by Paul Griffiths
Here we are again at Oakleigh in January – it’s Junior Top Guns time. I found myself reading the start of the 2017 Friday report when I got to the track today, and was struck by the similarity in the weather a year ago – humid, hot, and then just as Qualifying was getting set to begin it poured with rain – same in 2018. By the time Clerk of Course Adam Bourke finished Drivers’ Briefing today he was shouting to be heard above the rain drumming on the grid roof. Better than the days when we didn’t have a roof I guess!
This must be about the 15th year Oakleigh has run Junior Top Guns and it remains a great way to kick off the year. Young karters get the chance to race under lights and generally blow the cobwebs out.
Lots of competitors have gone on to bigger things. I can remember watching Matthew Brabham race Junior Light here and Junior Clubman; many others have had a crack at Top Guns at Oakleigh and below I have included a shot of a young Scott McLaughlin in his 2008 breakout year in karting. He began the year by winning Junior Clubman at Oakleigh’s Top Guns then went on to win the Vic Open in the same class – and has since done one or two other handy things in motor racing! Who knows what the future holds for this year’s KA3 winner.
Qualifying was therefore set to begin in very wet conditions, but by the time we sorted out some bugs with the new timing system the rain had stopped and things had returned to a muggy sort of stickiness. Once we completed qualifying, racing got underway.
KA4 Junior Heavy C&D
Billy Bishop and Braden Clark the front row here and Bishop got away well, but behind him there was a bit of a shuffle as karters sorted themselves out, Bastian Mullan moving through to 2nd after qualifying 6th, then Stirling Angus 3rd who had qualified last with no time at all, so a good job by him. Behind them were Clark then Ben Taylor, Riley Jabke and Ryan Cook. By halfway Bishop had pulled well clear and Angus moved into 2nd ahead of Mullan, Jabke now 4th. A couple to go and Mullan DNF’s minus his chain entering the Dipper, still Bishop, then Jabke, then another big gap to now Clark and as the last lap began so did the rain, but the order remained unaffected and Bishop sailed away to the win.
Very damp as we begin the second round of heats and Clark to the front ahead of Mullan then Bishop then Taylor, Cook and Jabke. Once they settled, despite the wet conditions, it looked like there might be a bit of a procession coming and sure enough, for many laps there was no change. Clark continued to lead as Mullan was an unfortunate DNF with a flapping rear bar, then Jabke and Bishop in a duel for now 2nd with Taylor joining in – and that’s the way she ended.
So Finals are underway and Bishop leads the first of them away ahead of Jabke, Clark and Angus. Lap 1 sees Mullan involved in a spectacular 360 under the starter’s box but he re-joins and keeps going at the rear. Bishop meanwhile powers away in the lead while a series of spins, spills and stuff ups behind him eliminates Jabke and Taylor, leaving Cook in 2nd, then Mullan who recovered from last to be 3rd, then Clark and Angus as former front runners turn into back markers – hard to keep track of in the descending gloom! No doubting Bishop though as he looks like taking a trifecta for the night – and he does!
KA4 Junior Light
Blake Purdie ahead of Steven Tsesmelis, Kobi Williams, Jobe Stewart and Bailey Collins, and Tsesmelis shot to an early lead followed by Stewart then Williams as Purdie dropped back to 6th from pole. By lap 10 Tsesmelis was well clear in the lead, no change in the order behind him: Stewart, Williams, Fletcher Harris, Tex Starr-McKoy, Purdie, Collins and Hugh Barter and that’s the way they crossed the line.
An interrupted report for the 2nd heat here while I looked after the inner me for a bit, Purdie looked to take all before him leading Starr-McKoy, Williams, Tsesmelis and Harris around to the flag.
Tsesmelis leads them off, behind him Williams, Harris, Starr-McKoy and Purdie as we begin Final #2. Tsesmelis establishes a gap, but behind him quite a chain led by now Harris, then Starr-McKoy, Williams now 4th, Hugh Barter, Purdie and Jobe Stewart and they rocket around for a number of laps in this order. Despite some close racing, not much passing going on and the laps wind off without incident which suits Tsesmelis down to the ground as he takes the win, ahead of now Starr-McKoy and Williams, Harris having disappeared somewhere in the blackness – at the cut through as it turns out – expired beside the track.
