Wood Comes Good As Kiwi Karters Dominate Latest ‘Virtual Club Day’
After a race-long battle with Auckland-based kart-turned-car racer Taylor Cockerton, it was Wellington karter Ryan Wood who won KartSport New Zealand’s latest Giltrap Group & Carter’s Tyre Service-backed ‘Virtual Club Day’ on the iRacing sim (simulator) platform’s Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course on Saturday evening.
Wood set the fastest lap time in qualifying and twice led the race – for the first six laps, then for the last seven after Cockerton was involved in an on-track incident and damaged his car badly enough to force him to pit for repairs and drop down the race order to end up 15th.
With the accent again on keeping entry costs to a minimum and the event open to as many karters – young, old, current and/or former competitors – as possible, organiser Travis Smith again came up trumps with this weekend’s event.
This time the control vehicle was a Radical SR8 sports car and the circuit was the road course at the Charlotte oval in North Carolina, USA. Smith also set up practice sessions and a Friday night qualifying session to whittle the 60+ plus number of entries down to 33 for the A Final on Saturday night.
It was also great to see some of the kart shops, including Tasman Kart Supplies and Veloce Karting, personalising the car’s liveries for their team drivers.
The combination of twitchy, lightweight, high-powered wings-and-slicks sportscar and the stop-start nature of the chicanes which link the infield road course section of the so-called ‘roval’ course with the banked ‘back stretch on the North Carolina oval seemed to particularly suit the younger karters.
No more so than Vortex ROK DVS Junior class ace Ben Stewart from Wellington who topped the qualifying sheets on Friday night with a best lap of 1.13.477. Next came fellow teens William Exton from Blenheim (1.13.564) and Ryan Wood from Wellington (1.13.628) with former karter but more recently 2015 New Zealand Formula Ford and 2017 Formula Masters Asia champion Taylor Cockerton from Auckland heading the ‘old guard’ (albeit at just 22-years-of-age) in fifth place with a best lap of 1.13.750.
This time, too, the ‘Virtual Club Day’ was packed full of current or former Kiwi karters, from teenagers making their first forays into cars after a successful time in karts (17-year-old Billy Frazer from Pukekohe who is currently leading the NZ Formula Ford championship title chase was 7th quickest) to pre-teens like 12-year-old Palmertson North ace Blake Dowdall (10th quickest despite only having started sim racing 5 weeks ago) to more recent arrivals on the kart and sim scene like multi-time former New Zealand Superbike champion Sloan Frost (27th quickest on Fiday night).
Spare a thought too, for young Nelson karter Ollie Workman. In the true spirit of Kiwi karting, he didn’t let the fact that the sim-style steering wheel and foot pedal package he had saved up for didn’t arrive in time for the weekend’s Virtual Club Meeting; instead making do with his PC’s keyboard and mouse!
Come Saturday though and in the pre-race qualifying session for the A Final race Ryan Wood put in a flyer to claim pole position with a time of 1.13.279. He and fellow front row starter Taylor Cockerton (1.13.520) both improved on their efforts in the Friday night session, the pair pushing both William Exton (1.13.749) and Ben Stewart (1.13.763) back to P3 (Exton) and P4 (Stewart).
The big improvers, meanwhile, were Sloan Frost who found nearly a second-and-a-half to catapult himself up the grid from P27 on Friday night to P5 for the A Final, and Auckland karter Zach Blincoe who made up 10 places form P16 to P6.
Former NZ Kart and internationally-successful single-seater, Porsche Carerra Cup Asia and Lamborghini Asia champion Chris van der Drift also went quicker, to move up the grid from P15 to P7.
The race started with Ryan Wood getting a better drive off pole than Taylor Cockerton alongside but contact behind the pair saw Ben Stewart tagged and sent spinning into the trackside wall.
Stewart was able to repair his car and return to the race and finish 12th.
As the field sorted itself out over the first couple of laps Wood pulled a useful gap on Cockerton with Sloan Frost up to third, from former karter but now NZ Pre-65 champion and sim specialist Corey Ross from Christchurch, and former karter and now BMW E30 Series racer Nathan Sudiono from Auckland .
Top Auckland karter Josh Richmond was also in the mix at this stage having moved up from P19 to P6.
Having found his rhythm and worked out the best place to pass, Taylor Cockerton relieved Ryan Wood of the lead on lap 6 and bar losing it briefly on lap 14 to an opportunistic Josh Richmond, looked very comfortable in it; until the 23rd lap when Woods’ name replaced Cockerton’s on the top of the leaderboard and when Cockerton and his car finally appeared on the live race video feed the car had significant damage to the rear guards and wing.
Incredibly Cockerton held on to second place in the wounded car ahead of top South Island Rotax Max category racer Jack McLaren, Sloan Frost, Tauranga-based Rotax Max Heavy class front-runner Corey Green and Billy Frazer until lap 28 when he pitted following a system disqualification, handing second place to McLaren and third to Frost.
Third then became second for Frost when - on the last lap - McLaren straight lined the chicane and was relegated to third.
Fourth was Corey Green, fifth Billy Frazer, sixth TranZam category racer and recent sim convert Stuart Bovey from Wellington, seventh Dunedin kart-turned Formula Ford racer Cameron Freeman, eighth Corey Ross, ninth the first of the pre-teens, Arthur Broughan from Blenheim, and tenth Chris van der Drift.
With the on-going success of these Giltrap Group & Carter’s Tyre Service-backed ‘Virtual Club Days,’ KartSport New Zealand is committed to run more – at least until the Government signals that it is ready to allow kart clubs around the country to run club meetings at their tracks again!