Australasian Young Drivers Championships
Annual On-Line

15 Winner - Robbie Close
(New Zealand South Island)

In a display of relentless, well-calculated and expert judgement, Robbie Close is the new Lone Star Riccarton Australasian Young Drivers Champion.Close, 22, held off the challenges of 9 rivals from across Australasia in the seven-race series that spanned from Cambridge to Auckland, to Christchurch and then Timaru over four days of competitive racing.

Fittingly donned in the Lone Star colours, established by Riccarton branch owner Trevor Casey, Close won three of the seven heats of the competition and headed into the final day of racing with an almost unassailable lead.

He put the series to bed quickly on the final day winning the first of two heats with Saint Michel to gain an unreachable total on the overall championship ladder.

There was a hint of Kiwi domination to the series with six heats falling the way of the locals and the final placings certainly reflected that.  Defending champion, Andre Poutama who won two heats finished in second position while Michelle Neilson, the only female in the field, was third.Poutama got on the board quickly winning the first heat with Sapphire Castleton before Close grabbed the first of his wins on board Balius.

Leading the competition into the Auckland leg, Poutama picked up the first heat of the night at Alexandra Park with success on Fiery Lustre before Neilson put herself into contention on board Stars And Sound in the second heat.

That left the competition wide open with Poutama still in front but Close who picked up two seconds at Auckland was looking ominous with two very good drives in the final three heats.

He delivered an inch-perfect drive on The Royal Garden for Robert Dunn on the premier day of racing at Addington to rocket himself into the lead and then wrapped things up with his win on Saint Michel.  His drive on Saint Michel summed up his talent in the sulky best.  Trapped three back on the fence on the hot-favourite, Close kept his cool and waited for his opportunity in a situation where many young drivers may have panicked.  He was able to extricate himself off the fence and into the open before the Coaster Howe trained trotter unleashed an undeniable finishing burst to claim the victory.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Australian contingent.  After watching their Kiwi counterparts dominate the series they did manage to snare the trifecta in the final heat with Tom Buchanan victorious on Coringa’s Delight while Dylan Ford and Josh Aiken finished in the minor placings.

Then, in the final race of the weekend, a race with no attachment to the series whatsoever, Robbie Morris claimed arguably the most popular success of the four days of racing when he piloted Sioux Nation to victory for Neil Edge at odds of $60-to-one.

Close will get the opportunity to defend his title next year when the competition returns to Australia with a few of the locals already expressing their desire to get a bit of their own back on their Kiwi counterparts

(article courtesy Harness Racing New Zealand)

2015 Australasian Young Drivers Champion
 - Robbie Close


 Driver Heat 1
Heat 2
Heat 3
Heat 4
Heat 5
Heat 6
Heat 7
Robbie CLOSE (New Zealand South Island) 4 17 11 10 17 17 1 77
Andre POUTAMA (Defending Champion) 17 9 16 4 1 2 3 52
Michelle NEILSON (New Zealand) 3 4 5 15 12 6 6 51
Tom BUCHANAN (Western Australia) 12 6 5 5 4 3 16 51
Dylan FORD (Tasmania) 9 12 4 5 3 4 11 48
Jake WEBSTER (South Australia) 7 7 8 5 5 7 5 44
Josh AIKEN (Victoria) 5 5 3 7 6 9 8 43
Trent MOFFAT (Queensland) 1 5 5 5 9 12 2 39
Robbie MORRIS (New South Wales) 6 3 6 5 2 1 4 27
Ben BUTCHER (New Zealand North Island) 2 2 2 3 7 5 5 26
2015 Australasian Young Drivers
top row (from left):  Robbie Close (NZSI), Josh Aiken (Vic), Robert Morris (NSW), Jake Webster (SA),
Andrew Poutama (Def Champ),
Ben Butcher (NZNI),
bottom row (from left):  Dylan Ford (Tas), Michelle Neilson (NZ), Tom Buchanan (WA), Trent Moffat (Qld)
  Heat 7 - Tmaru - 10/05/2015
Tom Buchanan (WA) crosses the line with Coringa Delight (inside rail),
Dylan Ford (Tas) 2nd with Secret Lotion (No. 7)   

Point Score for Ten Starters
1st - 17 points; 2nd - 12 points; 3rd - 9 pints; 4th - 7 points; 5th - 6 points; 6th - 5 points, 7th - 4 points; 8th - 3 points; 9th - 2 points, 10th - 1 point.
Point Score for Nine Starters
1st - 16 points; 2nd - 11 points; 3rd - 8 pints; 4th - 6 points; 5th - 5 points; 6th - 4 points, 7th - 3 points; 8th - 2 points; 9th - 1 point.
Point Score for Eight Starters
1st - 15 points; 2nd - 11 points; 3rd - 7 pints; 4th - 5 points; 5th - 4 points; 6th - 3 points; 7th - 2 points; 8th - 1 point.
Point Score for Seven Starters
1st - 14 points; 2nd - 9 points; 3rd - 6 pints; 4th - 4 points; 5th - 3 points; 6th - 2 points; 7th - 1 point.