6th October 2019
Karting WA Event Article – Chris Mitchell
The Queens birthday long weekend has always been a time for families, relaxation and school holiday fun. For West Australian Karters in 2019, it became a weekend to chase the glory; standing on the top step of the podium and hoisting an elusive blue plate into the air. This year the WA Kart Championship descended upon Esperance Kart Klub…with the beautiful sandy beaches, rolling hills and deep blue water in the backdrop, it was difficult at times to keep our attention to the red-hot action on track.
The weather was welcoming, as was the committee and members of EKK hosting us for the 4 day Karting extravaganza. The stage was set for a fantastic weekend of close racing as the iconic short and fast 655m layout makes for tight margins and exciting overtaking opportunities.
KA3 Junior started things off with a late heater from Judd Stevens (KF Kart) in qualifying, edging out Liam Cain (KF Kart) by a margin of just 0.077 seconds, Stevens continued this strong form as he stormed to 3 heat wins while Cain struggled with race pace falling further into the field, Luke Sawyer (Sera), Aidan Dekkers (KF Kart) and Joshua Byrne (Arrow) emerged as threats in the heats, but none could close the gap to Stevens up front.
In the final Stevens managed a clean start and took Byrne with him along for the ride, Luca Nici (Ricciardo Kart) pushed himself into the top 3 early and began to apply some pressure as the leaders swapped positions a few times. As the halfway mark approached Byrne began to drop off the pace and struggled to stay with Stevens, allowing Nici through to 2nd where he began chasing Stevens, who seemed to be having some occasional misfire issues coming off the main straight. Liam Cain was mounting an enormous comeback, pushing his way from 11th on the grid to 3rd with 10 laps to go as Nici and Stevens came together in the infield left-handers, putting both of them out of contention. Liam Cain seized the opportunity and swept through to the win ahead of Byrne and Sawyer as Nici recovered to 4th ahead of Dekkers rounding out the top 5.
Cadet 9 promised a close and exciting weekend…and nervous parents as James Webster (Energy) set the tone early with the fastest qualifying time only 0.014 seconds ahead of Connor Radford and 0.025 ahead of Cody Colmer (FA). In fact only 0.064s covered the top 5 young drivers in a small but quality field of Cadet 9.
Webster and Radford traded wins across the heats while Campbell Thompson, Chace Webb and Jordan Clee improved in race conditions to find themselves closer to the front. The final was set to be a thriller for the youngsters.
Webster and Radford broke away and began their battle, trading the lead multiple times in the first half of the 30-lap feature before Webster found a second gear, stamping his authority on the field and bolting out to a 3s margin at the finish line to claim the WA title ahead of Cody Colmer and Jordan Clee.
KA3 Senior Heavy
Simon Minton (Arrow)set out to defend his title this weekend in the KA3 Senior Heavy field, while Aaron Chivers (Arrow) gave chase. These two proved a class of their own, managing to qualify only 0.062s apart and 0.3s quicker than Liam Florisson in 3rd.
The heats seemed like a procession, Minton in charge while Chivers kept his nosecone consistently within inches of the lead as the pair bolted from the field each time the lights went out, leaving Florisson the head the remainder of the pack. However in the final it seemed Minton had lost some of his race-winning pace from the heats as Aaron Chivers piled on the pressure behind him as soon as they took off; making the move after just a few laps and never looking back, stretching a runaway win by over 7 seconds as Minton found himself in a late battle with Florisson, eventually managing to hold out for 2nd from Florisson in 3rd.
KA4 Junior Light
Thomas Loughton (Arrow) started his campaign off nicely, thowing down and early hot qualifying time earning the top spot by only 0.011s over Aidan Dekkers (KF Kart) and 0.015 from Joshua Byrne, another extremely close qualifying with only 0.107 covering the top 7 drivers in the Saturday afternoon session!
The heats saw the rise of Luca Nici from 4th on the grid to take wins in the 1st and 3rd rounds, while Loughton secured 2nd on the grid for the final ahead of Dekkers and Luke Fraser (Corsa) with Joshua Byrne suffering in the heats to line up 5th on the starting grid. In the final Nici and Loughton broke away from the pack and built a comfortable gap before battling around the halfway mark, as Dekkers dropped down the order at the start, doing things the hard way he eventually found his way on the winning side of a last lap battle for 3rd with Luke Fraser.
