Nail-Biters at Numurkah

words – Ayrton Creagh
pics – Tim Francis

Racers once again converged to the heart of the Goulburn Valley region, competing in the fiercely contested 2023 Adornato Sand & Gravel’s Australasian Titles in Numurkah. With red plates and class supremacy on the line, categories saw the likes of national champions compete against local heroes; all vying for red glory that saw the event as one of the best of 2023 to date!

  • full results on speedhive HERE
  • more photo by Tim Francis HERE

Cadet 9 superstar, Samuel Jansen van Vuuren, went back-to-back from his pole position at this track earlier in the year, snatching pole position over AKC-podium getter, Alana Gurney – Wil Cairns, Rossi Yau and Hudson Kelly rounding out the top five. The heats that ensued were nothing short of frantic; Gurney claiming the first heat victory over Jansen van Vuuren after a daring overtake around the outside into turn one, Jansen van Vuuren marching to a dominant victory in heats two and three after a lapped kart impeded his rivals behind – twice!

Jansen van Vuuren was set to lead the field from pole position, Gurney joining alongside with Cairns, Yau and Kelly in the remaining positions. Lights out and the Cadet 9’s thundered their way into turn one, Jansen van Vuuren maintaining the lead over Gurney and Cairns. The front two battled as they had all weekend, fighting valiantly out front with Cairns biding his time behind. Two more laps to go, Gurney had hit the lead with the slenderest of margins between her and Jansen van Vuuren before drama struck! Contact resulting in Jansen van Vuuren spearing off-track to the inside of the field. Despite the loss of a grandstand final lap, Gurney took a convincing win by 1.2 seconds over Cairns, Cooper Hickey driving from sixth to third to round out the podium! Spectacular driving all weekend from the event’s youngest.

Cadet 12 was fireworks as per usual, Joseph Bianchini storming to pole position by a scarcely believable 0.356 over Jensen Damaschino – an EKS kart front row. Michael White, Max Mangano and Sebastian Dias occupying the remaining top five positions. Bianchini continued his winning ways as they progressed into the heat races, notching victory in heats one and three over Damaschino and Mangano – Dias claiming an opportunistic heat two victory after several karts retired in the opening lap carnage.

With the points tallied at the end of the three heats, Mangano started the final off pole position alongside Damaschino, Bianchini starting third as a result of his heat two retirement. 18 Cadet 12 karts stormed into the opening corner, getting through the sweeping right okay before disaster at the front of the field… Bianchini, White and several others tangling on the apex of turn two. With karts everywhere, Damaschino ran away out-front with Mangano, Blair and Dias in hot pursuit, Bianchini relegated to 10th! Facing a challenge as large as the class itself, Bianchini strung together 19 of the best laps ever witnessed at the Numurkah karting track, a charge that had to be seen to be believed as he glided through the top 10 almost effortlessly going from 10th to second by lap 12. With 8 laps to go, Bianchini set out to catch the #32 of Damaschino, some two seconds in front before jostling for the lead with three to go. Damaschino fought admirably, firing his kart down the inside of Bianchini into turn one as they squabbled for red plate supremacy, albeit not enough. Bianchini taking a resounding victory by 0.796 – snatching fastest lap by almost 0.400 with an EKS kart top three – what a race!

Cadet 12 take the green, Joseph Bianchini and Jensen Damaschino on the front row

KA3 Junior Light was one of the A-listed classes of the weekend, with the trio of Sam March, Will Thompson and Pip Casabene set out once again to do battle. Casabene entered the weekend in his first race as national champion, having claimed championship glory the weekend prior, Thompson having drawn with Casabene on points and March coming home fourth in the championship – a truly world-class calibre category for this weekend! Casabene underlined his national champion status, waltzing to pole position by 0.081 over March, who was only 0.001 ahead of Thompson! Aiden Schweikert and Cooper Frith rounded out the top five. The heat wins were shared between March and Casabene, Thompson consistently finishing in the top three with Frith, Schweikert, Jai George and Christian Sasso all notching top fives.

