Mixed Weather Dominates Intriguing Opening Round in Newcastle.

Mixed Weather Dominates Intriguing Opening Round in Newcastle.

11417795_1669959986568227_2316982483973476493_oThe dawn of a new karting season – the first day back at school for 2016, and the start of a massive year at the Newcastle Kart Racing Club.

Hello everyone. Zak Caban with you, and welcome to our coverage of the first of nine rounds in the 2016 CRG Newcastle Kart Racing Club Championship – the start of a massive season of racing at the Mount Sugarloaf Circuit, and in New South Wales as a whole, as this is the first meeting in the state for 2016.

Nine rounds in this Club Championship – the most in recent time, including a double points round on Newcastle City Cup weekend in October, along with the fourth round doubling as a round of the TaG Super Series.

2015 CRG NKRC Championship
Round Date
1 January 10
2 March 13
3 April 10
4 May 22 (TaG Super Series)
5 June 5
6 July 10
7 August 7
8 October 15-16 (Newcastle City Cup – Double Points
9 November 6

11267460_1669962316567994_6303423370354221016_oAs I said, massive year for Newcastle – plenty of interest in this circuit, as it hosts a round of the NSW State Championship and the Metro Invitational in 2016, so getting time on track in race trim is going to be crucial to development, and hopefully success for these drivers later in the year.

Time on track is also a must in terms of the Club Championship, as drivers must compete in a minimum of seven rounds to be eligible for the Championship. So, for those who missed the opening round, they can only afford to miss one more, or risk not being awarded their right finishing position at the backend of the season.

Overnight rain ensured a damp track for the early sessions in Qualifying, and that wouldn’t be the last time competitors would be using the wets on this opening day of the season, despite some competitors doing the rain dance at 7am, and pumping the wets up at 7:30am, in the hope that they’d be prepared for it, but not get it, but unfortunately, the heavens had other ideas.

A 2-lap warm-up session led into a 6-minute qualifying, and we managed to get through that without any major issues – there were a few competitors caught out by the greasy conditions, but that was to be expected.

While all races count towards the championship, the bad thing for anyone who didn’t qualify well, was that the meeting was an ALL POINTS COUNT format, which meant trophies were being awarded based on the finishing results of both 8 lap heats, the 8 lap pre-final, and 12 lap final, and therefore, you couldn’t make your way forward in the hope of scoring a good position in the final, you had to be consistently good from heat 1.

11713870_1669962389901320_2712632801288930602_oCadet 9 was dominated by one driver, and one that’s only in his second year of competitive racing. Brock Barber absolutely smashed the competition in the first three races of the day.
He won the second race in wet conditions by nearly 46 seconds, even after a spin at the midway point of a challenging 8-lap race.

The final was a different story for Barber, as James Freeburn bounced back from retirement in Race 2, to finish third in the pre-final. Finding some pace and confidence right throughout the day, he was right there to challenge Barber in the final race of the weekend.
The result of that race was insignificant, because Barber had already done enough to win the day on points before that race had started, but it was great to see someone pursuing him right to the death.
With Motor Racing, catching is one thing, and passing is another, and that proved to hard a challenge for Freeburn, who had a couple of looks, but was unable to make one stick, with Barber making his little Kart as wide as possible, to make the task just a little bit harder, and in the end, Barber cruised to a clean sweep of Round 1 in Cadet 9, from Freeburn, Reginald Bailey and Marshall Crofts, who was unable to start the final, due to a mechanical issue.

11217683_1669959933234899_2458587654664581798_oKA3 Senior Heavy and Light competitors took to the circuit next, and what a show they put on. The drivers in what was once known as Clubman, showcased why that division is still the pinnacle of this sport. We had heavy karts fighting with the lights, we had a full compliment of girls matching it with the guys, and we had the weather keeping everyone guessing throughout the afternoon.

Liam Ferry was a clear standout. The long-time club member used his knowledge and many years of experience at the circuit, to blitz the heavy field, and mixed it with the light field all day long.

