The Griffiths Report Junior Top Guns Round 1 2017

So here we are again at Oakleigh in January – it’s Junior Top Guns time. As usual we have attracted Junior competitors from near and far with plenty of interstate number plates in the pits as I wandered around before we got going. At this early stage of the day the weather was warm and humid, but about half an hour before qualifying began the rain arrived. Junior Top Guns’ reputation for meteorological extremes looked like continuing!

Qualifying was therefore held in very wet conditions, quite heavy showers streaking across the track at times. Once we completed that, some soggy racing got underway.

Cadet 12

Fletcher Harris off pole with Steven Tsesmelis beside him and Tex Starr-McKoy and Matthew Domaschenz behind them as we got going in Heat 1 in wet conditions – and straight away we have disaster as Harris, Tsesmelis and Starr-McKoy are all out at JSKC when someone went through bowling ball style (I didn’t see who in the drenching conditions) allowing Domaschenz to inherit the lead, followed soon after by Jesse Lacey, Samuel Gibson and Christian Cowie. So they settled into this order, but bad luck for the first 3 all to be out so early in proceedings. From there on they spread out and circulated in much the same order as the wet continued, Domaschenz now a couple of seconds clear in the lead. From there he went on to take victory in Heat 1 and at the flag I noted that half the field had DNF’d with 7 karts off in various incidents all over the track.

Heat 2 and possibly the first dry race of the day, but with some on slicks a number of roll arounds were needed to get them all formed up. Once we did it was Fletcher and Lacey then Starr-McKoy and Domaschenz – so the unlucky 3 from Heat 1 all out there doing battle. Doing battle they were as the first 6 karts had a great dice – Harris still OK out front but behind him many changes in position and as they sort of settled it was Starr McKoy in 2nd them Tsesmelis and Lacey – no sooner had I recorded all this than Harris lost the lead, then regained it, then Lacey moved through to 2nd and then had a look for the lead – under Harris and took Starr-McKoy through with him, so their set up perhaps marginally better on a drying track as they seemed to gain the upper hand and pull away. Domaschenz also joined in the action up front, moving to 2nd, Harris meanwhile dropping to 5th, while Lacey pulled further clear in the lead. Finally things dried out enough that those on slicks who had managed to stay on track started to come through – Christian Cowie the first of them now in 4th and 2 seconds a lap quicker – then soon into 2nd and caught Lacey in a heartbeat – a look at the lead a couple of corners later saw Cowie go through, Damon Woods on slicks behind him, Ayrton Filippi another as they piled through from the back. Woods through last lap to the lead from Cowie, while Lacey on wets was by now back in 5th. For some, the gamble had paid off!

A jumbled start order here as some drivers had come through on slicks in Heat 2 and others had dropped back on wets. Domaschenz and Lacey went to the front after a lap, Woods and Cowie back to 3 and 4 and Starr-McKoy and Harris moved into 5 and 6 after starting well back. Lacey to the lead after 3 laps and had Woods right on his tail, then a gap back to Cowie and Domaschenz, but Starr-McKoy through now to 4th – and then 3rd a lap later after passing Cowie, Starr-McKoy looked like being the big threat to Lacey and Woods – if he could catch them. With 10 to go we had a group of 4 now at the front: Lacey, Woods, the recovering Harris, then Starr-McKoy, a gap then back to Cowie, Domaschenz, Gibson and Tyler Knowles. For a while then they maintained station with Lacey in the lead, Harris looking the threat, very quick in 3rd. Then Woods shot under Lacey at the Dipper and Lacey ran wide on the exit allowing Harris and Starr-McKoy through as well – then Harris has a look at Woods at JSKC a lap later to take the lead – a great drive from 12th. Another lap later Starr-McKoy went to 2nd under Woods, but Harris looked too far in front for Starr-McKoy to catch – or was he? Start of the last lap and Harris’ lead was 3/10ths – and 3/10ths proved to be enough as he took the win ahead of Starr-McKoy with Woods 3rd then Lacey, Cowie, Gibson the top 6

KA4 Junior Light

Cooper Webster and Jay Hanson the front row in KA4 Heavy, then Jaxson Cox and Sean Larkin, Kai Allen and Kobi Williams the next 2 rows. Webster away well at the “lights off” (doesn’t sound the same as “at the green”) and Hanson and Cox followed him around, then Joshua Hocking, Larkin, Williams and Rueben Goodall. Conditions became increasingly gloomier – might have the lights on well before sunset at this rate! Webster continued to lead, now over a second clear of Hanson and Cox. The rain was worse than ever at this point, but radar predictions say it will clear in the next little while – let’s hope so. Webster looked untouchable and went on to take the win ahead of Hanson and Cox, all 3 doing a great job in the conditions.

