Max Fricke wins back-to-back Australian Championships
As expected when he went into the meeting with an 11 point lead, Max Fricke won the Australian 500cc Solo Championship at Gillman Speedway on Saturday night (11 January).
Fricke took no risks in the early heats, just concentrating on accumulating points to seal the championship, which he did in his fourth heat when he became the first rider to successfully defend the championship since Chris Holder won three in a row from 2010-2012
Second overall, but winner of the Eagle Fuels fifth round was Jack Holder. On the track where he won the FIM Oceania Championship earlier in the season, Holder dominated the meeting scoring 20 out of a possible 21 points which catapulted him from 5th in the standings before the meeting (and even still after his third ride on Saturday night) to second – his highest finish in the national championship. Holder dropped his only point to his brother Chris in his opening ride.
Chris Holder also had a good night early, scoring 12 points in the heats but let a final berth slip in the first semi-final. He looked to be comfortable in second place behind Jack but Josh Pickering never gave up and managed an impressive inside pass on Chris on the third lap. Under the old qualifying system, which a straw poll of supporters around Australia indicated was the preferred format, Chris would have been a direct qualifier for the final. That dropped place in the semi-final saw him drop from equal second before the semi-final to fourth place.
Splitting the Holder brothers for overall third place was Rohan Tungate. Despite the seeming evenness of the top half a dozen or so riders who regularly contest the championship this is the third successive year both Fricke and Tungate have finished in the top three, which is testament to their ability and consistency.
Fifth in the championship was Jaimon Lidsey, who had an outstanding series and was in equal second with Chris Holder and Tungate after three rides on Saturday night before a tape break in his fourth ride cost him dearly as far as a rostrum place goes.
As far as the Gillman meeting went, racing was relatively mundane for the first 13 heats. There was some very fast races – Ben Cook was only 0.183 seconds outside the fastest ever transponder recorded time in heat one, and Lidsey was even faster (0.047 outside the fastest time) in heat four – and some close races but very little passing, but it burst into life thereafter, starting with a fantastic heat 14 scrap between Jack Holder and Fricke. Heat 15 was just as good between Chris Holder and Pickering and after exchanging places several times Holder got up on the line by just 0.026 of a second. Masters and Zack Cook then had their own wheel-to-wheel race in heat 16 with Masters home in a similarly close finish.
Going into the semi-finals Fricke had sealed the title, but the other major placings were all still up for grabs with Chris Holder, Tungate and Jack Holder all on 56 points and Lidsey on 54.
The first semi-final saw Jack Holder (14), Chris Holder (12), Josh Pickering (11) and Brady Kurtz (10) come to the tapes. Jack was straight into the lead and Chris forced Kurtz wide in turn one to take second, and at the same time end Kurtz’s chances. Jack was never under threat and Chris seemed safe in second but Pickering got closer and closer and got under Chris on the third lap and despite going wide and lifting in the last turn he held on to qualify for the final.
The second semi-final brought together Rohan Tungate (13), Jaimon Lidsey (11), Max Fricke (11), and Sam Masters (8). An under-the-weather Masters was only in it briefly, holding third ahead of Lidsey on the opening lap, but it was anyone’s race after Lidsey passed Masters. Lidsey then passed Fricke on lap two to move into second behind Tungate, but Fricke regained the place at the end of the lap and then passed Tungate on the last lap to take the win with Tungate second and Lidsey third.
By comparison the final was straight-forward with Jack Holder taking the win from Fricke, Tungate and Pickering.
The final series points of Max Fricke 71, Jack Holder 62, Rohan Tungate 59, Chris Holder 57 and Jaimon Lidsey 55 means Jack Holder and Rohan Tungate get the two guaranteed Grand Prix qualifying places as “the highest two placed riders who have not already achieved World Championship qualification for the following year”. The other two places allocated to Australia are chosen by the MA Speedway Commission in conjunction with MA (Motorcycling Australia), and as Max Fricke has indicated he wants to contest the qualifying rounds he’ll no doubt get the third spot, which leaves Chris Holder likely to get the fourth place, presumably subject to Jason Doyle’s intentions.
Top photo: Action from the Eagle Fuels Round 5 final at Gillman, left to right Max Fricke (yellow), Jack Holder (red), Rohan Tungate (blue) and Josh Pickering (white). Photo by Judy Mackay.
Eagle Fuels Round 5 placegetters, left to right, Josh Pickering (4th), Rohan Tunagte (3rd), Jack Holder (1st), Max Fricke (2nd). Photo by Judy Mackay.