As another January rolls around, one of Australia’s oldest kart clubs, the Oakleigh Go Kart Club in Melbourne’s south east, is set to host its fabulous Junior Top Guns meeting for the 12th time. Every year the numbers grow and this year is no exception with 190 entries, plenty of them from interstate with at least a couple each from NT and WA.
Junior Top Guns has a reputation for delivering the sort of weather you read about in the Bible, and 2014 is no exception. It was only two years ago that the Club had to reschedule the first night of racing because the track was submerged under metres of water. This year, the Friday sees Melbourne set a record for consecutive days above 41 degrees, with a forecast top of 44!
Racing in heatwave conditions has happened before of course. Some of you will remember the shakedown meeting for the Vic Open at Eastern Lions in 2003 when it got to 46 on the Saturday. I don’t think a chilled refreshment at the end of a day’s racing has ever tasted so good. The Granddaddy of them all though would be the February meeting at Numurkah, I think in 2004, when the mercury (at least the digital mercury in my trailer) reached 47 degrees on the Saturday. Oakleigh President and Junior Top Guns Clerk of Course Adam Bourke raced at that meeting, and what’s more he camped in a tent at the track on the Saturday. He tells me it got “down” to 39 through the night. Clearly, here was a man who was not going to let a bit of warm weather put him off! So with warnings to one and all to keep hydrated and seek out shade where you can, we got underway.
Sean Larkin off Pole with a 47.197, more than half a second faster than pole at Junior Top Guns a year ago, so the track resurfacing might see some records tumble tonight. Larkin was followed by Cooper Webster, Kynan Brooks and Joel Johnson. Larkin off to a good start and pulled clear after a few laps, with Webster, Brooks and Joshua Hocking a tighter group behind him. By halfway Larkin looked comfortable out front, but Brooks and Webster were swapping spots as they diced for 2 and 3 with Hocking a little way back in 4th. In the end Larkin did it easily and Webster got the better of Brooks, a gap back to Hocking then Emerson Harvey and Joel Johnson.
Heat 2 and Larkin again away well, Webster 2nd and Hocking 3rd then Brooks. An interruption to my routine saw me miss a large part of this race, but it appeared to be one of those where they spread out all over the track – Larkin an easy winner at the end.
The finals begin and Larkin and Webster lead them away. Webster the better of the 2, Larkin drops to 2nd, then Hocking, then a gap to Harvey, Maison Blackwood and Matthew Domaschenz. Hocking and Larkin were the ones putting on a show, but eventually Larkin fought clear and set out after Webster and with 6 to go he caught and passed him, going into the lead and pulling a little gap – a good job considering how far back he came from. Bad luck for Will Harper who came off at MKC and joined me up in the starter’s box for the rest of the race. In the end Larkin took the win from Webster then Hocking and Harvey.
George Gower off pole in the A group, and a whisker quicker with 46.979, followed by Thomas Boniface, Taylor Gill and local Braydon Callaghan in 4th. Gower away cleanly from Boniface then Gill and Callaghan, but Callaghan looked like a man wanting to move forward putting Gill under the pump early on. Behind them Kai Allen, Russell Mayo moving through from 8th, Kacey Mann and Blake Purdie. Gower however was disappearing in the lead, nearly 2 seconds clear, Boniface, Gill, Callaghan and Allen a tight bunch behind him. Callaghan and Allen both under Gill at JSKC as they began lap 5, Gill dropping back as a result. Then Callaghan under Boniface as they entered the Dipper with 3 to go, so the local hope Callaghan was racing better than he qualified, now in 2nd place. Goodbye Gower though – now over 3 seconds clear in the lead. Then Boniface back under Callaghan with 2 to go, Allen and Gill close behind these 2. Callaghan another go at Boniface coming out of the Dipper on the last lap and then did the local trick of going narrow through Arrow corner to the line, but nearly brought undone as Boniface raced up alongside, falling short by 1/1000th! Allen 4th, Gill 5th and Gower already back at the scales in 1st.
Heat 2 and again Gower off to a good start from Boniface and Gill, Allen and Callaghan close behind them. Not as easy a run as Heat 1 for Gower this time with Boniface on his hammer and Gill right there too, but as the race unfolded Gower ground away a lead and was almost a second clear by halfway. Gill had come through too, moving into 2nd ahead of Boniface. With 4 to go Callaghan’s race ended as he rolled to the side of the track entering the Dipper – this left the real battle for 2 and 3 between Gill and Boniface and that’s how they finished with Gower 1 ½ seconds clear out front.
