by Bailey Dixon, The Karticle Media
NEVER before has Rochester Kart Club been inundated with as many entries as they were last weekend, for the opening round of the 2021 Golden Power Series.
With 275 entries, it meant that there were more people racing at Rochester than at the first round of the Victorian Country Series or even the Australian Kart Championship in Ipswich.
“It’s a record for our club,” Mr Gibson, president of Rochester Kart Club and co-chair of the Golden Power Series said, “we’ve picked up some of the bigger teams, some haven’t been here for quite a while, some haven’t been here at all. It’s going to make for some interesting racing!”
For some, it came as quite a surprise that the Golden Powers’ 2021 debut went ahead with so many uncertainties in the air. Running a race weekend immediately after a Victoria-wide five-day lockdown seemed an impossible task, but the Golden Power Series committee made it work.
“We played it positive, we just kept forging ahead as if it were going ahead. We didn’t want to cancel it, and we had planned we were running until we possibly couldn’t. Now fortunately for us, it’s on, and it’s on in a big way!”
KA3 Senior Light
Earliest in the morning on Saturday and first finished in the afternoon on Sunday, KA3 Senior Light saw an impressive top four fight as well as multiple battle packs throughout the midfield.
Joel MacPherson took the win in heats one and three, as well as the final, over competitors Nicholas Sacco and James Sera. Sacco was in full contention for gaining the most championship points overall for the weekend, having won heat two, until an incident in heat three saw him garner a measly fifty-two points from coming twenty-first, a result of the crazy battle taking place at the front of the field.
All three drivers, plus Bodhi Bright and Zackary Thompson, were fighting hard for the lead of the race, and one too many dives left Sacco in the dirt while his rivals disappeared in the distance. He may have even won this race if not for the incident, as he set the fastest lap of the race showing he had genuine pace.
However, in the race that determined podium positions, the all-important final, MacPherson claimed victory, Sacco took second and Sera came home in third position.
Fresh blood emerged in the Cadet 9 class, as many of the past racers were promoted to Cadet 12, leaving a revamped field. None of the youngsters won twice, with a very competitive field meaning victory was open to anyone.
Jedd Pickford took victory in the first heat, racing hard and positioning himself well to gain the win. Addyson Arnett started from pole but was swamped off the line, dropping her down to ninth, while Lucas Rickard took the lead. However, come lap four, the leading two collided in turn eight and took themselves out of contention, leaving third, fourth and fifth now the top three. Most of the other races were more settled.
Arnett came back to take the win in the second heat, and Sam Sidwell won the third heat. The final was once again chaotic, with Jensen Damaschino leading from pole, and Jai George making his way up the field from fourth to attack the leader. As the other racers fell back from the lead battle, it looked a two-horse race to the finish line. Damaschino and George were on equal footing, and although George was right on the tail of the leader, he could not get past. The final lap came around, and it looked like they would be almost side-by-side across the line it was that close, but alas! As Damaschino was weaving his way past a lapped runner, with only five corners left until the chequered flag, he had contact and was spun around, leaving George to follow through and take victory in the all-important final.
A collective groan went up from the crowd in the canteen, as all the spectators realised that they were robbed of an intense and breath-taking final lap fight from both speedy young racers. After such an intense weekend of racing for the youngsters, those mounting the podium were George in the top spot taking home the gold, Sidwell with second place and the silver trophy, and Arnett in the final podium place of third.
TaG 125 Heavy
Out the gate in the first heat it seemed that Billy Westerveld was the man to beat for TaG 125 Heavy, winning by a whole second over his nearest competitor.
The opening laps of heat one saw Thomas Hughes in the lead, with Westerveld attacking him and Jayden Wallis in the fight as well. However, the lead battle dissipated around lap three, when Westerveld overtook Hughes at turn three to grab the lead of the race. He would proceed to pull away slowly but steadily, leaving Hughes, Wallis, and Jackson Griffith to fight over second position – which Griffith took, getting into second and leading the unsuccessful charge to catch the leader. Heat two saw Wallis claim the top spot, although by a very small margin: Hughes was a miniscule three tenths behind him as they came across the finish line. From then on, it was Hughes who dominated, winning both heat three and the final, both with the fastest lap of the race. This is not to say he didn’t have any competition, oh no, Wallis was six tenths behind in heat three, while the top five remained close throughout, forming an impressive battle pack.
On a track where running a couple of inches wide can really hurt your race, having a close top five makes for some very interesting spectating. At the conclusion of the final, those who walked away with trophies were Hughes in first, Westerveld in second, and Nikola Schmidt bringing home the third-place trophy.
