After several years as one of Australia’s best, and most consistently good, riders on home soil, Rohan Tungate won his first State Championship on Saturday night with victory in the South Australian Solo Championship at Gillman Speedway.
Tungate was one of four British League riders in the field and, as expected they were the four finalists, Tungate (14 points), Ty Proctor (13) and Max Fricke (12) as the three highest point scorers, and Sam Masters (11) as the winner of the last chance semi-final.
There was no obvious favourite before the meeting but by the end of the twenty qualifying heats Tungate had emerged as the favourite and lived up to expectations by leading from start to finish in the final, although he was under pressure from Fricke who went around Proctor and Masters through turn four on the first lap, and looked a chance of passing Tungate several times but couldn’t quite manage it, Tungate winning by a bike length from Fricke with Masters third and Proctor fourth.
Tungate’s only dropped point in the heats came about through a flat tyre in his third ride, which caused chaos for the other riders and almost cost a clearly upset Cooper Riordan a place in the semi-final. 17-year-old Riordan had scored five points from his first two rides and was a comfortable second behind Tungate when Rohan’s tyre went flat at the end of the third lap. The closely following Riordan had no choice but to change line and try to go between the slowing Tungate and the fence which allowed Brodie Waters to go under both and into the lead in turn two. Riordan was then baulked again by Tungate in turn three, which allowed Jamie Lidsey to pass and Riordan then pulled infield in turn four. Seven points from three rides would have had him looking good for the semi-final but those lost two points put him under the pump.
However he was able to regain his composure and second places behind Masters and Fricke in his remaining rides saw him squeeze in on a countback from the equally impressive Jack Fallon.
The meeting had started in outstanding and surprise fashion when Fallon beat Masters in the opening heat. They were wheel-to-wheel for four laps with Masters alongside Fallon several times but unable to get ahead. He continued to ride well for the rest of the meeting but, as stated, missed out on a semi-final berth on a count back (of second placings) with Riordan.
Joining Riordan in the semi-final were Waters and Masters, both on 11 points, and Kieran Sproule on 10. At the start of the final round of heats it looked like Fricke would be the international rider forced to go through the semi-final, but after jumping straight into the lead in heat 18, Masters slowed dramatically in turn two because his fuel was not turned on and he was relegated to last place. He managed to reclaim one point but it wasn’t enough to get into the final. Waters then won the start in the semi-final but Masters was quickly under him down the back straight to score an easy win.
Of the other two finalists, Proctor dropped his points in the heats to Masters and Tungate, while Fricke was beaten by Tungate, Masters and Proctor.
Of the non-finalists Waters, Riordan, Sproule, Fallon, Jordan Stewart, Jaimon Lidsey, Dakota Ballantyne, and to a slightly lesser extent Matt Day, all provided some close and exciting racing and with all but Waters and Sproule still teenagers the future looks bright.
And that extends to the next generation of riders with some equally impressive racing in the supporting South Australian Under 16 250cc Solo Championship which finished with the best race of the night when all four riders were still a chance of winning with a lap to go. At the finish line it was James Davies winning a side-by-side race to the line with Declan Knowles, while only a few metres behind Brody Eves grabbed third from Mitchell Cluff right on the line.
Davies, who had been in good form in previous meetings, and Eves, as a former Australian Champion, were the pre-meeting favourites but it was Cluff and Knowles who stood out in the heats.
The unheralded Cluff, making his Gillman debut, was unbeaten in the heats, beating Davies and Eves twice, while Knowles (who did not meet Cluff in the heats), dropped just one point to Davies in his third ride.
That was a win Davies badly needed as he surprisingly only had 1 point from his first two rides, but Knowles reversed the result in the next heat which consigned Davies to the semi-final which he won easily to earn his shot at the title. Like Tungate, Davies win in the final was his first State Championship victory.
In the limited Sidecar programme, Mark Mitchell/Dale Knights, Tim Bichard/Anthony Schulz and Shane Rudloff/Tom Adams produced some close and exciting racing in the group one races, but Mitchell managed to win each of the three heats, while novice rider Luke Puddy (passenger Damian Egan) showed a smooth style to win all three of the group two races.
Top photo: Rohan Tungate (red) and Max Fricke (white) in the 500cc final. Photo by Judy Mackay.