GP Juniors Sparkle Under The Queensland Clouds
The second round of this year’s GP Juniors Australian Road Racing Championships took place at Morgan Park (Qld) on 18-19 June and the youngsters, as per usual, put on some enthralling racing. In fact, it was the closest class of racing of the entire weekend.
Unfortunately, the meeting had to be abandoned at lunchtime on Sunday when the vicious storm cell attacked the circuit and as such the young tackers only completed two of their scheduled four races
The juniors were made very welcome by the meeting’s promoter, Motorcycle Sportsmen club as part of the third round of the Southern Downs Racing Series and the Queensland Road Racing Championships. The welcome commenced on Thursday when the kids – who had made the trek from as far away as southern Victoria – were given some training by Dave Fuller and his crew of top coaches and instructors.
The assistance was invaluable as the coaches led the kids on slow laps to explain the lines and then cut the track up into sections before a complete track walk.
The weekend was almost over for Peter Nerlich and his Dad, Bill when they had six bikes stolen from their locked garage in Melbourne in the week before the event.
Of course, they were devastated with the crime, but they were more overwhelmed with the camaraderie and family atmosphere of GP Juniors as a variety of people loaned machines, engines and anything else they needed to be able to get out on track. A very impressive reflection on the close knit group that the GP Juniors clan is.
Most the kids were new to the technical and bumpy Morgan Park layout but with the Thursday and Friday practice days, by the time qualifying came around on Saturday morning, all of them had a good knowledge of the track.
One rider making his road racing debut was 12-year-old Oli Bayliss, son of three-times Superbike World Champion and GP winner, Troy and he quickly settled in to be competitive after the first practices.
The kids in the three classes compete in the same race and it was Joel Kelso who took his second pole position from his main title rival, Scott Nicholson with Travis Hall rounding out the front row in third fastest to lead the way in the 70cc two-stroke class. It was a remarkable effort by Travis on the little 70cc machine to be in front of older riders on larger capacity machines.
In the opening race on Saturday afternoon, the 80/85cc two-strokes led the way from the rest of the pack. Nicholson and Kelso quickly broke away to, yet again, become embroiled in a duel that continued until the chequered flag.
The pair swapped the lead numerous times over the five laps but it was Kelso who grabbed the top spot by just 0.119 of a second in the drag to the line, but Nicholson had the consolation of claiming a new outright junior lap record of 1:31.756, a remarkable time that would have put him and Kelso in the top six riders in the F4 400cc class!
Peter Nerlich gained some satisfaction after a wretched week with third place while Travis Hall was the first 70cc machine home in fourth place overall, just 0.024sec in front of Ben Baker for second and Travis’ brother, Joshua taking third. Baker had some consolation by recording the fastest lap of the weekend in the 70cc class. with a 1:34.270 – the only rider in the 70cc class to record a sub 1:35 lap!
Ben Bramich took out 160cc four-stroke class with fast learner, Ned Faulkhead in second.
Lap records were set in all three classes. Ben Bramich claimed the lap record in the 160cc four-stroke class as he took the win and a 1:39.399 lap during the race.
The times of these young tackers truly belie their teenage years and more so for their lack of experience in road racing.
Post race back in the pits there were “high-fives” all round as the youngsters looked at the result sheets and realised that many had put in personal best lap times. An inspiring sight.
Sunday downed under threatening skies, that caused the nerves of the kids to build and the nerves of the mums and dads to reach another level as well.
One rider who was excited about the prospect of a wet track was Jack Cousens who couldn’t wait to get out there.
The track was wet when the GP Juniors hit the track, but the rain had ceased, for the time being.
The nerves were very evident on the grid – and along pit wall – as the riders faced the starter. The lights went out and the field charged off with an impressive start from Cousens to tag onto the back of the duo of Nicholson and Kelso. It was set for a duel, but on the third lap (of six) the red flag came out after Oli Bayliss crashed at turn 3 requiring medical assistance as he sampled the bitumen for the first time in his first road race meeting. He was ok, with severe bruising and is keen to return to the track ASAP, although his Mum, Kim wasn’t too impressed!
In the restart, it was a repeat performance with Nicholson, Cousens and Kelso, duct-tapped together as the trio swapped positions a monumental amount of times as Cousens proved that he has webbed feet. He absolutely loved the sketchy conditions as he spent a great deal of the race in the lead.
At the completion of each lap, the trio were locked together and so it all came down to that final drag to the lead. Cousens led onto the straight and looked like he might hold on to claim his first road racing win but Nicholson pipped him right at the stripe with Kelso third, the trio separated by just 0.094 of a second. Remarkable, but then, we should be used to it, as every race has been fought out to the very end. Travis Hall again took out the 70cc class from Baker and dirt track dynamo, John Lytras, third.
The tables were turned in the 160cc class as Faulkhead took the win, demonstrating his dirt track heritage as he mastered the conditions, to claim his first overall round win from Bramich.
Unfortunately, that was all the racing to be completed on the weekend, as just on lunchtime the heavens opened, the massive deluge forcing the abandonment of the meeting, however, many onlookers related that the GP Juniors were the most exciting racing of the weekend.
“I felt really good this weekend,” explained Nicholson. “It’s a shame we couldn’t get out for the last two races due to the weather but I’ve had so much fun this weekend hanging out with my mates and having some good battles. It was an awesome weekend for us.”
GP Juniors would like to extend a massive thanks and appreciation to Motorcycle Sportsmen for making us welcome and also assisting with some financial help for GP Juniors along with Ricondi Leathers for picking up the tab for the trophies along with Dave Fuller, and his coaches, for thei assistance, guidance and training to the boys over the weekend.
As for myself, I’d like to express my gratitude for everyone that put in the effort to head to Morgan Park and to see people of the calibre of Troy and Kim Bayliss supporting the series with their son, Oli makes me feel very humble. Hope to see you at some more events.
A difficult decision had to be made on Sunday afternoon but I feel that it was the right one in the conditions.
Finally, it is very satisfying to be involved with GP Juniors and to see the camaraderie, friendship and loads of banter that happens in the pits during the course of the weekend The behaviour of these young adults is truly inspirational. All of them could teach many a thing, or two.
Congratulations and thanks to all involved.