The opening meeting of the 27th Gillman Speedway summer season has been run and won, and the winners of the finals in each class were Fraser Bowes (Solos), Harry Sadler (250cc Solos), Roy Stout (Flat Track Solos), Kym Menadue/Shane Dolan (Sidecars) and Riley Stout (125cc Solos).
A low number of nominations, something that seems to be a quirk of speedway racing where opening meetings of most tracks, bikes and cars, have trouble with entries, and bitterly cold weather (after 40 degrees the day before!), had many of the diehards who attend every meeting saying it was a lacklustre opening, but there was a good crowd and, with the standard of the riders fairly even across each class, some close racing.
The first of the finals was for the 500cc Solos. The Solos were split into two groups, with Fraser Bowes, Liam May and Patrick Hamilton in group one, and Teagan Pedler, Shaun Sampson and Steven Hutchinson in group two. However Liam May was a scratching which saw the Group one races reduced to match races between Bowes and Hamilton. On paper, with his Polish Under 24 League experience, Bowes was the favourite to win easily, but Hamilton matched him early on. Hamilton was the early leader in heat one before Bowes took a narrow win, then led all the way in heat two to make it one win each, but then Bowes stepped up to another level and won the other two heats and the final easily.
The closest racing of the night was in the early heats of the Group two Solos. Teagan Pedler won the first two heats ahead of Shaun Sampson and Steven Hutchinson with all three wheel-to wheel. Hutchinson was down from Darwin, where the sport has only been resurrected in the last two or three years after a hiatus of many years, and after a couple of races to get dialled into the track, he blasted away for a big win in heat three. Pedler was back on top again early on in the fourth heat and led for the first two laps before Hutchinson took over the lead, which he extended over the last two laps for another easy win.
In the final Bowes led from Hamilton, Pedler, Sampson and Hutchinson until Pedler fell on the second lap. In the rerun Bowes led all the way to win from Hamilton and Hutchinson, with Sampson retiring on the third lap while in fourth place.
The Under 16 250cc Solo races were similar to the Bowes-Hamilton match races in the 500s, with Ashley Jansen-Batchelor and Harry Sadler in some close racing ahead of Darcey Timmis. Sadler was the early leader in heat one before he lost control briefly and handed Jansen-Batchelor an easy win. He made amends by winning heat two in a wheel-to-wheel race, before Jansen-Batchelor won the third and fourth heats. In the final, Sadler, from gate two, clamped down onto Jansen-Batchelor on the run to the first line, to take the early lead and then led all the way for the win. Jansen-Batchelor and Sadler both now head off to Tamworth to contest the Australian Championship this weekend.
Liam May was the pre-meeting favourite for the Flat Track Solo class, ahead of Roy Stout, but with May a no-show, Stout was able to clean sheet, winning his four heats and the final. His main challenger was Sean Curtis, who was an addition to the programme, replacing Troy Knights. Stout and Curtis’s races were all close, with Curtis leading heat eight until the last half-lap, and crossing the line side-by-side with Stout, but Stout won on each occasion. Brent Webley and Rohan Clark also had some close races with a win each.
In the final Stout won ahead of Curtis, Webley, Clark and Matt Paterson. Con Twist won the consolation race after a wheel-to wheel race with Greg Laanekorb, while Stuart McKenzie won a similarly close race for third with Kristy Schultz.
Shane Hudson and Adam Constable were the favourites for the Sidecars but they too were scratchings, which threw it wide open.
After his second place in the Mildura Sidecar Spectacular the previous weekend, many would have had Nate Headland, and experienced stand-in passenger Mitchell Spear, as the new favourites, and they would have thought their selection was safe when Headland/Spear beat Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris in the first heat, but it was Kym Menadue and Shane Dolan who were the outstanding duo on the night, clean sheeting their five rides.
Menadue and Headland met twice in the heats. Headland was the leader in heat 4 but was riding a wide line and Menadue rode the pole line and got under Headland on the third lap. Headland quickly learned a lesson from that and he rode the tight line when they met again in heat 6, but this time Menadue went around the outside of him to prove he was the best and fastest rider on the night.
In the final Menadue led all the way to win from Headland and Rudloff with Brian Silvy/Glen Zaworski non-starters with bike trouble.
Josh Pascoe and Greg Black won the two bike consolation race from Byron Mordaunt/William Lepoidevin, but it would have been little “consolation” to Pascoe who should have been in the final. He had two wins and a second on the night but only finished with 3 points after twice being excluded for going infield.
In the Under 16 125cc Junior Solo races on the infield junior track, Riley Stout emulated his dad’s results by going through the card unbeaten. He won the final from Hayden Kuchel and William Nicol, with Ruby Chapman falling in the last corner.
The next meeting is the Chook’s Grafix Gillman Sidecar Championship on November 25.Nominations are updated daily on the Gillman Speedway website.