Home Featured The top karting stars of 2022

The top karting stars of 2022

by Ida Wood

Photos: KSP Reportages

Karting is the training ground of most drivers before single-seaters, and it’s always useful to check what’s happening in the major championships to see which future talents may eventually burst onto the scene

Formula Scout followed the karting paddocks closer than ever in 2022, and got to report on stories of drama, disaster and redemption. There was a slightly different look to some international events, and the new OK-N kart regulations were released.

While the OK karting scene has often dominated end-of-year lists naming the top karters in the past, and also produced more high-profile graduates to single-seater racing, if there was anything that could be said about 2022 it was that the Rotax and IAME series were just as strong both in national series and in the big international events.

In addition to several drivers being injured in crashes through the year, the other big story that left an uncomfortable feeling was Kart Republic’s implementation of team orders in the final round of the CIK-FIA European championship. It took away the opportunity to be champion from one driver in the team and gave it to another, while also dragging another team into its machinations. You can read about how that happened here.

But any such controversies were usually drowned out by the brilliant on-track action of 2022, with career-making results for several drivers. Here’s the list of the winners of all the major kart competitions in 2022, and below is – in no particular order – our list of this year’s top young karters.

Key: WSK: Champions Cup (WSK CC), Euro Series (WSK Euro), Final Cup (FC), Open Cup (OC), Super Master Series (SMS)
CIK-FIA: European championship (CIK Euro), World championship (CIK Worlds), World Cup (CIK WC), FIA Karting Academy Trophy (FIA Academy Trophy)
Rotax Max Challenge: Euro Trophy (Euro), Euro Golden Trophy (Euro Golden), Euro Wintercup (Winter Euro)
Champions of the Future: regular season (CotF), Winter Series (CotF WS)
SuperKart USA: SuperNationals (USA SuperNats), Pro Tour (USA Pro Tour), Winter Series (USA WS)

Tuukka Taponen FINLAND 16y/o
OK 2nd in CIK Worlds, 3rd in WSK Euro, 4th in WSK SMS, 4th in CotF WS, 6th in CIK European, 12th in CotF   KZ 9th in CIK Worlds, 11th in CIK European

Photo: Ferrari

The new Ferrari junior combined Formula 4 with a step up to shifter karting in 2022, but also stuck about on OK karts too and demonstrated his usual level of brilliance. Although he came short on repeating his 2021 world championship win, he was best of the rest in karting’s biggest competition and did beat his position in the European championship from last year.

Taponen was third in WSK’s Euro Series despite missing one of the two rounds, and was fourth in the Super Master Series.

In what ended up being a more limited campaign on the top-level KZ shifter karts, he still had an impressive return of ninth in the world championship against that class’s older benchmark drivers.

Kean Nakamura Berta JAPAN 15y/o
OK CIK European champion, WSK Euro champion, 2nd in WSK SMS, 3rd in CotF WS, 7th in CotF, 31st in CIK Worlds

Having adapted seamlessly to senior karts at the end of 2021, it was no surprise that Nakamura Berta quickly established himself as one of the drivers to beat on OK karts.

Although his crowning triumph as European champion was overshadowed by Kart Republic’s tactics in the final round to ensure he went from third to first in the standings, also delivering his second runner-up finish as he did not win a round, there was a far more convincing run to the title in the WSK Euro Series and he also starred to be SMS runner-up.

At the World championship he won a heat and a superheat, and initially ran in third in the final. There was a lengthy battle with Taponen, then after finally breaking free of him he crashed out.

In addition to having his career guided by Infinity Sports Management, the Britain-based driver of Japanese-Slovakian heritage also became an Alpine Academy affiliate in June.

Tomass Stolcermanis LATVIA 15y/o
OK WSK OC winner, CotF WS winner, 3rd in CotF, 4th in WSK Euro, 7th in CIK Worlds & European, 8th in WSK SMS, 12th in WSK FC   KA100 Snr USA SuperNats winner   X30 Snr 2nd in USA SuperNats   OK-J 31st in WSK SMS

The Latvian was nominated by ACI for its scouting camp with the Ferrari Driver Academy, and that opportunity was well deserved. Stolcermanis started the year with a dominant success in the Champion of the Future Winter Series event, then was a consistent threat everywhere thereon.