Consistency was the order of the day. Ferry finished first in class in the first three races, before finishing third in the final, behind Brady and Hayden Buchanan, following a mechanical issue in the final lap, which saw Ferry limp to the line, getting gobbled up by many karts along the way. He was first to the chequered flag in race 1, before finishing fourth in heat 2, and third in the pre-final.

He was in a strong outright position in the final, before that unexplained mechanical issue.

Brady Buchanan and Kenneth Martin rounded out the podium, and that was despite a DNF for Brady in the second heat. As for Martin, his fifth outright in that same race was enough to get him over the line, ahead of Hayden Buchanan, by just two points.

As I said, the KA3 Seniors were combined, and the racing for those in the light division was scintillating.

Nicholas Becker won the day, and comfortably from Jason Paix and Charlotte Poynting, but there’s a lot more to this story.

Poynting was one of three female drivers in the race, and all three were in the thick of the action from first until last.
Melissa Whitmore put in one of the drives of the weekend in the final, and Courtney Becker performed strongly.

Poynting started the day strongly with two third place finishes. She was second outright in the opening race, before a difficult pre-final saw her start the final from sixth position.

Whitmore would start further back as a result of a retirement in that race. She had an excellent run in the opening two races, finishing 4th in both, before the chain parted ways with the sprocket while she was charging in the pre-final, which led to retirement, and a date with the rear of the grid for the start of the 12-lap final.

Becker, meanwhile, was the most consistent performer. A second, third and fourth place finish in the races leading up to the final, and she would start fourth on the combined grid.

The field was let loose for twelve laps of mayhem, in a race that was, in amongst a heap of entertaining races, the standout of the day.

11411798_1669961466568079_1730547639242591521_oMelissa Whitmore’s charge through the field was exceptional. Thomas Davies impressed after not finishing in the opening two racres, while Poynting, Becker and Paix were battling for the minor placings. At one point, six or seven drivers were a chance of taking the chequered flag first, but in the end, no one was able to stop Nicholas Becker, who took the chequered flag ahead of Davies and Whitmore. Whitmore was in the box seat to take second, but missed out to Davies in the final corners. Liam Ferry’s mechanical mishap turned those last few corners into chaos, as potential overtaking moves didn’t eventuate, as a one lane train formed to pass the slowing Ferry.

Nicholas Becker won the day outright in KA3 Light, from Jason Paix and Charlotte Poynting. Courtney Becker and Melissa Whitmore made up the top five, as the girls dominated – all three in the top five on the opening day of school for 2015!

KA4 Senior Heavy was a simple affair… just one competitor entered in this class. Malcolm Inman ran at the back of the KA3 Senior race, but took home a first place trophies just for showing up.

Cadet 12 racing was of a very good standard. A field of just 7, but in that, three different winners across the course of the day.

The first heat was taken out by Joshua Sargent, while Christian Mansell won the second, but when we reached the business end, Jack Childs came to the fore, and won both the pre-final and the final.

Unfortunately, retirement in Heat 1 would come back to cost Childs. Harrison Mitchell was the overall winner at the end of the day, despite not winning a race. Consistency was the key, and with a third and three second’s, that was about as consistent as it got.

11222659_1669960213234871_7097837131891812267_oMitchell was unlucky in heat 2 – narrowly missing out on the win that went to Mansell. Mansell and Mitchell battled with Childs in the pre-final – they put on one hell of a show, before Childs won in the final corner.

Childs walked away in the final, and won comfortably, by over ten seconds from Mitchell and Jaxon Fraser. Retirements for our heat winners in Mansell and Sargent had a small impact on the overall results, as Mansell ended up third, and Sargent would have to settle for fifth. Jack Childs finished second, behind the consistent Mitchell, while third went to Jaxon Fraser, who benefited greatly from those retirements I just mentioned.

Ryley Brunner caused an upset in winning Heat 1 of TaG 125 Light, but it was Benjamin Ford who won the round, after winning the remaining three races in the program.

