Merbein’s Justin Sedgmen made another successful 380km trip down the Sturt Highway to take out his second championship victory in two weeks at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway on Friday night (29 December).
The feature event was the Gillman track championship and the line-up included the top six riders from the previous meeting’s National Karate South Australian Championship.
After twelve heats, one and two from the state championship, Sedgmen and Fraser Bowes, were unbeaten with 9 points, and interest was already on heat 17 when they would clash to likely see who would be the top scorer and get first choice of gate in the final . . . but there were some unexpected twists that came before that.
In the first of the heats for round four, Dayle Wood sprung a major surprise by leading Sedgmen all the way to inflict his first defeat over the two championship meetings. That put Bowes in the box seat to possibly be the only rider to go through the meeting unbeaten but he also lost his fourth round ride when Jack Morrison led him all the way in heat 16.
That left Sedgmen, Bowes and Morrison all tied on 11 points and a chance Morrison could end up as the top scorer on countback. That possibility only lasted one race however, as Sedgmen beat Bowes in heat 17 which meant he would, and subsequently did, beat Morrison on countback after Morrison beat 2022 champion Jake Turner in heat 20. So Sedgmen finished as top scorer and as he did in the SA Championship he took red in the final. Morrison took blue, and Bowes, with 13 points, was the other direct qualifier and he took white.
The semi-final line-up was Turner with 12 points, Dayle Wood and Michael West on 10, and Sam Martin on 8.
English visitor Sam Hagon had qualified for the semi-final with 9 points but he was unable to take his place after an incident in heat 15 which put both him and Brayden McGuinness out of the meeting. McGuinness won the heat ahead of Hagon but Hagon then ran into the back of McGuinness and fell in turn one after the race had finished. Neither rider was injured, but both bikes were damaged. McGuinness was out of his remaining heat, and finished on 7 points, while Hagon came out for his race (against Sedgmen, Bowes and Martin) but only got as far as the first corner before pulling infield and then scratched from the semi-final.
On SA Championship form, and Friday night’s heats, Turner was a hot favourite to win the semi-final but after a mediocre night, Michael West pulled a top ride out of his hat to pass Turner at the end of the first lap and then hold the lead to the finish. Turner finished a disappointed second, Wood third and Martin fourth.
West then produced an even better ride in the final. Sedgmen led from Morrison, Bowes and West through the first two turns, but West raced around Bowes down the back straight, and then around Morrison in turn four to move into second but he couldn’t catch Sedgmen who led all the way. Bowes also passed Morrison in turn four but could not get under West although there was only 0.129 seconds in it on the line.
The Sidecars were advertised as being an evenly matched line-up, and they lived up to that billing with the closest racing of the night, five of the seven riders taking race wins, and no rider able to clean-sheet, although to be fair to Rick Stephens/Nick O’Brien, they may have managed that if not for a blown tyre in their second heat.
Brian Silvy came into the meeting on the back of a five-ride maximum at the last meeting and extended that to six wins in heat one, but Dean Hobbs/Daniel Low brought his winning run to an end in heat three. This was the race Stephens/O’Brien suffered the blown tyre on the opening lap, but they were unbeaten apart from that and took the out final ahead of Hobbs/Low, Thomas Adams/Jason Mordaunt and Silvy/Jaron Silvy.
Stephens’ toughest race was heat seven in which he and Adams exchanged the lead a couple of times and were wheel-to-wheel at the finish (0.287secs on the transponders).
The racing was so close that Josh Pascoe/Greg Black, who finished second in the final at the previous meeting, were surprisingly at the bottom of the scorecard after three rides, with only one point, but they then beat Silvy and Hobbs (excluded from third for going infield) in heat 8 and then won the consolation ahead of Stephen Fowler/Jeremy Sherwood and Darryll Woods/Nick Johns.
Victorian teenager Riley Plum dominated the Flat Track Solos winning all three of his heats and the final comfortably. Fellow teenage speedway rider Michael West (squeezing the Flat Track Final between his Speedway Solo semi-final and final) finished second in the Final, with Port Pirie veteran David Footner third, track curator Seane Chapman fourth, Dale Knights fifth and Con Twist sixth. West
In the 125cc Under 16 Junior Solo races, Hayden Pascoe, Kobi Canning and Blake Schlein all tied on 11 out of a possible 12 points in the heats, and Pascoe won the final ahead of Schlein, Canning and Riley Stout, who scored 9 points and won the semi-final. Pascoe missed out on a possible clean sweep when he fell while leading his last heat. He was allowed in the rerun but from a 15 metre handicap, and although he quickly caught race leader Schlein he couldn’t pass him as Schlein rode a virtually faultless race out in front.