Rising stars to launch new series

DURING the late 1990s and last decade, names such as Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Ryan Briscoe, James Courtney, Michael Caruso and Ashley Walsh dominated the headlines in Australian karting.

Between the group, including Ipswich’s own Walsh, they amassed two world karting titles and seven CIK Stars of Karting crowns.

With Australia’s elite karting competition, the CIK Stars of Karting Series, set to kick off for 2011 at Ipswich later this month, the next generation of stars is looking to make its mark in Australian motorsport.

Leading the way for the budding teenagers is Sydney’s Pierce Lehane who dominated last year’s Pro Junior (KF3) championship on his way to his maiden Australian title aboard a CRG chassis.

Lehane pipped Ipswich Grammar School’s Brock Plumb for last year’s title, earning a trip to Italy in November when he impressed many onlookers from the factory European teams with his blistering speed and mature attitude during his two race appearances. Plumb is back this season looking to turn the tables.

“To get the opportunity to race in Italy was a great experience and to show that I could match it with the best young drivers from all across the world was a fantastic feeling,” Lehane said.

“I learnt a lot throughout last year’s series and also in my trip to Italy, all of which should put me in a good position as I try to defend my championship in what I think will be an even tougher year with more top drivers joining the series.”

Lehane credits a lot of his development over the past couple of years to the dedication and support shown by his family, along with his mentor Brian Lindsay.

A long-time karting mentor and engine tuner, Lindsay has been the driving force behind many of the country’s top young drivers during their formative years – including Courtney during the early 1990s and Briscoe on his way to back-to-back Pro Junior (KF3) crowns in 1995-96.

“Brian is a great influence on me, he not only builds my engines but he is great with kart set-up and really understands what you need to do to be successful in the sport. He’s been around for a long time and helped a lot of good drivers develop themselves,” Lehane said.

Set to line up on the grid alongside Lehane in the battle for the Pro Junior (KF3) crown will be fellow Sydneysider Joseph Mawson.

The pair has been the star performers in the junior ranks over the past couple of years, sharing the top honours in many of the blue ribbon events across the country.

More than 20 of the country’s top young drivers are expected to line up for Australia’s elite karting series over five rounds in 2011.

For the first time in many years, Australian karting will have three young female competitors lining up in the elite series, including Kuraby’s Renee Gracie, Victorian Isabella Thomas and Kalgoorlie’s Holly Patrizi.

Round one of the 2011 CIK Stars of Karting Series will be hosted by the Ipswich Kart Club on February 26-27.

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