Time to light the blue touch paper and take five steps back. Let's race!

The South African Rotax Max Karting Challenge is set for a vintage year if early entry lists for February’s three KZN, Gauteng and Western Cape Regional Championships are anything to go by. Top fields across the classes also promise an incredible national season, while a new F1-like licence penalty System is sure to remove any remaining unsportsmanlike behaviour from the series. First off, the regional classes are all set to explode into action over the next three weeks.

The Cape's Rotax Maxers once again appear fiercely competitive for 2022. That season starts at Killarney, Saturday 19 February, where SA DD2 champion Joseph Oelz will be back to take on old WP rivals Sebastian Boyd and Jason Coetzee. They have their jobs cut out. Polo Cup stars Jurie Swart and Charl Visser, brother Kyle and Storm Lanfear all join the premier class grid this year. And Conor Hughes will have Andrew Thomas, Johan Hammann, Steve Beaumont and others to contend with among the Cape's over-31 DD2 Masters.

Senior Max is also big in the Cape this year. SA champion Tate Bishop is back to take on SA Formula 1600 champion Andrew Rackstraw, Storm Lanfear, Matthew Wadeley, Ethan Stier and Luca Wehrli in family affair. That's because they have brothers Charl and Kyle Visser, Andre and Kyle le Riche and Gio and Sandro Hartman joining too. WP champion Reza Levy meanwhile has Reese Koorzen, Jordon Wadeley, Josh Smit, Ethan Deacon, Oliver Roach, Jude Stuart, Liam Crowe and Ashton Repsold on his case in high school Junior Max.

Cape primary school Max action will see Keagan Beaumont take Jordon Wadeley, Dale Hobbs, Matthew Chiwara, Sabelo Ntuli and Liam Koekemoer on in under-13 Mini Max. Michael Danks, Aiden Beaumont, Ruan Lewis, Liam Wharton, John Norman and Zack Macauley are the WP under-11 Micro Max contenders. And Zach McAuley, Caleb Lingenveldt, Liam Wharton, Cruz Dreyer, Zac Boshoff and Jacques Lewis, and newcomers Jayden van der Merwe, Logan Roehrig, Abdul Maalik Dout, Carter Cedras and Yaqeen Gamieldien join the Cape Bambino grid.

The Gauteng season starts at Zwartkops a week prior, on 12 February. Judging by last week’s club races there, Jamie Smith is the Jozi DD2 man to beat. He has Junior champ Kian Grottis, Niko Zafiris, Eugene Brittz, Divan Braak and Hamza Jassat on his case. Senior Max has Roshaan Goodman, Karabo Malemela, Moosa Kajee, Ryan Wustmann, Preshlen Reddy and Ethan Bostander in play. And Jayden Goosen is the Gauteng Junior Max favourite, with Nic Vostanis, Ricardo Tebutt, Wian Boshoff, Erich Heystek and Chris Padayachee in chase.

Looking ahead to Gauteng's primary school action, Kegan Martin appears to be the Mini Max lad to beat, with Aadam Kajee, Caleb Odendaal, Amani Kinyua, Kent Swartz and Torben Roos, and others in the frame. Rafael da Silva takes Taylin Patel, Matthew Shuttleworth, Cristian Verheul, Rafael de Sousa and Emma Rose Dowling on in Micro Max. And expect surprises as Brodi Dowling, Noah Cronje, Diego Antunes, Ronaldo Koen, Bophelo Molatlhegi and Jenson Dias fiught it out among a giant Baby Bambino field.

A week before that, the KZN karting clan will be out to start their regional season at iDube, already this coming Sunday 6 February. Expect Robert Whiting to be the pacemaker there, with Brent Walden in attendance. The KZN Masters battle will continue between Jonathan Pieterse, Shane Foley and Alistair Mingay. And will SA junior champion Troy Snyman step up to take on Riley Horner, Jack Rowe and Juandre Nel in Senior Max? Or will he step over them straight up to DD2 instead?

Max Masters is popular in KZN, so expect the likes of Richard van Heerde, Richard Horner and Allan John Rice to continue their battles there. There’s a shake-up due in iDube Junior Max where the likes of KZN Mini champ Travis Mingay are expected to step up to fight it out with Uzair Khan, Jonno Wilson and Corban Spies. Kyle Spies and Harry Rowe will be the Mini lads to beat, and Busani Sithole and Kayden Pistauer are among the kids ready to fight it out in the iDube Bambinos.

The Rotax Max regionals will crown local champions in each class over eight rounds through the season. Four blockbuster National championship rounds, at iDube, KZN in March, Killarney, Cape Town in April, Benoni’s Formula K in June and Zwartkops in Pretoria in September will simultaneously crown Rotax’s ’22 South African Max Champions. They, and the winners of the wildcard Rotax Max African Open at iDube in July, will represent South Africa in the 'Olympics of Karting' Rotax Max Grand Finals in Portimao, Portugal in November.

There are few technical changes in the Rotax Max classes for 2022. But that most interesting licence penalty points system is sure to deter overzealous karters, parents and team staff from ruining their competitors days going forward. Like the Formula 1 system, the Rotax Max Code of Conduct License Penalty System sees all competitors start the season with 12 points on their licences. A variety of transgressions will however see licence points deducted and lost for a year in a rolling total.

Penalty points will apply to a wide variety of karting misdemeanours and will double up for second and further, similar offences. Penalties apply to driving conduct transgressions and technical infringements, and stretch as far as punishing unsuccessful and unwarranted protests and appeals, unsportsmanlike behaviour, abusing officials and the like. Should a driver lose all their licence points, they will be banned from racing for three months. No questions asked.

“We trust that our new licence points system will eliminate the few lingering matters that emerged to mar an otherwise excellent first year running under WOMZA’s auspices," Rotax Max SA CEO Ed Murray confirmed. “Looking at the year ahead on track, our fields look great, with the best grids we have seen for several years signed up to race in most classes and in all regions. “All of which points to South African Rotax Max Challenge karting being set for a vintage 2022 season.

“It’s time to light the blue touch paper and take five steps back,” Murray concluded. “Let’s race!”