The first race really did separate the men from the boys. The wet weather played havoc with the competitors, with over 12 seconds separating the fastest and slowest karts on the circuit. In fact, some of the TaG 125 Heavy competitors, who were on-track at the same time, were faster, and finished in front of a small handful of TaG 125 Light competitors, including Zac Van Leeuwestyn, who claimed honours in TaG 125 Heavy.

The final would also be affected by wet weather conditions, while the second heat and pre-final were contested in dry conditions. The wet weather conditions made for a tame final, with the field very spread out at the end of 12 laps.

Benjamin Ford proved that he’s competitive in both… as I said earlier, he won three of the four races on the day, and that was more enough for him to secure round 1 honours.

Anthony Wiskich finished second in the final, but retirement in heat 1 cost him a podium finish. Ryley Brunner took second for the round, after finishing fourth in the final. On points, he was 9 ahead of the next best, and it’s very rare, but it does happen – we had two drivers tied on points at the end of the day, with James Adams and Sam Van Leeuwestyn tied on 18.

In an instance like this, a count-back system is used to determine who finishes where, and with the higher finishing position in the final, Adams (3rd) was classified ahead of Van Leeuwestyn, who finished fifth in the final.

Zac Van Leeuwestyn was first home in the first heat and pre-final for TaG 125 Heavy. He secured overall victory for the round, despite not finishing the other races. In fact, retirements were a common theme, with all three drivers failing to finish two of the four races – the only race where all three managed to take the flag was in the pre-final. Van Leeuwestyn achieved higher finishing positions than Christopher Baker and Matthew Endres, in the two races he completed, and therefore, he secured the first place trophy, from Endres and Baker.

906004_1669960489901510_7991853542131151815_oThe pace in the KA4 Junior racing was simply electrifying, with times than we’ve ever seen before being set around the 1058m circuit. The new rubber was certainly a big factor in that.

Russell Mayo’s 53.197 in Qualifying was superb, but that time would be smashed by over two seconds by the end of the pre-final, as Zac Crichton set the place alight, when he clocked a 50.760.

As was the case in the Metro Invitational meeting at Picton in November, this was the highly anticipated class of the day, and the racing everyone was waiting for – the crowd flocked to the fence when they hit the circuit, and they weren’t disappointed, as a big field delivered some sensational racing in a mix of wet and dry conditions.

It was the electrifying pace of Crichton that saw him claim the overall win. It was Russell Mayo who won the opening race, before Crichton found his mojo, bolted to the front and didn’t look back. He did survive challenges from stiff competition in the last three races, but he prevailed with victory in all three, and the round win by 3 points.

Russell Mayo scored second for the day, and that’s where he finished in those three races won by Crichton.

Zachary Heard and Taylor Gill battled for third and fourth all day long, and they were joined by Thomas Sargent in Heat 2 and the pre-final. The second heat was exceptional, as just 0.4 separated 1st-3rd. It was Taylor Gill who finished third in that heat.

Heard ended up winning the battle for position over Gill – claiming third by just two points at the end of the four races.

Meanwhile, Thomas Sargent was one of the unlucky victims of the changeable weather conditions. He was brilliant in the dry races, but struggled in the rain. He could only manage 16th position in Heat 1 and 17th in the final, and the wet races ruined any chance he had of standing on the podium, despite brilliant drives to fourth and fifth in the second heat and pre-final respectively.

The pre-final was red-flagged in the early stages, after a nasty shunt for Brock Stinson at turn 3. His impact with the wall was so forceful that the wall needed repairing before the race could recommence. The incident obviously ended Stinson’s day, but we’re happy to report that he is a’ok.

Harrison Hotties was a big mover in the final. He started 12th, and finished 5th, but it took him all day to find pace, and navigate his way through the field – 15th, 17th and 12th in the opening three races left him ruing that this wasn’t a ‘Final Only Counts’ Race meeting.