Gower, Boniface, Gill and Allen the familiar names up front for the final of Cadets A. Allen the unlucky one at the start as he got pushed wide at Arrow corner and fell back deep into the angry pack – Gower and Boniface clear from Gill and Mann. Behind them were Hugh Barter, Mayo, Luke Sawyer, Corbin Bailey and Purdie. Gower continued to motor along but Boniface was not letting him get away and Gill was in the frame too – the 3 karts covered by maybe 6 kart lengths. Lap after lap they wound down in this order, but Boniface was really putting the pressure on Gower with 5 to go – his nosecone bending the numberplate under the crash bar as they barrelled down the straight – Gill watching from close behind. Gower kept his nerve though, not letting Boniface pressure him into a mistake. Last lap begins – if ever Boniface is going to go, now’s the time; sure enough at the latest possible moment he swoops under at Arrow for the win – Wow! Gill watches it all happen, as he makes it home in 3rd.
Junior National Heavy
Pole man Aaron Cameron with a 45.640, more than 3/10th quicker than pole last year, then Tyler Morrison, Ben Harders and local Cody Donald. Cameron took all before him pulling away as the laps wound down, the order behind him: Donald who had moved through from 4th, again a local racing better than he qualified, then Harders and Morrison, Ryan Pike and Todd Sparey.
Heat 2 and Cameron again away well, then Morrison, Harders and Iredale, as Pike did a pike on lap 1 at Tony Kart turn and others dodged around him. When they settled 5th was Aaron Jackson, then Donald and Sparey. The first 3 were gone, but back through the field spot fires were breaking out everywhere, Nicholas Carroll and Bethany Simpson; Daniel Frencham and Kain Kugimiya; Morgan Feast and Simon Fallon – everywhere you looked it was on. Out front things were much more serene – Cameron on his way to a comfortable win from Harders, who just held out Donald.
Donald the big winner after a fairly ragged start saw Cameron and Harders run wide at Arrow, Harders making some enthusiastic moves to get back towards the front, but Cameron then Iredale and Sparey were the trio following Donald by lap 3, then Harders pulled in a lap later, so an unfortunate DNF for him. Donald had pulled away to a substantial lead with 8 laps remaining, Cameron maybe the only one who could reel him in as Sparey and Iredale were engaged in their own battle well behind him for 3 and 4. As each lap went by it looked less likely that Donald would not be the winner and eventually he greeted the finisher, Cameron well back in 2nd and Sparey holding out Iredale for 3rd. Cameron was subsequently disqualified from the Final for kart contact on lap 1.
Jack Harders the man in Rookies, again 3/10ths quicker than last year with a 45.766, then Jordyn Sinni, Zac Crichton and Jordan Dudfield. At the green Sinni and Dudfield powered away leaving Harders a little flat footed, but he fought back into 2nd to be behind Sinni as Dudfield dropped back to 6th, Crichton in 3rd then Damon Papasergio and Tyler O’Leary. By halfway Harders led Sinni by a whisker, Crichton a kart length behind them. With 3 to go Sinni back to the lead, O’Leary through on Harders to 2nd, Crichton still in 4th. One to go and O’Leary through to the lead – yet another local racing better than he qualified, but the experienced Sinni got him back on the last lap and lead over the line.
As Heat 2 began, a sprinkle of rain arrived – Junior Top Guns strikes again! By now the temperature had dropped back to something more normal, but with a change in the offing anything could happen. Harders away best and Dudfield through to 2nd, then Sinni, Crichton and O’Leary. The rain was not yet affecting the grip, but could get worse at any moment. After 3 laps Dudfield was the big loser, back to 6th after he was squeezed wide at Arrow, O’Leary the big winner moving up to 3rd. With 4 to go the rain had gone and we had 3 lots of 2 -Harders and Sinni right on each other out front, then O’Leary and Crichton a close couple, then Papasergio and Dudfield another pairing. Gradually the first two pairs became a quartet with O’Leary through to 2nd into the Dipper and under Sinni, now he was after Harders. Last lap and the classic Oakleigh local’s move – O’Leary under Harders into the Dipper, and this spreads them out. O’Leary went on to win, Harders, Sinni and Crichton behind him.
