The Griffiths Report VCM Performance Junior Top Guns 2015 Round 1

It’s January, so it must be time to head to Oakleigh for Junior Top Guns, brought to us this year by the very high powered mob at VCM Performance. We all know how much sponsors help run events like this, so our thanks to VCM Performance for supporting the meeting.  For many years now, Top Guns has been the season starter for Juniors from all over Australia, and again this year we welcome visitors from far and wide to race at the track where Champions are bred. After years of Top Guns delivering meteorological extremes, we have a very sunny and pleasant Friday afternoon, around 25 degrees and a gentle breeze – a big change from last year’s 44 degrees or a couple of years earlier when the track was under metres of water and we had to postpone everything for a week.

New engines, new rules, new lots of things to get used to this year – it’s always the way at Junior Top Guns. Nevertheless, once the gate opened for qualifying it was business as usual and we looked forward to some good racing.

Junior National Light

Heat 1 and Declan Fraser off pole and beside him Blake Kolar – and on lap 1 a huge pile up in front of the old canteen, which I did not see but which eliminated half the field it seemed – by the time the track was cleared it was Fraser in the lead followed by Kolar, Michael Clemente, Jacob Dowson and Benjamin D’Alia, so mostly the front runners still up there – the DNF’s largely further back in the field. With 3 to go the front 3 had spread out and Fraser looked comfortably clear from Kolar who was in turn well clear of now Dowson, Clemente having dropped behind D’Alia back in 5th.Fraser an easy winner in the end.

Heat 2 and Fraser away to the lead as we went green, a lap or 2 later Kolar into 2nd then Dowson into 3rd after starting 7th, D’Alia and Mouzouris behind them. Now Kolar back to 3rd as Dowson went to 2nd – a great run through the field. By lap 5 Fraser was clear of Dowson then Kolar, D’Alia and Mouzouris as they had spread out up the front – lots of dicing back in the big JNL field though, with dirt and dust popping up here and there as karts ran wide. Meanwhile Fraser was running away with it and took the win ahead of Dowson and Kolar.

After a 30 minute delay to let the sun get down and out of the driver’s eyes, the first final gets underway with Fraser off Pole and Dowson beside him. A tangle or 2 on lap 1 distracted me for a while and it was lap 5 before I got a good look at the race – to see Fraser leading ahead of Dowson and these 2 well clear from the rest of the field who were spread out all over the track behind them. The rest were led by D’Alia then Kolar, Marcus Fraser and Beninca. With 4 to go Fraser and Dowson were still streaking away in the lead, Dowson tapping away on Fraser’s crashbar from time to time, but Fraser held on. D’Alia also held on in 3rd as Kolar and Marcus Fraser worked away behind him. In the end no change to any of these positions, Fraser ahead of Dowson, then D’Alia and Kolar.

Cadets 9

Will Harper the main man in Cadets 9, then Damon Woods, Brodie Thomson and Matthew Domaschenz behind him as we went green. Woods away best followed by Harper and Domaschenz and this group soon pulled clear of the rest, but were all close to each other in a tight bunch out front, behind them Thomson then a further gap back to Beau Russell, the first guy running a Comer. With 6 to go Domaschenz was into 2nd and looked like he might threaten for the lead – he has a look twice at JSKC but just thinks better of it and pulls back in. Then with 4 to go Domaschenz pulls it off and gets past Harper, but during the lap that followed the front 3 had to get around 2 lapped karts and Harper snuck back into the lead, and from there he held on to take the win, Domaschenz then Woods behind him.

Harper away well in Heat 2, but first corner as they came out of JSKC Ruby Gibson straight into the back of a slow moving kart and almost over, then out of the kart, and so a red flag was called and we’ll do it all again shortly.

Harper away best at the restart followed by Domaschenz then Woods and these 3 went away from the rest, who were depleted by the missing karts from the red flag. A lap or 2 in and Domaschenz was right on the back of Harper, but just as quickly dropped back into the clutches of Woods, so Harper now a clear run out front. Back in 4th it was Thomson then Russell then Austin Blanchard and Fraser Carr. Finally the lead 2 caught Carr and in the process of lapping him Domaschenz got past Harper and into the lead, and despite Harper’s efforts to get back to P1 Domaschenz held on for the win.

