by Ayrton Creagh
Racers once again set afoot to the heart of central Victoria for round four of the Golden Power Series, contested at the fast-flowing Rochester Karting circuit. “Rochy” featured damning weather eerily similar to the notorious floods of 2022, with bursts of heavy rain, hail and occasional sunshine plaguing conditions for drivers and teams.
Despite this, round four provided enthralling racing as competitors move into the final rounds of the championship.
- full results are on Speedhive HERE
- photos by Steve Dansie – Saturday HERE, Sunday (with podiums) HERE
- photos by Tim Francis HERE (then scroll down)
As the rain rolled in Saturday morning, Cadet 9 got underway for their qualifying – Ethan Youd claiming a slender pole position over Wil Cairns in second, Alana Gurney, Jordan Bantick and Samuel Jansen van Vuuren rounding out the top five. Despite the excellent pace in qualifying, Youd seemingly lacked the race speed of his competitors, with it quickly appearing to be a two-horse race out front; Gurney and Cairns duelling over the top spot. Cairns’ rapid lap times gave him a healthy margin on the field after setting consecutive fastest laps, however, Gurney’s cunning racecraft proved to be a cut above, managing her pace and lapped traffic to clean sweep the heats. The lower podium positions were fought over by several drivers, Lex Kelly and Jarvis Hindle stepping onto the top three.
The finale looked to be a blockbuster for the championship’s youngsters. Gurney and Cairns starting off the front row, mano a mano as the wrath of Cairns’ speed opposed Gurney’s strategical mastery. Lights out and Gurney took the lead as the 12 cadets charged into turn one, Cairns holding second and Hindle third. The laps counted down, Cairns making a fantastic move down the inside of Gurney to take the lead – Hindle, Jansen van Vuuren and Rossi Yau clutching onto the remaining podium spots. With a handful of laps remaining, Gurney and Hindle were able to find their way past the #84, who slipped down to third. Chequered flag at the ready… Gurney with an emphatic victory over Jarvis Hindle in P2. Wil Cairns third with Jansen van Vuuren and Yau completing the top five.
Cadet 12 displayed itself as one of the hottest classes in Australia right now. Series contender Joseph Bianchini took pole position with an astonishing lap aboard his EKS kart, claiming pole position by a scarcely believable 0.539s over Mason Woods in second, Sebastian Dias, Lucas Costanzo and Xavier Mifsud the remaining top five. Bianchini got to work in the heats, the Griffith gun taking two wins over championship rival Lucas Costanzo with Xavier Mifsud claiming the third – with excellent podium drives from the likes of Mason Woods and Max Mangano.
The final was set to be an enthralling motor-race, could anyone match the supreme speed of Joseph Bianchini? The flag dropped and disaster from turn one, front-runners Mangano and Bianchini involved in a collision that took them out of the contest! With several karts displaced throughout the order, Mifsud emerged as leader with Woods in hot pursuit. As the laps wound down, Bianchini’s fellow EKS driver Jensen Damaschino was on a charge through the pack, seemingly saving his best for last as he came from P12 to the lead on lap 6. The Energy kart of Lucas Costanzo was like a bloodhound in the chase, reeling in the #32 in the shortened 12 lap final. Costanzo displayed yet another valiant effort, but Damaschino proved too good in the final, notching the win and solidifying himself amongst Cadet 12’s best. Tony Kart’s Oscar Corless took home a fantastic third, with recent Cadet 12 debutante Jasper Partouche in P4 and Mason Woods rounding out the podium.
KA3 Junior Light was consistent with previous rounds, Will Thompson storming to pole position as he continues to make a statement of being Australia’s fastest junior. Jensen Marold, Cooper Frith, Sam March and Dallas Greene were able to round out the remaining top five. With the wild weather bombarding the circuit, the heats proved tantalising as several drivers charged from the fringes of the 10 to the very top of the field. #47 of Jai George exemplified this, taking three top fives and a heat win after qualifying a distant 14th! The heats were shared between George, March, Greene, Frith and Thompson – whom had an unfortunate DNS in heat 1.
With the heats decided, Alpha Motorsport’s Sam March started off pole joined by Harry Bresnahan out of second; Jai George, Aaron Bottomley and Cooper Frith behind with Thompson set to start out of P8. The final got underway and the fireworks started immediately, carnage heading into turn one as several karts tangled together bringing out the red flag. With the recommencement of the race March maintained the leader, however by lap three Thompson was on a war-path, having stormed from eighth to second in the opening two laps. Thompson recognised his opportunity, seizing it with both hands as he glided past the #15 seemingly effortlessly. Thompson never looked back, finding his rhythm to take the win over March in P2. ProKarting entry, Ayce Buckley, claimed an emphatic P3 having navigated the carnage superbly to drive from ninth to third, as Aaron Bottomley and Cooper Frith completed the podium. We hope the drivers involved in the red flag are all okay.
