Pre-meeting favourites Mick Headland and Brenton Kerr lived up to expectations by winning the Bowes Family Sidecar Cup at Gillman Speedway on Saturday night (January 14).
Headland/Kerr top scored in the heats and then led from start to finish in the final, although they were strongly challenged by Queensland Champions Tyler Moon and Adam Lovell.
Moon/Lovell tried for three laps to make an inside pass on Headland/Kerr, often drawing level but unable to get ahead, before Max Howse/Adam Commons (NSW) pushed their way under Moon/Lovell on the last lap to take second place, with Moon/Lovell third and Byren Gates/Michael O'Loughlin (Vic) fourth.
Headland/Kerr were only beaten once on the night, by Howse/Commons in heat four. Howse/Commons backed up with a win over Moon/Lovell in heat six to be the only unbeaten pair after two rides and, having beaten the two favourites, seemingly on their way to a maximum score, but then failed to score at all in their third ride when they finished third behind shock winners Stephen Fowler/Ben Goodridge and Gates/O’Loughlin but then lost that point when they were excluded for going infield. They recovered to win their final two rides to finish as the second highest scorers on 12 points.
The third qualifying place in the final went to Moon/Lovell on countback over Gates/O’Loughlin after both finished on 11 points. Moon had a similar night to Howse, with his 11 points coming from four rides with a pointless ride in heat 15 behind Headland/Kerr, Rick Stephens/Nick O’Brien and Fowler/Goodridge.
With close racing and eleven different heat winners, the semi-final and final berths were wide open (apart from Headland) going into the last round of heats.
Headland/Kerr on 11 were assured of a place in the final, but behind them Howse/Commons 9, Gates/O’Loughlin 9, Moon/Lovell 8, Stephens/O’Brien 8, Fowler/Goodridge 7, Nate Headland/Chloe Ackerley 6, Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris 6, Kane Golding/Isaac Amos 6, Dean Hobbs/Daniel Low 5, and Aaron Silvy/Jaron Silvy 5 were all still in the running.
The first onto the track were Moon, Gates and Rudloff in heat 17 and they finished in that order which left Moon and Gates on 11, and Rudloff briefly in a semi-final spot on 7 but, because of the heat draw, certain to be eliminated. It was a disappointing end of the night for Rudloff who had finished fourth in the Gillman Championship at the previous meeting and started with 5 points from his first two rides on Saturday night but surprisingly could only score a further two points, showing the intensity of the racing.
Mick Headland won heat 18 to finish well clear as top scorer with 14. Golding was a non-starter which, of course, eliminated him, but it also made things look better for Fowler and Nate Headland to hold onto their semi-final berths but as fate would have it they were drawn against the only two riders who could stop either reaching the semis, Hobbs/Low and Silvy/Silvy, in heat 19, and the result couldn’t have been worse for Fowler and Headland.
After much changing of positions, and Hobbs coming through from last place, the result was Silvy, Hobbs, Headland, Fowler which jettisoned Silvy into the semi-final on 8 points, and gave Hobbs the last place on countback after he, Nate Headland, Fowler and Rudloff all finished on 7. Fowler and Goodridge were visibly very disappointed to be eliminated, and rightfully so. After beating three of the finalists – Howse, Moon and Gates – in their earlier heats, and only needing one point in the last heat, it would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
In the final heat, Howse beat Stephens to move into the final with 12 points and Gates was relegated to the semi on countback with Moon, to make the semi-final starters Gates/O’Loughlin in red, Stephens/O’Brien blue, Silvy/Silvy white and Hobbs/Low yellow.
The semi-final was restarted twice, first after Stephens moved out and clipped Silvy, causing Jaron Silvy to fall; and then after Stephens cut down across Gates. When they finally got away cleanly, Gates led all the way with Stephens in second place. Silvy and Hobbs exchanged places a couple of times before Hobbs finished in third.
The final, as already reported, saw Headland/Kerr win from Howse/Commons, Moon/Lovell and Gates/O'Loughlin.
The meeting was very late finishing, around 11.30pm, after two lengthy delays following crashes in the first of the Sidecar support races. The first to go down were John Atherton and Greg Black who hit the fence hard on the back straight on the opening lap. The bike was twisted around towards the fence and both were thrown quite violently onto the track. Black was up relatively quickly but there was a long delay while Atherton was attended to and eventually placed in the ambulance. In the rerun Willy Walker/Jarrad Nash were in second place when they spun around between turns three and four on lap two and went backwards into the path of Corey Palmer/Matt Barkla. All four fell and there was another lengthy delay while Barkla was treated. The race was then abandoned and the other support events cancelled as the only surviving pairs, Josh Pascoe/Matt Crawford and Walker/Nash, were elevated into the Bowes Cup in place of Kym Menadue/Scott Dolan and Tim Bichard/Seth Pascoe, who were out with mechanical problems after only two rides each. Damien Niesche/Mitchell Spear were also out after only two rides.
Latest reports on John Atherton and Matt Barkla are that they did not suffer any serious injuries.