Jaimon Lidsey, Mark Plaisted/Ben Kerr, Linkin Metcalf and Kobi Canning are the new Gillman Speedway track champions after a big night of racing on Saturday night, 3 December.
Jaimon Lidsey looked like the rider to beat right from the start of the 500c Solo Championship, but did strike a minor setback on his way to ultimate victory. He won his first four rides and was the early leader in his last heat against Justin Sedgmen and Fraser Bowes, but Sedgmen went around him through turns three and four on the opening lap to take the lead, and then Lidsey’s bike broke down on the next lap as he was chasing Sedgmen.
Despite having four wins and 12 points it wasn’t enough to earn direct qualification to the final as Sedgmen finished with 14 points, beaten only by Rory Schlein, who finished with 13 points, as did English rider Adam Ellis.
Schlein, who has won four South Australian Championships at Gillman, was making his first racing appearance here since 2011 and quickly showed local fans what they have been missing with a stylish display and he was only beaten by Lidsey and Ellis.
Ellis, who is based in Merbein in Victoria but hasn’t been able to ride at the local Mildura track because of the floods, was beaten by Sedgmen and Lidsey.
Joining Lidsey in the last chance semi-final was Fraser Bowes, also with 12, Jake Turner, the defending champion, on 10, and Patrick Hamilton on 7, ahead of Liam May on countback.
Bowes was unlucky not to be straight into the final. In heat 13 he came from third place to pass Ellis and Schlein to take the lead but a lap later Ellis clipped Bowes as he made an inside pass and Bowes came down. Unfortunately for Bowes there was no race stoppage and although he remounted to salvage a point it wasn’t enough to get into the final.
The semi-final was a close race between Lidsey and Bowes, but it was Lidsey who took a narrow win to advance to the final which he also won after a hectic couple of opening laps.
The line-up was Ellis in red, Sedgmen blue, Schlein white and Lidsey yellow. Ellis, Sedgmen and Schlein were together going through turns one and two as Lidsey dropped back and switched to the inside. They were four wide down the back straight, with Sedgmen and Schlein high and Lidsey going between Ellis and Sedgmen. Schlein clipped the fence and straightened up and lost momentum briefly and it was Lidsey, Ellis, Sedgmen, Schlein into turn three. Ellis was under Lidsey into turn four but Lidsey was ahead coming out of the turn. Sedgmen got under Ellis in turn one on the second lap and they stayed in that order with Lidsey taking the win, Sedgmen second, Ellis third and Schlein fourth.
The Sidecar racing was thrilling, as usual, and in no small part due to better than expected riding by some of the lower ranked riders, including some who probably would not have even been in the title if an attempt had been made to pick a best 16 format.
There was no surprise at the top of the scorecard in Group one with Australian Champions Mark Plaisted/Ben Pitt unbeaten on 12 points and earning the direct qualifying place in the final. Their only challenge came in their first ride when Byren Gates/Michael O’Loughlin led for the first lap and then stuck with them until the finish. That was the only defeat for Gates and O’Loughlin who were very quick all night and were the first of the semi-final qualifiers on 11 points. The other semi-finalists were Chris Walker/April Cottrell on 9, Rick Stephens/Nick O’Brien on 9 and Stephen Fowler/Ben Goodridge on 8. Walker and Fowler were two surprise semi-finalists, finishing ahead of Damien Niesche/Mitchell Spear (7), Nathan Fleet/Eric Melton (7) and Kane Golding/Glen Zaworski (3). Saturday night was by far the best Walker and Cottrell have looked at Gillman, while Fowler/Goodridge started with two third places but then won their last two heats, including beating Niesche and Walker, to earn their place.
Gates/O’Loughlin were the clear-cut favourites in the semi-final and did win to advance to the final but Walker/Cottrell made them earn it. Gates won the start but Walker made an inside pass to take the lead through turns three/four and Gates did not regain the lead until the third lap, but then pulled away for a comfortable win.
Group two had a couple of heavy hitters spearheading the group in Mick Headland/Brenton Kerr and Shane Hudson/Adam Constable, but it was Shane Rudloff/Damian Egan who top scored to earn the direct entry spot to the final. Rudloff and Headland both scored 11 points but Rudloff was ranked one on countback for his win over Headland in heat seven. In that race Brian Silvy/Dean Cottrell were the early leaders from Rudloff/Egan, Adam Pascoe/Axel Brereton and Headland/Kerr. Rudloff and Headland got into the lead positions on lap two and were wheel-to-wheel at the finish with Rudloff winning by about two bike lengths. Joining Headland/Kerr in the semi-final were Max Howse/Riley Commons on 10 points, Shane Hudson/Adam Constable 8, and Aaron Silvy/Jaron Silvy 5, on countback from Tim Bichard/Seth Pascoe, Josh Pascoe/Matt Crawford and Brian Silvy/Dean Cottrell but it was a duo that missed out altogether with only 4 points, Nate Headland/Jaxon Rayner who really caught the eye. Normally Josh Pascoe, stepping up from the Flat Track Solos last season, would have been getting rave reviews for an impressive debut appearance, but he was overshadowed by 16-year-old Headland who was a match for anyone, and even drew level and attempted an inside pass on his grandfather Mick on the third lap of heat eleven, the best race of the night, before being shuffled back to fourth place by Hudson and Howse. The same race was the only loss of points for Howse/Commons after winning their first thee heats, which included Rudloff’s only defeat.
Howse and Hudson had a thrilling scrap for several laps in the semi-final but unfortunately for them it was only for second as Headland had cleared out and led all the way to advance to the final. Howse was second with Hudson third but only just with Silvy almost pipping him on the line.
The final was all Plaisted/Pitt as they led from start to finish. Rudloff/Egan were initially in second but Headland/Kerr pushed through on the inside in turns three/four, which also opened the way from Gates/O’Loughlin to get through and positions stayed the same after the first lap.
Racing was tight between Ashley Jansen-Batchelor, Linkin Metcalf and Harry Sadler throughout the night in the Under 16 250cc Junior Solo Championship. Despite the close racing, Jansen-Batchelor managed to win four of the five heats, but it was the other heat winner, Linkin Metcalf, from Western Australia, who won the final. Metcalf just shaded Jansen-Batchelor at the start and then managed to hold on to the lead despite constant challenges from Jansen-Batchelor.
In the other championship on the programme, the Under 16 125cc Junior Solo Championship, on the infield track, Kobi Canning won the final ahead of Cooper Antone, Blake Schlein and Hayden Pascoe. The final four heats and the semi-final were deleted because of time restraints, but the result was a fair one as Canning was unbeaten in the heats that were run, which included a win over Antone in heat thirteen. It was a long day for the “kids” as they had competed in the South Australian Championship at 11am that morning, at the nearby Sidewinders Junior Speedway, which resulted in a win for defending champion Harry Sadler ahead of Antone, Canning and Darcey Timmis.
David Footner, Seane Chapman and Brock Gates dominated the Solo Flat Track support races, each managing a heat win after some close racing, but with Gates pulling out after two rides, and Chapman taking a heavy fall while leading the last heat, it was Footner, the former Port Pirie long-track star of the 1980s and 90s, who topped the scorecard with 9 points, ahead of Chapman on 7 and Gates on 4.