KA3 Senior Medium
Taine Venables was close to winning all four races in KA3 Senior Medium, prevented only by the racing ability of Remo Luciani.
Heat one had Luciani take the lead off the line, with Venables calmly slotting into second and staying on his bumper. When lap four rolled around, Venables made the move into the lead, where he would stay despite immense pressure from Luciani. As they crossed the line and took the cheqeured flag for heat one, they were virtually side-by-side, with the official margin registering as one solitary tenth between them!
The roles were reversed in heat two with Luciani taking the win by three tenths over Venables, this time with Ben Chapman and Daniel Hinds hot on their tail.
Heat three and the final again saw Venables take victory after fighting hard with Luciani, but the gap was much larger in the latter – two seconds separated first and second. Meanwhile, the real action was between Hinds and Benjamin Mouritz in their battle for third, which neither of them ended up claiming due to a little bit too much competition. The podium for KA3 Senior Medium had Venables taking the coveted top step, with Luciani in second and Chapman bringing his kart home in third place.
TaG 125 Restricted Heavy
Brett Jenkin absolutely clean-swept the Restricted Heavy category, winning every single race of the weekend with fastest lap for each race. Apart from the final, the wins weren’t by a small margin either; 1.7 seconds in heat one, 3 seconds in heat two and 1.5 seconds in heat three.
His nearest competitor, Marc Tune, after finishing second in heats one and two and fifth in heat three (having caught himself up in a major battle pack fighting for third place) struck back in the final, taking the fight to Jenkin, with only half a second separating them for most of the race and across the line.
Perhaps the most impressive trait of this class was the formation and continuation of three defined battle packs in the final on Sunday afternoon. While Jenkin and Tune fought for the lead, Brent Opie, Joe Brancati and Tony Baker battled away for the final place on the podium and Steven Kemp, Darren Beattie, Cameron Austen and Jacob Smith scrapped for seventh place in the order.
At the conclusion of the final, the top three stood as Jenkin, Tune and Opie on the podium.
KA4 Junior Light
KA4 Junior Light was the first of two classes that required separation due to oversubscription, with a total of thirty-eight entries taking to the track. Two of each heat meant that it was difficult to keep track of who was finishing where as well.
In heat one A vs D, Angus Hall flew to victory, taking the win by over three seconds to nearest challengers Toby Dvorak and Oliver Whickham. Heat one B vs C was a much closer fight, with an awesome top seven battle pack that had spectators on the edge of their seats because it was anyone’s game. Harry Arnett came out on top, despite heavy challenges from James Ceveri, William Thompson and all those immediately behind them. The battles were so close in this category that there was even a time when karts went three-wide on the exit of turn two!
Heat two A vs C again had Hall taking the victory, but by a much smaller margin. Ceveri was only half a second behind, while Dvorak, Thompson and Chas Luscombe fought hard for the final podium place. Similarly, Arnett again won in heat two B vs D despite new challengers Isabel Rowe and Josh Sacco chasing hard for the lead.
The two titans clashed in heat three A vs B, with Hall and Arnett providing a colossal battle for the ages, which Hall eventually emerged victorious from, though only by a miniscule two tenths across the line. This is not the only time that these two would clash during the Rochester round of the Golden Powers.
Heat three C vs D. Thompson came through to take the lead and the victory, with Luscombe hot on his tail, while Ryan Whyoon pushed to keep in touch with the leaders.
After these heats, twelve drivers were eliminated, and the final thirty took to the track to fight it out for those prestigious podium places. The final is where things really get interesting, for although Hall took victory in a drive that should have garnered him the first-place trophy, post-race penalties saw the trophy awarded to Arnett, with Wickham and Ceveri rounding out the top three.
TaG 125 Restricted Medium
All weekend the great fight for this class appeared to be between Scott Roberts and Jackson Rice for the win, with a couple of other drivers mixed in throughout the heats.
Julijan Karlusic separated Roberts and Rice in the first heat, battling hard to keep his second place for that race. It was an excellent fight for the time that the race ran, before a major accident brought out a red flag and the day to a halt.
There would be no more racing on the Saturday following this incident, and when racing resumed on Sunday, the heats were all shortened to seven laps instead of ten, and the final to ten rather than fifteen, to speed up the process significantly and thus, make up for the lost time.
When heat two came around on Sunday morning, the close and intense racing returned, with Rice on good form, pulling out the fastest lap and heat win, while Roberts ran a somewhat lonely race in second. The scrap for third was where the action was located, Harrison Dengate, Karlusic and Blair Van Ree fighting hard to achieve the third spot and all the points that come with it, a measly nine tenths separating the three across the line and for most of the race.
