Nearly 70 of the world's top-rated motorsport karting aces are today busy preparing their machines and minds for the biggest international racing event of the year in South Africa, the ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE GRAND FINALS at the Bridgestone Zwartkops International Kart Raceway, in Gauteng. -

- On Sunday, when the Grand Final will be run, 68 drivers from a total of 33 countries will have competed over the four days of racing at the new top-rated International Kart Raceway, located a few kilometres west of Pretoria near Laudium, on the R55. -

- These drivers have had had to qualify for the event by competing in their home countries in their local Rotax MAX Challenge series. The international points system of the Challenge is structured in such a way that the season's showing counts for a major part of each country's championship. The result has been that in each international Grand Final held so far, most country's teams boasted different drivers. -

- South Africa is well on its way to making the international Grand Final its own. In the two Finals held so far, in Puerto Rico in late 2 000 and in the Malaysian island of Langkawi in January 2002, South Africans have won on both occasions. -

- Gavin Cronje took the initial title, and 12 months ago Cape Town-based motorsport legend Claudio Piazza-Musso became the second South African to win the title. -

- With "home ground advantage" this year, the four-man 2003 SA team of SA champ Michael Stephen, world champ Piazza-Musso, Mark Cronje and Rob Kellock (who will be competing the MAX Masters sub category for drivers over 35-years of age), are odds-on favourites. -

- The biggest challenge is expected from the Australian team, consisting of former CIK 100 cc world champ Darrell Smith, Ben Savage and Joshua Arandt. Similarly, the New Zealand contingent of Karl Wilson and Michael Kinsman will be right on the pace. -

- This weekend, qualifying and heats will be held on the Friday and Saturday, with the Grand Final being run on Sunday at 2 pm. The top 34 karters will earn a place on the grid for the final, and as far as the points scoring goes, only the final counts - a sudden death shoot-out run over 30 laps of the 1 km circuit. -

- Support races for 60cc Juniors and Mini Max karters will be held from 10 am on Sunday. -

- Tickets for the weekend's action will be available at Zwartkops Raceway from Friday - at R60 for both Saturday and Sunday or R40 per day. Children under the age of 12 will be admitted free. Souvenir event programmes and refreshments will be available. -

- The Grand Finals in South Africa are being locally supported by ROTAX, Ed Murray Racing, Bridgestone South Africa, MINI South Africa, Holiday Inn Pretoria, Gauteng Tourism Authority (GTA), Sasol and Nashua Mobile -

- The Rotax MAX Challenge international karting series has proven to be an amazing success story, giving karting a much-needed shot in the arm on a global scale. -

- Since the international launch of the series in 1999, the Rotax MAX Challenge has not only set countless youngsters on a fast track to international motorsport stardom, but encouraged thousands of older karters back into the sport. Currently some 20 000 karters have discovered the trouble-free Rotax approach to karting across the globe. -

- The secret of the Rotax MAX formula is its ultra-reliable 125 cc water-cooled single cylinder engine. Designed with a relatively low engine speed ceiling, it is limited to 13 900 rpm and produces lots of mid-range power before peaking reaching its power peak of 11 800 rpm, The Max engine was introduced to radically reduce running costs for karters on a seasonal basis. -

- Whereas a competitor in the air-cooled 100 cc international classes typically arrives at a championship with three highly-modified engines, which would all have to be rebuilt at not inconsiderable cost after a championship, the MAX competitor arrives with a motor that has often done an entire season's racing or even two seasons! -

- What keeps costs down is that the Rotax regulations stipulate that absolutely no modifications of any sort are allowable in the formula. The motors are factory-sealed on delivery to a competitor and those seals are only removed by the designated Rotax representative in a country when the engines need internal refurbishment. -

- The only tuning of the engine allowed is the simple changing of carburettor jetting and needle position, to fine-tune the motors for local track conditions. With no modifications allowed and an enviable reliability factor, costs have been kept way down. -

- To further ease the "hassle factor" of a race weekend, the Rotax MAX motors are fitted with an electric starter, mini battery pack, a centrifugal clutch and just one gear. So setting up of the kart centres on the chassis and the choice of a designated number of gear ratios for a specific track. -

- The Austrian-based Bombardier-Rotax Company at an early stage realised the promotional value for its new karting formula of hosting international events for the MAX Challenge. Hence since late in 2000 there have been two world championship Rotax MAX Challenge karting events, and the international response has been enormous. -

- For all photographic images of the daily action go to www.motorpics.co.za-

- For the full event programme and further information on the ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE visit: www.kart.co.za-

- For more information contact Ed Murray on (012) 807 4884.

Original article from Car