Bridgestone South Africa

Claudio Piazza-Musso

Jan 01, 2005

Bridgestone-shod. Rotax-powered. Italian-bred. South African-born. That's Claudio Piazza-Musso, South Africa's latest motor sport world champion, who won the 2002 Rotax Max Challenge World Finals on the Malaysian island of Lankawi earlier this year.

The Cape Town-based driver, who comes from a South African motorsport family with a tradition of successes dating back to father Giovanni's rally victories with an Alfa Romeo in the 1970's, was overawed by the response to his victory in the weeks following the Malaysian triumph. The telephone just never stopped ringing, said Claudio  It seemed the whole world knew about it, and after 16 years in karting, this was the moment I ll remember most.

The 31-year-old was accompanied to Lankawi by his brother Paulo, himself a successful karter, Formula Ford racer, off-road racer and rallyist, and Paulo wept tears of pure joy as his brother beat 75 drivers from 35 countries. Piazza-Musso's victory was the second in succession of this Bridgestone-sponsored event for a South African, as Johannesburg karter Gavin Cronje had won the title 12 months earlier. And even better news was the announcement that South Africa will host the next Rotax Max Challenge in 2003.

Mark Cronje, brother of former world champion Gavin, made a great comeback in the finals after being plagued by misfortune earlier in the qualifying heats, and fought his way up from 15th place on the grid to fifth. Mike van Niekerk, another South African, finished 11th overall, but second in the over-35 category in a series that is designed to encourage older karters back to the sport.
The Rotax Max Challenge is a unique karting series run world-wide. The brainchild of the Austrian-based Bombardier Rotax group, which builds all manner of high performance machinery, including aircraft engines, snowmobiles and motorcycle engines, the series uses a 125cc water-cooled, single-cylinder engine with a centrifugal clutch and single gear ratio. Extremely reliable, it is the most cost-effective form of karting world-wide, and strict policing of the series means that all the engines are identical in performance, so the accent is on driving skill.

Another area of cost has been addressed by Bridgestone supplying one standard compound of tyre for the series, and with the tyre allocation limited to six for all the qualifying heats and the finals, there is no chance of any big money team gaining an advantage through sheer weight of dollar-spend.

Drivers represented in the finals are chosen for their performances in their respective countries in the season leading up to the finals, and for the South African event, scheduled for January or early February next year, it is likely that eighty drivers will attend from all parts of the world, as the series burgeons in popularity.

At present, various karting venues are being considered for the event, including tracks in Vereeniging, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and a new circuit that is in the pipeline at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria.

Text:  Stuart Johnson
Photographs: Topcar

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