O’Leary a good job to start the Final off pole ahead of Sinni and Harders, then Crichton and Dudfield and Sinni away best, then O’Leary, Harders and Papasergio coming through to 4th. Behind them were Marcus Fraser – a great job through from 15th, Travis Worton through from 13th, then Angus Baddeley-Thompson and Jay Coul. At the front though it was O’Leary and Sinni putting on a great display of close racing and pulling further clear at the same time. You get the feeling Sinni was happy to follow O’Leary around, bide his time and make his move at the end, while Harders and Crichton were equally close to each other – just a long way behind the front 2. Sinni and I were clearly of one mind as he went under O’Leary at the beginning of the last lap at JSKC, but O’Leary had news for him – back under Sinni into the Dipper. A smart move as he pulled a gap and held on to win, Harders home in 3rd ahead of Crichton
Junior National Light C&P
Local Mathew Steel hit the front here at 45.115 followed by Josh Bohm, Benjamin D’Alia and Max Vidau. Steel put pedal to throttle stop at the green and D’Alia got away well to go to 2nd, then Olivia Dalla-Zuanna into 3rd and Vidau 4th. D’Alia was all over Steel looking for a way past, then with 6 to go at Arrow D’Alia got under Steel and Dalla-Zuanna followed him through to move to 2nd, Steel relegated to 3rd and then a gap back to Vidau. A lap later disaster for Dalla-Zuanna just as she looked like she might threaten the leader, she went bush entering the Dipper, got back on the track, but pulled in a lap later, so something wrong you’d assume. This left Steel and D’Alia battling for the lead with Steel going through at the Dipper. He and D’Alia then swapped spots a number of times, with Steel going super narrow last lap but keeping enough momentum to cross first.
Heat 2 and Steel again, then D’Alia and Dalla–Zuanna zooming through the field to be 3rd, then a lap later 2nd as she scythed through the mob – hopefully a better run for her than Heat 1. Bohm was now 3rd with Vidau 4th after D’Alia pulled in with a problem of some sort. Halfway and Dalla-Zuanna was putting in fastest laps and would soon apply the blowtorch to Steel. Steel had the infield worked out and held the gap there, but Dalla-Zuanna reeled him in on Oakleigh’s three cornered straight. Start of the last lap and away she goes – under Steel at JSKC, but Steel back under at the Dipper – then they swap paint and rub pods all the way to the grid hairpin, great racing with Dalla-Zuanna hanging tough down the straight and winning by 7/100ths, Bohm back in 3rd, then Vidau and Kyle Cornfoot 5th,
Steel then Vidau, Cornfoot then Lachlan Clough, then Dalla-Zuanna in 5th after her Heat 1 DNF, so some work ahead for her, but plenty of laps if she has the speed. Steel the winner at the start as Cornfoot and Clough dropped back, Dalla-Zuanna through to 3rd behind Vidau, then a huge tangle at Tony Kart turn on Lap 2 saw Steel’s lead increase even more as all his potential threats bumped and jumped their way back onto the track – D’Alia ending up second, then Dalla-Zuanna, Taine Venables through from 9th and Josh Bohm in 5th. With 8 to go Steel, D’Alia and Dalla-Zuanna were so far clear of the pack, as well as of each other, it would be a miracle if this wasn’t how they finished. No miracles today – it was Steel, D’Alia, Dalla-Zuanna 1, 2 & 3.
Not a good look for the Victorians here, with Territorian Bryce Fullwood the fastest at 42.445 (within 2/100th of the 2013 pole time – Liam McLellan’s 42.430), then Ben Harders from WA 2nd, and reigning National Champ in Junior Clubman, South Australia’s Joshua Denton in 3rd, then finally a Victorian – Luis Leeds in 4th. The usual frantic start for these guys and Fullwood controlled things well under pressure from Denton to take the lead, with Harders slotting into 2nd, then Denton, but local Dylan O’Keefe under him for 3rd Denton dropping back behind Leeds and Thomas Maxwell. By halfway though Fullwood had it sewn up – if nothing went wrong – he was over 2 seconds clear of O’Keefe and pulling away. At the end Fullwood, O’Keefe, Leeds, Harders and well done to Dylan Hollis through to 5th after starting rear of grid.