Fifth spot on the podium ended up going to Ryan Hughes, who consistently finished in that mid-lower part of the top ten all day long.

Junior KA4 Heavy was dominated by Angus McLean. An overview of the results will show that he only claimed first in class in two races, but it was the margin between him and Jackson Burton in the first race that proved to be the difference. McLean was seventh overall, while McLean was 12th.

It was only a field of four – all four went home with trophies, after Riley Humphrys secured third, ahead of Jack Stocker.

If there’s one bloke who knows his way around the Cameron Park circuit, it’s Wayne Bower, and he proved it to everyone watching when the TaG Restricted Class took to the circuit.

Much like Liam Ferry in the KA3 Seniors, Wayne’s a heavy competitor, and spent most of the day mixing it up, and often beating the light competitors.

Bower was first in class all day long, and first outright in the pre-final. It was an exceptional performance from the NKRC veteran, and that win in the pre-final came on a dry track, which made it even more impressive – the first race was wet, and the final was contested on a drying circuit.

Daniel Fraser’s performance in the dry races was enough for him to secure second outright for the day. Peter Hendry and Leigh Grant fought for position all day, to the point where the final race of the day would determine the final position on the podium, and it went right down to the wire.

Heading into the final, the two were even on points, and in the end, only one separated third and fourth, with Hendry beating Grant home, and doing so by the comfortable margin on six seconds.

TaG Restricted Light racing was top notch on the opening day of 2016. Race wins were split between Paul Renshaw, who won the round, and Christopher Weir, who won heat 2 and the pre-final.

Heat two was the pick of the races, with the top six separated by just 2.3 seconds.

Weir’s two wins were not enough for him to claim second for the round, as he was pipped at the post, on a count-back, by Luke Walsh, who came perilously close to winning that second heat. Walsh finished the final in third, Weir in fifth, and therefore, Walsh claimed second for the day.

TaG Restricted Super Heavy competitors matched it with the Heavy drivers across the course of the day. Just the two drivers lining up for Round 1 of the championship, with Scott Dalton-Kirby taking the honours from Michael Tindale. It was the far better results for Dalton-Kirby in the first and last race of the day that helped him secure victory.

Last class of the day was the KA3 Junior division. The day didn’t start well for Matthew Hill. Mechanical dramas ruled him out before racing even began, but he’s confident that the issue will be fixed in time for him to compete in the second round of the championship.

It was an easy day at the office for Oscar Priest, who turned four starts into four wins, and did so very comfortably – winning all four races by three seconds or more.

Retirement in treacherous conditions in the second heat for Daniel Austin cost him a potential top three finish – he did however hold on for fifth, which is the final spot on the podium in the junior classes.
He drove like a demon in the final. Oscar Priest aside, Austin’s drive to second in that 12 lap race was superb, and we suspected in commentary that tyre selection may have had something to do with that, as it was a 50/50 call whether drivers went for slicks or wets on a drying Cameron Park circuit. Nevertheless, take nothing away from Austin – that was a superb drive, and at one point, he was catching Priest, but he just couldn’t reel him in at the end.

Damien Brown performed well right throughout the day, and secured second on points, which is where he finished in the first three races. He had to settle for third in the final, after Austin’s hard charge.

Finlay Burnett took third on the podium, ahead of Ryan Hughes, and Daniel Austin, who I mentioned earlier.

For Hughes, an exclusion in the first heat ruled him out of top three contention, but he fought back well in the remaining three races, with two thirds and a fourth, which left him only two points behind Burnett, who finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the four races run.

Nearly eight hours of action on the opening day of the year. Some drivers will be very happy with their results, and will be happy to stay there for the whole season, while others have some work to do before the next round of the series, as they continue their preparation for the State Championship round in June. It was an entertaining day of Racing in Newcastle – A very challenging, and at times, frustrating day for mechanics, drivers and commentators alike, but that’s why we love it.

No racing at Newcastle in February. The next round of the Club Championship will be held on Sunday, March 13. We look forward to your company then.

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