He won the final Champions of the Future round in summer, which lifted him up to third in the points, then at the end of the year was victorious in the WSK Open Cup and the USA SuperNationals. Stolcermanis really had to fight with domestic star Frankie Mossman for his USA win, where he drove in different types of karts than in Europe.

Showing his class in America capped off a rookie season in senior karting to really be proud of (and off the back of a strong 2021 in OK-J when his father was his mechanic), and it shouldn’t be forgotten that he won the first round of the European championship on-the-road too before a bumper penalty knocked him to sixth.

Enzo Tarnvanichkul THAILAND 13y/o
OK-J CIK World champion, 2nd in WSK FC, 5th in CIK European, 12th in CotF WS, 15th in WSK OC, 22nd in WSK Euro, 24th in CotF, 49th in WSK SMS

Winning the world championship not only earned Tarnvanichkul his place on this list, but also caught the attention of Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko who has pledged his support to the Thai’s next racing step.

Tarnvanichkul was distanced by the lead group at first in the world championship final, but once he reached those ahead he made neat moves to go from fifth to third, then pursued the top two and made another two moves in quick succession to assume the lead. He very briefly lost it almost a lap later, but then spent the second half of the race holding off several drivers to win. The youngster is ultra-composed outside of the kart, and that win showed how he keeps it cool on the kart too.

He also won a round of the WSK Final Cup to come second in the standings there, and can’t wait to be racing in Red Bull colours… pending Red Bull announcing their partnership and his 2023 programme.

Sean Butcher AUSTRALIA/ENGLAND 19y/o
Rotax Snr Euro champion, Euro Golden winner, 2nd in Euro Wintercup, 5th in Britain, 12th in Int. Trophy

Photo: Rotax Euro Trophy

The momentum that built up over Butcher’s year with KR Sport propelled him to a European title, victory in the Euro Golden Trophy and also fifth in the increasingly competitive British championship.

He started the Rotax Max Challenge Euro Trophy at Genk with pole, victory in all his heats and a lights-to-flag win in the first final, then won again in the second.

In round two he wasn’t the pacesetter but drove well to make it up to second in final one, but fourth in final two dropped him to second in the standings. His bounceback in round three was to win both finals to reclaim his points lead, and he then made his way into third in final one at a wet Wackersdorf behind a superb Lewis Gilbert to become champion with a day to spare.

Two months later at the Euro Golden Trophy he had a dissapointing qualifying and relied on racecraft to earn another important trophy, then was in contention to win Rotax’s Grand Finals too, with intense battles throughout the event and an eventual runner-up result that then became 12th place due to a super unlucky bumper penalty.

Sasha Bondarev UKRAINE 13y/o
OK-J WSK SMS champion, 9th in CotF, 24th in CIK European, 28th in CotF WS, 28th in WSK FC

Photo: sport-in-photo.com

The sample size of races for Ricky Flynn Motorsport driver Bondarev is quite small, due to a huge crash in the European championship at Zuera in May.

Before then he had, amidst his home country being invaded by Russia and leading to many of his countrymen being called up to serve war efforts, starred to win the WSK SMS title as he started life at a top team after racing as a privateer in 2021.

A bumper penalty denied Bondarev round one honours, he was pipped to victory in round two after leading, but broke his duck at a wet round three as he dominated his pre-final then won the final by nine seconds. Being spun in the round four final prevented another win, but not the title. He was similarly strong in CotF; his scoring rate good enough for third in the standings based off his pre-injury appearances.

The Zuera crash began with contact that sent the left-hand side of Bondarev’s kart skyward. His head hit a tyre, and once he came to a stop backwards his kart was struck at speed by another driver. It sent him into a violent aerial spin, and he was hospitalised with “difficult” surgery required that “literally saved my [left] leg”.

