Albury-Wodonga September Club Day Karticle
by Bailey Dixon
Elegantly crafted, with a focus on aerodynamics, styling and safety in one small device, helmets are an essential part of any racers kit. They are designed to provide maximum protection for drivers in the case of an incident, with thick padding inside and a hard polycarbonate plastic or fibreglass shell outside, to deflect or stop objects from reaching a driver’s head and the valuable contents it contains.
However, helmets can also provide a dramatic flair, a whiff of personality that you otherwise wouldn’t see from the racers. Just look at F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo’s ‘Stop Being Them’ helmet, with its remarkable pink, blue and green colouring.
For this Karticle, at the September Club Day, I chose to not only focus on the great racing that never ceases to entertain, but also pick some of my favourite “lids” to showcase the personal and creative styles that were on display at the Albury-Wodonga Kart Club.
The young Cadet 9 opened the day’s racing with a tight qualifying that saw Noah Dixon on pole by a millisecond over second-placed James Brett. The racing was just as close and impressive throughout the rest of the day. Heat one saw Noah take victory after the pair went side-by-side through the last corner and down the finish-line straight, with a winning margin of a mere tenth; while heats two and three saw James claim the top-spot, with Noah again fighting back to win the final. Further down the field, and the battle for third was on. Jaxson McKinna, after missing last month’s meet, came back swinging to take third for the day on the podium, while Benjamin Roberts and Taylor Taborsky scrapped over fourth, with a few incidents involved, including both ending up in the gravel in the hairpin of turn four.
In the way of an amazing helmet, Jaxson McKinna was sporting a shiny bright fluoro green, black and white helmet with Nitro Racing on the side, an addition that was certain to gain him a couple of tenths. It’s nitrous, right!
The racing in Cadet 12s was somewhat predictable for the first half of the day, until things went south for one fast Ed. Anthony Alessi took pole, and clean-swept another club day, his third in a row, while Blake Tracey slotted into second. Eddy Cooper took third in both heat one and heat two, but engine troubles after that put him out of contention for the podium. This left Taylor McPherson, Ryan Taborsky and Dylan Wyllie to tussle for third. Taylor was consistently quick, managing to overtake and pull away from Ryan, after the latter jumped him on the start. Thus, he sat in position three, and was the one to claim the third step of the AWKC podium.
However, it was Dylan who took the lid for this class. His patterned blue, white and red helmet easily caught the eye on track, while in the paddock, one could observe the intricate details imprinted in the colourful graphics.
Most substantial class of the day easily went to the Vic Combined Medium category, with nine accomplished drivers racing. The top four fight drew the eye because of its bountiful action and close racing, with Stephen O’Hare, Corey Drummond, Rob Mullavey and Jason Gambold all challenging for the win. Unlike last month when Stephen clean-swept the club day, this month, the other guys took the fight to him, with Stephen claiming heat one and two, Corey taking heat three and Rob taking the final. While an admirable effort, and a great frontrunning battle, with all four drivers interchanging positions throughout the races, it was not enough to topple Stephen from the top-step.
Anyone who’s seen Kevin Mullavey’s lid knows that he is replicating the helmet of a legend in Ayrton Senna. His yellow and green banded helmet was certain to provide him extra racing talent from one of Formula One’s premier drivers, making it the helmet of choice for this large class.
The Vic Combined Light category was highlighted by what can only be described as a gladiatorial style duel for the lead that occurred between Daniel Taborsky and Mark Tracey. Throughout the day, these two were racing so hard they could almost power Wodonga with the tension of how close they were getting to each other. While the battle was intense, and it would have been great to see both guys up on the podium together, some unfortunate coming-together put Mark out of contention, leaving the podium as Daniel on the top-step, Mark Chaston in second and Joel Tyrrell in third.
The latter of these gentlemen, Joel Tyrrell, wore a striking helmet that was chosen for this class because of its streamlined red, black and white design, one which really stood out on the grid and in the midst of the on-track action due to its blaring colours.
