BIG BOOTS TO FILL: Expectations are high, as South Africa has had strong representation in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, and has won 10 world titles since the competitions inception in 1999.

A team of eight South African karters is leaving this week to compete in the 13th running of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in the Algarve, Portugal.

The event runs from November 28 to December 1, when the finals will be held, with South Africans contesting world titles in four classes – Junior Max, Senior Max, DD2 Gearbox and DD2 Masters.

The drivers are Eugene Denyssen and Bradley Liebenberg (Junior Max), Chad MacIver and Mitchell Licen (Senior Max), Luca Canderle and Nicholas Verheul (DD2 Gearbox) and Cristiano Morgado and John van Wyk (DD2 Masters).

The drivers will have big racing boots to fill, as far as South Africa’s record in the world karting championship goes. Since the competition was first run in 1999, South Africans have won no fewer than 10 world titles in the most competitive karting championship on the planet.

Many of these drivers have gone on to become household names in motorsport.

Notably, Mark Cronje, our reigning national Rally Drivers Champion, won the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in 2002.

This year’s event will be run at the new multi-million-euro Portimao Karting Circuit, one of the most sophisticated karting venues in the world.

The 276 drivers competing are from 60 countries, and all have had to earn their places in the squad by winning national championships in their home countries or the regional series, such as the Euro Challenge, that are held throughout the season leading up to the event.

The reason for this strict qualification system is that the Rotax series is so popular that, were the organisers to throw it open to all-comers – as lesser rival series do – the Rotax World Final would be swamped with entries and be unmanageable.

The competitors in the Grand Finals will be issued with identical brand-new engines, chassis, several sets of wet and dry tyres, a complete set of tools, a kart trolley, lubricants, and fuel provided free of charge by the organisers. This is unique in motor racing, as no other motorsport series in the world does this.

The only cost to the drivers is the plane ticket from their home countries to compete in the event.

With such a strong reputation to live up to in this event, the pressure will be on the South African team.

This will particularly apply to Durban’s Cris Morgado, who is the current DD2 Masters Champion and will be in Portugal to defend his crown.

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-Pretoria News Motoring