The bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup (OJC) once again provided its tantalising dose of three classic encounters, but it was Queenslander Brodie Paige who took a stranglehold on the weekend with three wins for a perfect score and in the process, pole vaulted from fifth to take a 10-point lead in the points table.
The chase for overall glory swung around dramatically on the weekend, but it could swing back again just as rapidly at the remaining rounds of this year’s Cup chase.
The boys and girls that compete in the Oceania Junior Cup are aged from 11 to 15 years old and as such there is a yearly rollover of riders graduating to the larger capacity class, the gaps being filled by those competing for another year, combined with a host of road racing rookies who join the ranks.
However, there is more to being a part of the OJC than just getting out on track to race and have fun.
There is a lot of coaching that goes on as well, that is overseen by three-time 500cc Grand Prix winner, Garry McCoy. This includes a track walk with Garry before the practices commence on Friday morning and a whiteboard to serve as a mini “classroom” in the pit boxes to help explain the idiosyncrasies of race craft, race lines and track conduct, as well as the compulsory riders’ briefing.
Additionally, there is media training with instructions on how to speak when in front of a camera and being interviewed and photographed. A well-received feature on the weekend was a gathering of riders to speak to the marshals and officials on Saturday afternoon after the day was done. Three of those were the top three points scorer from the first round of the OJC with Haydn Fordyce, Valentino Knezovic and Riley Nauta. The trio were interviewed so the kids could explain how their weekend was going, their riding experiences and the fantastic opportunity of competing in the OJC class.
As for the three races it was its usual helter-skelter action with ever a dull moment. The slipstreaming duels along the long straights of Queensland Raceway being five or six wide were astonishing as they battled for position, and then they’d be almost line astern under brakes heading into the corners, but sometimes even three wide!
As is the case in the junior classes the race-winning margins were minuscule with the combined winning margin between first and second over the three races just 0.130 of a second. To anyone trying to count how many overtakes were made over the weekend, we think smoke would be pouring from your calculator. It was constant over the duration of each race.
In race one Bodie Paige led when it counted to set the scene for his weekend with a well-calculated move to take the win by 0.026 from Archie Schmidt and Riley Nauta a couple of tenths away in third. The two races on Sunday were even more exciting than the opener as the kids became more accustomed to the nature of the track. It may look basic on paper but there is a lot more to a perfect lap and one needs smart racecraft to lead when it counts.
In the second leg, Paige increased his winning margin by a “massive” 0.003 of a second from the first race, the top four sweeping across the line side-by-side, just 0.158 of a second apart, with Valentino Knezovic second, Rikki Henry third and Schmidt fourth!
While Paige led every lap across the finish line of the previous two encounters, it was a different story in the final race with five different leaders at the end of each lap with Paige being back in fifth after the second lap before he again timed his run to perfection to claim a hat-trick for the weekend. As usual, no one could make a break away from the pack, so the racing was brilliant with the victor being the one that nailed the final turn and carried as much corner speed as possible for the run to the line.
After witnessing the spectacle of the younger brigade, spectators would’ve left Queensland Raceway happy in the knowledge that the future of Aussie road racing is in safe hands with the talent displayed by the current crop of competitors in the OJC and of those graduates in the larger capacity classes, extremely impressive.
Race report by Mark Bracks, Photography by Jeffrey Smith.
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