The Juniors category was evenly spread out on Sunday due to the fact that three classes were grouped together, leaving the pace difference exponential. Dylan Muller flew off into the distance every heat, with AWKC newcomer Tahnee Blair following behind, Toby Robins in third and Ashton McPherson and Flynn Twyford battling it out for fourth, or first in their class. This is where the excitement was, with Flynn chasing Ashton down to achieve the overtake. In heats one and two, he made it past and began to hunt down Toby, while heat three saw Ashton keep himself ahead; at least until the pair came together later in the race. The final also saw Flynn chasing hard after Ashton, but the latter stayed in front for the remainder of the race.
The helmet design that impressed for this class went to Toby Robins. His almost tropical orange and blue helmet was markedly unique, with white plant-based patterns adorning the brightly coloured lid.
They’re not just a fashion statement. No matter whether a helmet is colourful and patterned, or simple and plain, all of these devices have but one solitary goal; to protect the person wearing them. Helmets are there to keep Karters safe during fast and intense, yet enjoyable racing. So, store them away safely until the next race meet at Albury-Wodonga, in November, when we come back together for two days of hard racing – one forwards and one in reverse.
Special mentions this month go out to the people who were enjoying their first club day of this year at Albury-Wodonga Kart Club, which included Tahnee Blair and Adam Telford. Both raced hard throughout the day, and we look forward to seeing them again next time. Welcome to the club!
On top of that, a shout-out to the McKinna family, who have been going through some tough times lately. Stay strong guys (especially Grandma)! It’s great to see you all back in action.
Driver Profile – Benjamin Roberts
Always full to the brim with cheerfulness and enthusiasm for what he does, Cadet 9s Benjamin Roberts is one of the most optimistic characters in the Albury-Wodonga paddock, bringing a bundle of happiness to everyplace he goes. He and his dad, Wayne, have a long history in go-karting, one that they were eager to share with me last month at the Club Day.
Look back to the year 1982 – a time when Australia was experiencing one of its worst ever droughts and Queen Elizabeth II had just opened the new National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
This is the year that Wayne started his karting adventure.
Thirty-seven years on, and Benjamin is winding up his time in the youngest category, Cadet 9, ready to make the move to the highly-competitive Cadet 12 class next year.
At the age of five, Benjamin’s family bought him a kart as a promise for doing well at school, but it wasn’t until the age of seven that he could dabble in racing.
2018 became his first full season, and he did an impressive job, managing to keep up some great racing even while running the three-second-a-lap slower Comer engine, earning him the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award at the Albury-Wodonga Kart Club.
This year has seen him really getting his groove on, with the addition of a new streamlined black helmet for his birthday, and, at the August Club Day, a “new to him” number 10, green and black, MiniRok equipped kart that was ready to bring him up to speed.
Benjamin was thrilled by this addition, sharing his excitement that day with anyone and everyone. Of course, this is what there is to love about Benjamin: a resilient and determined racer on-track, and off-track bringing cheer to all those who know him.
Like many of the Cadet 9s and 12s, he is full of racing buzz, and has big plans to get a drive in Formula Ford after go-karting. And if fitness is a key component to motorsport, Benjamin has that covered, as he is quite the little sportsman. Not only an avid go-karter, but he also spends his time out of school playing cricket and hockey. In his downtime, he spends time watching Formula 1 (especially the crashes) and enjoys watching some rally with dad.
There is something about the Cadets that reminds us of the true spirit of racing. Sitting on the grid in their karts and waiting to go out on track, the Cadets all shake hands. None have it down pat more than Benjamin, who has mastered his own variation on the handshake, with what can only be referred to as the “air shake”. Calling out to each driver, putting his hand out as if it can reach across the grid, Benjamin will then imitate the shake of good luck with each of the other drivers. This great sportsmanship is good to see, as well as the camaraderie between all of the kids. But then, all the Cadets have a great friendship group, and Benjamin plays his part in it.
Karting is often conveyed as a great family sport, and to me this really rings true, particularly each month as I watch the bond between Wayne and Benjamin on Club Days.
Wayne, at the end of our chat, summed it all up perfectly, with words that I’m sure many of our families can relate to;
“We keep coming down here, and keep enjoying ourselves. It’s a good day out for the both of us.”