Team Squadra Corse South Africa was in action at the annual Rok Superfinals held at Circuit South Garda, with drivers competing from all over the world and challenging for race wins and titles in their respective classes.
Potentially the most important karting track, South Garda Karting is a 1.2 km long course, with eight marshall posts, and seating to host the more than two thousand spectators who flocked to watch the action over the four-day event – which included practice sessions, qualifiers, elimination heats, and the Levanto Trophy (for OKJ) and Vortex Trophy (Mini ROK) on the Saturday.
“For the first time in its history, Squadra Corse fielded its extended team – with drivers, technical staff and its facilities – on international soil. Teaming up with its chassis partner Kart Republic, the combination contributed to team South Africa and the growing initiatives of the FIA, and the motorsport community in terms of diversity and inclusion. It is conducive for all those that can, and have, the will in an environment that allows them to actively participate. We had a balanced squad of technicians from South Africa, namely Thabang (Thabz) Simma (RSA), Justice Ramathavhana (RSA), Andrew Drew (UK), and Marco Nazionale (Italy),” says Mpho Eli Gumbi, owner and team principal of the Squadra Corse team.
Cheered on by seasoned overseas driver (and former teammate in South Africa) Luviwe Sambudla, OK Junior drivers (and brothers) Mahlori and Ntiyiso Mabunda, and Mini ROK drivers Sebastian Dias and Enzo Rujugiro gave it their all against a large and highly competitive international field.
“Mahlori Mabunda has won races in the OK Junior class in South Africa in impressive fashion and we looked forward to taking this form to Italy. He did superbly in his elimination heats to eventually qualify for the Levanto Trophy race which included 32 drivers from all over the world. Starting from P4, Mahlori was unfortunately involved in an incident with another driver, taking him out of the race on the very first lap. Lady Luck may not have shined on our driver at this event but we could happily walk away with the experience and knowledge that Mahlori is fast enough to compete and win races at this level of international karting,” says Gumbi.
The adrenalin flowed all week for Ntiyiso Mabunda who found himself in the thick of things, most of the time against more experienced opponents. A technical issue caused him not to start one of the elimination heats and then a DNF, after being taken out by another competitor after an incredible comeback from the back of the grid, left Ntiyiso with no scoring chance of making it into the Levanto Trophy. Ntiyiso’s speed was noted by the vigilant commentators but so were his very unfortunate incidents that were out of his control. He will have learned so much from this experience, including the fact that the talent is there to achieve so much at this level of racing.
Sebastian Dias is without a shadow of a doubt one of the fastest Mini ROK drivers in South Africa right now and this showed in all his elimination heats. Consistently, the stopwatch showed that Sebastian could swap lap times with the fastest drivers in the world; this is why he qualified to race in the Vortex Trophy race on Saturday. It is a daunting task to make it through to such a prestigious trophy race and then to go on and even lead it, albeit for only a couple of laps, but he went on to fight like a terrier and claim an impressive P7 in his debut trophy race.
“There is a saying, that it’s is not the size of the dog in the fight but rather the size of the fight in the dog that counts. Our sometimes shy and reserved Enzo Rujugiro demonstrated the size of his fight by coming back from a big elimination heat accident, missing a race, and then fighting on to claim his spot in the Vortex Trophy race, albeit from the last grid position. The fight started from P32, and in only ten laps, Enzo had made up a total of 21 passes in the race, setting fastest sector times to eventually finish in P14, an astounding comeback for any driver in the world who competes in international motorsport,” says Gumbi.
“Sometimes hard work needs a little good fortune to succeed; while we may have been unlucky, we remain incredibly proud of all our drivers and technicians who worked tirelessly all week, demonstrating speed, craft and character at what is commonly regarded as one the most challenging karting events in the world. See you in 2023!”