Bondarev spent two months in hospital, was walking unaided by the end of August, and tested in a kart again a month after that. His race return came in November’s WSK FC, with strong pace but rusty racecraft which he improved upon to come second in this month’s LeCont Trophy, his “first podium with a steel leg”.

Today, Bondarev was announced as joining the WH Sports management stable that also guides the careers of Ollie Bearman.

“Big goals need correct and confident decisions and it feels like a super positive end to the year,” said Bondarev. “I’m proud and excited to be going into 2023 with the [WH] team.” His race programme for next year will be announced at a later date.

Anataoly Khavalkin   14y/o
OK 3rd in WSK FC, 17th in WSK OC   OK-J CIK European champion, 2nd in CotF, 3rd in CotF WS, 4th in WSK SMS, 5th in WSK Euro, 11th in CIK Worlds,

Finishing in the top five of four major European series is a significant accomplishment, topped by winning the most sought after series: the CIK-FIA European championship.

The momentum began in the final WSK SMS round with diving move for victory, then he was second in the European opener and third in CotF round two. In a rain-hit final to the third CotF round he ended up down in fifth after leading, but applied lessons learned to win the European round at the same track a fortnight later.

He sealed the CotF runner-up spot with fourth in the finale, although he had led the final from pole before contact, and the European title was crowned in even crazier fashion. Khavalkin took the race lead when someone ahead span, then was overtaken and eventually finished fourth. He moved into the points lead after the heats, but lost it during the final until an overtake put him back ahead. But the title then became his when his championship rival crashed.

Next up he graduated into OK karts, coming third in the WSK FC off the back of taking second in a photo finish at round one.

Callum Bradshaw ENGLAND 21y/o
Rotax Snr British champion, Euro Wintercup winner, Grand Finals winner, 3rd in BNL Kick-Off, 3rd in British GP, 6th in Euro Trophy   X30 Snr 6th in IAME Warriors Final

Photos: Rotax Grand Finals

There’s a career crossroads for Bradshaw, who has now achieved basically everything you can in senior karting and won’t be at it again in 2023 as he moves on.

He won the OK world championship in 2020, the International Games and Euro Series for X30 Senior karts in 2021, as well as the Rotax Euro Trophy, and this year added three more accomplishments to his packed CV.

Bradshaw prevailed in a very close battle for the British title against Kai Hunter, who he also battled in Europe. Their first fight abroad was in the Rotax Euro Wintercup, which Bradshaw won, then they fought for position in the Euro Trophy.

The battle in the Grand Finals was the most spectacular, with the pair fighting for victory in the pre-final and sharing the final front row. That set up another victory battle, with both drivers trading positions again and again and with victory, ultimately, being decided in Bradshaw’s favour due to one of Hunter’s moves being too agressive.

Could Bradshaw add more wins if he’s tempted to return? “I’m sure I’ll be dragged back for the odd race.”

Matheus Morgatto BRAZIL 19y/o
X30 Snr USA WS champion, 40th in USA SuperNats   OK CIK World champion, 4th in CotF, 8th in Italy, 20th in CIK European, 33rd in WSK Euro ROK Snr Florida WS champion

The world championship win stood above everything else for Morgatto this year, with that weekend’s exemplary performance not only standing out on its own but also contrasting with his results from other events.

His triumphant weekend began with being classified sixth overall in qualifying, but that meant he was actually on the front row for his heats, winning four and finishing second in the other. He finished third in his superheat, behind Nakamura Berta and Arvid Lindblad, but that still put him on pole for the final based on the event’s intermediate classification and from there he delivered a brilliant lights-to-flag win by several seconds.

Formula Scout’s karting consultant and paddock driver coach had these glowing words:

He was really just in another level that weekend. Like there was almost no doubt who was going to win the world championship. And doing it as well with DPK Racing, who are not neccessarily considered a championship-winning team [was impressive].