Out front Nici and Loughton traded placed several times through the middle portion of the race, however with 10 laps to go Loughton seemed to have found a small advantage to lead the way until the final few laps, in the space of 3 laps Nici brought the gap back down and pulled off a stellar last lap pass on Loughton to snatch the WA state championship
TaG 125 Light
The 125 light class is typically seen as the pinnacle of excitement and action in WA karting, however Cody Leunen (Arrow) seemed determined to change this as he dominated the weekend’s proceedings, narrowly taking the fastest qualifying time by 0.013s over Bailey Grech (Arrow) and Ryan Bender (Formula K).
Leunen drove in powerhouse form, sweeping to a perfect point score as others struggled through incident filled heat races. Starting from pole in the final he managed the tire degradation as he controlled the pace and secured the win from Corey Minton (Arrow) and Aiden Passmore (Arrow) who swept past Ryan Bender in the late stages to round out the podium.
KA3 Senior Medium
Despite battling illness, Zack Needham (Arrow) started the KA3 Senior Medium campaign on the front foot, taking the fastest qualifying time by 0.051s over defending WA champ Jason Betts (Kosmic) and Braedyn Bowra (Arrow). However Needham’s weekend began to take a turn after qualifying as Jason Betts swept the heat races ahead of a hard Charging Terrence Flynn-Dowell, putting the defending champion in prime position for the 30-lap final on Monday morning.
In the final, Flynn-Dowell pounced early to try and keep Betts at bay, but the defending champ had none of that, making a counter move to the lead running to the win by almost 10 seconds to take his 3rd consecutive WA State Title in KA3 Senior Medium. Terrence Flynn-Dowell was left to maintain 2nd until the last 10 laps, as Braedyn Bowra charged through the field from 7th on the grid to challenge for 2nd. Bowra was too strong in the end after several exchanges between the two, taking 2nd from Flynn-Dowell rounding out the podium.
In recent times, the best racing in WA consistently comes from the Cadet 12 field as they experience a growth in their numbers recently. Waroona’s Nash Ferraro (OTK) set the early pace from Noah Lisle (Parolin) by the narrowest of margins – only 0.006s!
The heat races weren’t quite as close, Ferraro storming all 3 heats, although the gaps got smaller as the heats wore on, Noah Lisle and Sachen Smith Wei (Parolin) closing things up behind Ferraro as the rest of the field tried to catch up.
In the final, Sachen Smith Wei had a battle on his hands early on with Zane Rhodes (Arrow) and Jack Webster (Energy) for 3rd, ultimately finding consistent pace in the second half of the race to open up a margin of 2.5s over Webster and Rhodes to finish off the top 5. Nash Ferraro left nothing to chance in the final, stretching out a commanding lead over Lisle in 2nd who drove a lonely 30 laps as Ferraro took a popular win from Lisle and Smith Wei.
TaG 125 Restricted Masters
Simon Minton may have seemed crazy for attempting to race a second class, but the choice paid dividends as he dominated the field in Restricted Masters qualifying and heats. Daniel Panizza (Ricciardo Kart), Graham Westling (Parolin) and Adam Cornick (FA) could only watch as Minton drove off into the Esperance sunshine in each of the heat races, leaving them to sort out the remaining spots.
Finals time and nothing had changed, Minton consistently pulled away from the field as Cornick set an early battle with Panizza before retiring halfway through, allowing Graham Westling to pick up 3rd place as Simon Minton drove his way to the the WA title.
KA3 Senior Light
Jason Betts started off his campaign for the light category in style, setting the fastest qualifying time by 0.074s over Cody Leunen (Arrow) and Ryan Nicholson (KF Kart) while WA frontrunner Jake Sawyer (Sera) managed 5th behind Aiden Passmore (Arrow).
Sawyer bounced back in the heats to sweep a perfect score and secure the pole spot for the final ahead of Aiden Passmore and Betts, as Leunen and Nicholson found themselves in incidents that pushed them down the order.
