Junior Top Guns - Round 1Tweet
by Paul Griffiths
A warm, sunny Friday greeted karters from all around the country who had made the trip to compete at Round 1 of Oakleigh’s Junior Top Guns in 2013. Club President Adam Bourke and the committee and helpers around the Club are to be congratulated on having the new canteen and clubrooms ready and open, complete with panoramic views of the track and the undulating landscape that surrounds the Oakleigh facility. The track itself looked magnificent as competitors got ready to blow out the cobwebs and turn a wheel in anger for the first time in 2013.
It’s worth remembering how we got to having 166 junior entries turn up on a work day in Melbourne for a go kart race. In about 2002, then Oakleigh President and Life Member Bernie Kelly, and Club Secretary Ian Russell had the idea of holding a meeting during the January holidays under the Oakleigh lights. Make it two consecutive Friday nights; maybe make it for Juniors only; maybe give some prize money to the kids; how about calling it Junior Top Guns?
No problem if the Club didn’t make any money out of it in the first few years – build it and they will come! Come they did, and year after year the meeting grew. In 2013 we have competitors here from every mainland state in Australia.
Over the years in between, Junior Top Guns has produced some fabulous racing – anyone who saw Chris Hays and Matthew Brabham go at it in Junior National Light a few years ago won’t quickly forget the wheel to wheel exhibition they turned on. The other thing Junior Top Guns became famous for was lively weather. Even when Melbourne was parched by drought, Junior Top Guns could be relied upon to produce rain, and lots of it. Last year the first Friday delivered a downpour of absolutely biblical proportions. First off karters were pumping up the wets, then looking to unfurl the spinnaker as they practiced on the Friday morning. By lunchtime it became clear that with the track under several feet of water, racing was not going ahead, so the meeting ran a week later over the Friday and Saturday night, and in 2013 the club stuck with this agreeable formula. It was also decided that competitors would get some more racing this year, so the format changed to Qualifying, two x 10 lap heats and a 15 lap final
NSW’s Benito Montalbano on pole with a 47.681, just a tenth ahead of Jordyn Sinni, then a bigger gap back to Sean Larkin and Connor Callanan. Montalbano won the drag race at the green, just holding out Sinni, and they pulled a gap on Callanan and Damon Papasergio who was through from 6th. 2 laps in and Sinni under Montalbano at MKC corner for the lead and these 2 a second clear from now Papasergio in 3rd and Callanan 4th, then Larkin and Bailey Hume further back. Lap after lap Sinni and Montalbano pulled away; by halfway they were 2 seconds clear, Sinni just edging away. Papasergio, Callanan, Larkin and Hume, now joined by Zak Lobko were putting on a great battle further back – up front Montalbano was back on Sinni’s crash bar. Last lap starts and Sinni a kart length clear of Montalbano but Montalbano snuck under him at MCK corner and held on for the win, then Papasergio, Callanan, Larkin and Hume the top 6
Heat 2 and Montalbano and Sinni at it again, then Larkin, Papasergio and Kai Upiter. Back in the pack, a tangle at Tony Kart turn saw 3 of them parked and out, by halfway Sinni ahead of Montalbano up front and a big gap back to Papasergio then Larkin. With 2 to go Sinni had a gap of half a second – a huge lead by the standards these two had set – and held on for the win, but only by a whisker in the end as Montalbano came back at him.
Montalbano, Sinni, Papasergio and Larkin the first 4 for the Final and Montalbano away as we went green, Sinni close behind. Based on the heats, it was how far these two, but hopefully Larkin, Papasergio and co could keep them in sight and put on a race. After 2 laps they were in touch with the front 2, and Hume and Callanan were not out of it either. Lap 3 and Sinni to the lead, but no pulling away from Montalbano – he was right there with him and looked like he was going to sit there for a while. Five laps later Montalbano’s nosecone was stilled jammed under the blue plate on Sinni’s crashbar and these 2 well clear now of the next tight group: Papasergio, Larkin, Hume and Callanan. With 4 to go, lapped karts loomed ahead as Sinni and Montalbano approached no less than 4 slower karts, but swept past them without too much drama and emerged out the other side still glued together – who would it be at the finish line? One to go – Sinni by a tenth, Montalbano hovering, then just falling back as Sinni stayed on the attack – closer through MKC, then Sinni narrow at Arrow corner to hold on by less than a tenth! Papasergio, Larkin, Callanan and Hume filled the minors, but well done Jordyn Sinni – a champion drive!
