Upside-Down and Double-Stacked!

AWKC November Club Day Karticle

by Bailey Dixon

A favourite pastime of my brother and I is to load Gran Turismo 6 on the PlayStation 3 and set up a double player race of Mount Panorama, one of the most iconic racetracks in Australia, and possibly, the world. The Bathurst circuit is deeply imbedded in Australian motorsport history, with the climb up the hill and the drop over the other side the stuff of legend. And yet, when the lights go green on our screen, we immediately turn the car around to face the opposite way, and line up on the start-finish line.

My brother counts us in, and we roar off the line, heading first into the right-hander that would have previously been the last corner. After the enormous Conrod straight, we begin to climb the hill, heading up over Skyline rather than down. This idea is the stuff of fiction, the kind that can only be executed on a make-believe game. Right?

Wrong. Earlier in the year, the Albury-Wodonga Kart Club did the unthinkable, and requested to race some of the club days in reverse direction. The permit was approved, and the July Club Day was born – an extreme day of hard racing in the opposite direction to normal.  AWKC then decided to take it a step further, by declaring the November Club Meet a double-day event. There was racing on the Saturday, with the track in reverse direction and random grid order taking place; then another full day on the Sunday, with a regular direction and normal qualifying.

The Saturday saw Noah Dixon of the Cadet 9s out to prove a point. He was aiming to conquer the Reverse Track Cadet 9 YDS Lap Record. In this sense, he performed brilliantly, smashing the previous record by a substantial eight tenths over previous record-holder James Brett. The eye-catching action that this class provided however, was in the form of youngsters Benjamin Roberts and Jaxson McKinna, who were happily scrapping away for second place on the podium. Just behind them, Taylor Taborsky was pounding out some laps and getting so much experience, and I’m sure that we will see her up the top very soon.

For the first time ever at AWKC, there was a complete class of 4SS Karts competing for the inaugural victory. These races were brilliant to watch, with unexplored territory proving to even out the field and keeping everyone at level pegging. Heat one, my personal favourite, saw a great fight between all of the racers. Christie Reynolds got the jump off the start, leading the pack into turn one, while over the course of the first lap, Matthew Chaston made his way from last to second. Then the fight was really on between Christie and Matthew, with the latter eventually taking victory and going on to win the day.

Cadet 12s were in a close competition with the Vic Combined Medium class for most exciting category of the weekend, perhaps because of their bolstered numbers. The addition of newcomer Nikolah Sibraa, and the promotion of James Brett from Cadet 9s to 12s, boosted the number of youngsters to eight. Within this field, Eddy Cooper and Blake Tracey were fighting it out for second in the Albury-Wodonga Cadet 12 Club Championship. Aside from a couple of incidents – the pair spinning off on different laps in heat two, for instance – the racing was very impressive. Eddy had the straight-line speed to ward off Blake on the straights, but Blake was mighty through the corners. Thus, they were pretty evenly matched, often leaving them within inches of each other. For the parents on the sideline, expression of their emotions was necessary; it could only add to the atmosphere.

The Juniors were somewhere in between the incredible action of the Seniors and the close racing of the Cadets. Out front, Dylan Muller and Jordan Chapman fought for first place, with Tahnee Blair using her knowledge and experience to close in on the pair whenever they were scrapping it out. In this sense, her Saturday was good – given she had no prior encounter with the reverse track – but her Sunday was fantastic. Further back, Piper Muller and Flynn Twyford were having their own little scrap which proved most entertaining to watch, Piper demonstrating a defence driving master-class, employing the best line to stave off her competitor, and Flynn using all his might to move past the number sixty-four kart. 

