Cristiano Morgado on his way to his third World Title in Portugal.

Cristiano Morgado of Durban won the 2012 DD2 Master’s World Karting Championship in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals at the weekend in the Algarve, Portugal.

Saturday’s success was the third World Championship title for Morgado, who became the first karter to score a hat trick of championships in the most competitive karting championships in the world.

Morgado’s win came after a nail-biting 21-lap final at the impressive Kartodromo Internacionale do Algarve in Portimao, one of the world’s premier karting circuits.

More than 270 karters from 60 countries, each a national champion in their own right, took part in the challenge with Austrian engine manufacturer Rotax supplying each entrant with a brand new kart, engine, tyres, fuel, oil, tools and karting trolley for the event, to ensure an absolutely level playing field.

Morgado was involved in a race-long battle with four karters for the lead in his final.

“I guess there were three or even four of us who could have won it,” he said, so I’m just thankful that I managed to make the break and keep it together.”

The 34-year-old racer won his first Rotax title in 2003 when he took the World Senior Max title. After a short but impressive career in international single-seaters, he returned to karting in 2011 and won the 2011 World DD2 Masters title (for drivers aged 32 years and over) in the UAE.

South African Rotax importer Ed Murray, who accompanied the eight-driver SA team to Portugal, said: “This year Cris used all the experience he has gained over the past decade to win his third title.

“He knows exactly how to place his kart so he doesn’t get involved in other people’s over-ambitious lunges or excursions.”

Murray added that the nature of the circuit made it extremely difficult for any driver to make a clean break from the chasing pack.

“The long straight favours a slip-streaming approach, so even if you were quick around the back, down the long straight, if there was a bunch of karts close behind they would catch the leader on the straight because of the superior aerodynamic footprint of more than one kart in a row.

“Cris in fact first took the lead on lap three, but he was passed on numerous occasions and had to fight his way back. In the end he managed to make a break of just a few kart lengths to prevent the chasing bunch getting by on the straight.”

In second place in the DD2 Masters Category was Scott Campbell of Canada, followed a few hundredths of a second later by David Griffiths of the UK and Goncalo Gaivao from Portugal. Morgado’s winning margin was less than two seconds.

The other seven South African team drivers acquitted themselves admirably in their respective categories.

The best of these was Luca Canderle, who finished ninth in the DD2 class, having started at the back of the grid for his final, due to a driving penalty in an earlier heat.

In the Junior Max category, Eugene Denyssen did very well to place 13 overall, with fellow South African Raoul Hyman (now based in Europe) 17th.

In the Senior Max category, Chad MacIver finished 31st.

Other South Africans who were unable to make the finals included Mitchell Licen, Nicholas Verheul, Bradley Liebenberg and John van Wyk.

“But all our drivers did well,” said Murray. “When you consider that just to qualify you have to have won a championship in your home country, you may get an idea of how competitive this series is.”