As the suspense to championship glory continues to build, KA3 Junior Heavy was yet another cliffhanger amongst the junior ranks. State Champion and series leader, Mat Basso, took pole position with a monster lap, some 0.422s ahead of round three winner, Hugo Garraway. Amos Orr, Zac Turner and Grace Riddell rounding out the top five. Despite Basso’s remarkable speed, championship rival Amos Orr was able to capitalise on some first lap fortune matched with excellent racecraft, taking two heat wins over Basso’s one – Garraway, Riddell and Darsyn Harris all grabbing podiums.
Lights out and the final was underway. Disaster struck almost immediately as the 16-kart field did their best impression of Melbourne peak-hour traffic, clanging and banging their way through turn one. As the dust settled, Basso was off track, narrowly missing the tyre barriers whilst Harris and Orr were squabbling for the lead. It only took a couple of corners before Harris and Orr appeared to have one scrap too many, dropping from the lead to further back. With clean laps finally getting underway, Riddell occupied the lead from Garraway second, Angus Fletcher third and the rest of the field in hot pursuit.
As the leaders had their heads down running away from the following pack, Basso turned on the afterburners – putting together one of the finest finales of 2023 to date. Basso charged from outside the top 10 at the start of the race to occupy the lead with two to go, winning by 0.863 over Garraway, Riddell, Chelsea Humphrey and Amos Orr. A nailbiter for the crowd!
The smallest field of the weekend, KA2 made a welcomed return to Victoria’s premier karting series, bolstering a field of six drivers. It was the #71 of Joseph Belardo who took a captivating pole position over Arrow pilot, Amos Orr – Hugo Garraway claiming a solid P3. The heats commenced and it was all to play for as the spoils of the category were shared evenly between Orr, Garraway and Belardo – the latter recording three fastest laps in a row.
With the final just around the corner, spectators watched on to see who would claim glory in the returning KA2 class. Could Orr or Garraway prevent the inevitable wrath of Joseph Belardo? The answer was no, Garraway putting up an admirable battle with Belardo before being taken by surprise on lap five. Garraway tried to hold on, but the speed of Belardo was unmatched as he edged out to a 2.4 second winning margin over the Mildura superstar. Orr claimed a consistent third.
KA3 Senior Light, yet another contender for class of the weekend from the premier 100cc category. With little margins separating the top 10 after morning practice, qualifying was set to be a belter – and a belter it was! Tony Kart entry of Thomas Patching strutted his way to pole position over local, Gerry Westerveld, with his green machine compatriot Jasper Frith rounding out the top three. The heats were a bloodbath, with the Light category being the first to fall victim to the awful intermittent rain. Griffith great Luca Belardo took a gutsy win with slicks on a wet track, Harry Arnett and Brodie Radford rounding out the podium. The #21 of James Ceveri put together one of the drives of the weekend, charging from 29th to fifth in some 10 laps (and fastest lap of the race by nearly a second). The next two heats were shared between Arnett and local hotshot, Westerveld.
The final commenced and we were racing, several karts coming together almost instantly resulting in numerous DNF’s and the tyre barrier copping a fair pounding. Westerveld hit the lead in in lap one having started third… and that was that. Westerveld notched yet another final in his illustrious karting career from lights to finish, as Radford came home a distant P2 with other local, Nick Trebilcock, rounding out the podium. Honourable mention to Tony Kart speedster Angus Hall. Having been last at one point in the 30-kart field, he finished an astounding ninth in one of the recovery drives for the ages.
There was only one question for KA3 Senior Medium drivers heading into the weekend; can anyone match the supremacy of Cory Arnett? Whilst the #40 has been in his groove so far in 2023, Taine Venables appeared to be the man with all the answers. Steering the DAP kart to former glory, the Pulse tuning backed driver took a dominant pole position over MKC’s Lachlan Sharpe in second, Arnett rounding out the top three. Heat one and it appeared I may have spoken too soon, with Arnett returning to the top of the podium amidst the poor conditions, Sharpe and Venables some four seconds behind. When the track dried out once again however, Venables merely drove off into the sunset, claiming two heat wins for himself as Lachie Sharpe amassed a trio of second places. Jarrod Bottomley found a way to grab himself a podium in heat two.
The final was set to get underway. Could Arnett, Sharpe or another senior medium driver unlock the secret to matching Venables blistering speed? The flag dropped and they charged into turn one, Venables edging into the lead over Sharpe and Arnett. Whilst I’d love to detail an electrifying race with non-stop jostling for the lead until the very last corner – I’m unable to. Venables made an emphatic statement, winning the final by 3.6 seconds in what reminded the paddock of the star quality behind the #43 machine. Sharpe with a string of seconds as Arnett held on by the barest of margins over Bodhi Bright in fourth.