In the final it seemed as Sawyer was in control as he lead the first 10 laps before coming to a stop with a mechanical failure, Betts took over the lead and never looked back. Holly Panizza found herself in 2nd from 5th on the grid after moving forwards in the heats. Betts wrapped up a double win for the weekend by 3.3s ahead of Panizza and Passmore, with Leunen making a recovery from the rear of the field to 4th ahead of Kieren Ellis rounding out the top 5
KA4 Junior Heavy
Luke Sawyer (Sera) found himself at the pointy end by a considerable margin in KA4 Junior Heavy qualifying, taking the fastest time by 0.145 over Aleksandar Stefanovich (Sera) and Luca Nici (Ricciardo Kart). Sawyer confidently swept all 3 heat races ahead from Nici and Stefanovich, prompting the rest of the field to find some more speed ahead of the 30 lap final.
The final did not disappoint, as Judd Stevens jumped from 4th on the grid to immediately pressure Sawyer at the front, he lead a train of karts around the track bumper-to-bumper for almost the full race distance.
Sawyer made a move for the lead at the final corner, but ran wide and gave away the chance to take the win, Stevens countered back to the lead as Nici followed him through for 2nd leaving Sawyer to collect 3rd after 30 laps.
TaG 125 Heavy
Lochlan Miller (Sodikart) found himself as the only driver left on track at the end of the 8 minute qualifying session, as he set the fastest time over Defending WA Champion Brenton Magri (KF Kart) and Lewis Reid (Arrow) by 0.028 and 0.030s respectively.
Reid got the better of the field at the beginning of the heats taking a win, but battled in the later races, allowing Miller to snatch the last 2 wins and start the final on pole. Mitchell Skeaf (Tonykart) found dramatic improvement in race conditions and stormed to a pair of 2nd place finishes as Magri seemed to go through the motions of the heats with a trio of 3rd place finishes. By the time the final came, Miller seemed the favourite to control the pace from pole.
Miller did in fact, control the race pace from pole in the final, until Lewis Reid arrived on scene with a little over 10 laps to go. Reid charged his way from 6th on the grid, it took him almost 20 laps to challenge Miller at the front…but Reid wasted no time putting pressure on the Sodikart driver who seemed to be fading with his tires in the back third of the race. The pair traded places 3 times before Reid made a bolt for the lead, opening up a 2 second lead in a handful of laps to become the WA State champion ahead of Miller and outgoing champion Brenton Magri.
WA Open Performance
In the class most sensitive to tire wear, WA Open Performance showed a frantic few moments of activity in qualifying as Scott McKie (Compkart) set the fastest time by a whole 0.209s over 2-time defending WA champion Courtney Gough (Compkart) and Mark Watts.
Heat racing seemed a procession during the Sunday program, it became apparent that drivers were keeping tire conservation in mind on the hard wearing circuit in Esperance. McKie however seemed unphased, storming to 3 heat wins and starting on pole ahead of Blake Preston (Swiss Hutless) who showed improvements all weekend (true to himself at every event).
As the lights went out in the final, the racing was nothing short of pandemonium in comparison to the heats. McKie was mobbed by the field at the start as the twin powered machines roared past him and shuffled him back to 4th. Preston lead a clean race for the majority, as McKie and Gough found themselves locking horns with Matthew Chambers who made his CRG seem simply too wide to pass.
McKie eventually made a move and shot to 2nd, leaving Gough to search for a way around. Over the next 10 laps McKie made chase for Blake Preston who led the way, while Chambers and Gough stayed 3rd and 4th, but were also closing the gap to the leaders at the same time.
With 5 laps to go Gough seized the opportunity and fired up the inside of Chambers to snatch 3rd and set her sights forwards to Preston; who was driving a very wide kart for McKie to try and pass. Courtney Gough arrived onto the back of the lead pair just in time, as McKie attempted to pass Preston to the inside of the hairpin across the back of the circuit. The two got collided and ran wide, allowing Gough to snatch the inside line and power around the final lap, securing her 3rd consecutive WA Open Performance title in a last-lap-thriller.
The 2019 WA Kart Championship did not disappoint, with plenty of thrills and spills…great weather and a fantastic atmosphere. Thank you to Esperance Kart Klub for hosting us all, and I look forwards to the next one.
Article by Christopher Mitchell