Junior National Heavy:
Braydon North continued his excellent 2012 by sticking it on the front row in JNH with a 45.971, ahead of Albury’s Zac Phillips and all the way from WA, Nicholas Rowe, then Will Hawkes, Todd Sparey and Robert Titherington your top 6. North to the lead as they began, then Philips, Rowe and Hawkes, then a gap back to Titherington, Zac Soutar and Justin Carless. For 5 laps not much changed – North and Philips locked together, Rowe close behind, then a gap back to Hawkes. Rowe through to 2nd on lap 6, but nothing between the front 3 and Hawkes watching, a second behind them. Last lap and Rowe under North at Tony Kart turn for the lead, North then forced to go defensive to keep Phillips out as they scrambled around the rest of the lap, so Rowe across the line 1st in Heat 1.
A wild start to JNH Heat 2 - North eventually to the lead, Phillips, Titherington then Rowe, with Hawkes taking a ride through the grass at Tony Kart Turn and dropping well back. A train of karts formed out front after 4 laps: North, Titherington, Rowe, Philips, and Bradley Marsh–Stepney joining on the back of them. Rowe to 2nd while North motored on out front with 4 to go. A lap later and Rowe was gaining on him, Titherington stuck on Rowe’s crashbar too. Start of the last lap and Rowe right on North, but North put together a smooth last lap to hold on by half a tenth, Rowe, Titherington, Philips, Marsh-Stepney and Soutar behind him.
North off pole for the final, followed by Rowe, Phillips and Titherington. North and Titherington the best of the starters, a gap back to Rowe and Phillips, then Soutar and O’Keefe. Rowe took a while to come on, but after 3 laps had moved to 2nd and set his sights on North; Titherington, Philips and Hawkes, then Soutar, O’Keefe and Aaron Jackson behind them. With 6 to go Rowe had reeled North in, but getting past looked like it might be another thing – or maybe he was just biding his time? Meanwhile Hawkes had moved through to 3rd, Titherington & Phillips 4 and 5. Then, with 3 to go Rowe got to the lead, but no significant gap appeared between him and North – watch for a tight finish! Rowe went defensive, and this allowed Hawkes to gain on them - at the line Rowe held on to win, but Hawkes snuck through for 2nd as North zigged when he should have zagged, trying to get around the Western Australian Rowe.
Junior National Light C&P:
Local Nicholas Steel a great job to pole JNL C&P with a 45.137 – a time that would have put him off 2nd in JNL open, then another Nicholas - Sims in 2nd, then Luis Leeds and Aaron Cameron. A lot of roll arounds saw the first crack at Heat 1 dragged back in to the grid for another go. On the second attempt Steel to a good lead, then Leeds through to 2nd, Sims in 3rd and Brad Stewart in 4th. Leeds to the lead at JSKC on lap 2, Steel, Sims and Stewart close behind. Suddenly on lap 3 Leeds no longer leads – Sims under him into the Dipper, but now a gaggle of 6 karts out front, Cody Donald and Cameron joining on the back of this group. A cracking race followed for the next few laps as they diced and duked their way around the track, but never a touch (at least that I saw) and they all stayed on – good racing for C&D graders. At the chequered Steel hung on by a tenth from Leeds, Stewart and Sims. Back in the pack lots of great dicing and no major incidents, so a good race no matter who you were following.
A good start by Steel, then Leeds, Sims, Iredale and Stewart as they settled, followed by the 2 Junior Heavy C&P combatants, Cameron and Costello. Steel and Leeds looked like they would check out, until contact at JSKC saw Leeds out and Steel drop back to 3rd while first and Iredale and then Sims took the lead. Steel put his head down behind them and eventually got back to the lead from Iredale, as Cameron went through to 3rd, then Sims and Stewart and that’s how they finished, Iredale and Cameron swapping spots on the last lap, then swapping back, and crossing the line side by side.
Steel and Stewart the front 2, then Sims and Iredale for the final, and Steel away best, then Stewart, Iredale and Donald, Sims hero to zero, dropping back to 13th at JSKC. After a lap Stewart to the lead and Cameron bounded into 4th, then Donald, then Leeds, Lucas Filikotzias, Simon Fallon and Mark Tulloch the first 8. Less than a second covered the first 4 after 5 laps – looks like it might liven up! The front 3 was where the action was – Stewart, Steel and Iredale. Suddenly Stewart had a good gap as Steel and Iredale swapped spots, then swapped back, and Cameron joined the battle while Iredale dropped to 5th behind Leeds. It was a long way to catch Stewart now for the pack – over a second clear out front. With 4 to go Steel had hauled Stewart in by a tenth, but laps were going to run out – 2 to go and the gap was 9/10ths and the same a lap later, so Stewart a comfortable win over Steel, Leeds through to 3rd, then Cameron and Iredale.