Heat 2 and Webster and Hanson set to turn it on again, and they did with Hanson getting to the lead but Webster hot on his heels, meanwhile much further back it was Williams, Cox then Jobe Stewart and Goodall, Larkin and Hocking. Hanson and Webster looked untouchable out front and Webster took over the lead at Grid Hairpin on Lap 4, but not for long as Hanson moved back around him at Page Bros – and Williams was now gaining in 3rd with a big gap from him back to Stewart now in 4th.  All the action was happening out front though – Hanson and Webster swapped the lead with some regularity – one minute Hanson, the next Webster was our leader. Further back Williams was right on Stewart so a good dice for 3 and 4 too. Webster in front as they start the 3rd last lap, and held it for the lap; the gap less than a tenth as they cross the line. Last lap and Hanson slides under Webster at Tony kart, and went on to take the win, Stewart held on for 3rd, so a good final ahead methinks.

A hectic start with collisions and spins and it was a while before I could pay attention to the racing, but 4 laps in we find Webster and Hanson in the lead (again) and a gap to Larkin and Stewart, then Goodall and Cox, Hocking and Allen. Gradually Webster seemed to pull away and Hanson would have to find something if he was to catch him. Larkin and Stewart were nosecone to bumper in 3 and 4 and with 11 to go Webster had the gap out to one second in the lead. Further back Stewart had gotten around Larkin to take 3rd, then a string of karts: Goodall, Hocking, Allen, Cox, Kacey Mann and Bailey Collins, but out front Webster was further ahead, now out to nearly 2 seconds. From there on nothing troubled Webster on his way to a 4 second win, Hanson and Stewart behind him and Mann coming through to 4th.

KA4 Junior Heavy

Madisson Jess a tenth quicker than Jack Martin in Qualifying, behind them Alexander Grutteria and Daniel Hookway, Jason Rice and Nathan Skelton, and Mathew Parker and Jordyn Sinni. Martin got the better of the start leading Jess away then Grutteria and Hookway, Matthew Morris moving into 5th and a lap later Morris was into 3rd so a coming through in the wet conditions. Martin meanwhile had drawn away in the lead and Jess was now more than a second behind him. After 5 laps though Jess was closing back in on Martin and was now only half a second adrift, both now pulling clear of Morris. With 6 to go Jess had gained all the way on Martin and had a couple of sniffs at a pass, until a move exiting the Dipper was overcooked and Jess went around and dropped back to 5th while she got going again – a shame after pulling up so close. So now Martin had it all to himself out front and Morris inherited 2nd. Meanwhile Jess spun again in the Dipper and dropped further back – a crook racing getting worse for her unfortunately. 2 to go and Morris was now gaining on Martin in the lead, he would have to throw it all at him in the last 2 laps to do it, and in the end the laps run out; Martin hanging on to take the win.

Martin a better start in Heat 2 as Skelton came through to 2nd, followed by Morris again through from way back, pole sitter Jess back in 4th. Then disaster for Morris as a loose exhaust forced him out of the race, Martin meanwhile well clear with a lead in excess of 3 seconds – Sinni now through to 2nd, Skelton and Rice behind him. Sinni started to look like he might reel Martin in. With 5 to Sinni was right on the back of Martin and a lap later he sailed past him at JSKC to take the lead. At the same time Skelton and Grutteria were hard at it battling for 3 and 4, Rice also joining on in 5th. Last lap and Sinni well clear but Skelton and Rice came together in the Carousel and both into the stones – D’Oh! Sinni victorious, Martin then 2nd, Grutteria 3rd and Hookway through to 4th.

Martin out of the Final here after I presume an injury in the KA3 Junior second Heat, so Grutteria off Pole and Sinni beside him. At the go these 2 move well away and Morris the big mover, soon through to 3rd from 6th, behind him Hookway and Declan Somers. 5 laps in and Sinni has taken the lead while Morris has dropped behind Hookway to find himself in 4th. From there things unfolded in much the same way – with Sinni leading from Grutteria, and now Morris back ahead of Hookway, and that’s the order they greeted the chequered flag in.

Cadet 9

Toby Dvorak continues his good form from 2016 to top the time sheets ahead of Cadel Ambrose, Caleb Spence and Ben Holliday. Dvorak away well then Holliday into 2nd with a good start, Ambrose and then Rusty Ponting, Leo Iannella and Caleb Spence behind them. Further back is Lewis Francis making his debut, younger brother of former Oakleigh star Justin Francis, and finally Thomas Schmidt after Giancarlo Artho was out on the first lap. Dvorak meanwhile nearly 2 seconds a lap quicker and pulling well clear; pulling well clear that is until with 8 to go he spins all on his own in front of the laps scorers box. So substantial was his lead though, he managed to get the kart pointing in the right direction again from a standstill, and still retain the lead – just, from Holliday. A lap or 2 later it was as though nothing had happened, Dvorak back out to a 3 second lead. Next race he might drive through the canteen for a drink on the way. Further back Holliday was under pressure from Spence Another spin from Dvorak dropped him back again, but still ahead of Holliday and he was soon beginning his final lap – which he completed as leader and took the win.