Mathew Domashenz beside Leo Iannella then Toby Dvorak and Ayrton Filippi behind them and as we go green it’s Domaschenz, leading Dvorak then Cody Maynes-Rutty through from 8th followed by Jesse Lacey, Filippi, Iannella, Ben Holliday, Brodie Thompson and Damon Woods. Big lead to Domaschenz, Filippi threatening Maynes-Rutty for 3rd, Thompson into 6th as the laps count down, then Filippi gets through on Maynes-Rutty to take 3rd but Domaschenz and Dvorak well gone in front. Jake Santalucia and Aiva Anagnostiadis go off at Arrow corner as they tangle with Ruby Gibson who manages to keep going (at least until she goes off a few laps later in the Dipper and DNF’s), then Kristian Janev goes off on his own in front of the starter’s box – meanwhile Domaschenz is g-o-r-n out front, then Dvorak well ahead of Lacey, followed by Thompson and Woods, and that’s how they finished.
Domaschenz leads them away again in heat 2 ahead of Maynes-Rutty who powers through, then Iannella, Dvorak, but only as far as Lap 2 when he spins and DNF’s, then Filippi, Ambrose and Thompson as we settle in for another soggy race. A lap or two later and Iannella and Ambrose rub shoulders exiting Tony Kart and drop back a couple of spots – out front Domaschenz extends his lead even further. From here Filippi, Thompson and Ambrose bank up behind Maynes-Rutty, but don’t ever look quite like getting past him and sure enough he holds on for 2nd but Domaschenz well ahead takes the win.
Domashenz headed for the briefest of moments at the start, but soon returns to the lead ahead of Filippi, then Maynes-Rutty, Thompson, Dvorak, who was coming through from 8th after his Heat 2 DNF, then Iannella also recovering from a DNF I think, as they settle down for the run. Domaschenz soon turns on the same sort of performance he showed in the Heats and leaves the rest well behind – good for him, but does not make a great race to watch, unless you happen to be connected in some way to Matthew Domaschenz! Some excitement back in 2nd as Thompson closes up on Maynes-Rutty in the Brodie and Cody show – but otherwise they’re pretty spread out. Finally Domashenz takes the win and Maynes-Rutty holds off Thompson at the flag.
KA4 Junior Heavy
Bodhi Bright the fastest qualifier here with Daniel Hookway beside him and Madisson Jess and Liam Hall behind him and away we go with Hookway to the lead then Bright, Hall now 3rd, then Joshua Hocking through to 4th from 6th and Joel Johnson rocketed up to 5th from 10th. A real battle for the lead as Bright gets to the front then Hookway and Hocking swapping paint behind him, Hocking recovering from an uncharacteristic qualifying effort. Eventually Bright pulls something of a gap on the others, but still the closest race we have seen. By halfway Hocking is through to 2nd but will have a job to catch Bright, although a drying track may have some say in things. Meanwhile Hamish Allan has moved through to 4th after also qualifying further back than I would have expected in 9th – that’s what a wet qualifying session throws up sometimes I guess. With 3 to go Bright looked safe in the lead ahead of Hocking and further back Hookway then Allan – and that’s the way they crossed the line.
Bright faltered right on the green light, allowing Hookway to take the lead, then Hocking through to 2nd, Lachlan Ward 3rd then Allan, and well back is Bright, now 7th. So Hookway and Hocking went away with it, then back in 3 and 4 still Ward and Allan, until Allan has a moment and drops a spot allowing Jess through to 4th. Hocking meanwhile is now gaining on Hookway and might make a move for the lead. Last lap and Hocking is all over Hookway – will he find a way past? No – Hookway holds his nerve and Hocking comes in 2nd, then Ward, Allan and Jess.
The familiar names of Hookway and Hocking take it away here, followed by Bright, Hall, Allan, Benjamin Moss, Billy Bishop and Lachlan Ward, Bishop an unfortunate spinner entering the Dipper and has to start all over again from the back. A few laps in and Hocking leads Hookway, but not by a lot, then a small gap back to Ward now in 3rd – great job after starting 9th, then Bright and Allan. A few laps later and Hocking has pulled out a bigger lead, so might see our 3rd different winner for the night in this class. Sure enough, Hocking, running a new style of completely fogged up visor in our now tropical weather conditions, manages to drive away to victory ahead of Hookway, and Ward, also running the fogged up style of visor, takes 3rd.
