Mark Plaisted and Ben Pitt are the new FIM Oceania Speedway Sidecar Champions after a dominating display at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway last night (17 April).
There was a shock for spectators before the meeting when word circulated than three-time winner Darrin Treloar’s vehicle had broken down and he was stranded in New South Wales.
Although disappointed they would not be seeing the sport’s most successful rider, they consoled themselves with the thought his absence would throw the meeting wide-open, with any number of possible winners, but instead Plaisted just stepped up to take Treloar’s mantle as the dominant rider and went through the card unbeaten, and even unchallenged.
The win was first for passenger Ben Pitt, but the second for Plaisted who won the inaugural event in 2013/14.
Mick Headland and Brenton Kerr were also dominant in the heats, beaten only by Plaisted/Pitt so the major interest centred on who would fill the third qualifying place for the final, and the four semi-final places.
The third qualifying place ultimately went to Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris on countback from defending champions Warren Monson/Andrew Summerhayes after both teams finished with 12 points.
Rudloff was relegated to third place behind Plaisted and Damien Niesche/Mitchell Spear in heat 1, but thereafter was only beaten by Headland in heat 13. Monson was third in the same race which is what decided the countback.
Also in an action-packed heat 13 were first-year riders Kane Golding and Isaac Amos, who went into the heat leading the meeting alongside Plaisted with both unbeaten on 9 points. It was asking a lot for them to continue their unbeaten run, or even to score a point, against a line-up of Headland, Monson and Rudloff, but they took up the challenge early on. Headland won the start and Golding was second coming out of turn two but in a hectic back straight battle for placings Rudloff collided with Golding and both passengers fell. After medical attention all four were back for the rerun which Headland led all the way while Rudloff and Monson were side-by-side on lap two before Rudloff gained the advantage.
The draw didn’t get any easier for Golding/Amos as they faced Plaisted and Mark Mitchell/Tony Carter in heat 19 but again they started promisingly and were side-by-side with Plaisted through turn two. They were then filled in by Plaisted however, which allowed Mitchell through for second place and they then lost third place with an exclusion for going infield.
Although they failed to score in their last two rides, 9 points was enough to comfortably get them into the semi-final where the line-up was Monson/Summerhayes (12) in red, Niesche/Spear (11) blue, Mitchell/Carter (10) white and Golding/Amos (9) yellow. Monson made the start but Niesche made a forceful pass through turns three and four and was on his way to a final berth as Monson had no answer and eventually spun off the track giving on the third lap. Mitchell finished second with Golding again also going infield.
After the Plaisted-Headland clash weeks earlier in the state championship, the final, with Plaisted, Headland, Rudloff and Niesche, was eagerly anticipated and extra drama was introduced when it started to rain. After a fine day and night, the odd spot started to fall as the riders were doing their “gardening” for the final, and by the time they were waiting for the tapes to go up it had starting raining properly and got heavier as the race went on. But not even the rain could stop Plaisted/Pitt as they led all the way. Niesche again came from the back, this time to pass Headland to finish second, with Headland third and Rudloff fourth. Interestingly, apart from Headland (who was in heat 2) the final was a repeat of the finishing order in heat one.
When the race finished the riders were ushered into the pits for the presentations (normally done on the track) and almost immediately the rain stopped . . so the only rain all day/night was for about 5 minutes from when they were at the tapes for the final.
The meeting started on a sombre note with a tribute to long-time venue manager Don Marker who died the day before. Don was the venue maintenance manager - a description which doesn't do justice to the work he did and the thousands of hours he spent on Gillman projects - from the time the venue opened until about two years ago when he stepped back from the manager’s role but was still involved with the weekly working bees and was working at the track on Tuesday before falling ill on Wednesday. A lovely man, he’ll be sadly missed.