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"Dirt", December 1, 2012

YOUNG CHARGERS

HUNDREDS OF THE COUNTRY’S FASTEST JUNIOR MOTOCROSS RACERS AND THEIR FAMILIES RECENTLY CONVERGED ON THE COOLUM PINES CIRCUIT FOR THE 2012 HONDA AUSTRALIAN JUNIOR MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIPS

WORDS SHANE BOOTH

PHOTO MATT BERNARD AND SHANE BOOTH

EIGHT DAYS STRAIGHT

There’s no doubt this is the absolute pinnacle of junior motocross racing in this country. The commitment shown by racers and their families even just to enter the event is second to none.

At a minimum, riders need to be at the track Saturday for scrutineering and pit setup; practice is Sunday then heat races start Monday. After three days of heat races the finals begin on Thursday and run through until Saturday.

So, all going well, if a rider qualifies that means eight days of getting to the track around 7am, unloading, setting up, racing, washing bikes, loading up and then returning to their accommodation to wash gear and prepare for the next day.

Add some rain and mud to the equation and the work load increases even more. At Coolum, riders faced totally different track conditions on a daily basis, from deep, heavy mud to rough and gnarly whoops and even a perfectly prepped track that resembled a highway. Whether it was due to rain, hot sun or intervention by man and machine, it’s just another hurdle the riders need to be able to clear to come out on top.

The temperature ranged from a cool 20 degrees to a hot and humid 32 degrees, which struck right in the thick of the finals. The temperature range affects not only the rider but how the bikes run and at Coolum, keeping the screaming two-strokes firing for the entire week takes some know-how, too.

So you start to see the enormity of this event and realise the riders who took home a title at the end of these eight days are not just fast — they’re able to adapt to changing weather and track conditions, they stay focused and they stay motivated, keeping their eye on the prize through it all for eight days straight.

CALEB GROTHUES

Fresh off a win at the Junior World Championships, Caleb was a picture of confidence out on the track. The young Western Australian won the 9–U12yrs 85cc class by clean-sweeping the three finals and setting fastest laps along the way. He almost matched the perfect score on his 65, winning four of the five finals on the smaller bike on his way to his second title for the week.

JETT LAWRENCE

Jett was one race short of a perfect score in the 7–U9yrs 65cc class, taking home the title and giving him bragging rights over his older brother Hunter.

BILLY PAYNE

Billy proved that consistency pays off, finishing in a different top-five position in every one of his five finals. The 5–2–1–4–3 moto results were good enough to make him the youngest Australian champion crowned at the event.

RILEY DUKES

Riley rode well, earning a title in the 9–U12yrs 150 class and backing it up with a strong second place on the 65cc.

EMMA MILESEVIC

The Victorian rider stamped her authority on the female class, riding her 125 to a perfect score of five wins from five finals — not an easy feat on such a tough track, even if Emma’s speed was a step above her competitors.

BAILEY MALKIEWICZ

Bailey scored himself a title in the 9–U11yrs 65cc class, winning two of the three finals along the way. He backed that title up with a top 10 overall on the 85cc.

WILSON TODD

Wilson strung together a week of fast laps and great starts, coming out on top in the 12–U14yrs 85cc class with 1–1–2 moto results. His starts and speed on the 85cc were impressive, allowing him to stay just out of striking distance from archrival Hunter Lawrence. Wilson also showed his strength on the 125 at Coolum, surprising plenty with a moto win in the finals. Unfortunately, a couple of crashes in the last moto resulted in his just missing out on a podium on the bigger bike.

JOEL DINSDALE

The absolute favourite to take the win in both the 15yrs 125 and 250 classes, Joel was undefeated and on target for the week until he found himself tangled up in a first-turn crash on his 125 during the third final. It resulted in a broken wrist and the end of what was his last event as a junior rider.

CALEB WARD

Turning plenty of heads all week with fast laps and his relative comfort on the rough track, Caleb took home a dominant title in the 13–U15yrs 100–150cc class. He was on track to do the same on the 250 but a big crash in the last final took him some time to shake off; once he rejoined the race he was way back and the result left him third overall in the class.

ELIAS DUKES

Not one to let his younger brother take all the glory, Elias withstood the Coolum circuit to take home the title in the 14–U16yrs 150cc class.

JOEL WIGHTMAN

Joel may have made more passes than anyone else at this event, charging back through the pack in almost every moto he lined up for. Joel’s strength towards the end of races made up for his steady starts and earned him the 15yrs 100–150cc title. He came very close on the 250, missing the title by one point after a first-turn crash in moto two resulted in a ninth-place finish.

ALISHA BARRETT

Alisha fought hard to take the title in the female 85cc class. The championship came down to the wire and in the end there were only three points separating the top three overall.

JESSE DOBSON

The Kawasaki hard charger impressed at Coolum after returning from injury only a short time before the event. His aggressive style was great to watch and his strong finish to the week was good enough to take home an Australian championship in the 13–U15yrs 200–250cc class.

KALEB BARHAM

It was a strong showing from the Queenslander in the 12–U14yrs 150cc class, finishing in the top three in all of his finals bar one. His 2–13–3–1–1 moto results meant he would head home with an Australian title to his name.

JESSE MADDEN

Flying under the radar all week worked out very well for the Queensland-based rider who stayed out of trouble and rode to strong finishes in all three of the 15yrs 200–250cc finals. The consistent results earned him a well-deserved position on the top step of the podium when it came time to hand out Australian championships.

DYLAN HEATON

A 10th-place finish in the second of five finals on the 85cc interrupted Dylan’s otherwise dominant week in that class. It also made for an exciting championship battle heading into the final moto where the top four positions were separated by only one point, meaning the race winner would take home the championship. Dylan came out on top, taking the moto win and the title. He topped his week off with consistent finishes on the 150 two-stroke, which earned him a second place overall in that class.

AARON TANTI

A holeshot machine, Aaron bagged no less than eight holeshots during the week at Coolum. He has the ability to throw down some exceptional laps early in the race but seems to succumb to the effects of arm pump later in the race. He took home a third place in the 15yrs 200–250cc class.

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