Morgatto did also win in the USA, which was a competitive scene. However the country’s national senior champions Jeremy Fletcher (KA100), Marijn Kremers (Pro Shifter) and Ryan Norberg (X30) were not as dominant as they had been expected to be.

Evan Giltaire FRANCE 16y/o
X30 Snr USA SuperNats winner, IAME Warriors Final winner, French champion, 4th in IAME Euro, 16th in British GP   OK 5th in CIK European, 6th in CotF, 6th in WSK FC, 14th in CIK Worlds

Also successful in America was French driver Giltaire, who won at the SuperNationals driving for Kart Republic after previously being on the recieving end of its team orders while he raced for VDK Racing in the European championship.

He finished fifth in that series, and sixth in CotF on OK karts, but his main success – including in America – came on X30 machinery.

Giltaire beat the locals to win the SuperNationals, which he described as “the most exciting race of the season”, and also came out on top of a super intense fight for victory in IAME’s Warriors Final at Le Mans.

Despite also having winning pace in the IAME Euro Series, he finished a distant fourth in the points after retiring from two of the four finals while being the fastest driver on track through both weekends. Despite similar incidents costing him point on home soil, he was also able to win the French championship.

Nine more to watch…

In OK-J, Nathan Tye won CotF and was third in the European championship in addition to the WSK Champions Cup. His first ventures into senior karting at the end of 2022 were also successful, coming third in the WSK OC, fourth in the FC and then third in Rotax’s Asia Festival.

It looked like Dmitry Mateev would start 2022 with victory in the WSK CC, having claimed pole, won all his heats and the pre-final, but retired from the final itself. Third in CotF and WSK SMS showed how much of a consistent frontrunner he could be, and he followed that up with third, fourth and sixth in the Italian, European and World championships respectively. In November he stepped up from OK-J to OK karts, coming second in the WSK FC then winning the LeCont Trophy.

Joe Turney continues to be one of the benchmark drivers in Europe, winning CotF, WSK SMS and FC and being on course for the CIK European title too until a disastrous last round. He leaves his factory Tony Kart kart to join rival Kart Republic in 2023.

Consistently one of the top OK rookies, Enzo Deligny came second in WSK Euro, fourth in CIK European and sixth in WSK SMS.

In the biggest events of the year, Jan Przyrowski was able to deliver as he was European championship runner-up and third in the World championship for OK-J karts. Winning the WSK Euro Series by a huge points margin was pretty impressive too.

A points-free round meant Lewis Gilbert finished third in the Rotax Euro Trophy, but he did a stunning wet weather double at the Wackersdorf finale, and he went one better in the International Final, Grandand Euro Golden Trophy by finishing second in both. Earlier in the year he was fourth in the BNL Kick-Off event.

Hong Kong-Malaysian Katrina Ee is working her way up the Asian karting ladder with success, and this year won the IAME Asia Series and Malaysian championship for X30 Jr karts. She also starred on the equivalent Rotax machinery, winning the Malaysian title and coming 17th in the Asia Festival.

Photo: IAME Asia Series

Ethan Jeff-Hall continued the British domination of Rotax competitions by winning the Euro Wintercup and Trophy at the junior level. He had less success at home, only coming fifth in the British championship, but did win the BNL Kick-Off.

Finally, a late bloomer in the year was Salim Hanna Hernandez. The Colombian won the WSK Open Cup in October, and Trofeo delle Industrie a week later.

Mini karting

On Mini karts, Spain’s Christian Contoya and Turkey’s Iskender Zulfikari were the stars of Europe. Costoya won the WSK Champions Cup and came second in the Euro Series, Super Master Series and Trofeo Andrea Margutti, then also finished third in the new WSK Super Cup and sixth in the FC. Zulfikari won the OC and FC and the IAME Series Italy title.

Andretti Autosport junior Oliver Wheldon won the USA’s national and Florida winter series, then stepped up to KA100 Junior and was a victory contender in the SuperNationals.

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