by Andrew Hayes, AHR Media
The 2020 DPE Victorian Country Series has kicked off the new season with a very successful opening round held at the Portland & District Kart Club’s Yarraman Park circuit over the weekend of 15-16 February. 205 entrants from across Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania made the trek to the coastal town to kick of the first round of the immensely popular series.
Conditions were good for qualifying on Saturday, before the early running on Sunday was conducted in anything from mist to drizzle. By finals time the weather had cleared and conditions were favourable, setting the scene for some excellent racing.
KA4 JUNIOR HEAVY (17 Entries)
KA4 Junior Heavy was the opening class of the round and it would be the first time the VCS had seen WA’s Aleksandar Stefanovich. Immediately making his presence felt, he laid down a 41.086 to take pole position. Seth Burton put himself in a good position, timing second, just ahead of Zach Findlay. Thomas Patching and Daniel Golightly completed the top five.
Heat one saw Stefanovich pick up where he left off in qualifying, leading every lap whilst edging away from the ensuing pack. Findlay was a revelation at the final round of 2019 and settled in second place for the majority of the heat, before Burton got the ascendancy and snatched second on the last lap. Whilst Patching and Golightly held line of stern in fourth and fifth, there was no shortage of action behind them for the minors.
Fastest Lap: Aleksandar Stefanovich 41.043
Wet conditions greeted drivers in heat two, but it was still the WA gun Stefanovich pacing the field. The margin from heat one had closed down a bit, courtesy of some good driving from second placed Burton. Sam Davies showed his damp track skills to move forward five spots to third, ahead of Findlay and a building Will Missen.
Fastest Lap: Aleksandar Stefanovich 42.502
Stefanovich was sensational all weekend, and fittingly saved arguably his best performance for the final. Whilst his competitors raced each other hard on a dry track again, Stefanovich was clean, fast and smooth as he drove away to a 5.6 second win. Burton and Findlay renewed acquaintances, changing positions on numerous occasions. At the flag it was Burton prevailing over Findlay, with Patching and Missen also recording top five finishes.
Fastest Lap Aleksandar Stefanovich 41.163
1st Aleksandar Stefanovich (Tiger), 2nd Seth Burton (Wbool), 3rd Zach Findlay (Geel)
CADET 12 (19 Entries)
Cadet 12 presented with a good sized grid, with many of the usual suspects back in force in 2020. Qualifying was hectic as lap after lap the order changed, until Ben Holliday put in a big last lap effort to claim top spot with a 41.743. Hunter Salvatore was second fastest and right in the mix, edging out Rusty Ponting, who took third. James Anagnostiadis and Caleb Spence were hard to split in fourth and fifth.
The opening heat was a thriller, with action aplenty through the field. Holliday and Salvatore waged an incredible arm wrestle for the lead, changing positions lap after lap, until Holliday prevailed as the winner. Salvatore locked into second place, with Anagnostiadis never far behind in third. Ponting was out of business early, losing a chain in the early stages. Spence grabbed the fastest lap of the race on his way to fourth, whilst Xavier Avramides moved to fifth on a track that has been kind to him in the past.
Fastest Lap: Caleb Spence 41.763
Spence turned on a heat two masterclass in the rain, to streak to a comprehensive 9.3 second win. Avramides crossed the line in second place but was disqualified post race, elevating Lochie Farrell into second after coming from the sixth row on the grid. Anagnostiadis was a model of consistency, rolling in third place once again. Las Vegas Supernats winner Brad Majman edged out a recovering Holliday for the final spots in the top five in an eventful race.
Fastest Lap: Caleb Spence 44.820
The opening lap of the final was brutal for Holliday as he was shuffled from the front row to seventh position. Spence and Anagnostiadis got away well and proceeded to put a small margin into the rest of the field. The two were virtually inseparable for the entire 16 lap distance, Spence prevailing in an excellent race. Following Anagnostiadis home was Holliday, who worked his way back into a podium position by a third of the race distance. Avramides was impressive, storming from eleventh to fourth at the line, just heading Majman in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Rusty Ponting 42.027
1st Caleb Spence (ELKC), 2nd James Anagnostiadis (GKCV), 3rd Ben Holliday (SGKC)
TAG HEAVY (12 Entries)
2019 VCS Champion Scott King opened his account perfectly, qualifying fastest with a 36.970 on his home track. Second to fourth was separated by just five thousands of a second, with Nik Schmidt grabbing the front row start. Jaymi Mackay was impressive in third, just ahead of the returning Aaron Rintoul. Brad Trott rounded out the top five, as the full field qualified within six tenths of a second.