Dvorak again off to a good start but Iannella went with him this time, both clear of Ponting and Holliday then Francis much preferring the dry in 5th. Five laps in and Dvorak wasn’t having it all his own way with Iannella right with him. Francis was also doing a great job moving onto the back of now Ponting in 4th and looking to put some pressure on him while Holliday was clear in 3rd.  Then food arrived and I was distracted for a few laps and didn’t see what led to Dvorak suddenly leading by a considerable amount – 4 seconds in fact, Perhaps he just got quick all of a sudden, Iannella still 2nd, Holliday, Ponting and Francis behind him. Then Iannella lost it leaving Tony Kart and ran across the grass, losing a spot to Holliday as he re-joined, while Dvorak went on to take the win.

So Dvorak again goes on with it and shoots to a big lead straight away, Ponting, Holliday and Spence, then Iannella, Schmidt and Francis behind them. Dvorak was so far in front I stopped looking and concentrated on the rest who were quite a group: Holliday, Ponting, Spence, Iannella – all covered by a second and a bit, then Schmidt, and Francis unfortunately out after spinning coming into the Dipper, but I’m sure we’ll see him again – well, tomorrow night I guess. So Dvorak takes all before him and greets the chequered flag, a staggering 21 seconds behind him they sorted themselves into order: Holliday, Ponting, Iannella and Spence

Cadet 12 C&P

Brodie Thomson a second quicker than Liam O’Donnell, then Ruby Gibson and Thomas Patching, and a messy start after a number of roll ups saw O’Donnell go to the front, then Thomson was running 2nd until he spun on his own at One Tree Hill and could not get back on track, so out of the race for him. Behind them Patching and Gibson, then Jett Wilson and Chloe Potter further back. O’Donnell also had a spin of his own and dropped back but still held onto the lead. With 7 to go Patching spun coming into the Dipper and right behind him Gibson had nowhere to go so the 2 of them off the track and out – particularly hard for Gibson who was a passenger in the whole thing. So O’Donnell now a huge lead which he built on to the end – and despite a 10 second penalty for a start infringement he retained the win with a lead of nearly 20 seconds, Wilson through in 2nd then Potter 3rd.

O’Donnell again away well as we start Heat 2 with Thomson dropping into 2nd, Patching and Gibson again 3 and 4 and the front pair settled into a steady rhythm and ground out some quick laps, but never far apart. Patching was a little way clear in 3rd while Gibson had Potter and Wilson snapping at her heels in 4th. Thomson got to the lead ahead of O’Donnell with 7 to go and pulled a small gap, while Wilson was putting the pressure on Gibson having gotten past Potter a lap or 2 earlier. Thomson now had left O’Donnell somewhat behind, nearly 8/10ths clear as they start lap 10. From there on things spread out – karts having found their spot, and Thomson took out a comfortable win.

So O’Donnell again takes off at the start to lead Wilson and Thomson around, following them Potter and Miller, then Richardson and Gibson as we settle down for the 18 laps. Settle down they did because from the first lap they pretty much just spread further and further apart, other than Gibson getting ahead of Richardson there was no change. Half race distance and O’Donnell and Wilson were well out in front and Wilson less than a second off the lead, so maybe some action coming up here – apart from this it looked like a procession though, so some excitement would be welcome. In the end Wilson did provide some excitement by suddenly closing up onto the back or O’Donnell – would he find a way past? Last lap and the gap was less than half a second – but O’Donnell seemed to come back to life and held on to take the win

KA3 Junior

Christian Pancione less than a tenth ahead of Cooper Webster here  in Qualifying, followed by Jordyn Sinni and Hamish Allan in a good size field (18 entries) of KA3 Junior.  A great start followed by a frantic few laps as they sorted themselves out, Pancione popped out in the lead, Webster retained his spot in  2nd, as did Sinni in 3rd then Allan, Tate Frost, Matthew Hillyer and Taine Venables. Further back it all went wrong for Marty Wright as he spun and couldn’t re-join in the Dipper and Cameron Hutchinson also out at One Tree Hill on Lap 1. So halfway and Pancione had a substantial lead from a gaggle of karts in Sinni, Webster and Allan – and so it remained until the end; Pancione a convincing win on a track that was now starting to dry out a bit. Let’s hope it keeps up.