Harper and Domaschenz, then Woods and Thomson as we start the Final and then a mysterious computer glitch means I miss half the Cadets 9 Final sorting it out – D’oh! With 8 to go Harper was leading, Domaschenz 2nd and Woods well back in 3rd, but how they ended up that way, I haven’t a clue!! At the end Domaschenz had got ahead of Harper and took the win – apologies for the sketchy report, but technical difficulties got the better of me.

Junior National Heavy

John Doria with Aaron Cameron beside him; behind this pair were Benjamin D’Alia and Bryce Woollard and at the green Doria got away well, but within half a lap Cameron was through at the Dipper and to the lead, D’Alia 3rd until Woollard slid under him at JSKC as they began lap 3, Troy Alger behind these 2 and then Keely Branson, and Simon Fallon coming through from Qualifying 12th. Halfway and still Cameron with a kart length on Doria with Woollard right behind him. 4 to go and Doria has a big look at JSKC but doesn’t pull it off and Woollard moves into 2nd, Cameron now under pressure from him – then Woollard got past, but Cameron a big move to hold on at JSKC next lap and take the lead, all this brought Dori an D’Alia back onto Woollard; then these 3 start dicing and this plays into Cameron’s hands for a lap or two. Then just as quickly his lead disappears and Woollard right back on him – for the last lap Cameron and Woollard, then Doria and D’Alia went around like a kart snake – Woollard pushing and looking from every angle but Cameron very wily, went narrow and hung on by 4/100ths.

Cameron and Doria away best and on Lap 1 a tangle at Tony Kart turn took out Elly Morrow and Naomi Brady, so while they sorted themselves out, Cameron and Doria still led from D’Alia and Woollard. 3 to go and Doria went under Cameron at JSKC but Cameron back under him on the way out, then they began a bump and grind that saw Woollard involved and through to 2nd in the end, with Cameron ahead and Doria behind, D’Alia in 4th. Last lap and Cameron by a whisker from Woolard – this was the first heat all over again – and Cameron hung in by an equally skinny margin to take the win. Even closer this time – 2/100ths!

Cameron and Woolard had provided 2 amazing finishes in the heats, so appropriate that they start side by side in the Final, behind them Doria and D’Alia and at the green Cameron goes away with Woollard and they set about building a lead, while Alger was unlucky to go off at Arrow as they start. Back in 3rd was Doria, then D’Alia, so not much change from the heats, and after 5 laps still not a cigarette paper between Cameron and Woollard. Further back we find Ellexandra Best, Keely Branson and Taine Venables, but still the same pair out front – the 2 karts as one as they continued to go around. With 3 laps left Woollard decided to have a go and went under Cameron at Arrow – then maybe put a kart length on him as they began the last few laps. Start of the last lap and Cameron goes back under Woollard at JSKC – here we go again!! Cameron narrow, then Woollard would have been wide eyed going around the outside of Cameron at MKC and hanging on too, but couldn’t carry it through Arrow and Cameron struck back for yet another close win. Great race and great finish!!

Cadets 12

Leading them away was Cooper Webster then Jay Hanson, Blake Purdie and Kai Allen, but Webster bogged down on the line and dropped back handing Hanson the lead, then Allen and Kai Upiter coming through from 6th, meanwhile Webster back in 10th but working forward, and a few laps in was lapping 2/10ths quicker than the leaders. Halfway and a tight group of 4 out front: Hanson, Allen, Upiter and Purdie, then with 4 to go Allen under Hanson at JSKC in spectacular fashion to take the lead. Meanwhile Webster was carving through them and back into 5th – if the front guys start dicing, who knows? 2 to go and still Allen with Hanson right on him, then a gap now to Upiter and another to Purdie and now Webster lurking in the shadows – he might not get any further up the order, but he’ll be quick in heat 2. By the flag he was right on Upiter, as Allen took the win by a whisker from Hanson.