It was a similar story in the third heat, with Rice setting the fastest lap and pulling away from the rest of the field, except this time, Roberts stuck with him and kept the pressure on. These two left the rest of the field behind, another third place battle allowing them to do so. Karlusic staved off new challengers Clayton Groves and Jake Gibson in the fight for third, but it was incredibly close and very entertaining – only three tenths separated the three hard racers across the line, though they were some two seconds behind the front-runners.
The final was the most surprising part of the weekend for the TaG Restricted Medium Karters, when Kade Gibson, starting from second, came through to take out the win and therefore, the top spot on the podium and the best silverware. Previously, he had finished fourth in the first heat, sixth in the second and sixth again in the third, meaning it was quite an unexpected victory for the Rochester local. On the podium, Rice slotted into second place and Roberts took home the third-place trophy.
KA4 Junior Heavy
Zach Findlay began the weekend in fine form, taking out the victory in the first heat with a 1.3 second margin to second placed Ethan Briggs. Findlay started out battling with Hayden Millington for first place, the two really going hard, before Millington pushed slightly too hard and went off on lap three, falling back into fifth position. This left Findlay clear to take out the victory while the real battle began for third place. Charlee Richardson and Grace Riddell had been scrapping away over third for most of the race, but with just one or two laps to go Brodie Thomson and Millington caught up to the back of them and made it a four-way fight for third, which Richardson emerged victorious from despite the pressure of those behind her.
Heat two saw Thomson take out the win, though by only the smallest of margins – three tenths across the line – to Richardson, while previous race winner Findlay slotted into third. Similar story again for heat three, Thomson, then Richardson, then Findlay, though the gap from first to second was larger this time, a whole seven tenths allowing Thomson some breathing room.
Nothing changed in the final, with Findlay unable to return to his Saturday morning form, and Thomson maintaining his to take home the gold after a win in the final. The podium had Thomson on the top step, with Richardson in second and Findlay in third.
Cadet 12 was the second of two oversubscribed classes, a total of 36 youngsters racing on the weekend at Rochester. Since it had to be broken up, they followed similar procedure to the Juniors, racing twice for each heat and then eliminating six Karters for a final with thirty racers.
Heat one A vs D saw Pip Casabene on top, though the top four were one of the closest battle packs of the day. George Macmillan was the lead attacker, pushing hard to gain the lead from Casabene, while Jack Jenkins stuck to his tail and Matthew Basso followed. All four were separated by only half a second! Heat one B vs C placed Alexander Yoannidis in the top spot, with Joanne Ciconte fighting hard to take the lead, and a significant gap to the rest of the field.
Cooper Stapleton took the win in heat two A vs C, Jenkins close behind improving from third in heat one to second in heat two. Heat two B vs D meanwhile saw Ciconte claim victory over Basso with another tiny margin of two tenths – something of a familiar theme in the Cadet 12 class.
Yet again in heat three A vs B, the lead three had only four tenths between them, with Casabene in first, Ciconte in second and Jenkins in third. This focus on the leaders in no way meant that there was nothing going on behind them in the rest of the field; with that many racers out on track, how could there possibly not be? Noah Dixon and Cooper Frith fought over fourth place, while an immense battle for sixth position took place between Jake Ristell, Harrison Strik, Cody Boys, Aiden Schweikert and Charlie Damaschino. Heat three C vs D and Yoannidis took another victory, with Basso and Macmillan bringing their karts home in second and third.
Then, the all-important final.
Having spent the entire weekend building her momentum, Ciconte put her all into the final and managed to walk away with the glory and prestige that come with winning the chaotic Cadet 12 class. Despite the pressure that they placed on the leader, Yoannidis and Macmillan only managed to walk away with second and third – which is better than the fate that Stapleton suffered of challenging too hard in the top four fight, resulting in a DNF for the race that counted. He was not, however, the only young Karter to go off the track. In fact, four drivers managed to not finish the ten-lap final, demonstrating just how chaotic the racing can get in such a full category.
TaG 125 Light
TaG 125 Light saw Bailey Collins dominate, winning every single race of the weekend.
Troy Alger started the weekend in good form, finishing in second place for heat one, 1.1 seconds behind the leader. Behind him, Liam Ford and Curt Sera clashed for third position, marking the first of the extensive battle packs that characterised this class. In fact, except from two or three gaps, the field remained almost one long train of karts throughout the entire round, a most impressive display.
Heat two, and again Collins took the victory – as he did in heats three and the final – while Ford claimed second place for the second heat, Alger finishing behind him in third, and Will Harper behind him.
Heat three, and Ford again finished behind Collins in first, though this time they were much closer. Sera brought his kart home in third following a furious battle with Harper, while the usually competitive Alger found himself down in seventh place due to a lack of pace and a steady downward spiral through the field.