Rolling into the final and it was Australia’s #1 to start off pole against Australia’s #2, mano a mano as the two danced under the sun-drenched circuit. The flag drops and Casabene hits the lead, Thompson and March just behind. As the laps count down there is nothing separating the leading trio, frequently alternating positions with Frith and Sasso some three seconds behind by the halfway mark. Five to go and Casabene decides to go for it, launching his kart down the inside of the #14 into turn one. Gloves are off and Thompson retaliates immediately, the two lunging at each other into turn one as each lap passes – March with the best view in the house. Last lap and Thompson has a last-ditch attempt, the two launching over the turn one kerbing to the spectator’s amusement. With March still in play, he has a look down the inside of Thompson into turn three, both running wide on exit. With only two corners to go, Casabene looked to have it in the bag, yet a tremendous exit from Thompson on the last two corners saw a drag race to the finish line… Casabene wins by 0.046! An absolute blockbuster from three of karting’s supremos.

Pip Casabene, 1st in Junior Light

KA3 Junior Heavy didn’t have the field size as seen earlier in the year at Golden Power Series, however the quality of the competitors certainly wasn’t in doubt. Victorian state champion, Mathew Basso, asserted himself yet again on top of the category, clinching pole by 0.071 over KA2 regular, Joseph Belardo in P2 – Ryan Taborsky, James Brett and Zac Turner claiming the remaining top five positions. Despite the close margins in qualifying, Basso exercised the full extent of his ability around the Numurkah circuit, clean sweeping the heats with fastest laps to boot. Whilst shuffled down the order in heat one to finish sixth, Belardo had a strong showing in the remaining heats to finish second in both – Darsyn Harris getting amongst the podium contention against the likes of Taborsky, Turner and Brett.

With the final set to commence, could anyone match the supreme speed of the #18 out-front? Basso answered “no”, crushing the opposition by a touch over two seconds to obtain his third Australasian title in his impressive resume to date. Belardo drove superbly, taking a respectable second place in his return to the KA3 junior category, whilst an almighty battle for third saw Ryan Taborsky clinch a podium over James Brett and Darsyn Harris – a cigarette paper separating the three!

Mathew Basso, 1st in Junior Heavy

KA3 Senior Light was yet again a nailbiter, at times the top 10 separated by a mere 2.5 seconds! Luca Belardo returned to the track he wreaked havoc on earlier in the year, where he stormed to an emphatic pole position. Looking to do it again, the #27 was unable to do the double as Fabcon Racing’s Jamie and Isael Rowe locked out the front of the grid with a sibling 1-2, Belardo still obtaining third despite seizing his engine mid-session! Jamie Rowe asserted his dominance over the field in the first two heats winning over Gerry Westerveld and Rio Campbell, before an issue in heat three saw him slide down the order – Westerveld narrowly pipping Campbell and Belardo for the spoils.

Unlike earlier in the year, the rain played no part in impacting super Sunday, with Westerveld starting off pole alongside the speedy Jamie Rowe. Lights out and Westerveld maintained the lead with assistance from Belardo behind, shuffling Jamie Rowe to P3. As the laps wound down, Belardo didn’t appear to have the pace of Rowe and Westerveld, Rowe promoting himself to P2 on lap seven whilst Westerveld was almost a second down the road. Rowe cranked up the tune on his engine and hunted down Westerveld to be on his rear bumper with five laps to go. Rowe lunged at any opportunity he could to dethrone Westerveld, dragging the hard-charging Nick Trebilcock with him to make it a three-kart battle come the final lap. Westerveld proved too good, winning by a mere 0.162 over Rowe, Trebilcock rounding out the podium with the fastest lap to boot.

KA3 Senior Medium saw Zach Findlay take an impressive pole position over Jarrod Bottomley in P2, only 0.070 between them with Taylem Mackinlay a further 0.300 behind in third. Bottomley and Findlay appeared to have the speed over the field, the two exchanged similar times throughout the heats. A DNS for Bottomley in heat one ensured Findlay took a dominant win over the field, with the #24 adding two more heat wins to the list, Bottomley close behind.

The DNS earlier in the weekend resulted in Bottomley starting from last place come the final, with work certainly cut out for him if he wanted to challenge Findlay for the red plate. Lights out and Findlay maintained the lead in style from Mackinlay in second, Cameron Anderson third. Anderson and Bottomley scrapped over the last podium position before some overly enthusiastic defending saw the two collide midway through the race – Anderson tumbling down the order and Bottomley out of the race. Whilst all this was occurring, Findlay was en route to victory lane, dominating the final to take an emphatic 3.5 second win over Mackinlay in second! Kye Belton managed to snatch third as a result of the earlier incident.

