Mark Plaisted and Ben Pitt regained the South Australian Sidecar Championship, which they lost to Mick Headland and Brenton Kerr last season, at Gillman Speedway on Saturday night (26 February).
The 2022 title was a direct contrast to 2021 in which Headland/Kerr won after Plaisted/Pitt top scored in the heats but were excluded in the final.
This season Plaisted/Pitt won after Headland/Kerr top scored in the heats but were excluded in the final!
Headland/Kerr only dropped one point in the heats, after they reared at the start of heat fifteen and found themselves in last place. They were quickly under Kym Menadue/Shane Dolan and Dean Hobbs/Daniel Low, to be right behind race leaders Mark Mitchell/Tony Carter at the end of the first lap but try as they might they couldn’t make a passing move and Mitchell/Carter won by a bike length.
Plaisted/Pitt were the second highest scorers with 13 points, and they dropped their two points to Headland/Kerr and Damien Niesche/Ayrton Canning in heat five.
Niesche/Canning were desperate for points at that stage after an engine failure saw them retire on the first lap of their opening heat. They managed to get 10 points from their remaining four rides but that was only enough for a place in the semi-final.
The third direct qualifiers for the final were surprise packets Kane Golding and Isaac Amos with 12 points. They were sitting comfortably on 11 from their first four rides, with just one point dropped to Plaisted/Pitt, and finished third behind Headland/Kerr and Wayne Lethbridge/Grantley Simounds in heat 20 when only one point was needed to assure them of a place in the final.
Just missing a place in the final were Mitchell/Carter who scored a solid 12 points in their first appearance this season, but lost out on a countback with Golding/Amos, a win by Golding over Mitchell in heat three being the deciding factor.
Joining Mitchell/Carter in the Semi-Final were Niesche/Canning on 10, Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris 9, and Byren Gates/Eli Bock 8.
Rudloff could have finished with 12 points but was stripped of a win over Golding, for going infield, in heat 6. He still would not have been in the final however as Mitchell would have won any countback on the basis of heat wins.
As well as Niesche and Rudloff, Gates also scored his points from only four rides when his bike refused to start for the final heat. Worse was to come, however, as he was also unable to start in the Semi-Final.
So the three bike semi-final saw Mitchell take the early lead from Niesche and Rudloff. Niesche was travelling very fast, too fast as it turned out, as he caught Mitchell and raced under him between turn four and the finish line at the end of the first lap but cannoned into the side of Mitchell in the process. Mitchell then came down track and into the path of Rudloff and they both ran off the track. The race was stopped with Niesche excluded. In the rerun Mitchell led all the way to ensure all three former champions in the field, Headland, Plaisted and Mitchell, were in the final.
It was the “outsider, Golding, however, who took the early lead, ahead of Headland and Plaisted. Plaisted managed to get under Headland down the back straight, and then under Golding through turn four to take the lead. As he was passing Golding, Headland, in third place, just crossed the white line through turn four and his exclusion light came on. Presumably because he saw the light on, Headland pulled out at the start of the third lap, and Plaisted went to win his fourth SA title ahead of Golding with Mitchell third.
Of the non-finalists, Kym Menadue/Shane Dolan looked like likely finalists when they won heat three in what turned out to be the fastest time of the night, but ran hot and cold after that to finish with 7 points, with an exclusion in their second ride costing them a place in the semi-final. Brian Silvy/Damian Egan were looking good for a semi-final place with 7 points from their first four rides but ran last in their final heat; Wayne Lethbridge/Grantley Simounds weren’t in contention for the finals but had a career best 7 point return and will be looking to continue the rapid improvement they have shown over the last two meetings; and Dean Hobbs/Daniel Low made things difficult for several of the higher scoring riders, but only ended up with 6 points.
In the supporting Flat Track Solo events, Sean Curtis dominated, dropping just one point to Dale Knights in the heats before winning the final ahead of Knights, John White and Stephen Russack. White was one who stood out as a big improver and was mixing it with Curtis and Knights in all their races before appearing to tire in the later stages of the races. Newcomer Travis Plank top scored in Group 2.
Also on the support programme was a Gillman Junior (Under 16) Sidecar Championship which was won by Adam Niesche/Kobi Canning ahead of Kayden Gates/Harley Ackerley with Lachlan Copping/Hayden Kuchel excluded.