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New Zealand Driver Wins World Karting Championship

New Zealand Driver Wins World Karting Championships

CIK-FIA World Karting Championship Sarno Italy Sat/Sun October 25/26



New Zealander Wade Cunningham is - literally - on top of the world today after winning the 2003 World Karting Championship at Sarno in Italy on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Aucklander, who has been driving for Italy's CRG team for the past two years, went into the weekend's two-day World Championship meeting with an outside chance of a podium placing but the odds changed dramatically when he had a trouble-free run through the qualifying heats then recovered from a shunt at the start of the Pre-Final to cross the line in sixth place, to give him sixth spot on the grid for the Final.

In that race he quickly worked his way into second place then inherited a lead he would never lose when pole-sitter and early leader Manual Renaudie's engine seized.

Cunningham first came to international notice when he won the Asia-Pacific Intercontinental A title at Suzuka in 2001 (earning him the offer of a works drive with the CRG team) but yesterday's win is unprecendented in the history of New Zealand motorsport.

Virtually all the current crop of Formula 1 drivers raced karts but very few even qualified for the World Champiosnhips, let alone won them.

Not even the late great Ayrton Senna - who returned to the Kart Championships twice after graduating to cars, could win the World Karting title, despite trying for a number of years.

On his way to this historic victory Cunningham not only beat recently crowned European Karting Champion Bas Lammers and runner-up (not to mention two-time former World Champion Davide Fore), he also beat last year's World Champion Vitantonio Liuzzi, who this year has been racing for the Red Bull team in the Formula 1 support category, Formula 3000.

Cunningham, who has maintained a relatively low profile in Kart-mad Italy, despite impressive speed and some good placings at European championship and big regional meetings this year, was a popular winner of this year's championship, being carried from his CRG Kart on the shoulders of members of several of the other top teams in the competition.

Afterwards he admitted that his win was indeed 'a dream come true.'

"Two years ago I wouldn't have even dreamed of being at the World Championships and even a year ago winning it would have been outside the realms of possibility. But here I am, its happened and, well, all I can say is that it is still sinking in."

Cunningham, who got his start in Karts at the Mount Wellington Kart Club track in the Auckland suburb of Mt Wellington, is a two-time winner of New Zealand's top International meeting, the annual CIK Trophy of New Zealand.

His win in the World Karting Championship could hardly have come at a better time for KartSport and motorsport in New Zealand.

Two weeks ago fellow former Mount Wellington Kart Club member Scott Dixon won the Indy Racing League title in the United States, and last weekend former Hawkes' Bay Kart Club member and one-time North island Junior Restricted class champion Greg Murphy won the Bathurst 1000 km V8 Supercar race in Australia.

Cunningham will spend the next two days with his team before returning home to New Zealand on Thursday.

2003 CIK-FIA World Karting Championship Sarno Italy Sat/Sun October 25/26 Qualifying Heat 1: 1. Ben Hanley (GB); 2. Vitantonio Liuzzi (I); 3. Wade Cunningham (NZ); 4. Jan Heylen (Belg) ; 5. Carlo Van Dam (Neth); 6. Toni Vilander (Fin) 6. Qualifying Heat 2: 1. Ruben Carrapataso (BR); 2. Manuel Renaudie (Fr); 3. Giorgio Pantano (I); 4. Wade Cunningham (NZ); 5. Teemu Nyman (Fin); 6. Toni Vilander (Fin). Qualifying Heat 3: 1. Sauro Cesetti (I); 2. Wade Cunningham (NZ); 3. Bas Lammers (Neth); 4. Eduardo Motara (I); 5. Allesandro Manetti (I); 6. Jan Heylen (Belg). Pre-Final: 1. Manuel Renaudie (F); 2. Ben Hanley (GM); 3. Jonatham Thonon (Belg); 4. Davide Fore (I); 5. Ronnie Quintarella; 6. Arnaud Kozlinski (F). Final: 1. Wade Cunningham (NZ); 2. Arnaud Kozlinski (F); 3. Ben Hanley (GB); 4. Ronnie Quintarelli (I); 5. Markus Niemala (Fin); 6. Martin Plowman (GB).

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