Zach Findlay (24) and Jarrod Bottomley (17) lead the KA3 Senior Mediums out

TaG 125 Restricted Light was as good as ever, with Ryan Dealy and Spiros Anagnostopoulos seemingly winding back the clock a couple of weeks ago where the two duelled for the City of Melbourne titles win. Dealy managed to pip Anagnostopoulos at the post, claiming pole by 0.028. Dealy’s sibling, Ella, managed to qualify third ahead of class debutante Grace Riddell in fourth and Jarrod Bottomley rounding out the top five. Spiros managed to strike gold early, winning the first heat over Ryan Dealy before backing it up in heat three with another victory – Riddell getting the best of the field in the second heat.


The final was set to be a blockbuster, Anagnostopoulos off pole position with Riddell lining up alongside, a Dealy second-row lockout with Bottomley and the hard charging Ethan Warren on the third row. The flag dropped and chaos from the get-go, a conglomerate of various karts piled up on turn two consisting of our front row starter, Grace Riddell, allowing for Anagnostopoulos to build a one second leader by the end of the opening lap. Ryan Dealy made a clean move to pass Bottomley on lap two to elevate himself to second, before setting chase for the #56 Kosmic kart out front. Whilst Dealy worked tirelessly to catch the leader; Anagnostopoulos merely didn’t put a foot wrong, winning the final by a touch over two seconds with purple sectors all round – a stellar drive from restricted light’s Australasian champion. Bottomley brought the #17 rig home ahead of Flynn Twyford just behind.

Brock Burton out of shape ahead of Adam Campbell, TaG R Light

TaG 125 Restricted Medium had Mr Anagnostopoulos returning for a second serve of potential Australasian glory, however, would have to face off against local favourite, Clayton Groves. Qualifying got underway, Groves making a statement that he wasn’t intending on being beaten, poling the session by 0.092 over Anagnostopoulos. Scott Roberts, Michael Flynn and Troy Sheahan making up the rest of the top five. Groves got to work, keeping up his hot run of form to take out the first two heat wins, before being required to start from last for heat three after deciding to race the one kart in two categories. Anagnostopoulos was able to take the win in heat three from a hard charging Roberts and Flynn, who were dicing over the remaining podium places – Groves driving from last to fourth!

The crowd had their popcorn at the ready as Anagnostopoulos lined up out of pole position with Groves alongside. Groves got the jump at the start and took the lead, Anagnostopoulos following suit in P2 with Roberts behind in third. Groves and Anagnostopoulos began to pull away from the peloton behind immediately, highlighting this would be a two-horse race from very early on. Whilst Groves was out front pushing, Anagnostopoulos looked after his tyres and driving a smooth race before cruising past the #2 kart on lap 13. Whilst Groves rallied to try and have one last chance of beating the #56; Anagnostopoulos proved too good, collecting his second Australasian title for the day! Michael Flynn put in a champion drive to chase down Roberts and take a well-deserved podium in third.

Team Anagnostopoulos

TaG 125 Restricted Heavy has nothing separating the top of the field; Mason Baldi going on to take pole position over state champion, Ryan Van Ree, with Jason Gambold in third – only 0.036 separating the top three! The heats got underway, and it was clear from the onset that both Baldi and Van Ree had the race pace over the field, little between the two as they both managed heat wins over each other – Gambold and local, Brent Opie, scrapping over the remaining podium positions.

With plenty of biff and barge expected for the final, Tag 125 restricted heavy got underway as they all vied for the title glory – Baldi into the lead with Van Ree just behind, Gambold slotting into third. The leading two engaged in what appeared to be cat and mouse, Van Ree glued to the rear bumper of Baldi’s #69 kart whilst stretching the lead to over six seconds behind. With only a handful of laps to go, Van Ree closed to the back of Baldi, looking to make a move into turn two on the last lap before the pairing collided… Baldi maintaining his position and Van Ree losing time! Baldi took the chequered flag one second ahead of Van Ree, Gambold holding on for third after a three-horse race to the finish line that saw Gambold, Opie and Shannon Hogg split by only 0.3!

Victorian Combined Masters saw local, Clayton Groves, return for a dip at potentially collecting two red plates in the one weekend! Groves started his 2023 title campaign in perfect fashion, storming to pole by 0.106 over Albury Wodonga Karts & Parts’ Herman Van Ree, Leigh Holmes in third. The heats got underway with little change out front; Groves clean sweeping with victories in each heat and fastest laps, Van Ree and Holmes alternating the remaining podium positions.

