Reverse Racing at Albury Wodonga

July Cub Day Karticle, by Bailey Dixon

A fresh and exciting element was just what was needed to spice up the Albury-Wodonga Kart Club’s July Club Day, and that is exactly what was provided. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of reverse racing, where the corners are all weird, the straight is the wrong way, and all the Karters have to redefine their knowledge of just how to drive the Albury track.

Some loved the reverse direction, others weren’t fans, but overall, there was one consistent element; good, hard racing.

The class of KA3 Junior, population Ethan Smead and Jordan Chapman, caught my eye on Sunday due to their amazingly close racing in heat one. Swapping and changing positions throughout the lap, these boys were pushing right to the edge, coming oh-so-close to crashing so many times. To talk you through just one lap, Jordan would overtake in turn six, then Ethan would retake the position coming into turn seven (the hairpin), and Jordan would then get a run on him down the back straight and dive down the inside into turn nine. Rinse and repeat boys. Unfortunately, their racing was stifled further on, with Jordan suffering a mechanical issue in heat two, not being able to start in heat three, and both racers colliding in the final.

The Vic Combined Medium category meanwhile, saw Jackson Rice with a pace advantage over Steven O’Hare coming into the races. However, Steven had one thing on his side – experience and race craft. He was successful in jumping Jackson on the start, before working his absolute hardest to fend off the speedy young racer, going side-by-side through many of the corners. That is, until Jackson retook the lead in the corner complex of one, two and three, and began to pull out a significant lead. Fortune and fate were determined to hold him down, but Jackson would have none of it. Despite a broken seat in the first heat, where he had to work hard to keep himself off the tarmac, and a snapped throttle cable in heat three that left him reeling in sixth-place, where he had to operate the throttle by hand, he drove to a consistent second overall, just behind Steven.

Further down the Vic Combined Medium field, the battle for third was in full swing between Jason Gambold, Corey Drummond and Rob Mullavey. Watching these three was a nail-biting experience, for even though they weren’t swapping and trading places constantly, they were sitting right on the bumper of the guy ahead. Heat one saw the order as Jason, Corey and Rob, heat two as Rob, Corey and Jason, heat three as Rob, Jason and Corey, and then the final with Jason ahead of Corey, and Rob happily frolicking in the grass around turn eight, the slight kink in the straight. Man were these guys great to watch!

Victory in the Vic Combined Light class was uncontested, with young-gun Scott Chaston blazing off into the distance every race. It was the battles further down the field though that really brought this class to life. For half the races at least, Joel Tyrrell and Daniel Taborsky were scrapping away for second place, while Dayna Rice and Mark Chaston enjoyed a close heat one battle. Mark Tracey was enjoying an up and down day, with some intense racing involved, and some clever overtaking skill shown, and Kevin Mullavey was participating in a fight of his own with Ron Lonsdale through heats one and two.

The Cadets this month took an unusual back seat in the excitement stakes where racing was concerned. In the 12s, Anthony Alessi scampered away from Blake Tracey at the conclusion of a tight first-lap chase in heat two, leaving Blake to fend off the determined Eddy Cooper for second. Lap five saw Blake, on the exit of the hairpin turn 7, run wide onto the grass, thus allowing Eddy to pass and step into second place. With the roles reversed, Blake was now the one to put pressure on the back of Eddy, but couldn’t catch-up until the ultimate lap. Eddy claimed second for this heat. However, his luck soon turned when he and Ryan Taborsky came together through the tricky left-hander of turn 1 off the start, leaving both of them out of the race and handing third to Taylor McPherson behind Anthony and Blake.

As for the Cadet 9s, there was some kerfuffle in heat one, largely between James Brett, Noah Dixon and Benjamin Roberts. Despite an earlier incident in turn 9, when James late-lunged on the inside of Noah and they were both taken out, these two managed to keep going; albeit with James now leading the way out of the corner. Then, on the penultimate lap, James attempted to slide around the outside of Benjamin going through turn 6 and the boys collided. Noah, attempting to avoid the backwards-facing pair, found Ashleigh Brett on the racing line and had to brake hard to avoid her, but to no avail. Skimming her rear-bumper sent him off into the grass, leaving all three youngsters out of the race and leaving fourth-placed Jackson McKinna and fifth-placed Ashleigh to cruise around to first and second for that heat.

The July club day is over, and our curiosity is satiated! A little bit of everything was featured in the world of reverse racing; the switcheroo, great overtakes, nose-to-bumper racing, and a touch of contact.

Moving forward, we look to the next club day, Saturday the 24th, which brings driver-coach Dave Sera to AWKC, while Sunday the 25th provides an opportunity to hone your race craft.

See you then!

Driver Profile – Blake Tracey

Cadet driver and weekend birthday-boy Blake Tracey spends the majority of his time smashing-out fast laps to reach, overtake and challenge his rival and mate Anthony Alessi, keeping us spectators on the edge of our seats for the Cadet 12 races.

But what is this talented young man like off-track?

I am happy to write that his relentless enthusiasm for racing isn’t merely an on-track skill. He is a determined, eager and optimistic kid even when standing on the sideline, and I caught-up with him to find out more about his karting.

Inspired by his dad Mark Tracey, who races in Super 3, Blake thought he would try his hand at karting at age 10. He went straight into the Cadet 12 category, racing under the personal and special number 19, as inspired by his brother, who has passed. “It’s a way to keep him with me,” Blake told me.

Coming from a racing family, where his dad and great-uncle raced, he was keen to explain his reason for enjoying racing. “It’s fun. I love it. I like all the back and forward, all the speed. I love qualifying, but I mainly like racing more. At the bigger events I have more fun.” It seems that our friend Blake has a love of chaos, for the more karts around him to race against, the happier he is.

“He’s crazy,” rival and mate Anthony told me during the interview, “and a rain master.”

When the wet weather comes out, Blake sticks to his slick tyres in order to progress his abilities.

We then talked about the two hot topics of the club day: the new slipperier YDS tyres and the reverse direction.

“I like the reverse, but I’d like it more on the other tyres, when it’s more grippy.” He also said that the new tyres “aren’t as grippy, they’re more slidey. I prefer the other ones cause you can go way deeper under brakes.” Despite this, he is still a lover of racing in all its forms, and ready to race Supercars in the future, just like his idols Craig Lowndes and David Reynolds.

On a final note, in wrapping up the interview, I found a distinct point of difference between the two boys. It turns out that the rivalry exists off-track as well, in typical Aussie style; the choice of footy teams.

Blake revealed himself to be a Collingwood fan, while Anthony declared himself to be a North Melbourne fan.

“That’s just disappointing,” Blake laughed, and in his own true style, that was the end of that.

However, the two boys should be back in action next club day, resuming their friendly battle and off-track cheerfulness no matter their differences. And once again, happy birthday Blake!

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