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Win for Douglas, podium place for Sharp at ROK Cup

Young Kiwi karter Jacob Douglas has claimed a breakthrough Junior ROK class win and fellow Cantabrian Louis Sharp has finished on the podium in the Mini ROK class at this year’s ROK Cup Superfinal event in Italy.

Douglas, 14, and Sharp, 12, were two of eight New Zealand karters who joined over 400 of their contemporaries from 35 countries between Wednesday and Saturday at the 17th annual ROK Cup Superfinal event at the Lonato track (in the province of Brescia) in the north-east of the country.

The Superfinal event is organised each year by Italian engine manufacturer Vortex. New Zealand has been represented at the event for the past six years but Douglas’ win in the Junior ROK class ‘B’ Final, the Bridgestone Trophy race, is – literally – a first.

Last year, at his second appearance at the Superfinal meeting Douglas qualified fourth quickest in the 143-strong Mini ROK class field then won his third heat and was classified 7th in his Group to start the class’s ‘A’ Final from P13 on the grid.

From there he got as high as 6th before crossing the finish line 10th only to lose five places thanks to a nosecone penalty and eventually be classified 15th.

This year it was a case of third time lucky, despite the young Christchurch ace just missing out on a place in the main ‘A’ Final (the cut-off was 34 and after the heat races Douglas was ranked 37).

He soon worked his way to the front in the Bridgestone Trophy ‘B” Final race, however, to cross the finish line and win by almost 2.5 seconds in front of Australian Luke Pink and just over four seconds ahead of third placed Layton Fourie from South Africa.

After a breakthrough win of his own in the Mini ROK class ‘B’ Final at the big Trofeo D’Autunno (Autumn Trophy) meeting at the same venue last weekend, Loius Sharp was also keen for a repeat at the Supercup one this week.

Like Douglas, a couple of bad heats disguised Sharp’s true speed (he was fourth out of a 130-strong field after Qualifying and finished second in his final two heat races) and he also missed the cut for the main (‘A’) Final in his class.

He showed what he could do in the Singha Trophy (Mini ROK class ‘B’ Final) however, working his way past 11 other competitors to grab third place, and the final step of the podium.

Top female karter, Rianna O’Meara-Hunt from Wellington, was the next best finisher with 6th in the SuperROK class Final. Then came young Aucklanders Josh Richmond (7th in the Junior ROK Bridgestone Trophy ‘B’ Final), Nathan Crang (11th in the Main ‘A’ Junior ROK class Final) and Liam Sceats (14th in the Bridgestone Trophy ‘B’ Final).

Crang was very much the quiet achiever of the Kiwi squad and ended up the only one of the four Kiwi Juniors to make the ‘A’ Final in the Junior ROK class.

He was the quickest of the four after qualifying (7th in his group and 10th overall) and after a clean run through the heats, finishing no lower than 10th, he ended up 13th overall (compared to 37th for Jacob Douglas, 43rd for Josh Richmond, and 51st for Liam Sceats).

For the other two members of the 2019 Kiwi squad, Arie Hutton and Thomas Bewley, the event proved a case of what might have been.

Hutton, from Palmerston North, set the quickest Super ROK class lap time in practice on Thursday and P2 and P3 finishes in two of the three heat races on Friday saw him start the Final on Saturday from P3.

Unfortunately that was as good as it got, Hutton involved in a race-ending crash on the sixth lap and officially classified 20th

Mini ROK class ace Thomas Bewley, from Havelock North, struggled, meanwhile with an engine issue from the first free practise session and though he managed a best heat race finish of 9th he was classifed as 42nd in his group (one of 2) meaning he did not make the cut for either the ‘A’ or ‘B’ (Singha Trophy) Finals.

Key promotional partners for the Kiwi squad which travelled to Italy for the 2019 ROK Cup Superfinal were;

• NZ Vortex ROK engine distributor Supreme Kart Supplies
• The Lascom Motorsport/Dunlop/KartSport NZ international travel fund
• The Motul NZ/KartSport NZ international travel fund
• Racer Products
• KartSport NZ’s national promotional partners, Carter’s Tyre Service & Giltrap Group

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