Mark Plaisted and Ben Pitt successfully defend their SA Sidecar Championship
Mark Plaisted and Ben Pitt achieved the rare feat of winning back-to-back South Australian Sidecar Championships with a dominant display in the Eagle Fuels sponsored event at Gillman Speedway on Saturday night (28 December).
They are the first duo to successfully defend the title since Darrin Treloar and Mark’s brother Justin Plaisted won three in a row from 2007-09, and Mark is the first South Australian rider to successfully defend the championship since Peter Fleet in 1991.
And like last season, Plaisted and Pitt have won the title in their first appearance of the season.
Despite minimal preparation, they were the dominant pair and would have gone through the card unbeaten if not for a flat rear tyre while comfortably leading their second heat. That not only deprived them of maximum points but also meant, despite winning their other four rides, including victory over two of the other front-runners – Warren Monson/Andrew Summerhayes and Mick Headland/Brenton Kerr – in heat 11, they had to go through the last chance semi-final to get into the final.
Although obviously the favourite for the semi-final Plaisted could not afford to be complacent as the ever-improving duo of Kym Menadue and Eric Melton had beaten Monson just two races earlier, but Plaisted, as expected, led all the way for a narrow, but safe, win over Menadue, with Nathan Fleet/Ayrton Canning and Rick Stephens/Nick O’Brien both running off the track early in the race.
Joining Plaisted in the final were the three top point scorers, Mick Headland/Brenton Kerr, Warren Monson/Andrew Summerhayes and Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris who had all scored 13 points, one more than Plaisted/Pitt and Menadue/Melton who had both scored 12.
That gave Plaisted no choice of gate position and not surprisingly he found himself starting on the outside in gate four, and only the four finalists and Menadue had won a heat from the outside gate.
When the tapes went up for the final, it was Headland who won the start, marginally ahead of Monson and Plaisted, but as Headland and Monson fought for the lead, Plaisted went around both through turn two. At the same time Rudloff got under Monson, and positions were unchanged after that, Plaisted winning from Headland, Rudloff and Monson.
Apart from the finalists there were impressive rides from a number of the other riders which suggests the Sidecar Super Series, which starts on January 25, will be another hard-fought and entertaining affair.
The best of the non-finalists was obviously Menadue with his 12 points and his heat win over Monson,
But Rick Stephens/Nick O’Brien, Nathan Fleet/Ayrton Canning, Aaron Silvy/Jaron Silvy, Dean Hobbs/Glen Zaworski, Jack Spear/Mitchell Spear and Neale Hancock/Brendan Johnson all had their moments.
Although he reached the semi-final, Stephens’ night never really got going however. Starting from gate four in a tough opening heat against Hancock, Rudloff and Monson, he got filled in in turn two, had to back off and then couldn’t get back on terms with the others, and was behind the eight-ball from then on.
Hancock looked good for a semi-final berth early on with some good races against most of the front-runners, but fuel pump problems cost him a place in the semi, and similarly former state champion Mark Mitchell (passenger Tony Carter), although he had a very disappointing night, it was only a retirement in his last ride that cost him a semi-final berth.
Full heat results are on the Gillman Speedway website Results tab.