by Ayrton Creagh
The moment many of Australia’s best had all been waiting for finally arrived last week, the famed 4.5-hour enduro returning to Port Melbourne to be duelled out between some of the southern hemisphere’s best senior and cadet racers.
After a washed-out practice the day prior, Super Sunday looked to be anyone’s for the taking as teams rallied to get both karts and drivers ready for the long haul.
Cadet 9 and 12 ran simultaneously this weekend, a six-minute session determining the starting order for their hour-long slog at endurance supremacy.
Jett Herring capitalised on his supreme speed in qualifying, smashing his way to pole position by 0.300s over sibling duo of Cooper and Ari Djemil in Cadet 9.
Lights out and Milan Sami with a fantastic start saw him take the lead of the class ahead of Cooper Djemil in P2 as the hard-charging racers tried negotiating Cadet congestion. Almost 20 minutes in and the leaders began to pull into the pits for their first of two compulsory pit stops, Sami maintaining his margin over Cooper Djemil in second and Ari third. As the laps continued to wind down, Cooper was the first to enter their last pitstop on lap 39 before Sami on lap 40, Ari another lap later. All of a sudden, the order had been tipped on its head, by pitting later Ari Djemil was able to overcut the opposition and swoop into the lead!
At the end of a debilitating 60 minutes, Ari Djemil crossed the line a touch over six seconds ahead of Milan Sami, Cooper Djemil another nine seconds back to secure a Djemil double podium!
Whilst the arduous battle of Cadet 9 was at play, the strong 17-kart Cadet 12 field was duelling it out for the crown jewel event of the year. Despite fielding only two of the 17 karts in the field, Pocket Rocket Brother’s Racing duo, Oscar and Koda Singh, were not mucking around as they locked out the front row over Pro Karting’s Lucas Costanzo – Jasper Partouche and Max Mangano rounding out the top five.
The green flag dropped and they were racing, Oscar into the lead with Mangano following suit, Koda falling back to P4 as he tried to chase down Costanzo just ahead. Lap two and Costanzo showed he wasn’t intending to wait around one minute in the hour-long race, taking second from Mangano and pursuing the rapid Oscar Singh out front. In what felt like a blink of an eye, Costanzo was on the tail of Singh, before diving down the inside to take the lead on lap six. Oscar Singh put up a stout defence, dicing with Costanzo throughout the laps for the lead until both drivers pulled into the pits for their first mandatory stop respectively. Further back, Koda Singh was on a redemption drive, reclaiming third place before the pitstops. The leaders returned to play, Oscar getting the jump in the pit stops saw him rejoin in net-race lead, 6th on track with karters ahead yet to stop – Costanzo hot on his tail with a mere two seconds separating the front pair.
As the field completed their last stops, it was a 15-lap dash to the finish, Costanzo this time getting the jump in the pit stops that saw him with almost a five-second gap to Oscar behind. With the chequered flag at the ready, Costanzo crossed the line for a massive 4.8 second victory over Oscar Singh in second, Koda Singh securing P3 some 22 seconds adrift – Costanzo proving to be one of the nations best cadet racers, having won one of the standout events of the year a day after claiming Victoria’s Cadet 12 racer of the year award!
After the Cadet’s enduro event, we were set for the real blockbuster event of the weekend, TaG 125!
2022 Enduro Champion pairing of Declan Somers/ Jace Lindstrom saw the dynamic duo take pole position in the standard qualifying session, Jackson Souslin-Harlow/ Kip Foster and Jake Sawyer/ Ben Holliday the remaining top three.
Having completed qualifying, the field was set for the pyrotechnic display that was the top 15 shootout, Somers/ Lindstrom to have the last run having claimed first in the previous session. With the #99 the last kart out, Lindstrom crossed the line, the dust settling… Somers/ Lindstrom followed up on their hot run of form from qualifying for an emphatic pole! Trent Harrison/ Glen Wood took second with Mitch Mackay and James Golding rounding out the podium places.
With the formalities of qualifying out of the way, we were strapping ourselves in for the blockbuster 4.5-hour marathon, an equal challenge to mechanical longevity as well as driver’s endurance for what is the most gruelling race on the calendar. Having lined up on the grid, it was lights out and we were underway! Glen Wood made a terrific start that saw him emerge in the lead, almost 300 laps still to go. A poor start for Somers saw him slide down to P5 at the end of lap one, James Golding up to P2. The first stint was a long one, drivers beginning to enter the pits almost 45 minutes into the race. Golding had managed to find his way past Wood on lap 18, building a 5.5 second margin to the pursuing pack behind.
Pit strategy proved to be imperative through the middle of the race, seeing frequent changes for the top five as driver pairings of the likes of Will Thompson/ Pip Casabene, Dallas Greene/ Anton De Pasquale, Ian Branson/ Nathan Lucas and Leigh Nicolaou/ Toby Spinks charging their way up the order. Thompson and Casabene looked like they had the speed to win it, leading with an hour to go before disaster struck, low fuel surge and contact saw them stranded on the infield for nearly five minutes – unable to regain the margin after the incident. Further back, Somers/ Lindstrom had put in a magnificent recovery to be back in the top five with an hour left.
The last pitstops had been complete, drivers on track for the last stint of the weekend and final 30 minutes of racing for the year. Nicolaou/ Spinks had a remarkable drive that now saw them right at the top of the field, however, an excessively short minimum pitstop awarded the duo a penalty that would scrub them out of contention.
With the enduro taking its toll on drivers and machine alike, karts were seemingly dropping like flies from the front of the field. Somers/ Lindstrom found themselves in the lead and looked in prime position to do the double, back-to-back enduro victories, before disaster, a heart in mouth moment as the exhaust springs snapped off the back of the #99 with only 10 minutes to go! As the team scurried to replace the parts, Somers exited the pits back into the lead. Despite the ebbs and flows of drama that went the way of Somers and Lindstrom, they crossed the line first yet again! A 24 second buffer ahead of Mark Seddon and Sebastian Perrone in P2 with Greene and De Pasquale a lap further back – Holliday/ Sawyer and Hayden Millington/ Braden Clark the top five!
An emotional win for the duo, solidifying a ProKarting top two and glory yet again in the 4.5-hour megahit – Somers and Lindstrom forever etching their names in stone as giants of the AA Semi Trailers 4.5-hour enduro event!
Some Stats from Dave Sera
- 76 drivers in the TaG class
- 294 Laps
- Best Lap: Dallas Greene 46.803
- Biggest Mover: Nathan Lucas/Ian Branson – up 27 spots
- Best Pit Stop: Tyler Howard 10:40.289 (2 tenths from a perfect stop!)
- 2024 – some new rules and bigger prize money.