgado in 2011 (UAE) and 2012 (Portugal).
This legacy will no doubt add some pressure to the other members of the 2013 South African team who travel to New Orleans. To gain a place in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, unlike lesser karting series where entries are pretty much a free for all dependent on the budget available to karters, here drivers have to win either National or lnternational Championships in the world-wide Rotax series, which numbers some 35 000 karters around the globe.
The exception to this rule is where the winner of a particular championship cannot make the Grand Finals for some legitimate region, whereby his or her slot in the final is ceded to the next-best driver in that country’s National Rotax championship. This has in fact occurred in the South African squad in the case of DD2 Masters champions Leeroy Poulter and Marouan Selmi who have business commitments, and their places are taken by runners-up in the series.
The rest of the SA squad consist of champions in our 2013 four–round SA Rotax Max Challenge National Championship Series and in the African Open championship, which was held in April
The team is:
Junior Max: Julian van der Watt (WP) and Jordan Sherratt (KzN)
Senior Max: Luke Herring (WP) and Nathan Parkins (Gauteng)
DD2 Gearbox: Luca Canderle (Kzn) and Ryan Frost (Gauteng)
DD2 Masters: Cristiano Morgado (Kzn), Lourens van Rensburg (WP), Richard van Heerde (Kzn) and Connor Hughes (WP).
The winners of the National and Africa Open 60cc titles received air tickets as prizes and will be spectators in New Orleans – unfortunately CIK regulations do not allow under 13’s to compete internationally so they will watch the main event as well as a Micro Max Challenge open only to North American and Canadian youngsters.
An amazing aspect of the Rotax Grand Finals is that competitors only pay for their plane ticket and accommodation.. Once they get to New Orleans they are provided with a free kart, free engine, free tools, free kart trolley, and free tyres! All brand new, and all identical specification. And that parity of specification, as well as engine reliability, is the major reason why the Rotax Series has transformed karting on a global basis!