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The first ever Rotax Grand Finals were held on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico with 67 entries from 18 countries. At that time the event was only for Seniors and drivers used their own chassis with the pooled engines. The Rotax 125 MAX DD engine was unveiled.Paul Di Resta won the JICA ‘O’ Plate at Rowrah. Fraser Sheader (ICA), Adam Wright (100C) and Roger White (100C/160) were the other champions. Ellough Park in Suffolk held its first few meetings.
Davide Fore beat Vitantonio Liuzzi to win the Formula Super A World Cup at Motegi. Lewis Hamilton won Formula A and also took the honours in the Young Stars event on the opening day of the glitzy Elf Masters karting competition held indoors at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy. Dave Bewley looked back at the first year of the innovative Racing for Buttons scheme at Rowrah that had provided around 100 young children with an opportunity to try a Comer Cadet outfit for free.
Apex Racing of Sheffield revealed a radical new 100cc kart engine that could be converted from reed to rotary valve in 5 minutes by means of a bolt-on cassette. The superbly finished, steeply inclined engine was also supplied with two inner cylinder heads, one for ‘torque’ and one for ‘speed’. Sadly the Apex disappeared just as quickly as it had emerged. The karting section at the Autosport International show was jam-packed with the latest CIK homologated engines and Formula TKM and Cadet karts.
Ben Hanley (Kosmic/Vortex) won Formula A at the Winter Cup with Mark Litchfield 4th. Robert Kubica was on pole in Super A and Sebastian Vettel was on the podium in Juniors. The MSA and ARKS announced a new initiative ‘Fit to be a Kart Champion’ to help young karters in their bid to reach the top. The Foot and Mouth outbreak had a significant effect on karting activity. Lydd hosted the first S1 qualifier with Oliver Rowland (Cadet) and James Bean (Junior TKM) the two winners.
A new controlling body for UK karting was announced, the Kart Control Board, but it never really made much impact. Geoff Hall made a fun return to karting at Blackbushe after a few years lay-off, his kart fitted with buttons for tyre shredders, smoke screen and ejector seat! His wife brought an egg timer to time him! The Foot and Mouth outbreak was badly disrupting karting with Shenington, Rissington, Kimbolton and Warden Law among those to cancel meetings.
Paul Di Resta won the opening round of the Champions of the Future series. There were concerns over the amount of tank tape being discarded from radiators once engines had warmed up. We tested a Biland SA250 4-stroke fitted to a Deavinsons chassis. The opening Junior Super One round at Clay Pigeon had to be abandoned before the heats could be completed as there was a river at Billy’s and off-track excursions in every race.
The new multi-round format for the World Champs was previewed. Twenty-two Formula Super-A teams of two drivers would contest five rounds in Canada, France, Italy, Belgium and Japan. Ben Hanley (Kosmic/Vortex) and Carlo Van Dam (Gillard/Parilla) were the victors at the opening round of the Formula A Euro Champs at Oschersleben. We tested the new TKM 4-stroke engine and witnessed a display by a Gravitron electric powered kart.
The new multi-round World Championship got under way with 21 two-driver teams. CRG with their pairing of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Toni Vilander led after the opening round from CRG Holland and Tony Kart. The CIK Executive Committee adopted the proposal that the Karting World Championship be incorporated in the framework of some Formula 1 GPs as from 2002! The idea however never came to reality. Clay Pigeon was put on the market for offers in excess of £1.2 million.
Sebastian Vettel led the Junior Euro Champs after the opening round at St Amand. We were impressed by the Semel brake lock reduction system as it reduced lap times and wear on key components. Alessandro Piccini (Formula C) and Alessandro Sferrella (ICC) won the two 125cc Euro Champs titles on offer. The CIK reconfirmed its intentions of moving ahead with 4-stroke racing engines but underlined the conflict that still existed.
Davide Fore (Tony/Vortex) was dominant at the second round of the new format Formula Super A World Champs at Salbris. Carlo Van Dam (Gillard/Parilla) took a 1st and a 2nd in Formula A to strengthen his Euro title bid. Sebastian Vettel (Tony/Vortex) wrapped up the Euro Junior Champs at round two at Thy Hanstholm while Williams F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg was 2nd overall in the Cadet Green Helmet Trophy behind Erik Janis (Birel/TM).
Carlo Van Dam clinched the Formula A European Champs at Mariembourg to give Gillard karts their first European title. News came through that the final round of the Formula Super-A World Champs would be held at Kerpen instead of Suzuka. Paul Di Resta retained his Champions of the Future JICA title while England won the fifth Inter Nations Challenge at Llandow from the host nation. Jean-Philippe Guignet (Tony/Vortex) won the ICA European Champs at Braga.
F1 Champion Michael Schumacher was drafted into the Tony Kart Racing Team for the final round of the Formula Super-A World Champs at Kerpen. Sauro Cesetti (Kosmic/Vortex) won both finals with Schumacher (Tony/Vortex) 2nd in Final 2 while Vitantonio Liuzzi (CRG/Maxter) clinched the title.Paul Di Resta (Top/TM) won the MSA British Junior Champs with a 3rd and a 2nd at the final Super One round at Buckmore Park.