The opening heat was a light to flag affair for Scott King, winning comfortably by 3.3 seconds. After not qualifying due to Sprintcar commitments, Adam King charged through the field from twelfth to second, claiming the fastest lap along the way. Rintoul dropped as low as fifth and ran as high as second before claiming third place. Mackay and Schmidt also spent time in second place, but had to settle for fourth and fifth as Schmidt took the upper hand.
Fastest Lap: Adam King 36.970
The King brothers now starting on the front row together set the scene for the wet heat two. Despite Adam once again taking the fastest lap of the race, it wasn’t enough to wrestle away Scott’s dominance, as he was never headed in the ten laps. Adam finished a close second, with a near ten second margin to Rintoul in third. Schmidt continued his strong form to finish fourth again, ahead of Jayden Wallis, who found his feet in the conditions.
Fastest Lap: Adam King 41.007
The start of the final was dramatic as the King brothers and Rintoul jostled for position into the infield hairpin. Scott King drove away beautifully, but Adam and Rintoul ended up locked together and dropped to the rear of the field, the incident also eliminating Ray Dumesny. Scott King went on to record the perfect weekend, winning the final by 7.8 seconds. Schmidt was rewarded for his consistency, claiming second, ahead of Mackay, who resumed her qualifying position of third. Adam King recovered for fourth, ahead of Brad Trott in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Aaron Rintoul 37.508
1st Scott King (Port), 2nd Nik Schmidt (Ball), 3rd Jaymi Mackay (SWest)
CADET 9 (11 Entries)
Will Calleja was one of the stars of Cadet 9 as a bottom ager in 2019, and as the defending VCS champion he fired the first shot in qualifying, taking pole with a time of 43.029. SA’s Dominic Mercuri set the second fastest time, just pipping Cruz Capitanio who settled for third. Two of the classes biggest improvers in the back end of 2019, Riley Harrison and Aston Hill took fourth and fifth respectively.
The front row starters got jumped by a fast starting Harrison in the opening heat, as he jumped to the early lead. By mid race distance Calleja had regained the top spot and went on to win by 1.3 seconds. Harrison’s handy work saw him hold onto second ahead of Hill. Mercuri dropped to fourth on the opening lap and held that position till the flag. Capitanio crossed the line fifth with a loose rear bumper and was subsequently disqualified, elevating rapid P plater Xavier Mifsud into the top 5.
Fastest Lap: Xavier Mifsud 43.837
Heat two saw the fast starting Harrison get the best of the start, although it would be Mercuri leading at the end of lap one, as Calleja settled into third place. By lap three, Harrison made his move and went on to win his first VCS race by half a second over Mercuri and Calleja. Hill continued to be thereabouts in fourth place, finishing ahead of the rebounding Capitanio.
Fastest Lap: Riley Harrison 43.598
By the time the final arrived it should have been no surprise that Harrison took off like a rocket into the lead at the start closely followed by Mercuri. On lap two, Mercuri made the move to the head of the queue and a position he never relinquished, as he drove to a superb 5 second victory. Harrison finished second despite dropping to fourth for a fair portion of the race, grabbing that position from Calleja on the final circulation. Capitanio was in the mix again in fourth, whilst Mifsud again showed he was a future star finishing in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Riley Harrison 42.793
1st Dominic Mercuri (SGKC), 2nd Riley Harrison (SGKC). 3rd Will Calleja (Oak)
VIC COMBINED MEDIUM (16 Entries)
Qualifying turned into a shootout at the top of the order between the cagey Brett Jenkin and the young hot shot Alex Baker. Both left their best until the last lap of the session, with Jenkin taking the honours with a 38.576. Baker was just seven hundredths off the pole, and clearly right in the mix. Mal Mason was the next on the sheets, taking third place just ahead of speedy P plater Joe McPhee. James Head returned to VCS competition and found his way towards the front in fifth place.
