Junior drag racer Caleb Oberg has become the youngest ever Australian Drag Racing Champion at the Castrol Edge Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway. At 12 years and 2 months, the Ipswich East State School Year 7 student took the mantle of the sport’s youngest champion away from Kelly Corbett who was 13 years and 5 months when she won the Junior Dragster title back in 1998.
Attended by over 35,000 people, the Winternationals is the final round of the championship season for all categories of drag racing. In an interesting twist, Corbett also won her second Australian Championship on Sunday, this time in the senior category of Modified Eliminator twelve years after her Junior Dragster title.
Oberg went into the season ending event leading the championship by a slender 20 point margin with nine other drivers within striking distance of taking the title. His preparations for the event were seriously disrupted when the engine that had carried him to the top of the points table in his Cosmic Enterprises / Santos Cranes dragster was badly damaged at a lead up event just before the Winternationals forcing a switch to an untried back up motor.
In the opening round of elimination racing on Friday morning Oberg jumped the start by just three hundredths of a second and was disqualified. His title hopes appeared dashed but race by race other championship contenders were also beaten until, after round three, only one remained. New South Wales driver Holly Mills came into the championship decider 100 points adrift of Oberg and needed to win all seven rounds of racing to take the title. With competition spread over three days, Caleb and his family were slowly tortured as his sixteen year old challenger won race after race to draw closer to the lead. It wasn”t until she lost an extremely close race to Perth”s Alicia Naylor in round six late on Sunday afternoon that the young Queenslander”s agony ended and he was confirmed as the champion.
Oberg said “The spare engine wasn”t going as well and I tried too hard to get a good start and red lighted. I was really angry with myself because I thought I”d lost the championship but everyone kept saying it”s not over until someone overtakes me in the points. We all went to the start line together and watched each race. Every time we watched Holly win another one and get closer I thought I”d die. The waiting between every round was even worse. ”
Watching his son receive the championship trophy, Caleb’s proud father, Rod Oberg was in disbelief. “It’s really hard to believe it”s actually happened. It”s been a very long season and then for three days we were getting our hopes up and then being smacked back down again. Holly was driving very, very well and looked like she would go all the way. The stress was so bad there were a few tears of relief all around when she was finally beaten. I”m really proud of how well Caleb handled things though. It”s an amazing thing for him to win the Australian Championship so young and at his first attempt. It”s a real family sport and we all go away to the races together. He”s the third generation to drive but he”s already done a lot better than Dad or I ever have. We couldn”t be happier.”
Junior Dragsters race over a standing start, 200 metre distance reaching speeds of over 120kph. The Rocket Allstars Australian Championship series consists of six events spread from Mackay in North Queensland to Perth Western Australia and is contested by over 100 young drivers aged between eight and seventeen years of age.
Photo Credit: Backtrack.com.au