A good sized crowd enjoyed a family afternoon and evening of old time speedway in perfect weather when the Gillman Classic Championship were held on Sunday, 1 November.
Nine classes of racing took part with seven competing for championship sashes, and the first championship to be decided was the 2 Valve Solo Championship for riders aged under 40. The championship almost turned into a Mitchell family affair, but mechanical failure prevented Luke Mitchell from starting in the final which was won by Jake Mitchell from Seth Hickey and Daniel Mitchell. Victory in the final met a clean sweep for Jake as he also won all three of the heats.
The Two Valve Solo Championship for the over 40-year-olds was dominated by former international rider Shane Bowes (pictured above), who, like Jake Mitchell, went through his heats and the final unbeaten. Regular winners and placegetters in the former JAP/ESO class of previous years, Roy Stout and Kevin Webb, were prominent again in this class and took the other rostrum places with Webb winning a good race against Stout for second place behind Bowes. Bowes also received the Jeff Fisher Perpetual Trophy for winning this class.
The third Solo Championship, for the 4 Valve Upright bikes, was full of twists and turns. There was no clear-cut favourite before the race, although many fancied Jake Mitchell’s chances of completing a double, but his hopes diminished when he was penalised 15 metres for touching the tapes. In the restart Luke Mitchell, Gary Fischer and Steve Graetz were together going into turn three when Graetz fell. He was quickly up but the race was now between Luke Mitchell and Gary Fischer. Fischer seemed to have Luke’s measure but then lost control on the third lap allowing Luke and the rapidly chasing Jake Mitchell to slip by him. From that point Luke was able to hold the lead with Jake just short of making up the 15 metres handicap.
A fourth Solo class, for laydown engines and riders over 40, was held but was a non-championship class. Shane Bowes was again the dominant rider, only dropping points through an engine failure in his last heat. Former North Arm riding Steve Graetz finished second and for his first meeting in many years, looked very good and he’d still be a top rider at division two level against the current day riders. Third place in a thrilling finish went to another former North Arm rider, Ross Noble, after Fischer fell about ten metres short of the finish line and was unable to get up and wheel his bike home before Noble caught him, Noble crossing the line about a metre ahead of him.
The first of the Sidecar finals was the British/European/American Championship and it was an ecstatic Wayne Ware/Jeff Bourke from the Bushrangers Club in Queensland, riding a twin Triumph, who took out a close race ahead of the Vincents of Peter Tolley/Don Morris and Rory McEnroe/Tony Kavetani. Ware and Bourke were certainly the most jubilant of the winners on the night, and Ware said at the presentations what a thrill and an honour it was to race against the Vincents.
Like the British Championship, the Japanese Sidecar Championship also saw a first time winner in New South Wales’ Greg Griffiths and Nathan McFadden. Twelve months ago Griffiths looked quick but ended up pointless after he flipped coming out of the tapes in his first ride and although he flipped again at the start of one of his heats this year, he had no trouble winning his other two heats, and the final from Mildura’s Dale Milner/Nick O’Brien and local former Rowley Park rider Steven Lewis/Nick Johns. Defending Champion Mick Tucker was excluded after he clipped the fence and ran off the track.
In the Post Classic Sidecar Championship current-day Australian Champions Justin Plaisted/Sam Harrison were unbeaten in the heats on the restored David Adams’ Suzuki, but Dean Hobbs/Andy Westover went close to scoring an upset win in the final. Hobbs took the early lead while Plaisted was in last place behind Geoff Baran/Matt Ambrose and Dale Milner/Nick O’Brien. Plaisted took a lap to get past Baran, then another lap to pass Milner before setting after Hobbs who had set up a handy lead which he was able to maintain until the last lap when Plaisted got by for a narrow win. Baran/Ambrose finished a distant third after being forced to take avoiding action when Milner’s bike stopped after he was passed by Plaisted.
The remaining championship class was the Evolution Sidecar Championship and in a repeat of last year’s results Paul Donnelly/Jake Roberts won all three heats only to then lose out in the final. Unlike last year, when he suffered a gear change problem, this year he was beaten on merit by fellow Victorians Phil Russell/Sean Coleby on a V Twin Godden. Although the final was the only race Russell won, he had led two of the heats comfortably before suffering mechanical problems so victory in the final was not unexpected – it was just a matter of whether the bike would keep going. Paul Birch/Matt Smailes made in a Victorian trifecta by finishing third ahead of Clinton Crabb/Michael Bell
The other section on the programme was the Three Quarter Midgets (TQs), who were entertaining as usual even they are only allowed to do demonstration runs.
The Bruce Kelley Trophy for outstanding service at Gillman Speedway went to SRA treasurer Mary Mundy, and guests of honour Don and Des Marker had a pleasant surprise when it was announced the new grandstand would be named The Marker Brothers Stand.