Wet conditions were a big factor in the result of the opening heat, as Jenkin, Head, Cooper Fletcher and Sam Newell all ended up parked up at turn one. Despite two full course yellows, Baker established himself as the man to beat as he drove consistently, putting a small buffer on the field to take a comfortable win. Vern Kranz has good credentials in the rain and he escalated to second place, ahead of former dirt Karter Jackson Barbury in third. McPhee was home in fourth ahead of Trevor Pevitt who rose from fourteenth to fifth.
Fastest Lap: Alex Baker 47.713
It became clear in heat two that Baker was on a mission this weekend, as he put in another supreme performance to win by 4.3 seconds. McPhee put in a stirring drive once again, claiming second over Barbury in third. Kranz was around the mark again in fourth place, finishing ahead of Newell who recovered to fifth place.
Fastest Lap: James Head 38.991
The start of the final saw Kranz lead the opening lap, before the undeniable Baker made his move for the lead on lap two. From there Baker led every lap of the final to record a stirring victory, however his margin was shrinking as the race went on as the rampaging Head sliced through the field from tenth to second, chasing Baker right to the flag. McPhee was on the podium after a very competitive showing, finishing ahead of Mason and Newell in fourth and fifth.
Fastest Lap: Joe McPhee 38.865
1st Alex Baker (Wimm), 2nd James Head (Ball), 3rd Joe McPhee (SWKC)
X30 (21 Entries)
The new for 2020 X30 class looked a ripper on paper and didn’t disappoint on track. Jake Spencer signalled his intentions from the get go by recording quick time in qualifying with a time of 35.614. The proceeding three drivers were covered by six hundredths of a second, with Jacob Dowson grabbing second ahead of the current X30 National Champ Brad Jenner and KA3 Light National Champ Jack Bell. Nathan Williams rounded out the top five, with the top eighteen drivers within seven tenths.
Heat one presented a wet track and whilst most were on wet tyres, a few took the punt on slicks and rued the decision. Spencer and Jenner were the class of the field in the conditions and cruised to a one-two finish. Matthew Hillyer filled third spot after starting eleventh, ahead of Shane Moreland who had also moved up the order. Bell consolidated his spot in the top five by just dropping the one spot from his qualifying.
Fastest Lap: Jake Spencer 40.840
Jenner got the best of the heat two start to lead the first two circulations, before Spencer again resumed his place in the lead. Spencer’s supreme pace saw him edge away from Jenner to claim another heat race win. Jenner had enough up his sleeve to hold off Bell for second. Having moved from sixth to third on the opening lap, Bell did enough to hold off Dowson and Hillyer to settle positions three to five.
Fastest Lap: Jake Spencer 35.653
The start of the X30 final was highlighted by carnage into the infield hairpin on the opening lap, with several drivers involved and many short cutting the circuit. When the order sorted itself out, it was again Spencer pacing the field. Spencer’s perfect weekend continued for the finals full distance, as he put a stamp of authority on the class, in one of the finest performances of any class over the weekend. Dowson scampered up into second place early in the race and comfortably held that position ahead of Jenner in third. Bell finished fourth in his first VCS round with 125cc power, Whilst Hillyer capped a promising weekend with a fifth place finish.
Fastest Lap: Jake Spencer 36.093
1st Jake Spencer (Gipp), 2nd Jacob Dowson (GKCSA), 3rd Brad Jenner (GKCV)
KA3 JUNIOR (18 Entries)
A scan over the entry list of KA3 Junior was all it took to get excited about the class, with good numbers running very deep on quality. Reigning KA4 Light champ Matt Domaschenz set the benchmark in qualifying with his time of 36.886. Will Harper, Hugo Simpson and Kristian Janev were all within a tenth of the pole, timing just ahead of defending VCS champ Jaxon Johnstone.
