Queenslander Ryan Douglas continued his winning run on Saturday night, when he won the National Karate sponsored South Australian Solo Championship at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway, which followed victories in the Phil Crump Solo International, and ATPI Mildura Solo Masters at Mildura’s Olympic Park Speedway on the previous two weekends.
Douglas and 2018 winner Justin Sedgmen went into the meeting as the favourites and they lived up to the pre-meeting favouritism with a thrilling race in the final.
Sedgmen won the start in the final but Douglas, on the faster high line, went around him in turn four. They were side by side for most of the race with Douglas out by the fence and Sedgmen hugging the pole line, but Sedgmen just couldn’t get the little extra drive needed to pull ahead.
The result was probably determined as early as heat two when Matthew Gilmore sprang a surprise victory over Sedgmen.
Sedgmen had led all the way, with Gilmore back in third early on, but Gilmore gradually made up ground on Sedgmen. Sedgmen still always looked likely to win but Gilmore went around him through the last turn and won the race to the line, the margin on the transponders just 0.108 seconds, and that result determined the choice of gate positions in the final, as both riders finished as equal top scorers with 14 points each.
Sedgmen invariably picks gate four in the finals at Gillman, but Gilmore took four so Sedgmen took one, and that was the only difference between Douglas and Sedgmen in the final, Douglas, from two, was able to get out to the slightly faster high line.
Gilmore capped a memorable night by finishing third in the final ahead of Jordan Stewart. As well as his last gasp win over Sedgmen in heat two, he did exactly the same thing to Fraser Bowes in heat nine, and dropped just the one point to Douglas to finish as the top scorer on countback. Douglas and Sedgmen had a bit too much speed for him in the final, but nonetheless it was a good night for him, especially considering he did not know if he’d be competing until Wednesday night because of the Covid-19 border closures.
Douglas was the third of the direct qualifiers for the final with 12 points from four wins and a fall in a dramatic heat 17 which featured Douglas, Sedgmen and Bowes. The three of them went into turn one side by side and Sedgmen fell and aggravated an old shoulder injury. After a delay it was all back for the rerun and Bowes took the early lead, but Sedgmen gritted his teeth, ignored the shoulder pain as best he could, and slipped under Bowes down the back straight to take the lead. Douglas got under Bowes in turn three and on the next lap tried an inside pass on Sedgmen in the same turn but fell – his third fall in two meetings at Gillman this season.
The last chance semi-final featured Jack Morrison, Jordan Stewart and Fraser Bowes, all on 11, and Dakota Ballantyne on 9, ahead of Declan Knowles on countback.
Morrison and Stewart had figured in the best race of the night, along with Gilmore, just two races earlier but Ballantyne was probably the favourite. But a lot of meetings have somebody who is hard done by and for this meeting it was Ballantyne.
His night started badly when he pulled infield after less than half a lap in the opening heat. Although the race was against two eventual semi-finalists in Morrison and Bowes, his speed in later races suggested he would have won and had first choice of gate in the semi. Instead he had the last choice and that was his undoing.
Stewart won the start, but he’d done the same in his heat twelve clash with Ballantyne and on that occasion Ballantyne had just powered around him and pulled away for a comfortable victory, and it looked as if the same was going to happen in the semi, but just as Ballantyne was making an outside pass on Stewart in turn four, Stewart slightly lost his line and looked like he was going to cause a crash with Ballantyne. Ballantyne tried to change his line but had too much speed and not enough room and crashed into the air fence, fell and was excluded.
Stewart again led in the rerun but Bowes went under him in turn three, lap three to briefly take the lead before Stewart regained the lead in the next turn to take the win and the fourth berth in the final.
Outside of the top seven from the two finals there was also some entertaining riding from the others.
Declan Knowles scored in every ride, had a close race with Gilmore and even briefly passed Douglas in their heat clash, but just came up short of a semi-final berth. For a rider who has rarely ridden in recent years, and only came into the line-up a couple of days before the meeting when several of the interstate riders decided not to come, Arlo Bugeja rode very well, and veteran Steve Graetz, Dayle Wood and Aden Clare had their moments, with some exciting races when they met each other.
In the supporting Sidecar events, Shane Rudloff and Nathan Fleet returned for the first time since the Gillman Sidecar Championship on the opening night of the season, but Kym Meandue/Eric Melton showed them a clean back wheel all night as they went through the card unbeaten, winning the final from Fleet/Kaidyn Silvy, Rudloff/Scott Morris and Aaron Silvy/Jaron Silvy.
The consolation went to Brian Silvy/Damian Egan, who had been equal top point scorers with Mendue/Melton at the last two meetings, but couldn’t make the final on Saturday night, indicating the evenness of the competition this season.
It was a bitter/sweet night for Dean Hobbs. His second ride was probably his best ride this season as he was the early leader and looked a possible winner against good opposition. He was eventually pegged back, and finished fourth, but it was a good confidence booster which, however, counted for nought when he had a spectacular crash in his next ride and suffered a broken collarbone and rib, and chipped vertebrae. Passenger Glen Zaworksi, having his first meeting for the season, escaped any major injuries.
Steve Batchelor (75) challenged Nigel Sadler (11) in a heat of the Flat Track Solos, but Sadler again went through the programme unbeaten and has a large lead in the series point score after the first four rounds. The top six point scorers after six rounds will go into a grand final race and the current top six are Nigel Sadler 78 points, Roy Stout 43, Logan Coombe (NSW) 42, Steve Batchelor 41, Brock Gates (Vic) 32 and John White 30. Dale Knights is next with 27.