Long time JMax racer, Gippsland’s Blaine Densley nearly half a second clear of Troy Alger, then Liam McLellan and Jonathan Bradshaw as they faced the starter in JMax. Densley straight to the lead then McLellan desperate to get through to second at JSKC on Lap 1 ahead of Alger. After 2 laps McLellan had zeroed in on Densley, Alger a second further back, then a big gap to Sanae Meyland, Jaidyn Job and Benjamin Redjepi. By halfway McLellan had made it to the lead and was now half a second a lap quicker than Densley, so he’d found some pace somewhere – his best racing lap was quicker than his qualifying time. Suddenly on Lap 7 Densley expired going into the Dipper (the kart, not the driver) so McLellan a lonely race, now 4 seconds clear of Alger and drove away to an easy win.
Heat 2 and Densley and McLellan away at the green, swapping spots as lap 1 unfolded, Redjepi in there too until he put wheel off at the Carousel and dropped back, allowing Bradshaw through to 3rd and right on the back of McLellan and Densely in the lead. Lap 2 and McLellan through at MKC corner to lead – would he pull away, or would Densley put up a fight? Densley did put up a fight until disaster struck again and he went out at the same spot as Heat 1 – more mechanical woes I suspect. This elevated Meyland into 3rd and then she jumped into 2nd ahead of Bradshaw, with Redjepi and Alger fighting away behind them. The longer the race went the further McLellan pulled away, but you wondered what might happen if Densley managed to finish one. Meyland, Bradshaw and Alger, then Redjepi, Job and Black the rest of them.
McLellan off pole in JMax, Alger, Meyland and Redjepi behind him. Densley off the rear, but nice fresh tyres! McLellan by nearly a second after one lap, Redjepi, Alger, Job, and here comes Densley – 5th as they crossed the line for the second time. As long as the kart hangs together he should threaten. McLellan disappearing after 4 laps, Redjepi, Alger, and Densley now 4th and setting the fastest lap - rounds up Alger into the Carousel for 3rd and sets his sights on Redjepi. Then the unthinkable - Densley rolls to a halt in front of the starter’s box!!! He hasn’t finished a race all night. McLellan has it all to himself now, 6 seconds in the clear, then Redjepi, Alger, Job and Meyland. With 3 to go if it hadn’t been a night meeting you could have measured McLellan’s lead with a sundial, but the next 3 are at it hammer and tongs: Redjepi, Job, Alger as they cross the line. 2 to go and not 3/10ths between them. Alger drops off in 4th as they begin the last lap. In the end McLellan in a canter, then Alger, Job and Meyland, as Redjepi was pushed wide at Grid hairpin on the last lap and dropped to 5th.
Fastest qualifier was 2012 Eastern Lions flyer Cooper Murray with 46.033, only 0.003 ahead of local Oscar Piastri - Jai Sparey, Jordan Caruso and Dylan Hollis close behind, Caruso and Hollis tied on 46.279, but Caruso a better next lap. Heat 1 and Murray bogged a bit at the start so Piastri and Caruso got through on him, but by the end of Lap 1 Murray was back in 2nd and right on Piastri with lots of Rookies venturing off track behind him and not all of them coming back on. Back in 4th was Hollis, then Thomas Hughes, Sparey and Dominic Romeo. By halfway Murray was just grinding away on Piastri’s crash bar, no pressure on him as Caruso was well back in 3rd, but Murray eventually moved to the lead on Lap 6 and pulled away, while Piastri dropped back into the clutches of Caruso, finally dropping to 3rd with 3 to go, Sparey and Hollis behind them in 4th and 5th, Murray an untroubled win in the end.
Murray and Piastri a great start to Heat 2, Murray holding on for the lead, Caruso through then Hollis, Hughes and Sparey, as Piastri dropped well back. After 5 laps Murray had a convincing lead, Caruso clear in 2nd, then Hollis, Sparey, Hughes and the recovering Piastri, but no one close enough to challenge, so they wound their way around the twisty Oakleigh circuit unchanged. Finally Sparey and Hollis swapped spots, then Hughes and Piastri swapped, and Caruso began to gain on Murray, so looked like things might liven up. Murray wanted none of this, so he kept a cool head to hold on for a well deserved win from Caruso, Hollis and Sparey.