Lewis Francis carries on the tradition of the Francis name, plonking it on pole beside Peter Bouzinelos, then James Anagnostiadis, Rock Han and Jensen Marold – so some challenges here for the report writer! A bit of a shambles of a roll around as karts can’t seem to catch the pack, but eventually we got underway with Francis to a good lead ahead of Bouzinelos, Han and Anagnostiadis, then Xavier Avramides, but as the race unwound and they spread out it was Francis well in the lead and Bouzinelos still 2nd, but well back, then Han and moving through is Charlie Nash followed by Jack Plumb – Anagnostiadis a DNF at Tony kart turn a few laps earlier. By now Francis has a lead longer than my vacuum cleaner – with no timing available it’s hard to say, but it was big! Francis went on to win, Bouzinelos 2nd and Nash moved through to 3rd ahead of Han as we began the last lap.
Francis again away to the lead and pulls a big gap early, Han then 2nd followed by Jack Plumb, then Anagnostiadis and Nash, Avramides and then Bouzinelos, who must have had a problem at the start that I didn’t see – now well back in 7th. Francis smashing it out front by halfway, while Plumb gets under Han, then Han back under Plumb, but no one getting near Francis. Anagnostiadis spins exiting Tony Kart allowing Bouzinelos past, then Nash who must have also had an incident. Eventually they are so spread out it’s hard to tell what’s going on, but no mistaking Francis out front as he takes a well-deserved win.
Bouzinelos gets the jump on Francis at the start and these 2 lead Han and Plumb, then Anagnostiadis and Avramides behind them, followed by Nash, Marold and Taormina – until Anagnostiadis goes off and out at Page Bros corner. Meanwhile Bouzinelos still leads Francis with Plumb now 3rd, Han dropping back to 4th. As the laps wind down Francis wound Bouzinelos in slowly, then with 2 to go a lapped kart just bunches the leading pair a whisker and Francis pounces as they get by him, to take the lead at JSKC corner. From here Francis pulls a small gap and takes the win ahead of Bouzinelos and Plumb.
A very good size field of 19 KA3 Juniors and I was looking forward to some good racing in the premier class – Samuel Downing on pole with Cooper Webster beside him, then Matthew Hillyer, Corey Herbertson, Reef McCarthy and Kai Allen the first 6 of a quality bunch. After a lap it was Downing in front then Allen and Hillyer as they sorted themselves out behind him, Webster back to 4th, McCarthy behind him, then Conor Somers and Herbertson further back in 7th after starting 4th. A few laps in Downing, Allen and Webster put on a real demonstration as they swapped and slid around the track in the lead. All this brought Hillyer onto to the back of them and it was a real dice for a few laps – kart sliding everywhere. Soon Somers and Herbertson had joined them – all the dicing and sliding not proving to be the quickest way around the track! Once I could take a breath it was still Downing who popped out in the lead, Hillyer, Allen and Webster now our front four literally welded together – great race! Then Hillyer suffered a problem of some sort and dropped right back (and eventually pulled in) – a shame as he was threatening for the lead a few laps ago, so Downing continued ahead of Allen, Webster and Herbertson behind them. Last lap and Downing had a narrow lead over Allen so it should be one of these two – and sure enough Downing did a good job to hang on to the lead and take the win, Allen, Webster, Herbertson and Somers behind him.
First time around in Heat 2 sees Webster in front then Allen through to 2nd, Hillyer, Herbertson, McCarthy and finally pole sitter Downing who had an ordinary beginning to proceedings. Webster puts on a fabulous exhibition of wet weather driving as the rain seems to intensify – he drives away, water streaming off the kart, Allen still in 2nd. Not quite the excitement of Heat 1, but a good win to Webster, and Allen a good job to drive through to 2nd from 6th.
Another downpour just before these guys roll out the gate for their final, so it’s nearly impossible to tell who’s who in all the spray and lights, but the now-functioning timing tell me Webster leads Allen, then Downing and Herbertson, McCarthy and Somers. Then the timing freezes and we’re back to trying to see it all through steamy windows and streaming spray – Downing has now moved through to the front ahead of Webster, these 2 close together, then Allen, Hillyer moving though from 8th, then Allan and Herbertson. Downing and Webster put on a clinic in wet weather driving, and Hillyer is also using his local knowledge to work his way through – now 3rd and setting fastest laps. With 4 to go Webster is suddenly in front – maybe Downing made a blooper I didn’t see, as he now follows Webster around – Hillyer still in 3rd but not gaining quite so much now. Final lap and it’s Webster taking the flag, and right on the line Hillyer gets 2nd over Downing.