Webster again not a great start, but only dropped back to 3rd, Hanson and Allan through to 1 and 2, 4th was Purdie, then Upiter and Braydon Callaghan as they finished lap 2. Then Webster began his march forward, moving into 2nd ahead of Allen and with his sights now set on Hanson. Interesting to note that Webster was running a J – all the others up the front were in new Mini Roks. With 4 to go Webster passed Hanson for the lead into the Dipper, then set about pulling clear. This was easier said than done, Hanson was not going away, but eventually Webster pulled a small gap and looked like he would hold on for the win; that was until Hanson had an ill advised look for the lead into the Dipper and touched Webster’s rear, dropping back several spots to be 6th. Webster then went on to take an easy win, Callaghan (who I must have not been watching as he marched through the pack) moved through to 2nd with Purdie 3rd.

Allen and Webster, then Purdie and Hanson in Cadets 12 as we went green for the Final – more computer drama means I lost a whole race worth of report, and it was the best race we have seen all night as Allen and Webster battled away for the entire contest, lap after lap they swapped paint and spots and finally Allen held sway ahead of Webster, Hanson a slightly distant 3rd. Sorry I can’t give you more detail – it was fabulous!

Junior Clubman

Local star Oscar Piastri off Pole, joined by Vic Open title holder Spencer Ackermann, behind them Simon Fallon and Angelo Mouzouris. Piastri away cleanly with Ackermann then Fallon, Matthew Iredale behind them in 4th, then Mouzouris and Christian Pancione. Halfway and Piastri and Ackermann had pulled clear, with Piastri pulling even clearer (if that makes sense!) and getting into a good position to go on and win. All the interest now was back in 3, 4 and 5 where Iredale, Fallon and Mouzouris were putting on a show. With 2 to go Fallon had a look at the Dipper and got under Iredale and this spread these 3 out a bit, but no one was catching Piastri who had a tenth a lap on Ackermann at least, across the line they went: Piastri, Ackermann, Fallon, Iredale then Mouzouris.

Piastri again away well and to the lead, but lap 1 Ackermann went under him with a bold move at grid hairpin and for half a lap Piastri was 2nd, until he went back at Ackermann and to the lead ahead of Fallon and Mouzouris, then Iredale and Pancione. A lap later Iredale through to 4th but Piastri was disappearing out front. By lap 7 Iredale had gained on Fallon so a battle ahead for 3 and 4 and Iredale had ago at JSKC, but went too deep and Fallon took P3 back on the way out. Iredale really never recovered from this, so from there on they spread out and Piastri cruised through for a comfortable win.

Having won both Heats, Piastri was going to start off P1, Ackermann and Fallon, Iredale and Mouzouris, and it was Ackermann off to the lead as we went green, Piastri then Iredale, then a gap back to Fallon. Iredale then slid under Piastri at JSKC but Piastri straight back at him and stayed in 2nd. Ackermann meanwhile continued to lead and Fallon was gaining in 4th. These 4 were evenly matched and formed a loose train for a few laps, then a gap back to Mouzouris, Rhys Wagner and Hamish Ribarits. Piastri eventually caught Ackermann and went under him in the Dipper to take the lead, then Iredale got under him too, so Ackermann falling back into the arms of Fallon. Piastri by now had gone away to a healthy lead and behind him they had all been shuffled in an incident I missed – Fallon now 2nd, Ackermann 3rd and Iredale 4th, so safe to assume Iredale and Ackermann came together somewhere. Piastri meanwhile was gorn – all over, winner winner chicken dinner for Oscar.

Junior National Light / Heavy C&P

In C&P classes we joined Light and Heavy, so Lights are led by Blake Kolar and Henry Johnstone, Heavys by Kyle Frencham and Elly Morrow. Sure enough Kolar leads Lights away at the green and Morrow got to the Heavy lead ahead of Frencham as the 4 Heavys battled around at the back of the Lights. Kolar meanwhile had shot away to a healthy lead ahead of Johnstone, Angus Baddeley-Thompson and Matthew Beninca. By halfway Kolar’s lead was not as gigantic as it had been – Johnstone right back on him and preparing to have a look, which he did with 3 to go as they went into the Dipper. Meanwhile back in Heavy Morrow was holding on from Naomi Brady, Frencham back in 3rd, until Morrow tangled with Brady and Brady pulled away cleanly to keep the lead to the line, Johnstone already across the line ahead of Kolar in Light.