Naturally Murray off pole, Caruso, Piastri, Hollis and Sparey behind him as they went at it at the green – Caruso to the lead, Murray the rough end of the pineapple and back to 4th at JSKC, Hollis and Piastri 2 and 3, Hughes and Declan Fraser 5 and 6. Within 3 laps Murray was back in the lead ahead of Piastri and Hollis, with Caruso back to 4th. By mid race it was Murray, Piastri and Caruso separated by less than a second and Piastri closing on Murray. Caruso went wide all on his own at the Grid hairpin with 6 to go, easing the pressure on Piastri, but he was ramping it up on Murray, while Hollis Hughes and Fraser worked away behind Caruso. 4 to go and Piastri was all over Murray like a cheap suit, having a look at Grid hairpin, JSKC corner, anywhere he thought he might have a chance to squeeze by. Squeeze by he did, with 2 to go at JSKC, then Murray back under him 2 corners later – here comes a finish!! Last lap begins and they swap spots four times in five corners, then Murray pops out in front – then a lapped kart slows him with 2 corners to go, but still Murray holds out Piastri, Caruso right on the front 2 in the end – a great race!! Well done to Cooper Murray.
Junior National Light:
Local Liam McLellan off pole with a 45.071, 2/10ths clear of Gippsland’s Jacob Prestipino, then Thomas Prascevic, Mathew Iredale, Nicholas Steel and Spencer Ackerman, all no more than 3/10ths off pole. So the biggest field of the night – 30 karts – rolled out for Heat 1. Around and around they went......... Get ready.....Go! Prestipino to the lead, then McLellan, Prascevic, Steel and Leeds, but McLellan into to the lead after 3 laps and he and Prestipino pulled clear of Steel in a lonely 3rd, then Leeds and Prascevic further back. Lap after lap the front 2 pulled away but McLellan always seemed to have Prestipino’s measure, just keeping him at bay, until Prestipino rounded him up and got past as they began the last lap and then held McLellan out until the chequered, then Steel, Leeds, Ackerman, Luke Guillou, Prascevic, Iredale, Lachlan Naismith and Nicholas Sims the top 10.
McLellan and Prestipino, Steel and Iredale once they settled in the big JNL field, Guillou closing fast in 5th, then Ackerman and Stewart. Steel through to 2nd at the halfway mark, the C Grader doing well mixing it with the Blue Plates, then to the lead a lap later, but McLellan back under him at JSKC, then Prestipino, then Ackerman, then Guillou all got by, so Steel back to 5th but only 1.3 seconds covered the front 5, so nothing in it. McLellan pulling away nicely as they began the last lap, Prestipino then Ackerman, Steel, Stewart and Guillou as they crossed the line.
McLellan the pole sitter then Prestipino, Steel and Ackerman as the final began. Unfortunately no less than 9 karts out on the first lap in various slides, tangles and trip ups through the field, but out front the usual suspects, Prestipino and McLellan, worked away from Steel, Leeds, Guillou and Iredale. Great dicing between the front 2, yet they still stayed just clear of Steel in 3rd. Eventually Steel and Guillou joined the action and we had a group of 4 at the front. Then Leeds, Iredale and Ackerman joined the party, so we had 8 karts covered by less than 2 seconds. McLellan was pulling a small gap on them in the lead, then Steel and Guillou got clear in 2 and 3, while Prestipino was going backwards through field, falling to Leeds, Iredale and Ackerman with 3 to go – surely a problem with the kart. So McLellan, then Guillou who had snuck past Steel, Leeds and Ackerman as they began the last lap. No trouble for McLellan, but Steel jumped back into 2nd, Guillou, Leeds, Ackerman, Iredale and then the struggling Prestipino as they greeted the chequered flag.
Junior National Heavy C&P:
Rochester’s Shaun Costello was number 1 ahead of Aaron Cameron, Jake Coghill and Oakleigh local Jamie Westaway. Costello away, then Cameron, Coghill and Dylan O’Keefe as we went green. Costello and Cameron drove off, pulling a good gap on the rest of the field, O’Keefe through to 3rd, then Westaway, Coghill and Nicholas Carroll. Cameron through on Costello to lead as they began lap 7, but nothing between the two of them, and Costello back under him as they began the last lap. Cameron back to the lead 2 corners later, but Costello through at Arrow corner and they smoked tyres as they crossed the line, Costello holding on by 6/100ths to win, O’Keefe in 3rd.
