Mark Cronje beat a host of international karting competitors to win the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals at Zwartkops at the weekend.

Mark Cronje beat a host of international competitors to win the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals at Zwartkops at the weekend.

Cronje won both the 25-lap pre-final and the 30-lap final of the seriers, which featured 69 karters from 32 countries. Some 34 karters contested the final, making the event one of the biggest events in South African sporting history in terms of the number of competing nations.

His success followed a win in the first Rotax MAX World Finals in Puerto Rico in 2001 by his brother, Gavin, and a win in Malaysia in 2002 by another South African, Claudio Piazza-Musso, giving South Africa a hat-trick of successes in the world series.

Cronje, driving his Toyota Birel, led from the start of the 30-lap final, initially being pressured by Frenchman Sebastian Caranta. However, Caranta was disqualified after the event for using a non-specified spark plug.

Ian Parsons of Great Britain was second in his Tonykart, with Piazza-Musso third in an Arrows. South African Michael Stephen (Engen CRG), Ireland's Noel Brennan (Kosmic) and Ben Savage from Australia (Arrows) finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

"After the Elimination heats I knew I had the speed to win, but I did not know if I could maintain a winning pace for the Final Race's full 30-lap distance," Cronje said. "Once I took the lead I was waiting for someone to come up and challenge me, but it never happened".

In Sunday's event, South Africa also won the team prize, followed by Switzerland and New Zealand, while Japan's Kazunori Takahashi won the Masters' category for drivers over 35.

South Africa's Rob Kellock, who placed ninth overall, was second in the Masters' category in his first international karting event.

The Toyota production car driver from Roodepoort will this year start a new challenge in his career when he drives a works Castrol Toyota Hilux in the South African off-road championship.

He will also assist with the Castrol/Toyota/Panasonic motor sport development programme for previously disadvantaged communities, where the focus will be on karting on a national basis.

Top 10:

1. Mark Cronje (SA)

2. Ian Parsons (UK)

3. Claudio Piazza-Musso (SA)

4. Michael Stephen (SA)

5. Noel Brenan (Ireland)

6. Ben Savage (Australia)

7. Karl Wilson (New Zealand)

8. Kazunoni Takahashi (Japan)

9. Rob Kellock (SA)

10. Sami Taskinen (Finland)

Original article from Car