The opening heat was held in tough conditions, which spread the majority of the field out. Domaschenz picked up where he left off in qualifying to reign supreme in a 1.1 second victory. Jake Santalucia’s move from sixth to second on the opening lap proved decisive as he held on to that spot till the flag. Harper and Simpson had to recover from a rough start to reclaim their positions, eventually finishing third and fifth with Janev splitting the pair.
Fastest Lap: Matthew Domaschenz 40.603
Domaschenz got away cleanly in heat two in much improved conditions and headed the pack for the best part of the race. Harper was not so lucky as he plummeted to the back on the opening lap, clawing his way back to seventh at the flag. Lap eight was a critical turning point as an incident involving Domaschenz, Santalucia and Janev changed the outcome of the race. Johnstone, Simpson and Ethan Bray swooped to fill the top three positions. Bray was handed a post race penalty that dropped him to fifteenth, meaning Domaschenz salvaged third. Santalucia home in fourth ahead of Aiva Anagnostiadis in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Kristian Janev 36.824
The final was full of ebbs and flows, as drivers gained and lost momentum. Johnstone was the first to establish himself as the leader, before Harper charged through from sixth to take the top spot. With momentum on his side Harper built up a comfortable lead and looked to be cruising to victory. Janev had slid down the order in the early laps, but emerged in second place on lap ten. From there he gave chase and caught Harper in a thrilling display, attempting the pass for the lead only to be crisscrossed and Harper consolidated. Harper ended up taking a narrow victory over Janev, with Johnstone a bit further back in third. Simpson and Santalucia rounded out the top five in solid displays.
Fastest Lap: Kristian Janev 37.311
1st Will Harper (Geel), 2nd Kristian Janev (ELKC), 3rd Jaxon Johnstone (Wbool)
KA3 SENIOR LIGHT (24 Entries)
KA3 Senior Light was an interesting mix of returning drivers and fresh faced junior graduates. Joel MacPherson was no stranger to pole positions in 2019, and he wasted no time in adding the first of 2020 to his resume (36.862). Bronson Boult made the step up from KA3 Junior seamlessly, putting his kart on the front row alongside MacPherson. Local gun Corey Herbertson was right on Boult’s hammer, securing third ahead of Jordan Malcolm and Nikki Watson.
MacPherson was too good in the opening heat in wet conditions, winning by a comfortable 2.3 second margin. Boult and Herbertson raced hard, but remained in second and third respectively. Watson took up the fourth place running early, whilst Tasmanian Gemma Wyllie worked her way forward to be fifth at the line.
Fastest Lap: Joel MacPherson 40.511
Heat two and again MacPherson looked to be in control of the race, until on the penultimate lap, Boult made his move for the lead. The move stuck and saw Boult greet the chequers, with MacPherson in a drag race to the line with Herbertson, MacPherson taking second place. Watson was again amongst it in fourth ahead of Ryan Bettess in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Nikki Watson 36.982
The start of the final saw Boult again with the ascendancy, leading the field away. Firstly MacPherson, then Herbertson challenged Boult, but couldn’t better the young South Aussie. But by mid race it was Watson who lit up, storming past MacPherson and Herbertson and setting her sights on Boult. The move was made with relative ease in the end, Watson claiming the lead and then the win some seven laps later. Herbertson held down second until a lapped kart interfered, dropping him to fourth, as Boult and MacPherson grabbed the remaining silverware. Bettess ran a largely lonely race to fifth position.
Fastest Lap: Nikki Watson 37.358
1st Nikki Watson (SGKC), 2nd Bronson Boult (MGKC), 3rd Joel MacPherson (Oak)
KA3 SENIOR MEDIUM (12 Entries)
2019 KA3 Senior Medium VCS Champ Mitch Mackay started his 2020 campaign off perfectly by claiming pole position (37.450) in a solid field. As usual, Remo Luciani wasn’t far from the ultimate pace, timing second ahead of local star Todd Chambers in third. Daniel Hookway was fourth ahead of Gippsland’s Ryan Aitken, who has run regularly at Portland over the years.