Heat 2 started like a Rodeo with Fullwood away to a lead and Leeds and O’Keefe away well too, but Denton was riding a bronco out of JSKC and behind him Harders slid wide too costing him a few spots, then Thomas Maxwell had a wild ride out of the Dipper, going as close as you can to a roll without actually going over. After 4 laps Hollis was again setting a cracking pace from the rear – through to 6th and looking to go further up the field. 4 to go and Fullwood, O’Keefe and Leeds were a tight bunch out front – not so easy for Fullwood this time. Then on the last lap Fullwood had finally broken slightly away and went on to win, O’Keefe, Leeds, Hollis and Harders behind him.
Fullwood and O’Keefe the front row of the Junior Clubman final and Fullwood to the front – an amazing job because a change in the race order to accommodate some hearings meant this final was run straight after the JMax final that he won so convincingly. 30 laps of Oakleigh is hard work at any time, never mind at the end of a 44 degree day – they must make ‘em tough up in the Territory. After 5 laps Fullwood still the leader but Denton was working his way through and in 2nd, just ahead of O’Keefe, Stenner 4th and Hollis again doing a great job to be 5th after starting rear of grid. With 7 to go Hollis had moved to 4th and Denton had pulled slightly clear of O’Keefe in 2nd, Fullwood still the leader. Then absolute catastrophe for Fullwood with 5 to go – he appeared to seize at MKC and rolled to a halt right in front of the starter’s box; Denton the beneficiary of this bit of misfortune, O’Keefe into 2nd and Hollis now up another spot and onto the podium in 3rd. Five laps later that’s how they finished and a good job by all of them, but what can you say about Fullwood – he looked set to dominate both classes and was cruelled here.
Junior National Heavy C&P
Simon Fallon the fastest here at 46.199, then local Lucas Filikotzias, Bryce Woolard and Molly Bohm. Fallon off to a good start and Woolard followed him through, Filikotzias back to 3rd then Daniel Frencham, Hirotaka Chong through to 5th from 7th, again the local doing better in a race. After 2 laps Filikotzias through at the Dipper and into 2nd, but Woolard back under him at JSKC. Fallon loved this as he pulled away in the lead. Then Filikotzias and Woolard stopped boxing and started to zero in on Fallon, behind them Frencham and Chong were working away for 4th and 5th. As the end approached Fallon looked like he would be OK, Filikotzias was making some ground back in 2nd, then Woolard. Chong and Frencham were joined by a queue of karts – Molly Bohm, Billy Guttler, Rhys Wagner then Domenic Pancione. Fallon first to the flag and Woollard had got under Filikotzias for 2nd.
Fallon, Filikotzias, Woolard again out front, with Filikotzias into the lead after a couple of laps. These 3 had shot clear of Frencham, with Chong and Bohm the next 3 and Chong into 4th as they began lap 5. Meanwhile out front Fallon had got back to the lead, but Filikotzias got him again at JSKC a lap later, then Woolard squeezed by at Arrow – Fallon coming alongside Woolard into the Carousel and he and Woolard went two wide into this tricky section of track. The man enjoying this the most was Filikotzias who built a break while these 2 were fighting – with Fallon eventually getting past at MKC to take 2nd from Woolard, then Chong, Frencham and Pancione.
Fallon and Filikotzias the front row for the Final but Frencham on a mission and through to the lead from 4th, Filikotzias unlucky when he found himself forced wide and dropped to the rear as he mowed the grass around Arrow corner. Soon it was Woolard to the lead, Frencham then Fallon behind him, then Chong working through to 3rd and Guttler was doing well to be 5th. Then in a flash Pancione was through to 5th. Where was Filikotzias? Back to 8th by halfway, but a big job ahead of him to reel them in. With 7 to go it was Woollard, Fallon, Chong, Frencham, Guttler, Pancione, Bohm, Eden Foik and Filikotzias, but Woollard was coming under pressure from Fallon and Chong and Frencham were lurking too. With 4 to go Fallon to the lead at JSKC, the others unchanged behind him. Then a lap later lots of changes – Woollard through to the lead at Tony Kart, than back to 4th a few corners later as Fallon the lead, Chong in 2nd, then Frencham 3rd. One to go and Frencham into 2nd, Chong back to 3rd, but Fallon the big winner as he drove away to win, Woollard the leader for so long, over the line 4th.
