New teams, new drivers and a string of graduations as Pro Tour launches into 2016
The traditional opening to the Rotax Pro Tour season will again see the series launch at Melbourne’s Todd Road circuit with bumper fields set to kick start the season, with new drivers and new teams all looking to claim some early season silverware and begin their chase towards a seat for Team Australia at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Italy in the best way possible.
The Micro Max category will line up for just its second season in Australia and the first time that the youngest racers of the series will compete on the Port Melbourne track. A return of a handful of competitors from 2015 in addition to some new drivers, as well as a Kiwi invasion will feature in the class this weekend.
This weekend’s event marks exactly one year since the introduction of Mini Max into Australian Karting and an ongoing level of growth is evident with almost 30 drivers set to line up at Todd Road. A return of some of the quickest drivers from the category from 2015, including Bayley Douglas, Luke Pink and Kai Allen is seen in addition to a group of whom have made the graduation from Micro Max into Mini Max, headlined by last year’s series winner in the former, Jack Westbury.
As has been the trend within many of the Pro Tour categories, Junior Max Trophy has acquired some graduates from the younger classes with Jaiden Pope, Callum Bishop and Ric Kusnetsov stepping up from Mini Max. Kiwi Jaden Ransley enters the class after making his first appearance downunder as part of the open Junior Max category at Ipswich in 2015. Australia’s only one make Karting class will again utilise the Intrepid Freedom chassis, the second year that the brand has been used since making the switch from Sodi.
With many of the Junior Max front runners of 2015 stepping into senior categories, it has opened the window of opportunity for a new raft of young drivers to make a name for themselves at the top level. Dylan Hollis is amongst those that has remained in the category as has Cody Brewczynski with the pair expected to build upon good form from last year and come to the forefront in 2016. Junior Max Trophy graduates Reece Cohen and Matthew Payne from New Zealand have both stepped up and after sharing the round wins last year in the one make category, it remains to be seen what inroads they can make competing against the more experienced drivers.
A steady changing of the guard has been seen within Rotax Light ahead of this weekend’s event. While Brad Jenner returns and is expected be amongst the favourites to take outright victory, a large array of Junior Max drivers have moved into the class, boosting the numbers and adding interest to how the season will transpire. Nicholas Andrews, Cody Gillis and Liam McLellan will be another trio of drivers that are more than capable of clinching a podium finish, though plenty of attention is expected to be on the junior graduates including Joshua Fife, Timothy Colombrita and Thomas Hughes.
Rotax Heavy again sees a good mix of experience within the field entering the Todd Road season opener with Shay Mayes making a return to the class. Both Clem O’Mara and Lane Moore were consistent front runners throughout 2015 and are expected to renew hostilities again this year as they battle for top spot on the podium on Sunday afternoon.
DD2 is amongst the biggest fields lining up this weekend with over 30 drivers all vying for the silverware and the first share of rankings points for 2016. Last year’s series winner, Jason Pringle will enter the event as one of the favourites, competing on home soil. The vast experience of Pringle is sure to be tested though with Troy Woolston and Adam Lindstrom sure to challenge their fellow Victorian.
Rotax Light graduates Daniel Rochford, Dalton Ellery and Nathan Tigani have made the step up to the two-speed gearbox category with Joshua Car making the ultimate progression from Junior Max into DD2. After making his first appearance in Australia at the Pro Tour Grand Final at Ipswich last year, Dutchman Marijn Kremers has confirmed his full-time return downunder in 2016, lining up for the Queensland based ‘Patrizicorse’ team. Kremers will join Troy Loeskow who will have his first drive in the class at Todd Road this weekend.
The competitiveness for the front running positions within DD2 Masters has increased in 2016 with a large field presenting for the two-speed gearbox category drivers aged over 32. Amongst the expected front runners are Daniel Richert, Scott Howard and Klinton Hancey. Australian V8 Ute Racing Series driver Kris Walton makes the step across from the open DD2 class into Masters while former V8 Supercar driver Steve Ellery makes his return following a year of limited appearances in 2015. Aaron Cunningham makes the trek across the Tasman again this weekend, meanwhile Bruce Otter and Regan Payne have moved into the class from Rotax Heavy.
Round one of the 2016 Rotax Pro Tour National Series takes place at Todd Road, Melbourne, Victoria from 22-24 January.
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