A new name gets etched onto the Jack Young Cup this week after a mildly surprising, but well-deserved win by 18-year-old Brayden McGuinness.
McGuinness was one of the riders widely topped to reach at least the semi-final stage, but it was wide open as to the winner would be with all the riders who reached the finals having a legitimate claim as a possible winner.
After an enthralling night’s racing amongst a very even field of riders, three riders – Robert Medson, Jedd List and McGuinness – were tied on 13 points and earnt direct qualification to the final.
Medson started poorly in his first ride when he lost his line in turn three and could then only finish third behind Dakota Ballantyne and List, but won his remaining four rides, including close races against McGuinness and Zach Wajtknecht.
17-year-old Queenslander List dropped his two points to Ballantyne in the previously mentioned race with Medson, and Wajtknecht in his second ride before winning his last three rides in an impressive first appearance in senior ranks at Gillman; and McGuinness was only beaten by Medson and List.
The semi-finalists were the three Englishmen, Tom Brennan (12), Zach Wajtknecht (11), and Kyle Bickley (10), and local rider Dakota Ballantyne (9). Again all four had a genuine claim that they could not only win the semi-final but also the final if they qualified. Although Ballantyne was the lowest scorer, his nine points came from only four rides as he was excluded from his final heat which, along with several other races, could not only be hailed as the race of the night, but also be early contenders for race of the season. He and McGuinness rode side-by-side, continually exchanging the lead until turn three, lap three when McGuinness fell. How you saw it depended on where you were sitting but the referee excluded Ballantyne which relegated him to the semi-final and prevented a possible three way tie between Ballantyne (had he won), Brennan and McGuinness on 12 points for the third place in the final.
The semi-final was another close race, especially between Wajtknecht and Brennan but Wajtknecht led narrowly all the way (winning by just 0.36 of a second) to earn a start in the final.
Medson had first choice of gate position in the final and chose gate one. List went the opposite way and took 4, while McGuinness took 3, leaving Wajtknecht with two. It was clear at the start why no one wanted blue, as it was Medson, McGuinness and List three wide into the first corner but disaster was just around the corner (literally) for List. After looking so good all night, he wasn’t quite on the bit of track he wanted to be, and the front wheel came up in the apex of turns one/two and he crashed heavily into the turn two air fence. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously injured but, of course, he was out of the rerun.
Turn one of the Jack Young Cup final, Robert Medson (red), Brayden McGuinness (white) and Jedd List (yellow). Photo by Judy Mackay.
And turn two. Jedd List ends his night in the Air Fence after an impressive first appearance at Gillman at senior level. Photo by Judy Mackay.
The rerun again saw the riders side-by-side, this time Wajtknecht on the inside, Medson in the centre, and McGuinness on the outside, down the back straight but it was McGuinness who wanted it the most and he powered around Medson through turn four to take the lead which he was able to hold to the finish with Medson second and Wajtknecht third.
Early in the rerun of the final, Zach Wajtknecht (blue), Robert Medson (red), Brayden McGuinness (white). Photo by Judy Mackay.
The placegetters, left to right: Jedd List (fourth), Robert Medson (second), Brayden McGuinness (first), Zach Wajtknecht (third). Photo by Judy Mackay.
Outside of the top seven there was also some close racing from the other riders, and for the early part of the meeting it looked like Connor Bailey might be the one making a few headlines. Only 16-years-old and in his fourth senior meeting, he repeated his effort of the previous meeting by racing side-by-side with former British Under 21 Champion Robert Branford in his first ride, before a narrow win by Branford, and then beat Ballantyne in his second ride to be on 5 points from two rides, and later in the night was wheel to wheel with Bickley and Wajtknecht before falling on the last lap. Ultimately he came up one point short of a start in the semi-final.
Just behind Bailey on the scorecard was Fraser Bowes, who had his most impressive meeting yet in his short senior career, on 7 points, and Arlo Bugeja on 6. Bugeja only has the occasional ride these days but is still always in the mix and his race with Bickley and Brennan in heat 11 was another contender for race of the night as they were three wide for most of the race.
Pre-meeting favourite Robert Branford finished near the bottom of the scorecard after only taking one ride. He won his first ride after that close scrap with Bailey, but then had a dispute with the referee over the start of his next ride and was excluded, and then chose not to take his other rides.
Not to be outdone, the Sidecars also had their own contender for race of the night with an absolutely thrilling final between Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris and Mick Headland/Brenton Kerr. They were scraping paint jobs throughout the race, probably as aggressive as it gets without overstepping the mark and earning an exclusion, with Rudloff/Morris the eventual winners, completing an unbeaten run for them. The minor placings went to Tim Bichard/Adam Pascoe and Brian Silvy/Cameron White. It was Brian Silvy’s first final at this level and although he finished fourth his fastest lap in the race was faster than Headland’s so he was on the pace.
This was the last meeting before Christmas.
The speedway resumes on Friday night, 28 December with the Littlehampton Bricks South Australian Solo Championship. Early nominations include defending champion Justin Sedgmen, and international rider Max Fricke who, surprisingly, despite winning a World Under 21 Championship and having a few Grand Prix rides, has yet to win either the SA Championship, or his home state Victorian Championship.