The ever-entertaining class that is Tag 125 restricted light was once again of high calibre. The Marriner Missile was in full display, storming to the top of the time charts by nearly two tenths over Ryan Dealy in P2, Ethan Warren rounding out the top three in a bizarre qualifying session that lasted practically two laps. As the wet weather bombarded the circuit, conditions once again favoured Ethan Warren who appeared to be on a casual Sunday drive, a cut above in his five-second victory from Marriner and Brodie Guilfoyle. As track conditions improved, the entries of Ryan and Ella Dealy appeared to have the speed of the field -Ryan taking two more heat wins to add to this year’s collection as Warren and Marriner laid in his wake.
As the final loomed, it was a clash of the titans with Ryan Dealy and Ethan Warren sharing the front row once more. Marriner, Ella Dealy and Guilfoyle holding the remaining top five positions. Lights out and Dealy maintained the lead at the end of lap one with Marriner in hot pursuit, Guilfoyle and Warren squabbling over third place. As the laps began to count down, an excursion off-track saw Warren drop outside the top 10, Ella Dealy now occupying third with Guilfoyle just behind. Despite all the tussling in the mid-field, Ryan maintained his consistency to stretch his legs out front, extending the gap to second. As the final drew to a close, Dealy maintained another victory in 2023. With after-race penalties applied, Ella Dealy came home in P2 with Brodie Guilfoyle completing the podium – Warren recovering to P4. Dealy delight as they maximise points in the final.
Tag 125 restricted medium was a battle of the class supremos. The #55 of Max Lumsden snatched the top spot with a daring lap over championship rival, Clayton Groves. On class debut, Michael Flynn managed to put his German Service Shop kart in the podium position of P3. With the heats getting underway, it was utter mayhem from lap one. Scott Roberts took the heat one win in one of the most resounding races you would ever see. Gambling to take wet tyres on a slick track as the clouds rolled in (yes, you read that right), Roberts managed to lap the field – almost twice! Trent Meadows emerged as best of the rest on slicks, with Lumsden rounding out the top three. Meadows maintained his podium consistency through the heats, holding on for a duo of thirds as Groves and Lumsden continued to hold the top two positions.
The question moving into the final appeared to be whether Groves had the speed to beat Lumsden and his reign of supremacy on track. The flag drops and we’re underway, Groves getting the holeshot as he slid his way into the lead, Lumsden pursuing with Meadows hot on his heels. As the laps counted down, Groves maintained his slender lead over the Tecno of Lumsden, the duo punching out fastest laps of the race. It was clear from the get-go that it was two-horse race out front. With two to go, Lumsden began to close to the bumper of Groves’ Top Kart. With the white flag being waved, it was gloves off out front as the two tussled for weekend glory. With a handful of corners to go, Lumsden fired his kart down the inside! Groves looked to undercut coming onto the finishing straight, but Lumsden held on to win by a fingernail! A mere 0.093 the difference, and Lumsden with bragging rights at Rochester.
Tag 125 restricted heavy had it all; different heat winners, karts spearing off and a final that will go down in karting folklore. The #69 of Mason Baldi waltzed his way to pole position over Albury’s Jason Gambold. Ryan Van Ree, Brent Opie and Blair Van Ree securing the top 5. The heat’s got underway, Opie drawing from his positive results the round earlier to take the opener over Blair Van Ree in second, Baldi third. Trent Meadows had started from last (10th), going on to finish in the top five. It was a Van Ree double up in heat two, Ryan taking the spoils over sibling, Blair. Meadows claimed the win in heat three.
Drivers were set to go for the final, Blair Van Ree starting off pole position joined by Trent Meadows on the front row. Lights out and Blair retained the lead, Meadows in hot pursuit. With a sense that he had the speed to win from the onset, Meadows threw his kart down the inside of Van Ree for the lead. Van Ree held onto P2 for several laps, however an unfortunate couple of corners saw the #15 relegated to fifth. Three laps to go and the qualifying polesitter of Mason Baldi had cast his line onto the back of the #88, reeling in Meadows every corner. Last lap and Meadows looked home and hosed, winning by 0.354s over Baldi in P2 who snatched fastest lap. Gambold rounding out the podium.
Victorian Combined Masters saw the Ringwood Kart Centre entry of Ian Branson wreak havoc on his opposition, taking pole position by nearly half a second over usual front runners Jason Domaschenz and Heath Jelbart. Ian bossed the heat races, clean sweeping ahead of the likes of Clayton Groves and Glenn Riddell in a dominant display for the category.