Vic combined Light was of a similar calibre to the 4SS – while there were not a huge number of competitors, the great racing easily made up for that. The field was bunched up for most of the races, keeping everyone – Karters, spectators, concerned spouses and excited children – on their toes, the understanding that anyone could emerge victorious proving to both excite and add tension. The fight for the podium was intense, with Daniel Taborsky, Mark Chaston and Joel Tyrrell really moving to claim the top of the coveted three-steps. Add Christie Reynolds into that mix, and you have a thrilling heat one battle. The four of them swapped and changed positions throughout the lap, a small mistake leading to a drop in one or two spots and overtaking one simply leading to the back of another. While it might have been frustrating on the track, or exciting, depending on your point of view, from the sidelines it was positively exhilarating. On top of all this, there was the tale of Blake Worboys, who won heat two, heat three and the final, but missed out on a podium because he was disqualified in heat one, I suspect it was a transponder issue as he finished the race with not a single lonely lap on the board.

In Vic Combined Medium, Jackson Rice took the day by storm, battling hard with Ricky Sibraa and Steve Edmund for victory overall. The Final was the only race that he didn’t win, coming in third behind Ricky and Corey Drummond, first and second respectively. However, the margin for this was minimal; Corey was two-tenths off first across the line, while Jackson was eight-tenths off Corey in second. Further down the field, and long-time rivals Jason Gambold and Stephen O’Hare were enjoying a solid battle of their own, keeping close together and pushing each other along. On the Saturday, the pair were always within five seconds of each other when they crossed the line, and in heat two, they finished almost on top of each other – the margin between them was five-hundredths at the end!

And… Flip! After some great racing on the Saturday, the officials put in the time to turn the yellow lights around, reset the timing and prepare for another club day – this time in the standard direction with regular qualifying sessions.  Sunday was a fresh start in terms of racing, and a good sleep overnight had all the karters ready and raring to go! The weather was clear, and it would have been a perfect day if not for the heat and the annoying swarms of flies that had come to spectate.

Cadet 9s saw the battle between Benjamin Roberts and Jaxson McKinna continue, with an overnight rest doing nothing to dilute the fight. They were a little more nudgey-nudgey than the previous day, but it was no less entertaining from off the track. Heat one saw Benjamin employ some impressive defensive driving with some solid lines to fend off Jaxson, until the latter found a great exit out of turn two and cruised past. Benjamin stuck with him after he got in front, but then, at the hairpin of turn four on the last lap, the pair collided! They were both off the track, until Jaxson managed to coerce his kart back onto the track and go on to take the second place behind Noah Dixon. This was a terribly unfortunate incident, but the boys were good sports about it.

Matthew Ferrari joined us for the second day of racing, and turned his hand to a 4SS kart. As it turns out, he was very good at it, going on to take overall victory for the day, while the rest of the field was left to battle for the remaining podium spots. The addition of go-karting veteran Harley Maxwell to the class shook things up, with him and Kevin Mullavey really slugging it out for second on the podium. In heat two, the gap between the pair across the line sat at a mere tenth, demonstrating just how eager Harley was to get back into the competition. After Matthew, Kevin and Harley rounded out the podium, Saturday’s winner Matthew Chaston and Christie Reynolds were left to sort things out over fourth. By the end of the day, only sixty-one points separated the pair in their fight for fourth.

Trying his hardest, Blake Tracey in the yellow corner again took the fight to Anthony Alessi in the blue corner. His heat one scrap in the Cadet 12s was magnificent to behold, him taking the lead and staving off Anthony with all of his racing prowess, holding the speedy Alessi at bay until he went slightly too deep into the first corner and lost the rear. In the same race, but further down the field, Ryan Taborsky and Dylan Wyllie had a chaotic collision that included the former lifting up into the air, before coming to a halt in the grass outside turn two, alongside his competitor. The second heat saw Eddy Cooper from the red corner resume his day one battle with Blake, the pair of them slugging it out good-naturedly on track, and Eddy finishing a mere six-tenths ahead of his friend across the line. Heat three saw the margin close, with Eddy in front of Blake by only three-tenths, and the pair swapping and changing and shifting places all throughout the race. Newcomer to the ring, James Brett, took up his position in the orange corner after being promoted from Cadet 9 to 12. Although he was still acclimatising to the less-restricted engine, he had pace and maintained a consistent fourth for the whole weekend. The final saw him fight with yellow-corner Blake for third, in perhaps a foreshadowing of the battles and results to come, with the Cadet 12 rookie only one-tenth off the relative veteran. Behind the four boys in the ring came Taylor McPherson, Ryan and Dylan, who were enjoying their own battle, and Nikolah Sibraa, who was adjusting to the track – it being only her second day of AWKC Club racing. The podium was a memorable way for Eddy Cooper to wind up his Cadet 12 career, standing on the second step and drinking a grimy Shoey with his mates!

