Mark Plaisted/Ben Pitt win SA Sidecar Championship

Mark Plaisted and Ben Pitt won the Littlehampton Clay Bricks and Pavers/Adelaide Hills Business Park South Australian Sidecar Championship at Gillman Speedway last night.

The meetings was Plaisted/Pitt’s first appearance this season and they top scored, with 14 points, before leading all the way in the final to win from Darrin Treloar/Blake Cox (13 pts), Mick Headland/Brenton Kerr (11) and Warren Monson/Andrew Summerhayes (13).

The title was the second for Plaisted and the first for Pitt.

The meeting started in exciting fashion with a very close race between Warren Monson and Mark Plaisted, with Mark Mitchell/Tony Carter and Andrew Buchanan/Denny Cox left behind, and heat two was even better with defending champions Trent Headland/Darryl Whetstone and Shane Rudloff/Scott Morris exchanging the lead many times before Rudloff gained the lead for the last time through turns one and two on the final lap. Again, another star pair, Damien Niesche/Mitchell Spear could only watch from behind.

It was going to be impossible for the meeting to continue at that standard, but there were many more exciting races to follow, and even when there was a rare clear cut race there was still the intrigue of the changing point scores.

After a straight forward win by Neale Hancock in heat three, Mick Headland relegated Darrin Treloar to second place in heat four. Headland led all the way as Treloar fought hard to come from last place, after starting in gate four, and only managed to pass Brian Silvy on the last lap. The much improved Silvy must have been wondering what was going on behind him as he led Sam Harrison and Treloar for three laps.

Treloar quickly got back into stride by beating Monson quite convincingly in the next race; Trent Headland suffered another loss in heat six, going down to Plaisted; Mitchell beat Rudloff in heat seven after a slightly slow start by Rudloff allowed Mitchell to make the early break; and Mick Headland beat Buchanan and Niesche in heat 8 to be the only unbeaten rider after two rides.

Headland’s unbeaten run came to an end in the very next race, however, when a faulty ignition switch caused him to retire from third place after an exciting two lap battle with Trent Headland and Monson, which Trent won. Plaisted had an easy win in heat 10; Niesche got a win over Mitchell and Harrison in heat 11, which kept him in with a chance of a semi-final berth and all but eliminated Harrison; and a Treloar win over Rudloff, Buchanan and Hancock in heat 12 had Buchanan and Hancock on the edge of elimination.

The tightest of the scores was highlighted by Mick Headland going from the only unbeaten rider of two rides, to sixth place after three rides.

Plaisted and Treloar were the equal top-scorers after twelve heats and in a vital result in heat 14, Plaisted beat Treloar to put him in the box-seat for a gate choice ahead of Treloar come Final time. Third place for Niesche meant he was back in the danger zone, and third place for Harrison behind Monson and Rudloff in the previous heat confirmed his elimination. Likewise third place behind Mick Headland and Mitchell in heat 15 saw Hancock eliminated, and even though Buchanan passed Jamie Moohan in the last corner of heat 16, after a torrid battle of the Kiwis, second place behind Trent Headland was not enough and he too was eliminated.

Good riders, close racing – but none were able to reach the final. Shane rudloff/Scott Morris (Y), Neale Hancock/Brendan Johnson (W), Andrew Buchanan/Denny Cox (B). Photo by Judy Mackay.

Going into the last round of heats, the top seven was all but decided – only Niesche was a long shot of grabbing seventh place – but the final order was far from decided with Plaisted on 11, Treloar, Trent Headland and Monson on 10, Mick Headland and Rudloff on 9 and Mitchell on 8.

First of those out in the last round was Monson and he had a straight forward win to move to 13 points, and with Treloar and Trent Headland drawn together in heat 19, he was a guaranteed his first ever appearance in an SA Championship final, despite having won both the Oceania Championship and the World Cup at Gillman. The heat also saw Niesche finally eliminated, and a nasty crash for the Dad’s Army team of Neale Hancock and Brendan Johnson. Hancock got sideways in front of the closely following Niesche and Brian Silvy, and in the resulting crash Hancock suffered a couple of broken ribs and a sore shoulder.

Neale Hancock and Brendan Johnson crash. Photo by Judy Mackay.

Heat 18 brought together Plaisted, Rudloff, Mick Headland and reserve Rick Stephens, who was very unlucky not to be in the selected 16, and all the action was between Headland and Stephens for second place as Plaisted led all the way to confirm his position as the top scorer (14 points) and first gate choice for the final. Headland passed Stephens on the last alp but second, and 11 points, was not enough to get him onto the final.

Treloar and Trent Headland were out in heat 19 and only one could get direct qualification to the final and it was Treloar (13 pts) who led all the way with Mitchell (10) beating Headland (11) in a close race for second.

The all-important “last chance semi-final” brought together three current or former state champions – Mick Headland, Trent Headland and Mark Mitchell – and the in-form Shane Rudloff. The cut-throat semi-final is always one of the races of the night, and this was no exception although there was an anti-climactic end. Mick was the early leader but Mitchell chased hard and got closer every lap to finally go under Mick on the last lap to win the race, only for his exclusion light to come on for going infield, so it was Mick into the final against Plaisted, Treloar and Monson.

With first choice of gate position Plaisted took one, and Treloar took two, and that probably decided the result as Plaisted won the start and was able to lead all the way with Treloar unable to mount a serious challenge, so state title number 40 for Treloar will have to wait another season! All of the action in the final was between Headland and Monson with Headland prevailing to finish third.

The race for third between Mick Headland/Brenton Kerr (yellow) and Warren Monson/Andrew Summerhayes (W). Photo by Judy Mackay.

Top photo: New South Australian Champions Mark Plaisted and Ben Pitt. Photo by Judy Mackay.