Mackay got away well in the opening heat, conditions proving wet and slippery. Luciani stalked the back of the Mackay kart for several laps before striking on lap eight. Luciani going on to win from Mackay and Chambers. Aitken and Hookway exchanged positions between themselves and also Chambers, with Aitken rolling in fourth ahead of Hookway.
Fastest Lap: Todd Chambers 40.852
Luciani and Aitken both lost out at the start of heat two, as both dropped positions on the first circulation. Mackay quickly assumed the lead, and paced the field all the way to the chequered flag. By lap four Luciani had made his way back to second and held position there to again lead Chambers home, the local welded into third place. It took until the final lap for Aitken to overcome Hookway to settle the top five.
Fastest Lap: Remo Luciani 37.534
After taking a win apiece in the heats, the scene was set for a big Mackay versus Luciani battle for the final. Mackay was away well and settled into the lead, whilst Luciani had to overcome Chambers before he could pursue Mackay. Once clear, Luciani clawed his way up to the back bar of the Mackay kart and began looking for an avenue into the lead. On the last corner of lap twelve, the master went very deep under brakes and under Mackay, only to bog down as Mackay crisscrossed. Chambers seized the opportunity to sneak ahead of Luciani at that moment. Mackay was never headed from there as he drove to victory ahead of Chambers and Luciani. Hookway got the better of Aitken in this one, bucking the trend of the heats.
Fastest Lap: Remo Luciani 37.874
1st Mitch Mackay (SWest), 2nd Todd Chambers (Port), 3rd Remo Luciani (Wimm)
KA4 Junior Light (9 Entries)
KA4 Light numbers were for once, a bit light on. Many of last seasons drivers had moved to KA3 and only a small batch of Cadet 12’s moved up to start the season. Domenic Kucina and reigning Cadet 12 VCS champ Angus Hall were evenly matched in qualifying, with Kucina (40.696) getting the upper hand in the opening stanza. Portland’s Brocklan Parker started his weekend well in third place, ahead of Leo Iannella and Annalise Ellis who rounded out the top five.
Starting from fourth position, it was Iannella who made the best of the opening heat start, heading the field by the end of the first circulation. It proved to be a critical first lap, as Iannella wasn’t headed, charging to a 2.6 second victory in slippery conditions. Parker snapped up position two early, and also held it to the flag. Hall crossed the line in third, but was disqualified, handing third to Kucina. The top five was completed by Ellis and Akasha McEachran.
Fastest Lap: Leo Iannella 41.927
Iannella again mastered the start of heat two, leading the early stages of the race. Parker used his home track knowledge to move to the lead on lap four, but it wasn’t long before Iannella moved back to the lead, despite having to overcome a Hall challenge that briefly saw him in third. Iannella made the most of his chance to claim a second successive heat win, but he had Parker right with him to the flag. Kucina snuck into third with two laps remaining, to relegate Hall to fourth ahead of Josh Hee Keng in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Angus Hall 40.752
The final saw Parker lead the early running in front of his home crowd, leading until lap three. Iannella took over the top spot briefly before the charging Hall stormed into the lead on lap five after coming from sixth on the grid. From that point Hall went on to win, sealing a seamless transition from Cadet 12. Parker held onto second for the last eleven laps, with Iannella taking the final piece of silverware. Pole sitter Kucina finished fourth, just holding out Ellis for that spot.
Fastest Lap: Angus Hall 40.833
1st Angus Hall (Oak), 2nd Brocklan Parker (Port), 3rd Leo Iannella (GKCSA)
VIC COMBINED MASTERS (21 Entries)
Phil Smith was the benchmark of the 2019 VCS Masters class, and he kept the good times rolling to start 2020. Laying down a time of 37.766, establishing a margin of three and a half tenths, put the rest of the field on notice. John Page set the second fastest time, just edging out Leon Forrest, who had to settle for third. Ash Mitchell and Phil Stradbrook were both right in the mix for position in fourth and fifth.
Masters presented for heat one in wet conditions, but that did little to dampen the red hot form of the defending champ, as Smith cleared out to win by 10 seconds. Page retained his second spot, despite dropping to sixth on the opening lap, whilst Andrew Stubbs was menacing on his way from eighth to third. Matt Crane was solid in fourth, crossing the line ahead of Forrest in fifth.