The Juniors were in a similar mindset to the day before, with the racing enacting a similar pattern. Dylan Muller and Jordan Chapman fought over first place, with Tahnee Blair again chasing the pair from third. Dylan claimed the top step for his last podium in the Juniors category before moving up, while Tahnee took second overall for the day, with Jordan in third, a brake fade and a couple of DNFs not helping his Sunday campaign. Further down the field and Ashton McPherson, Toby Robins and newcomer Jesse Cannell were running a lonely race, while Piper Muller and Flynn Twyford again scrapped. This was a tricky category to keep up with, since there were actually three different classes combined: KA3 Junior, KA4 Junior Heavy and KA4 Junior Light. However, the racing was good, and all the drivers were having fun. Congrats to Dylan Muller for a successful Juniors campaign, and we look forward to seeing him in with the big boys next year when he moves up to the Seniors class.

4SS was not the only category that Matthew Ferrari proved handy at. He was also blindingly fast in with the Vic Combined Light racers, taking out the top step by winning all of the heats and the twelve-lap final. Joel Tyrrell took second place in heat one, but the spotlight for this day was really on Mark Chaston. While Christie Reynolds slotted into third behind Joel in heat one, and Daniel Taborsky fourth behind her, Mark held the rear in fifth place. However, the latter three were separated only by two seconds at the end of the heat. It could only go up for Mark from there. In heat two, he had an excellent battle with Daniel over second, holding the place by a tiny four-tenths across the line, while heat three again saw him take second in a spread-out field. The final really applied the heat, no pun intended, and saw Mark fighting with Christie for third in the race. The latter managed some superb defensive driving, staving off Mark by two-tenths. However, these mixed results translated to Mark being second overall for the day, one step below Matthew and one above Daniel, in a class that was competitive the entire weekend.

The focus for Vic Combined Medium on the Sunday has but one place where it can go – the impressive first heat. There was sportsmanship, a recovery drive, a huge field and, best of all, clean racing. To start with, Jackson Rice, red-plate winner and overall victor for day one, could not get his kart to start. While the other guys could have easily capitalized on this and disappeared into the distance, leaving Jackson stranded in the out-grid, they opted to roll around a few more times, to give him the chance to slot into the field. When the green light eventually went on, Jackson was out on the track, but some three corners behind the rest of the pack. Slowly but surely, he caught up and battled his way through the field, challenging each competitor one by one. The newcomers, Kiale Crowther, Heathcote Green and Stephen Robins were picked off easily, being that they were not concerned with Jackson, but more with getting used to their karts and the normal direction track. In this sense, it was fabulous to see so many new faces around the paddock, especially after the successful Come-and-Try day that was recently hosted. Back in the race, and Jackson continued to make his way up the grid, and by the end of the race, he was, astoundingly, in first position! The battle packs that had formed could only add to the atmosphere. First, second and third (Jackson, Corey Drummond and Jason Gambold respectively) were in a tense fight that saw them cross the line separated by only three-tenths, while Ricky Sibraa in fourth, Stephen O’Hare in fifth and Gerard Hudson in sixth were only four-tenths apart.