The first start of Heat 2 was abandoned as some karts collided and others lost wheels in the roll arounds so we sent them back in to get sorted and have another go. An excellent start 2nd time around and Pancione away well, with Sinni behind him and Webster and Frost behind them. Following them were Hillyer, Allan, Samuel Dowling and Callum Potter. After 6 laps Sinni had gotten ahead of Pancione and Webster was not that far back in 3rd too. Again we lost karts with wheels flying off and other karts spinning across the wet grass – all of which distracted me from time to time, but once all that settled we find Sinni still leading but Pancione a big move at JSKC with 2 to go gets the lead back, then Sinni back at the Dipper – Webster must be licking his lips in 3rd! So start of the last lap; Sinni, Pancione, Webster – at JSKC Webster looked like he might pull off a remarkable pass but ended up on the outside at Tony Kart and fell back to 3rd, while Sinni held on grimly to the lead from Pancione and so they crossed the line.

Away we go in the Final of KA3 Junior and Pancione and Sinni away again with Frost and Webster behind them, then Hillyer and Venables, Downing and Potter as the front pair pulled clear; Pancione and Sinni streaked away, 4 seconds ahead of the rest after 7 laps. Then Sinni started narrowing the gap – Pancione was going to have a fight on his hands if this continued. Frost and Webster were also locked in a duel for 3rd and 4th, then Venables and Downing were in close proximity to each other as well, so a race of 3 pairs up front. 2 to go and Sinni has finally drawn close enough and has a look at JSKC and pulls it off to take the lead, Pancione in fight back mode straight away but Sinni holds on to take it, Webster 3rd, ahead of Frost and Downing, then Venables rounds out the top 5.

KA4 Junior Light & Heavy C&P

The C&P’s combined here and in Light it was Joshua D’Ambrosio ahead of Oliver McNaught – in Heavy Conor Somers and Liam Hall the front pair – and lap 1 D’Ambrosio goes out entering the Dipper, so McNaught to the lead followed by Ethan Bray and Stirling Angus. In Heavy it was Hall ahead of Somers then Beau Russell and Matthew Parker. McNaught was joined by Joel Johnson who came through to 2nd and started pushing for the lead, while Bray and Angus dropped back – Heavy meantime was now led by Somers who was putting a gap on Hall. McNaught and Johnson continued to put on a stoush at the front – Johnson showing every sign of wanting to get past, but McNaught holding on well. Then with 4 to go Johnson pulled off an extended passing move through the Dipper, finally drawing ahead at One Tree hill – and then immediately started to pull clear. He continued to draw away to the flag, and in Heavy it was Somers ahead of Hall.

Heat 2 and D’Ambrosio gets away well but McNaught to the lead a lap or 2 in ahead of Johnson and Bray after Angus lost a wheel on lap 1 and went out in spectacular fashion at One Tree Hill; in Heavy Somers led Russell with Hall well back – an incident I didn’t see perhaps. McNaught pulled away now in the lead, D’Ambrosio and Johnson boxing on a little further back in 2 and 3 and with 6 to go Somers still led heavy but Russell was giving him a hurry up with a couple to go. McNaught, D’Ambrosio and Johnson low locked in a tight bunch at the front and D’Ambrosio took the lead at Arrow as they began the last lap – McNaught battling to regain his spot but D’Ambrosio held on and took the flag. In Heavy it was Somers ahead of Russell.

So the last Final of the night sees McNaught away in the lead ahead of D’Ambrosio after a lap or 2, following them Johnson and Bray, then Heavy led by Somers, Ward and Reagan Somers (who I hadn’t noticed until now, so all earlier references to Somers were Conor!). After 6 laps we find McNaught still leading, but not by much from D’Ambrosio and Johnson. These 3 were then well clear of Bray, and back in Heavy Ward had taken over from Conor Somers, who was followed by Reagan Somers, then Parker and Hall. So the interest was in the front 3 in Light – would McNaught hold on? D’Ambrosio really breathing down his neck now and Johnson not far back looking on too. Start of Lap 12 and D’Ambrosio makes his move and goes to the lead after a pass at Arrow corner, but he doesn’t exactly pull away – McNaught and Johnson still right behind him. With 4 to go McNaught wrests back the lead with a pass into the Dipper, but now they seem even closer together as D’Ambrosio looks for way back past and Johnson looks to see what will happen. Same thing as the last time D’Ambrosio passed him – a smooth move through Arrow to take the lead as they begin the last lap. Then it all happened – McNaught up onto the back of D’Ambrosio into the Dipper trying to get the lead back and he went around and almost out, dropping D’Ambrosio back and allowing Johnson through to take the win, McNaught recovering for 3rd, meanwhile Ward took the win in Heavy ahead of Conor Somers.

So that’s it for Round 1 of Junior Top Guns in 2017. See you all tomorrow for the second instalment!