Track knowledge could help Aislabie

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Rotorua's Darren Aislabie has stepped up to the more powerful KZ2 class this year. Photo/Ben Fraser

By Stuart Whitaker

Screaming around an asphalt track just centimetres from the ground at well over 100km/h is only for boy racers right?

Well no, not really.

This weekend Rotorua's Darren Aislabie, 42, will mix it with the best over 40-year-old karters at the third round of the 2017 Molecule ProKart Series at Kartsport Rotorua's Mamaku track. The meeting also features rounds five and six of the 2017 Giltrap Group Rotax Max Challenge, with racing in the two series on both days of the weekend.

After 26 years in the sport, Aislabie has stepped up from the Yamaha KT 1000 Heavy class to the much more powerful KZ2 class - which has both open and masters, as well as a restricted division.

Aislabie has been a multi-time national KT Heavy champion, but decided this year it was time for something new.

"This is the first year I have tried to contest the KZ2 masters class - I'm a little bit out of my depth, but I'm having great fun."

It's proving to be a big step up, with the KZ2 machines having around 45 horsepower, front and rear brakes and a six-speed manual gearbox in contrast to the KT Heavy karts which generate around 20hp and have a single rear brake and a fixed gear ratio.

"You are going a lot, lot faster," said Aislabie.

There will be around 50 drivers contesting the ProKart series round, about 30 in the open division, and around 20 combined in the masters and restricted divisions that will run together.

Aislabie has competed in both earlier ProKart rounds in the Manawatu and at Te Puke.

"I've not really been as comfortable as I would have liked," he said. "My fitness is not up to where I would have liked it to be, so I've been working on that. It's very physically demanding on you."

Time to get out and improve his fitness away from racing has been scarce, but he has managed to compete in KZ2 races at club days in Rotorua and Te Puke.

Aislabie has had a long association with the Rotorua Club and helped design the track which is the longest the series visits.

He hopes his familiarity with the track will give him an edge.

"But I'm not as familiar with the karts and how to set them up. A lot of the guys have been running for a few years and will have a bit more set-up knowledge than me, but we are getting there and having a lot of fun doing it. A lot of the other guys are around my speed as well, so we are having quite good battles in races."

Qualifying will be this morning with two heat races today and a third tomorrow morning before the pre-final and final.

Aislabie is also vice president of Kartsport Rotorua.

"It's the biggest weekend the club is having this year," he said. "It's an awesome event to host and such a buzz to have the top karters from all around the country and even Australia coming over and enjoying the track."

He said it was gratifying for all those who had put so much effort into getting the track and the facilities to the level they were when they heard drivers love visiting the club.

• Aislabie is encouraging spectators to head along to the Amoore Rd track today and tomorrow. There is no entry charge and the action begins at 9am on both days.

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