Heat 2 and Costello then Cameron off to a good start as back in the pack it was carnage for the first lap or two - karts up over each other, chains dropped, exhausts dislodged – it’s all happening! After 4 laps Costello was well clear, O’Keefe through to 2nd, Coghill, then Cameron, Westaway, then Nicholas Floodstrom. As the day slowly came to an end, Costello drove off into the setting sun, Cameron got back to 3rd, then eventually through on O’Keefe for 2nd, Westaway came home in 4th and they all went back to the pits to prepare for the final.
Costello, Cameron, O’Keefe then Westaway, Coghill and Carroll for JNH C&P, so if your name began with a C you were in with a good chance. Costello the lead, Cameron, O’Keefe and Coghill after a couple of laps – and 8 laps later, nothing had changed! Not the most exciting race we have seen all night, but exciting for Costello and his connections, as he continued to lead, Cameron close behind him. 4 to go and they swapped spots, and then swapped back. Costello continues to lead, but very little in it with 3 to go. Cameron back to the lead at MKC with 2 to go – and surely someone whose name begins with C will win as these 2 are six seconds clear of O’Keefe in 3rd. Last lap and Cameron and Costello swap, then swap back – out of Grid hairpin and Cameron pulls away to victory from Costello, O’Keefe then Coghill – a good dice out front in the end, and well done to Cameron.
Liam McLellan off pole in 2 classes now, with a 42.430 (not bad for his first time in a Clubman), just ahead of Geelong’s Will Hawkes on 42.444, then Damon Strongman 44.472, Jake Klein and Nicholas Rowe only hundredths behind them as well, so a great race coming up in Junior Clubman. The usual frantic start for this class saw McLellan lead, then Strongman, Rowe with a dive up the inside into 3rd ahead of Klein, and away they went. Four hectic laps later it was Strongman in the lead, Klein, then a gap back to Hawkes, Rowe and then McLellan – Hawkes a problem into Tony Kart turn, back to 5th, then pulled in and gave it away. Strongman and Klein out front, Rowe, McLellan, Ashton Andoloro, Justin Carless and Dylan Slits all strung out behind them, but Strongman and Klein up front boxed on for lap after lap, never far apart. With 3 to go Klein was throwing everything at Strongman and Rowe was closing back in 3rd. Last lap they set sail and still Strongman hung on, then Klein under him at Grid corner, but Strongman threw it back under him at Arrow, all the while Rowe gaining; at the line Strongman, Klein, Rowe – wow! This was just the first heat!
So, Heat 2 begins and straight away disaster at JSKC corner: Strongman, Klein, Rowe, North, Carless, Jackson and Redjepi all out in a huge tangle of karts and the race will be a lesser spectacle for their absence. Hawkes and McLellan then the front 2, Andoloro and Adam Capek in 3 and 4, Justin Black in 5 and Ackerman in 6. Hawkes pulled away from McLellan, but the race lacked the excitement of the first heat with so many good steerers on the sidelines. At the end it was all Hawkes, McLellan in 2nd, then Andoloro just holding off Capek for 3rd.
For the final, McLellan, Andoloro and Black, Capek and Hawkes the first 5, and several more fancied starters were further back following all the DNF’s in Heat 2. After a couple of laps it is McLellan, and Rowe through from way back (10th) into 2nd, then Ackerman, Hawkes and Andoloro. Rowe to the lead as they start lap 3 – what a first few laps he’s had! Ackerman to 2nd and Hawkes right on McLellan – it wasn’t going to be all the pole man’s way in the final. Rowe and Ackerman (who started 13th) now 1 and 2 with 9 to go, Hawkes through to 3rd, McLellan fading in 4th. Rowe, Ackerman and Hawkes glued together out front, and with 4 to go Ackerman would be inside Rowe’s race suit if he was any closer as they cross the line. No change after another lap, except Hawkes moves even closer to the front two – get ready for a finish and a half! Nose to tail they go around. Start of the last lap and still no change in the order; Rowe looking forward, sideways and behind himself all at the same time. Ackerman right on him but can’t get past – 0.08 adrift on the line and Hawkes half a second behind them in 3rd, McLellan well back in 4th. Well done to Rowe on a cool drive under pressure.