Toyota Gazoo Racing Junior Academy Drivers Shine at Zwartkops National
Emma-Rose Dowling

The Toyota Gazoo Racing Junior Academy (TGRJA) showcased its red and black liveries at the second round of the national Rotax-powered karting championships at Zwartkops Kart Raceway, its home circuit outside Pretoria.

The TGRJA is dedicated to developing young drivers with exceptional promise, and its participation in the championships demonstrates its commitment to nurturing young talent.

The academy was represented by six drivers across four classes, all of whom put forth impressive performances. At the same time, none of the drivers emerged as overall victors, several secured runner-up positions in their respective categories. Furthermore, these drivers achieved numerous race podiums, contributing significantly to the academy's success.

Jason Coetzee, representing TGRJA, showcased exceptional performance in the premier DD2 category of the championship, consistently displaying his prowess as a top contender in national and regional competitions. He secured an impressive third place in the qualifying session on Friday and went on to clinch the victory in the opening heat on Saturday. Subsequently, he achieved two third-place finishes, culminating in being awarded the runner-up position in the class. Jason remains a strong contender for national honours as the championship reached its midway point.

Karabo Malemela, a newcomer to the class, encountered a more challenging event. As a former Senior MAX driver, he qualified eighth on Friday. Although he narrowly missed a podium, Karabo finished fourth in the opening heat. He recorded a pair of fifth place finishes in the remaining heats, resulting in his overall classification in fifth place.

The reigning National Junior MAX Champion Kent Swartz demonstrated exceptional performance as a Senior MAX rookie, finishing as the runner-up. He secured the pole position and distinguished himself through a hat trick of second place finishes across three race heats. Notably, his only losses were to a seasoned driver with international experience. Kent's achievements in these races have reignited his championship bid.

Reagile Mailula and Emma-Rose Dowling had a frustrating national round in the closely contested Junior MAX class. They qualified within the top ten, but both drivers suffered misfortune in the opening heat. Reagile picked up a five-second penalty, which ruined what would have been a top-five result, while Emma-Rose suffered a DNF.

However, both drivers managed to improve their positions in the second heat. Reagile finished sixth, and Emma-Rose finished 10th. Unfortunately, their misfortune continued in the final heat. Reagile was demoted to 12th on Lap 3 after an incident but bravely fought back to finish 10th. Emma-Rose, comfortably running in eighth, was eliminated from the race on the penultimate lap. In the overall result, Reagile finished eighth, and Emma-Rose finished 13th.

Tshepang Shisinwana, the youngest driver in the academy's line-up, had displayed exceptional pace throughout the weekend, positioning himself as the formidable contender for the ultimate victory. Following his pole position qualification, Tshepang narrowly missed out on winning the opening heat, instead finishing second. Despite this setback, his prospects were still favourable, and he was well on his way to securing the victory in Heat 2 when an unfortunate collision with a back marker at the final turn of the last lap dashed his chances of winning the race. He recovered to finish sixth. He quickly overcame that disappointment to take the final heat victory and claim second in class that day.

All six academy drivers will be back on track on 25 May for Round 3 of the Northern Regions Rotax Kart Championships set for a return to Vereeniging.