When Luca Canderle looks back on 2012, and possibly his entire racing career, a few decades from now, the weekend of 11/12 August 2012 is going to be the one that stands out as his “game changer moment”.
The KwaZulu-Natal youngster was on course for an amazing double in the Rotax DD2 Gearbox Class, the fastest racing class in the Rotax series, in a huge field of entries that totalled more than 30 karts for the two vitally important races held at the iDube circuit in the Natal midlands.
As it turned out, Canderle just missed out on a win in the third round 3 of the South African Rotax Max series on the Saturday, but put things right by winning the African Open on the Sunday and booking his place in the World Finals in Portugal in November 2012.
SA ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE - ROUND 3
The racing was so tight all weekend that the winner could have been any one of half a dozen drivers, many of them National and World champions in this class.
But Luca Canderle was just that tad quicker than the rest, and had notched up three wins in the first three races, just edging out Caleb Williams on each occasion. It was almost inevitable that these two would dispute the outcome of the final race and they did with a bang, which dropped both of them out of the results in Race 4.
That gave Nic Verheul, who'd been consistently quick all weekend, the overall win for the day, ahead of Canderle, ever-improving Free State driver Justin Allison, born-again karter Ralph Odendaal and Caleb Williams. Current DD2 SA champion Eugene Brits was off the pace all weekend and finished placed sixth.
There were no surprises in this category as reigning Masters world champion Cristiano Morgado ran out the winner ahead of John van Wyk, who nevertheless pushed Morgado hard all weekend, and KwaZulu-Natal driver Richard van Heerden.
Johannesburg's Chad Maciver has been enjoying a great season in Senior Max Challenge in 2012 and it was more of the same for him in KwaZulu-Natal, as he edged closer to his first Senior Max SA title and a place in the SA team going to Portugal in November.
Maciver scored a clean sweep of four race victories and amassed a valuable points lead in the process, edging out KwaZulu-Natal driver Mathew Swanepoel, who was close, but not close enough, to finish second for the day. Mitchel Licen was third, followed by Chad Daniels and Ricky Perdigao from Cape Town, with KwaZulu-Natal's Richard Upton rounding out the top six.
This class saw some ultra-close racing; in fact many felt the Junior Max drivers provided the best competition of the entire weekend. However, Keagan Masters of Gauteng really came of age this weekend, winning overall from Jordan Sherratt and the ever-improving Benjamin Habig, son of rally champion Jan Habig.
Cape Town's Jurie Swart finished fifth, with Bradley Liebenberg sixth overall after a spectacular crash in the final race.
Karting's “feeder formula” saw yet another clean sweep by Clinton Bezuidenhout of KwaZulu-Natal, who won all four races to extend his lead in the championship. Jarrod Odendal was runner up in each of the races, followed in third overall by KwaZulu-Natal's Chayse Augustus, with Dillon van Vuuren, Aiden Strydom and Michael Cook rounding out the top six.
AFRICAN OPEN KARTING CHAMPIONSHIP
The African Open scoring system differs from the SA Rotax Max Challenge four-round championship series in that only the final race counts, with the two qualifying races determining the grid positions for the final 20-lapper.
It is a credit to Luca Canderle that he came back from his big shunt in the fourth race on Saturday to win the African Open from a 25-strong field that included seven Angolans and a Mozambican.
Canderle won a nail-biter from female star Fabienne Lanz who led many of the DD2 laps on the Sunday, with Justin Allison third, Nic Verheul fourth, Caleb Williams fifth and Ralph Odendaal sixth.
Morgado's pace was good enough for him to place fifth overall, despite the seven kilograms extra weight that the Masters drivers carry. Erwin Sterne ran well on the Sunday after drama the previous day to finish second, ahead of John van Wyk, who went off on the warm-up lap and had to fight his way back through the field.
A notable performance from very fast visiting driver Enrico Rafael of Angola, who ran as high as fourth in the heats. Another good performance came from fellow Angolan Joao Paulo.
This looked to be another Maciver benefit until a big slide on the notorious Thunderdome high-speed section put him out of contention in the final and no doubt sent his heart-rate up. Instead it was left to home-town boy Mitchel Licen to sweep to Senior Max honours and a place in the World Finals in Portugal.
He was followed by former champion David Perel, Cape Town's Chad Daniels and Ricky Perdigao. KwaZulu-Natal's Mathew Swanepoel and Ricky Hill engaged in a dog fight that saw them fall from potential winners to finishing fifth and ninth!
This was again a cliff-hanger (an appropriate phrase for the Idube circuit, built on the side of a mountain), with some incredible race scenes in the 20-lap final. Benjamin Habig and Jordan Sherratt crashed out of an early lead as did Eugene Denyssen.
In the end, Bradley Liebenberg just squeaked home the winner (he too gets a slot in the World Finals in Portugal), ahead of the vastly-improved Michael Buchholz, who finished a scant 0.3 seconds behind Liebenberg.
Wesley Vosloo, another youngster who has matured impressively in 2012, who also led on several occasions, was third, just over half a second behind the winner.
Jurie Swart was fourth, with Benjamin Habig fifth, Denyssen sixth and Sherratt seventh after an incredible recovery that saw them all finish well, after what looked like was going to be a very serious shunt.
Unfortunately Keagan Masters sat this one out; under international rules he’s about six months too young to be eligible for the final in Portugal.
This was again a Clinton Bezuidenhout victory run, although he was pushed very hard by Jarrod Odendal. Young female driver Neha Harpal, who endured a torrid Saturday, came good to finish third, with Michael Cook, Chayse Augustus and Aiden Strydom rounding out the top six. The winner received a brand new Maxterino engine and second and third places generous gift vouchers.