The finale was set to commence, Branson looking to complete the round sweep – could anyone stop him? Lights out and the masters were ready to play, Branson retaining the lead over Groves. Three laps in and Groves makes an audacious move for the lead, crowd waiting for Branson’s reply. The laps trickled down and Groves maintained his cool head out front, Branson unable to muster a response. One lap to go, Groves taking the victory from Branson in P2, Mark Appleby completing the podium from Pulse Tuning legend, Glenn Riddell.
As per usual, the field of Tag 125 Light strived to ensure no spectator had any air left to gasp for their races. left by the end of the weekend, with the high-calibre category producing nail biting racing yet again. The CKR kart entry of Brodie Doidge claimed pole position in the remaining seconds of qualifying over Jamie Rowe and Will Harper, followed closely behind by Jett Buckley and Matthew Domaschenz. The heats followed with carnage a result, seeing the likes of Thomas Hughes and Zak Thompson capitalising on this to make their way into the top 5, Curt Sera charging up the field after a spin early in the wet weather conditions. Jamie Rowe managed to sneak in a win in heat one, however Matthew Domaschenz proved to be the cream of the crop, rising to take the win in heat’s two and three.
The final got underway, Domaschenz looking to take his first victory in seniors by starting off pole, Harper and Thompson just behind. Lights out and Domaschenz made his way into the lead, with positions undulating as second to seventh squabbled for podium positions. An excellent move by Jett Buckley saw him overtake two karts into the left hander that got the crowd on their feet, however, was forced to fend off the speed of Curt Sera and Thomas Hughes. After a hectic couple of opening laps, the storm appeared to settle – Domaschenz running away to a 4.5 second victory over Sera, who put together a tantalising final. Hughes rounded out the podium positions.
As per usual, TAG 125 Light strived to ensure no spectator had any air left to gasp this weekend. Gippsland’s Jamie Rowe took pole position over national series runner, Will Harper. Jett Buckley continued his hot run of form with third place, over the likes of Curt Sera and Tom Hughes. The heats commenced and Harper was out for redemption. The ProKarting entry clean sweeping the heats in style from the chasing pack of Sera, Hughes, Rowe and Zack Thompson. There was continuous bickering down the order, with many position swaps during the overall 30 racing laps.
Into the final and Harper looked to continuous his period of dominance. Lights out and Harper maintained P1 from the A1 Engines entry of Tom Hughes. Five laps down and Matthew Domaschenz fires it down the inside of the #94 – Hughes without any answers to respond. Domaschenz appeared to be the closest to Harper’s race pace, but it was no match. Harper with a dominant victory in Rochester, leading every lap of every race this weekend with Domaschenz just behind. Hughes held on for P3.
TAG 125 Heavy was blockbuster once again. With the rapidly changing conditions impacting almost every heat, it was a battle of endurance and grit that saw drivers rise to the top. Troy Alger demonstrated once again why he is the Tag heavy driver to beat in Victoria at the moment, cruising to pole position in Hughes’ backyard by just over a tenth of a second – Liam Ford in third. Heat one was just as much a game of lottery as it was kart racing, with two drivers opting for slick tyres on the damp track. A masterstroke of a call, as Matty Smith in his Country Karts and Spares KF kart danced his way from the back of the pack to victory lane, Aidan Solomon joining him for P2 with Tom McCulloch making a last corner ditch for best of the rest – pipping Alger at the post. That was all Alger let the field have though, winding his way over the rolling Rochester hills to take two more heat wins over Ford and Hughes.
With the final set to get underway, could anyone mount a challenge to the #13? Lights out and Alger snatches the holeshot over Hughes in P2, Ford just behind in third. Alger put in the hard yards early, setting purple sectors on lap five that proved to be unmatched. Hughes stayed a whisker away through the length of the race, however Alger was too good – collecting the chequered flag by 0.515 over Hughes in P2. Ford, Smith and Nik Schmidt rounding out the top five in a star-studded field.
Commentator’s Driver of the Weekend
As yet another Golden Power Series weekend succumbed to the mighty powers of the weather Gods above; drivers exhibiting composure, consistency and daring race-craft emerged on top. Talent impressed throughout all classes – Venables with his supreme speed, Alger with yet another dominant display in his quest for championship glory, Damaschino’s heroic win in Cadet 12. Despite all these superb displays of driving quality, the commentator’s driver of the weekend comes from our youngest class.
Whilst not having the outright pace of the field throughout the weekend, Alana Gurney displayed all the qualities of a champion driver. Her consistent approach ensured excellent results whilst masterfully gliding through backmarkers in her duel with Cadet 9 rival, Wil Cairns. Gurney’s ability to read the field of play, make split-second decisions and the manage her race pace exhibited maturity beyond her years – all whilst having fun with friends on track and displaying excellent sportsmanship post-race.
Congratulations, Alana Gurney – you’re the driver of the weekend!