Fastest Lap: Phil Smith 40.882
Smith was again unstoppable in heat two, leading every lap on his way to a comfortable win. His closest rival was again Page, whilst Forrest clawed his way back to third. Stubbs looked set for fourth until the fire went out in the 55, elevating Crane to fourth. Mitchell drove a superb race to rise from twenty first on the grid to fifth at the flag!
Fastest Lap: Barry Golightly 37.989
The final was relatively predictable, as Smith again led from start to finish, completing the perfect record of topping every session for the weekend. It sent an ominous warning to his rivals for the rest of the year. Page and Forrest had an early exchange, before Page prevailed, Forrest earning the third place trophy. Stradbrook again banked solid points for fourth place, ahead of Mitchell, who had come from eleventh for his fifth place this time around.
Fastest Lap: Phil Smith 38.341
1st Phil Smith (GKCV), 2nd John Page (Ball), 3rd Leon Forrest (Wimm)
VIC COMBINED LIGHT (28 Entries)
Qualifying in Vic Combined Light saw the top 15 drivers separated by less than a second. There was plenty of quality at the top of the order, and it was Lachie Swayn taking another pole position (37.316). Portland star Todd Chambers was a late inclusion and stuck his kart on the front row, ahead of Gerry Westerveld in third. Mitch Sutej was strong at the back end of 2019 and timed fourth, Junior graduate Harry Campbell rounded out the top five.
Chambers grabbed the start and went on to win a wet heat one by just over a second. Swayn had to overcome Sutej to run to second place, leaving Sutej to finish in third with the fastest lap of the race. Jono McKean had other commitments disrupt his Saturday, but charged from thirteenth on the opening lap to fourth in a fine display. Westerveld rolled in for fifth place.
Fastest Lap: Mitch Sutej 40.758
There was plenty of action on the opening lap of heat two, as several drivers drifted down the order. Capitalising on the situation was Westerveld, whose first lap heroics put him in perfect position to drive to the heat win. Swayn also pounced at the start, allowing him to run second, holding of Sutej in third. McKean’s job was a bit easier this time around, but his fourth position was the same. Chambers didn’t have the same momentum as the opening heat, and settled for fifth.
Fastest Lap: Lachie Swayn 37.577
The hometown hero Chambers led the opening two laps of the final, showing promise to the hosting club. On lap three though, Swayn made his move for the lead and successfully took over the front running. Westerveld was also making his own moves, getting to second and giving chase to Swayn. As the laps wound down, so did the margin from Swayn to Westerveld, however Swayn held on to win his first VCS round. Westerveld was gallant in second place, whilst Chambers grabbed another trophy for Portland, coming in third. Sutej was strong all weekend, finishing fourth and just missing the podium for the weekend. Dave Menzel saved his best for last, taking home fifth in the final.
Fastest Lap: Lachie Swayn 37.767
1st Lachie Swayn (Wbool), 2nd Gerry Westerveld (Roch), 3rd Todd Chambers (Port)
DPE Kart Superstore – $100 Vouchers
Patrizicorse – Bridgestone tyres
Joshua Hee Keng
Dunlop Kartsport – $50 Vouchers
Vern Kranz x 2*
That’s a wrap of what was a great start to the 2020 DPE Victorian Country Series. The series continues at the South West Kart Club’s Cobden Park Raceway on March 28 & 29.
Thanks to Series Sponsors:
- DPE KART SUPERSTORE
- REMO RACING / IAME / X30
- PATRIZICORSE / VORTEX ENGINES / BRIDGESTONE
- TONYKART AUSTRALIA / BARON ENGINES
- DUNLOP KARTSPORT / DK17
- MELBOURNE KART CENTRE
- ALLSTAR GRAPHICS
- WIMMERA DESIGN & PRINT
- DARRENS SPORTOGRAPHY
- AHR MEDIA
- BENDIGO BANK
Photo Gallery – pics by Darren’s Sportography & VCS