Kolar to the lead in Light and Frencham in Heavy – both these pulled clear, but a pack developed further back in Light with Baddeley-Thompson, Beninca and Nathan Skelton all pretty grouped together. Frencham though, was all alone in the lead of Heavy and looked like having a cruisy run of it. Kolar in Light was also doing it without too much pressure; it was all happening behind him. Johnstone and Baddeley-Thompson then came together and dropped back to 4 and 5 behind Beninca and Skelton now 2 and 3 – Kolar a lonely leader. Still they boxed on behind him as Beninca got involved with Johnstone in the Dipper so Skelton moved through to 2nd but Kolar already across the line 1st, and Frencham soon followed across the line 1st in Heavy.

Kolar and Johnstone off the front row in Light, Frencham and Morrow in Heavy, and at the green Kolar got the best of it ahead of Johnstone, and Frencham got away best in Heavy, at least until lap 2 when he pirouetted at Tony Kart turn and dropped back to last, so P plater Riley Meens inherited the lead, but had Brady and then Morrow close on his tail. Kolar was still out front in Light, then a gap to Johnstone, Beninca and Skelton.  6 to go and Brady had made her way to the lead of Heavy, then the recovering Frencham, Meens, and Morrow who had gone around a lap or 2 earlier. At the flag Kolar took a comfortable win in Light and Brady held off a fast closing Frencham to take Heavy.

Formula JMax

Liam Ford and Morgan Feast, then Aaron Cameron and Thomas Hughes the first 2 rows of J Max and Ford away well as Cameron came through under Feast, as did Hughes, then this group was followed by Troy Alger and Jordyn Sinni. Ford and Cameron meanwhile were steaming clear out front, Hughes not a million miles away in 3rd, and a gap to the recovering Feast. Then Feast dropped further back as first Alger and then Sinni got under him, but out front Ford still held on from Cameron as the laps wound down, Hughes and Alger a second pair in 3 and 4. Feast now back into 5th, getting under Sinni at Grid Hairpin. 3 to go and Alger under Hughes at JSKC to go into 3rd while Ford still held on in the lead, but start of the last lap and Cameron really bending Ford’s number plate under his crash bar, until at the Dipper Cameron went under him and Ford found himself wide as they exited and dropped well back to be a distant 2nd, so Cameron an easy victory while Ford just held on for 2nd ahead of a fast closing Alger.

Ford away well and Feast away much better this time to hold onto 2nd, Cameron 3rd and Hughes 4th – then at Arrow corner lap 1 Ford dropped to 2nd as Feast got past, then Cameron at JSKC, then Hughes at the Dipper and Alger in the Carousel, then Sinni soon after, so Ford lost all his rhythm and momentum to find himself in 7th after leading nearly all of Lap 1. A few laps later Feast was holding Cameron off well – these 2 had pulled clear from the rest, Alger the next best, but 6 kart lengths back. Ford had recovered one spot to go ahead of Sinni, behind him were Harrison Carr, James Fyfe, Michael Smith, Cameron McLean and Bethany Simpson as the JMax field wound its way around the tight Oakleigh circuit. While all this was happening, Feast was still ahead of Cameron, not by much, but the South Australian was keeping his cool and not letting the Victorian force him into an error – and so he held it until across the line he went in 1st – good job!

As the final began Cameron got a flyer of a start from Feast and Alger, then Hughes, Ford and Sinni, but Cameron was honking – way out front after just one lap. Feast had pulled clear of Alger, further back in the field we see Jack Winter 8th, McLean 9th and Bethany Simpson 10th with Michael Smith 11th. Halfway and Cameron still leading but Feast was quick, and catching him – maybe not catching him fast enough, but gaining all the same. With 4 to go Feast was noticeably closer – now the race was going to get interesting! A kart length was all that was in it with 2 to go, Cameron would hang on, or Feast would sail through – which would it be? A clear run past a lapped kart on the last lap and Cameron still held on, in fact he grew a leg and  pulled a slight gap on Feast who had fought back well for 2nd, Cameron a worthy winner though.

So that winds up Night 1 of Junior Top Guns for 2015  – after a sleep we’ll be back to finish it off tomorrow.