Max Fricke retains the Australian Solo Championship
Gillman Media 7 December 2022
The Australian 500cc Solo Championship returned to the fixture list on Saturday night (10 December) after an almost three year hiatis because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Before the meeting, at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway, there looked to be four standout riders in Max Fricke, Jaimon Lidsey, Justin Sedgmen and Zach Cook. The only questions were if Fricke was fully recovered from the injuries that kept him out of the final weeks of the season in Europe, and if someone, like recently crowned Australian Under 21 Champion Keynan Rew, could get into the final ahead of one of the favoured four.
On practice form Zach Cook was the one that looked as if he could be vulnerable to someone like Rew, but after twelve heats he was sitting on top of the scorecard with Fricke, both unbeaten on 9 points, with Lidsey and Rew on 8 and Sedgmen on 7.
Fricke, still feeling some effects from his injuries, said before the meeting “I haven’t ridden in a while so I’m going to take it easy in the beginning and see how things are feeling” then came out and reeled off three straight wins including beating his main rivals, Sedgmen (in heat 5) and Lidsey (in heat 9).
Fricke continued his winning ways in round four but Cook lost some points when he came up against Lidsey and Sedgmen in heat 15 with Lidsey winning, Sedgmen second and Cook third. Rew also lost points when he fell in turn one of heat 16. Highlights of the fourth round were an improved ride by Tate Zischke and one of the races of the night between Zane Keleher, James Pearson and Michael West. Zischke had been very impressive in the recent Under 21 Championship, and in practice on Satuday night, but by comparison was disappointing in his first three rides, but won heat fourteen by almost a quarter-of-a-lap in a time only marginally slower tham Lidsey’s in the next race. In the heat 16 rerun without Rew, Keleher and Pearson exchanged the lead several times, with West right on their back wheels, with Keleher getting under Pearson through the last two turns to win by just 4-thousandths of a second.
With Motorcycling Australia’s preferred format of two semi-finals, rather than the usual top three straight into the final, points at the top end going into the last round – which were Fricke 12, Lidsey 11, Cook 10 and Sedgmen 9 – weren’t too vital, but there were still a number of riders in the mix for the other places with Rew on 8, Pearson and Zischke on 7, Fraser Bowes and Keleher 6, and Maurice Brown and West 5.
Rew, Cook and Brown were out together in heat 17, but so was Fricke, and Fricke duly completed his maximum, with Rew second and Cook third. Rew was the closest second to Fricke during the heats which was a good omen for the semi-finals.
Heat 18 then changed the whole complexion of the finals with one of the favourites, Jaimon Lidsey, crashing out.
In a tight first turn Pearson (red), Zischke (blue) and Turner (white) where shoulder-to-shoulder, with contact between the three and Zischke and Turner fell and Lidsey (yellow) got caught up in the melee. He just missed getting taken out by Turner’s bike but Zischke and his bike slid straight into his path and he crashed over the top and into the fence. Zischke and Lidsey were both down for quite some time, Zischke with his leg trapped between the front wheel and the bike. All four were allowed in the rerun but Lidsey was unable to start and was out for the rest of the night with a suspected broken wrist. Despite the crash Zischke not only rode in the rerun but won and was again very quick, only nine-tenths of a second slower than Fricke’s time in the previous heat.
Heat 19 with Bowes and Keleher was an important one for several reasons and it was Bowes who won which meant he not only got the final semi-final berth ahead of Keleher but the result may also have a bearing on the order they are selected for the final few places in the 2023 title in January.
Sedgmen had no trouble winning the final heat to finish as the second highest scorer which made the line-up for the semi-finals, Fricke, Lidsey, Zischke and Pearson in SF1, and Sedgmen, Cook, Rew and Bowes in SF2.
With Lidsey out, the first semi-final was obviously just a matter of who could take second place out of Zischke and Pearson, but not as far as Zischke was concerned as he went within a whisker of pulling off the upset of the night. Fricke gated but Zischke switched to the inside line and got under Fricke in turn four to lead at the end of the first lap and he held that lead until the back straight on the last lap when Fricke went around him to score a narrow win.
The second semi-final was close, but at the same time clear cut, with Sedgmen and Rew qualifying ahead of Bowes and Cook. Bowes passed Cook at the end of the first lap and was close to Rew but not in a challenging position.
The final saw a hectic first lap. Fricke, in red, won the start but went across the field through the first turn to take a higher line and the other three all went under him and they were four wide – Sedgmen, Zischke, Rew, Fricke - down the back straight. Fricke was almost squeezed into the fence but kept it wound on to lead at the end of the first lap with Zischke and Rew side-by-side in second, but Sedgmen went under both in turn one on lap two. In the apex of the turn Rew’s bike jumped in the air and he lost just enough momentum for Zischke to gain the edge for third place and they stayed in that order for the rest of the race.
The Title, which was the 2020/21 title postponed from last season, was Fricke’s third, and it was also the third time on the podium for Sedgmen but unfortunately 17-year-old Zischke didn’t get to join his fellow teenage Queensland debutant Rew on the podium as he crashed into Sedgmen’s back wheel in turn one after the finish and was thrown into the fence and taken to hospital, apparently with concussion.
Fricke will have to defend the title in just a few weeks as the 2022/23 title, over four rounds, starts at Gillman on January 3.
INJURY UPDATE: Tate Zischke was released from hospital on Sunday and has since said: “I was rushed to hospital with head injuries. Luckily there was no internal bleeding. I don’t remember ever riding in the final. The doctors said I was knocked out and had two seizures. I remember waking up in the hospital wondering what has happened. I’m feeling better now – just a killer headache. Thank you to everyone for the calls and messages, much appreciated. Couple months off the bike resting up.”
In the support races there was some close racing between Patrick Hamilton, Jackson Milner, Celian Liebmann and Broc Hall. Hamilton had a couple of easy first up wins but after that there was nothing much between the four of them and the racing was a lot closer than the final pointscores, which were Hamilton 14, Milner 11, Liebmann 8 and Hall 3, would suggest.
Racing was also close in the Under 16 250cc Solo races with some riders riding very well but going unrewarded in the pointscore. Anika Loftus was one, she was very impressive for zero points, and Broc White was much better than his 3 point score suggests. The two local boys, Ashley Jansen-Batchelor and Harry Sadler, top the scores with 10 points each. Jansen-Batchelor beat Sadler both times they met in the heats, but Sadler led all the way to win the final, with Alex Adamson getting second after he and Jansen-Batchelor exchanged places several times.
In the Under 16 125cc Solo class, Gillman track champion Kobi Canning was unbeaten, winning his four heats, and then the final ahead of Ryleigh McGregor and Ambrose Fraser. The only rider to trouble him was Blake Schlein who led their heat clash for three laps, but he was a non-starter in the final after he clipped a back wheel and high-sided in his last heat.
The next meeting is the FIM Oceania Solo Championship on Wednesday night 28 December, featuring former World Champions Tai Woffinden and Jason Doyle, former Australian Champion Rohan Tungate and former British Champion Adam Ellis.