This November Club Meet, of which there were two days, two directions, six categories, thirty-six heats, twelve finals and forty-six competitors, was the perfect way to wrap up the year at the Albury-Wodonga Kart Club. The upcoming Club Presentation Day, on the fourteenth of December, will provide the bow on top of a well-packaged year. But for now, go home, switch on the air conditioner, put your feet up and enjoy a short break from Club Karting, as we disperse for the hotter summer months and come back swinging on the twenty-third of February, for the first club day of 2020.

Driver Profile – Who’s Who in our Club

With the double club day over the weekend, there seemed no better time to fulfil my idea of a double driver profile; and who better to do it than the Dynamic Duo of Piper and Dylan Muller!

These two teens, who are speedy and skilled on-track, while humble and friendly off-track, were the perfect fit for the job.

And what better time to interview two familiar Albury-Wodonga Kart Club racers than at the end of the year, on a marathon of a club meet.

On getting to know them, I found out that though they seemed experienced enough to have been racing karts since the age of seven in Cadet 9, they had started relatively late and somewhat recently. Dylan began his career in 2015, while Piper started a year later, both in the competitive Cadet 12 class. Spending a year in this class, Dylan moved up to KA4 Junior Light after winning a bet with his dad, Mark.

“If I got a certain time back in Cadets on the old track, I’d get the KAs when I come to Juniors. So that happened, and since then it’s got a bit more expensive,” Dylan told me. On the other hand, Piper spent a couple of years in Cadets before moving up to the KA4 Junior Heavy class.

Later in the interview, a certain friend of theirs dropped by to contribute his knowledge and wise-cracks to the profile. Not to name any names, but it started with a J and ended with Rice. Asked about what the pair’s greatest successes were, he pondered it for a second, before throwing his thoughts. “Piper had a great result, finishing fourth in the 2018 Junior Sprint, out at Puckapunyal. And Dylan almost got on the series podium this year, finishing fourth in the Golden Power Series overall,” he said. Dylan was only sixteen points off the podium. Sixteen points!

Going back even further, I asked how they had first been inspired to get involved in karting. Piper told me about the first time they thought about racing: “We were out on a walk for our morning paper, and we walked past Kart Equip like we did every morning, and he [Grandad] just took us in and we talked to James or John. They signed us up for a Come and Try day.” The original motive for diving further into karting was, according to Dylan, “to have fun, and give me a sport to do that I can do all year round.”

The relationship between Dylan and Piper is a casual and amusing one focused on having a good time. The stories behind their numbers – 32 and 64 – led to some playful banter between the pair that was great to see.

“My number was Grandad’s gold club medallion,” Dylan told me, and his Grandad was one of AWKC’s founding members. Piper added, “mine is just double his number because I’m two times better than him.”

“You can’t deny it. She’s the number one driver,” Dylan replied, and the pair smiled. This is the kind of humorous ribbing that builds strong connections, and is often found around the AWKC paddock.

The brother and sister are very active people in the world of karting, with Dylan a superb mechanic, data interpreter and pep-talker, and Piper the Queen of the Media. Just recently Piper had an article written about her in the Border Mail and participated in an interview with The Border’s Hit 104.9 radio station. As well as telling the station about Karting Awareness Month and some of her experiences in the sport, Piper was challenged to a game of Mario Kart on Nintendo 64. To find out the result, well… let’s just say that it was a very, very close match. Despite being challenged to a child’s game that everyone in the world should play at some stage or another, she came across as calm and sophisticated, and really let her knowledge shine, making her an excellent ambassador for women in karting. But outside of the sport, she has another hobby – the pitched notes and subtle baritones of music, a hobby that could eventually lead to a career for her. I was astounded upon learning that she played four different instruments, and still manages to kart.

Aside from that, the personalities of the pair really shine. Even in a casual interview with myself, Piper and Dylan were assured and confident, humorous and joyful, and truly great company. I personally want to thank them for the fun and interesting interview that they gave me to round out The Karticle’s Driver Profiles for the year. Thank you very much guys, and thank you to all the Drivers who have helped me make the Who’s Who in our Club section so great this entire year. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Please share!