Junior National Light
An outstanding qualifying effort from Aaron Cameron who posted a 44.767 – within a tenth of the lap record (44.651) set way back in 2004 by Lucas Boucher – followed by Dylan Hollis, Luis Leeds and Oscar Piastri. Cameron away well then Leeds and Hollis, but on Lap 2 this pair touched and Leeds dropped back, then stopped. Meanwhile Piastri moved into 3rd, Mathew Steel 4th, behind him Olivia Dalla-Zuanna, Declan Fraser and Jordan Pike. With 5 to go Piastri was the man on the move, fastest lap and zeroing in on Hollis – then catastrophe as Hollis rolled to a halt coming into the Carousel, maybe something after the touch with Leeds – the kart hadn’t seemed the same after that incident. Cameron, Piastri, and another man on the move, Jordan Caruso who was through to 3rd after starting 10th and that’s the way they crossed the line, Steel very close to Caruso in 4th.
By now the night had really come down, it was lights on and batten down a bit too as the wind started to spring up. Cameron, Piastri and Hollis the front 3 and well clear, then Maxwell, Leeds and unfortunate Heat 1 DNF Jack Bell, but the front 3 looked like putting on a show. Halfway and Piastri had gotten to the front, Hollis in 2nd but looking like he wanted to be further ahead, and Cameron back in 3rd. Hollis’ wish came true at JSKC a lap later when he went to the lead. Further back Maxwell was a lonely 4th but all the action was out front – they diced and duked and along the way Hollis broke the JNL Lap record setting a cracking 44.573 and in an appropriate conclusion he won the race, leading Piastri across the line by half a kart length, then Cameron in 3rd.
Cameron and Piastri then Caruso and Steel – green we go and away goes the biggest class out there, all 27 of them. The best of them is Cameron, then Piastri and Hollis doing well here too – into 3rd from 7th. Caruso retires a lap later from 4th, elevating Steel a spot and he was followed by Dalla-Zuanna, Leeds, Fraser and Lewis Hodgson. While all this was going on Piastri got to the front ahead of Cameron, but it was Hollis again who kept coming and coming and eventually worked his way to the lead with 8 to go. Piastri wasn’t letting him get away though and stuck with him as the laps rolled by – and in the process Piastri reset the lap record again – 44.565, bettering Hollis’s effort in Heat 2 by 8/1000ths, then it was Cameron’s turn – 44.531. While all this was happening, Hollis was still winning the race and had a small gap, despite all the records being set around him. Another new lap record – now Piastri 44.399, the cooler night air really suiting these J’s well. What a race!!! 2 to go and Hollis by a whisker, then Cameron and Piastri – now Piastri to 2nd, now Cameron back to 2nd – last corner Piastri through on Cameron to take 2nd back and hold it by 8/100ths, but Hollis a well deserved victor. Best race of the night by a mile!!
Bryce Fullwood the man again in JMax with a 42.142, then Jack Black, Thomas Hughes and Bradley Stewart. Green we go and away goes Fullwood, Black, Hughes and Stewart, then Michael Maddern, Morgan Feast and Brayden Flood. While Black, Hughes and Stewart put on a tussle for 2, 3 & 4, Fullwood was cruising out front. With 3 to go Stewart went through to 3rd, this gave Black something of a gap in 2nd, but no change for Fullwood, over 2 seconds clear in the lead and greeted the finisher untroubled by other karts – Black, Stewart and Hughes behind him.
Heat 2 was all Fullwood again as he shot to the lead from Black and Hughes, then Troy Alger, Stewart and Brayden Flood behind them. Other than some shadow boxing between Alger and Stewart, it was a pretty mundane race. Fullwood the dominator – Black an equally dominant 2nd (in that he was well clear of 3rd) and then Stewart, Hughes, Alger and Flood all close together but well behind the front 2, Fullwood in a canter in the end.
Fullwood and Black both away well as the rest gathered up behind them: Stewart, Alger and Flood the next group. 5 laps in and Fullwood still our leader but Black was not to be dismissed – although the rest of the field was unlikely to catch them unless they tangled, Flood the best of the rest in 3rd. A few laps later the 3rd – 8th battle was the one to watch: Hughes, Flood, Stewart, Jonathon Bradshaw, Alger the order until Stewart got caught up into the Dipper and came to a halt. In the end it was Fullwood, Black, Hughes and Flood the first 3.
Cooler conditions would be the order of Saturday – maybe even some rain, but at least the worst of the heat will be gone. Look forward to Round 2 of Junior Top Guns for 2014 – who will pick up the cash and who’ll win the “Deadly”? We’ll see you there!!