KA4 Junior Light C & D
Jackson Lee ahead of Jett Wilson, Evan Ferentinos, Zaiden Barry, Charlee Zammit and Charlee Richardson (what are the odds? Two Charlee’s!) and Lee makes the most of a good start to go to a good lead, behind him Wilson, Barry then Ferentinos and Richardson. Ferentinos drops well back after an incident I missed, this doesn’t affect Lee who’s smashing it out front, while Barry moves to 2nd ahead of Wilson, then Richardson elevated to 4th, further back Chloe Potter and the recovering Ferentinos , but Lee is taking all before him and leads comfortably – all the way to the chequered flag.
Lee leads Barry around for a couple until Barry spins in the Carousel and loses a few spots, so now Wilson into 2nd, Ferentinos 3rd then Potter, then Barry and Richardson. Lee drives away with it, but quite a stoush behind him between Barry now back in 2nd, then Wilson, Potter and Richardson; Ferentinos meanwhile DNF’s at One Tree Hill. So Lee waltzes away with the win, Barry recovering to a comfortable 2nd.
Barry goes through at the start to take the lead from 3rd, relegating Lee to 2nd and Wilson well back to 4th behind Toby Waghorn who has moved through to 3rd from the rear. Then Lee falls well back to put an end to his chances for victory in the final tonight – a shame after victories in both heats. So it’s Barry then Waghorn, Wilson, Richardson and Potter. A few laps later and Potter gets past Richardson to move to 4th, so good job by her – that is until she goes off in the Dipper and DNF’s – D’oh! Meanwhile it’s Barry still well clear in the lead with Waghorn and Wilson back in 2 and 3 and that’s the way they greet the finisher.
Cadet 12 C&D
Liam O’Donnell fastest here with Cadel Ambrose beside him, Marcus Pisani, Jake Santalucia, Kristian Janev and Giancarlo Artho. A messy start as O’Donnell and Ambrose tangled and spun at the head of the pack causing a ripple of bouncing, spinning karts to work its way through the pack, but eventually we all got back to the dance (except Santalucia and Giancarlo Artho who found the trap at Arrow corner) to find Pisani at the front with Janev, then Ambrose not too badly affected, then Aydin Karadagli through to 4th from 10th and pole man O’Donnell is now back in 6th. In a startling recovery Ambrose is through to the lead by lap 5, so well done there, now behind him is Pisani and Janev, then a gap back to O’Donnell who was fighting back towards the front. With 3 to go O’Donnell has worked his way back to 2nd so a good job from him, but Ambrose looks a step too far, holding a healthy lead which he takes to the flag.
Let’s see if we can get a better start to Heat 2 here, and it was a case of yes for O’Donnell, no for Ambrose, as the latter pitched into a 360 at the first turn, re-joining in last, but better off than Hunter Salvatore who went off and DNF’d in the same incident, so O’Donnell our leader with Pisani in 2nd then Janev in 3rd, then Artho and Santalucia behind them. Pisani was gaining on O’Donnell out front as these 2 pulled clear of the Janev in a lonely 3rd, then a gaggle of karts well back behind him, led by Santalucia, Artho, Jake Krasna, Karadagli and Nate Young. Behind Young we find the slowly recovering Ambrose, still well back in the field. With 5 to go Pisani was right on O’Donnell and starting to look for a way past in the slippery conditions. As he laps counted down Ambrose found his feet and was through to 4th with 2 to go – O’Donnell, Pisani and Janev ahead of him, and that’s the way she ended.
O’Donnell gets away at the green followed by Ambrose and Pisani, then a gap back to Briggs, Krasna, Janev and Young as we settle down for the last final of the night. Ambrose turns the heat up on O’Donnell for the lead and Pisani is not being left in the distance either, so these 3 form a tight bunch out front. A few laps in and Ambrose still piling it on and they pull slightly clear of Pisani, but it won’t take much to bring him back onto them. Further back it’s still Briggs, Krasna, Janev, then Santalucia, Artho and Salvatore. Ambrose is looking racy behind O’Donnell, pulling this way and that to find a way around, but O’Donnell up to the task and keeps him at bay – Pisani watching in 3rd. A lapped kart splits them up a bit, but once they all get around it’s still O’Donnell, with Ambrose and Pisani now right on these two. Another lapped kart a lap or two later, but still the same order once they get around – then suddenly Ambrose pounces and takes the lead and straight away puts a gap on them, O’Donnell now looking under threat from Pisani, and Ambrose goes on to take the win with Pisani just grabbing 2nd in the last few metres ahead of O’Donnell.
So night one is done and we look forward to doing it all over again Saturday! Stay tuned!