This past Saturday saw the South African Rotax Junior Max Championship kick off in changeable conditions just outside Pietermaritzburg in Kwa-Zulu Natal. With a World Finals ticket on the line, 20 young and eager drivers took to the track to establish where they stood and what sort of improvements needed to be made for the year ahead.

The iDube Raceway is an undulating circuit set upon a stunning hillside. With the massive changes in elevation, horsepower is critical and it always seems to favor those with a few more prancing ponies. None the less, Tate Bishop made some steady progress during the bone dry Thursday and Friday¬† free practice sessions. Friday afternoon saw the drivers battle in out in a 3 lap shootout for pole and unfortunately for Tate P11 was all he could muster, but with Saturday’s forecast looking wet, he had high hopes for the 3 races to follow.

And yes, it was wet. Rain from Friday night continued into a wet warm up session on Saturday morning. Before Race 1 got underway. Tate had opted for wet tyre’s which proved the right tyre to be on during the initial part of the race, but as the rain stopped and the track dried up, some of the drivers who had gambled and gone out on slicks saw the gamble pay off as they cut through the field leaving Tate to cross the finish line in P9.

Race 2 would again be tricky as Tate and the team had to make a call on which tyre’s to go out on. They opted for wets which were well worn from the dry track at the end of race 1. After falling down the order initially, Tate fought back valiantly to get 8th place as the checkered flag fell with a set of wet tyre’s that were all but toast.

Race 3 would see a dry track ready for some improved lap times. Starting in P9 Tate drove quite incredibly showing some of his best pace of the weekend. Again the weather played a role as the rain began to fall midway through the race. Tate controlled his 494 Kosmic machine with great maturity as he climbed the order throughout the race to claim a really well deserved P5 at the whitewash. Some penalties for a few of the competitors meant that Tate ended up 4th overall for the day. A truly fantastic result in a highly competitive field.

A great drive by Tate in a very hard (and wet) weekend at the Idube Race circuit to achieve 4th overall in the first round of the SA Rotax Max National Championships – Jnr Max. I have never seen anyone drive so quickly in a downpour on slicks. Really impressive stuff. – commented Father Tim Bishop

Tate now looks forward to continuing his challenge in the WP Junior Max Championship before the 2nd Round of the National Championship takes place at the end of April.