The final, the race to determine podium positions, was identical to the third heat. Collins pushed hard to keep the attacking Ford at bay, crossing the line six tenths ahead, while Sera scrapped with Cooper Johnstone for the final place on the podium, coming out on top despite the immense pressure from Johnstone and Alger behind him.
TaG Restricted Light
This was a class characterised by insane first lap shenanigans, the likes of which none of the other classes could match.
The very first heat for this category saw karts go four-wide through turn one, without any of them leaving the racetrack or spinning. Then three karts collided in turn two of the same heat! It doesn’t get much crazier than that!
Once the chaos had subsided somewhat, the battling began, with Matthew Ferrari and Ross Stubbs clashing for third place behind the distant leaders Gerry Westerveld in first and Brodie Doidge in second. For these two, nothing changed over the course of the weekend. Westerveld brought home the gold in all the heats and the final, while Doidge claimed silver in all the races.
Skipping over heat two, which was similar in terms of results, we come to heat three, where Ferrari encountered some issues. In this race, the front two again pulled away, achieving a sizeable gap to the rest of the field. Ferrari continued to run in third, before lap four, when three karts, including him, went off at turn eight, in what can be called “the corner of carnage”, due to the fact it also saw at least one roll-over for the weekend and innumerable karts stranded on the side of the track. With Ferrari out, Michael Steer was free to claim the third spot for that heat, even with heavy competition from Michael Flynn.
Things returned to normal in the final, with Westerveld, Doidge and Ferrari the top three taking home the trophies, and regular TaG 125 Restricted Light shenanigans as four karts spun on turn one of lap one.
KA3 Junior Light
The fastest of the Junior classes, KA3 Junior Light was packed full of action. The first corner of the first heat saw a large pile-up, with Peter Bouzinelos even finding his way into the air and off the track.
There was a very close top four fight, in which Kristian Janev had the lead and did his best to stave of the competition. Jake Santalucia started from pole, and led the race for the first lap, before Janev dove down the inside of turn one and took the lead for the rest of the race. Joshua Hee Keng and Brodie Thomson were both in on the action as well, the latter even taking the lead for a moment before it was retaken by Janev, leaving Hee Keng and Thomson to fight it out for third place. The incredible margin across the line stood at only half a second between all four of the drivers!
The order changed in heat two, but the top four fight was just as good. Santalucia took out the victory, with Janev fractions of a second behind, while Hee Keng again secured third place and Toby Callow joined the battle.
Santalucia took another win in heat three over Callow in second and Thomson in third, while Janev was given the diagonally divided black and white flag, requiring him to report to the stewards after the race.
It made no difference to Janev though, as he came back to take the all-important win in the final by some margin, pulling away from the battling Santalucia and Bouzinelos, who provided the action for the penultimate final of the weekend.
Victorian Combined Masters
The final class of the weekend, and a mammoth clash for wins between the two frontrunners: Phil Smith and Simon Phillips. These two could not be separated the entire round, pulling away from the rest of the field every race and doing their own thing. In terms of win count, Smith took the victory in heat two, heat three and the final, while Phillips took out heat one; it was always close as well, with no more than six tenths separating them the entire round. Then we move to third place, which Phillip Stradbrook claimed in heats one and two as well as the final, despite the pressure from Peter Gigis. Gigis overtook Stradbrook in the third heat to come home in position three by half a tenth but could not hold that going into the final race.
Meanwhile, for this class, the rest of the field was fairly spread throughout the weekend, with a few smaller battle packs littering the grid and keeping the spectators entertained. The last top three, that of Vic Combined Masters, had Smith on the top step of the podium, with Phillips in second and Stradbrook in third.
A successful first round of the 2021 Golden Power Series despite the confusion of a lockdown that ended only two days prior to the event. The enthusiasm of the Karters to be racing again overcame all the challenges the weekend threw at them, including mask wearing, social distancing and the sweltering weather that Rochester provided.
Yet without the commitment of those behind the scenes, the race could not have gone ahead, and Jason Gibson touched on this when he thanked all those who helped organise the Rochester Kart Club Round of the Golden Power Series:
“I want to thank all those who have helped out from the club to get the facility ready to roll, also those in the Power Series Committee, without them we wouldn’t be here. Thanks to those guys too.” This is not to mention all the officials who dedicated their time so that the 275 entries could get out on track and do what they love.
To all those who made the weekend such a success, from the racers to the officials, we say thank you, and we look forward to seeing you all again at the next round of the Golden Power Series, in Numurkah, in just twenty-three days time! Save the date!