Gympie karters celebrate
COOLOOLA Coast Kart Club members Harrison Oddie and Russell Whittaker made the winner's podium feel like home at the recent Lismore Young Guns competition.
The premier event, running for 12 years, was held on the May Day long weekend and attracted a solid field of competitors from all over Australia.
The Gympie club's talented duo did not muck around in sinking their teeth into their rivals on track.
After three testing days, Oddie claimed second in the rookie class while Whittaker snared third in the Junior National Light class.
Nicknamed 'Rusty' by his racing mates, Whittaker, 15, hails from Noosa but has adopted the Cooloola Coast Kart Club as his home club.
The teenager has undertaken the trip down south five times for the event but this year was easily one of his best performances.
Proud mum Rhonda Whittaker said her son was able to make up for a miserable outing last year.
"He didn't have much luck last year and failed to finish (in the final)," she said.
"He was determined to do better this year and prove himself."
Russell hit the track with a fire-storm of form in qualifying, finishing second overall, before marching on to win the first heat. The speedster then backed up with another victory in the second heat.
In the pre-final heat, the Cooloola Coast Kart Club speed demon lost traction but finished second.
His performance, however, ensured come the final he was up at the pointy end of the starting grid.
In the final, Russell fought hard and while fortunes varied with every turn of the track, he eventually surfaced in third place.
Rhonda, sitting trackside, rode every corner with her son and ran a gauntlet of emotions.
"I get very nervous watching," she said.
"I can't look during qualifying and have trouble in the heats, let alone the final."
As nervous as Rhonda gets cheering on her son, Russell keeps his emotions firmly under wraps.
"He is a cool character," Rhonda said. "He says he doesn't get nervous and doesn't show it."
Meanwhile, Oddie registered his best performance at the Lismore Young Guns event thanks to more of his trademark grit.
The seasoned competitor finished second overall in qualifying before bagging a second and first in the two heats.
From there, Oddie tackled the pre-final and from second place on the grid finished fourth. Finishing fourth was no easy task.
"I fell back to seventh but managed to fight my way back to fourth," Oddie said.
"I try not to think about where I am placed (in the field). I just put my head down and go."
In the 15-lap final, Oddie overcame an early obstacle to finish second.
"I was sandwiched at the start and went airborne," he said.
THE setback was short-lived as the Gympie competitor made ground on his nearest rivals, eventually settling into second and opening up a comfortable lead of 10 kart lengths.
Oddie's history at the Lismore event is marked by rapid improvement.
In 2007, his first year of official racing and still very new to the sport, Oddie finished second last in the midgets class.
The next year the hot shot jumped up to sixth spot before creeping inside the top five with a fourth a year later.
Last year, Oddie made his debut in the rookie's class in roaring fashion, finishing third.
"Next year I will be competing in the junior class against 16-year-olds so it will be challenge," he said.
With a few weeks' rest now at the top of the list, the pair is already thinking ahead to their next on track battle.
Russell will be headed to Darwin for the Australian Championships at the end of June/July, his first time competing at the top-level event.
Oddie will be in action during the second round of the Central Queensland Series hosted by Bundaberg in late May.