Moving into the final, it looked like very few people would have the speed to match Groves out front. As the lights went out, Groves hit the lead immediately, Van Ree and Ash Mitchell jumping the 27 of Leigh Holmes who had started out of 2nd. Groves had dashed from the first lap, amassing a two second lead over Van Ree by the halfway stage of the race, Holmes having fallen away from the lead group at the start as his Arrow machine looked to be on ice skates! With only three laps to go, Mitchell moved to second place with Van Ree’s tyres looking like they’d gone off the cliff – Holmes’ kart coming on like a freight train in the dying stages. Groves crossed the line to take yet another massive victory at his home track, 4.4 seconds ahead of Mitchell with a greatly deserved second – Holmes finding a way past Van Ree on the last lap to claim third!

Nathan Emmins, KA3 Senior Light

TaG 125 Light was yet another box-office category over the weekend. KA3 Senior Light polesitter, Jamie Rowe, doubled up on speedy Saturday that saw him bag two pole positions, this time 0.154 ahead of Jordi Belton in 2nd. Home-town superstar Zak Thompson snatched third ahead of Curt Sera and Matthew Domaschenz. The heats lived up to their mega expectations; Jamie Rowe taking three fastest laps and two heat wins, Thompson claiming consistent podiums coupled with a win himself and Belton, Domaschenz and Jake Krasna battling over the podium. Drama as a nasty rollover looked to potentially cease racing in heat two, both Damiano Muscariello and Max Stavrakis getting up and signalling that they’re okay.

All eyes looked to the final, could Thompson stage an upset over the #99 of Jamie Rowe that had shown blistering speed all weekend? Lights out and Thompson with a masterful first lap snatched the lead from Rowe, a lovely flick into the opening corner to emerge in first. Rowe wasn’t keen on mucking around, retaking the lead on lap two. Rowe never looked back, setting fastest lap after fastest lap to pump 2.2 seconds into Thompson over 20 laps in second place, taking out the Australasian title! Matthew Domaschenz came home third.

TaG 125 Heavy gave us all a few more reasons to be in awe of Troy Alger, who emerged as the man to beat with the late withdrawal of hometown hero, Liam Ford. Alger once again took to the track he dominated at Golden Power Series earlier this year, putting the #13 kart on the top of the charts by 0.382 over Geoff Wyhoon – a DR Kart front row lockout. Jack Johnson had an impressive run for his first time at the circuit, putting his Arrow machine third – Jett Rendell and Dylan Muller rounding out the field. The heats commenced and Alger was yet again a cut above, almost winning every heat by five seconds whilst Wyhoon and Johnson alternated the remaining podium positions.

Moving into the final, it looked like few would be able to challenge the supreme speed of the #13 out front. The flag dropped and Tag 125 Heavy were underway, Alger getting the perfect start to jump into the lead. Johnson looked racey from the get-go, however, Wyhoon’s stout defence kept the #90 at bay until lap 11. Johnson was able to eke out a small margin to Wyhoon behind before the final lap, but the horse had well and truly bolted as Alger crossed the line to win by 7.5 seconds in a commanding fashion, a resounding drive from one of Victoria’s top Tag 125 Heavy drivers.

Commentator’s Driver of the Weekend:

Another weekend of tremendous racing held at the stunning Goulburn Valley Kart Club, with several excellent drives across the categories. From Bianchini’s absurd final comeback to the dominance of Zach Findlay, Jamie Rowe and Spiros Anagnostopoulos, there were yet again so many contenders for driver of the weekend worth mentioning – however there can only be one.

Many would say from the Golden Power Series round held earlier this year at Numurkah that Mathew Basso was unfortunate to not earn the claim of driver of the weekend. Having won one of his heats at the time by a remarkable 13 seconds in ghastly conditions, Basso had fallen agonisingly short of completing the clean sweep by coming second to Junior Heavy rival, Hugo Garraway, in the final.

In recent times, Basso has looked like a completely different driver on track compared to even a few months ago, bringing a deadly consistency and precision that has been unmatched in many events. Basso tapped into a whole new level of excellency this weekend; storming his way to pole position, clean sweeping the heats and final with fastest laps in every race – astonishing given the high calibre of drivers in the category throughout the event.

Basso is undoubtedly one to keep an eye on throughout the rest of 2023 and years to come as he continues to develop in his junior career. Mathew Basso is the Commentator’s Driver of the Weekend for the 2023 Australasian Titles!

Ayrton Creagh