It is the inaugural year of the GP Juniors Cup and all competitors ride the dynamic Yamaha YZF-R15 using Bridgestone as the control tyre to provide a very level playing field for the talent to shine through.
If MotoGP is the university of road racing, GP Juniors Australia is the pre-school where they commence the education to move through to the primary school class of the Supersport 300 and 600cc machines. The next step as they chase their dreams of success, is Superbikes senior school, before hopefully graduating to the world stage.
Over the course of the weekend, the up and comers had three practice sessions on the Friday, two qualifying periods and one race on Saturday with two races on Sunday, and thankfully the weather was kind with good conditions all weekend.
The scene for action was set in qualifying as 12-year-old, Ben Baker, (Baker Racing) from the NSW Central Coast, claimed pole position from 13-year-old, Joel Kelso (JDS Racing/Deborah Motorsports. NT) by just 0.007 of a second with Tom Edwards (Enemies Everywhere/Newcaslte Supermoto/AlpineStars, NSW), the most experienced rider in the field at 15, with two years international racing in Asia under his belt, third.
Edwards’ experience is a fantastic benchmark for the kids to compare their progress and competitiveness as Tommy also competes in the cut-throat Hi-Tec Batteries Supersport 300 and YMF Yamaha R3 Cup classes. He is a front runner in both so it is good inspiration for his class-mates knowing they can compete with him in the one-make, same-tyre GP Juniors Cup.
As the field charged off the line in the first race, the front-row trio were joined by another 12-year-old, John Lytras (Caboolture Yamaha, Qld). The quartet soon became embroiled in a titanic duel, the lead changing at every one of the track’s corners, as riders went from first to fourth, and back again, from one corner to another.
After the five laps was done, the four crossed the line with Edwards beating Kelso andLytras by 0.096 sec! Baker lost the slipstreaming duel to the finish line by just 0.320 sec.
The other two races was more of the same, just more intense! In the next leg, Melbourne teenager, Jack Cousens JC’s Motorcycle Shop/TM Performance) joined in for a five-bike freight train with some monumentally close racing before the race was red-flagged as the final lap started. It was set for another cracking finish but exiting Spokes Turn Two, Jack and Joel Kelso had a coming together through the second corner, causing Cousins to crash. The race was taken back a lap with Lytras the winner from Kelso and Edwards, the trio 0.219 sec apart with Baker just 0.417 sec away, in fourth.
The final leg was another exceptional race, an almost carbon copy of the opening race the day before, with another four-way dog fight. The race was set for an another enthralling battle to the wire but Lytras crashed out, half way through the final lap exiting YMF Turn seven and split the leading quartet with Kelso dropping off the Edwards and Baker. The pair had a great charge tot he line to produce the closest finish of the weekend as Edwards beating his younger rival by an excruciating 0.012 sec! Kelso finished third, five seconds adrift.
Edwards won the weekend to increase his lead in the seven round series as Kelso and Lytras finished on even points, with Kelso getting the nod for third with his better result in the final leg with Baker fourth.
The total winning margin of the three races between first and second was a massive 0.225sec! 0.079, 0.131, 0.015, respectively. Additionally in two of the races, the total margin covering the top four was 0.956 sec; 0.320 and 0.636, respectively.
The front of the field may have been the centre of attention but the rest of the youngsters had some great duels among themselves. Max Stauffer, (Dyno 27/YRD) the son of multiple Australian Superbike and Supersport Champion, Jamie Stauffer, was having his second attempt at road racing after his baptism in the atrocious conditions of Wakefield Park. He was involved in some excellent close quarter action with Harry Khouri (Excite Motorsport) their races also decided by tenths of a second.
The class debutant for the round was Reece Oughtred, (Carl Cox Motorsport/Dynoverks, Vic) the son of another renown racer, Dean Oughtred and he proved to be another fast learner on the bitumen after contesting dirt track for a few years.
12 year old Luke Power (APT Wealth JDS Moto) was another dramatic improver as he rebuilds his confidence after a couple of recent crashes. He continued to lower his lap times and was rewarded with a fifth place in the final race.
The growth in confidence and learning the idiosyncrasies of the craft of racing on bitumen was graphically demonstrated with the lesser experienced riders in the class with the lowering of the lap times by very substantial amounts during the weekend. (See accompanying table)
This improvement may have something to do with what happened before official proceeding of riders briefing took place on Saturday morning.
All riders attended a track walk with Jamie Stauffer who explained the most idea way around the three limiter layout. While the speed of the Yamaha R15 may be somewhat different to the pace that he is used to lapping the Winton track, his words of wisdom were invaluable.
Additionally, the coveted off-track prize, the AMCN MAC Award, for the attributes of Marketability, Attitude and Character was awarded to Joel Kelso. Three independent, and unknown, judges take note of the youngsters over the course of the weekend taking note of their marketability, attitude and character.
These attributes are very important to the philosophy of GP Juniors Australia because there is more to racing than just how a rider performs on track. It is also vitally important that all riders conduct themselves in a mature and intelligent manner off the track, as well as maintaining their personality and integrity.
Points are awarded at each round on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis for each rider, the final tally over the year to find the season’s winner. Australian Motor Cycle News is the sponsor of the award with the point-scores kept secret.
The second round of the GP Juniors cup was immensely successful with exceptional racing put on by a number of very talented youngsters. The crowd was enthralled at their antics so every one involved should feel very proud of the occasion.
Words and pictures by GP Juniors Australia
The next round is at Morgan Park (Qld) on June 15-17 and it promises to be spectacular.
2017 GP JUNIORS CUP ROUND TWO, WINTON RACEWAY
PROVISIONAL ROUND POINTS
1 Tommy EDWARDS (NSW) 25 18 25 68
2 Joel KELSO (NT) 20 20 18 58
3 John LYTRAS (QLD) 18 25 15 58
4 Ben BAKER (NSW) 17 17 20 54
5 Harry KHOURI (NSW) 14 15 17 46
6 Luke POWER (VIC) 12 14 16 42
7 Reece OUGHTRED (VIC) 13 13 14 40
8 Max STAUFFER (NSW) 15 16 0 31
9 Jack COUSENS (VIC) 16 0 13 29
PROVSIONAL SERIES POINTS
1 Tommy EDWARDS (NSW) 70 25 18 25 138
2 Joel KELSO (NT) 63 20 20 18 121
3 John LYTRAS (QLD) 56 18 25 15 114
4 Ben BAKER (NSW) 48 17 17 20 102
5 Luke POWER (VIC) 42 12 14 16 84
6 Max STAUFFER (NSW) 50 15 16 0 81
7 Harry KHOURI (NSW) 31 14 15 17 77
8 Jack COUSENS (VIC) 41 16 0 13 70