||Last Updated: Nov 8th, 2015 - 10:15:24
A bumper crowd of around 2,000 people turned up at the opening meeting of the season at Gillman Speedway last night (7 November) to show their support for injured Aussie ace Darcy Ward.
Blessed by decent weather for once, and with good quality Solo and Sidecar line-ups, the big crowd meant there was quite a buzz of excitement and anticipation around the stadium before the meeting.
This increased when visiting Berwick Speedway personality Dick Barrie interviewed Darcy’s friends Chris Holder and Troy Batchelor before the meeting but then things got off to a rocky start with a big crash on the first lap of the first race.
Going into turn three Kevin Doolan and Josh Coyne collided and cartwheeled across the track resulting in a dislocated hip for Coyne and a lengthy delay while he was treated by the medical crew. Then, just three races later, Brady Kurtz crashed heavily into the air fence in turn one of heat four. He was okay but there was another short delay awaiting a replacement ambulance to take Coyne to hospital.
After that it was all plain sailing, however, with top class racing keeping the crowd entertained, and everyone stayed until the end despite the later than usual finish of about 11pm.
After the twenty Solo heats the three automatic qualifiers for the final were the two GP riders, Chris Holder and Troy Batchelor, and impressive 22-year-old German Kai Huckenbeck, who was making his only racing appearance in Australia.
Unusually though, all three had failed to win their opening rides. Batchelor and Huckenbeck were both beaten by Ty Proctor in a wheel-to-wheel race in heat two, and then Holder lost out to Richie Worrall in another wheel-to-wheel race in heat four.
From that point, the riders’ fortunes were reversed, however, as Holder, Batchelor and Huckenbeck piled on the points while Proctor and Worrall only finished mid-table on the scorecard.
Holder won his remaining four rides to top the point score with 14, Batchelor dropped just one further point, to Holder, to finish with 13, while Huckenbeck had three impressive wins plus a third place behind Holder and Justin Sedgmen to total 11 points.
Australian Under 21 captain Nick Morris also scored 11 points but Huckenbeck got a start in the final on heat wins, which relegated Morris to the last chance semi-final where he was joined by Sedgmen, Max Fricke (both 10 points) and Proctor (8) in an all-Aussie race.
Just missing out on the semi-final were Dane Anders Thomsen (8), who had some impressive rides but also suffered a tape exclusion and lost out for the last place to Proctor on a countback, Richie Worrall (7) and Brodie Waters (6).
Waters, a former international road-racing rider, is only starting his third season in speedway, but was not of place against the British League riders and his 6 points included finishes ahead of Worrall, Emil Grøndal and Doolan.
The semi-final, with everything on the line, and so often the best race of the night at Gillman, saw a start to finish win by Sedgmen. He made a lightening start from gate two and then held off a strong challenge from Morris who finished second but was almost passed by Fricke right on the line.
Sedgmen’s joy at reaching the final was soon outlived however, as Batchelor moved at the start and Sedgmen went and was subsequently excluded for touching the tapes.
In the restart Holder (pictured above) and Batchelor diced for the whole race but Holder held sway to win by a bike length from Batchelor with Huckenbeck only about 20 metres further back.
The supporting Sidecar races, featuring close to the best eight riders in Australia, produced their own usual brand of excitement and mayhem, with close racing mixed with a couple of exclusions for rough riding, before Australian Champions Justin Plaisted/Sam Harrison won the final from Mick Headland/Jesse Headland, Trent Headland/Darryl Whetstone and Mark Mitchell/Dale Knights.
Plaisted was one of those excluded during the heats for rough riding and had to go through the last chance semi-final but then led the final all the way while the Headlands and Mitchell were three wide at times in the dice for second place.
Mick Headland’s second place was a good effort after he was involved in a spectacular crash in the first attempt to start the final. Plaisted had got what the referee deemed an unfair start and the red lights came on straight away but as the bikes slowed, Mick clipped son Trent’s bike and cartwheeled spectacularly with Mick and Jesse taking quite a heavy fall. Mick had earlier been the other rider excluded for rough riding.
Of the eight Sidecars, the one to miss the semi-final/final was surprisingly eight-times Australian Champion Darrin Treloar who had a shocking night. Things started to go wrong before the first race had even started, maybe as a sign this just wasn’t going to be his night.
As the bikes approached the tapes, Treloar did a u-turn and passenger Blake Cox jumped off to do some “gardening” at the tapes but landed wrongly and dislocated his knee. With the kid laying just off the track in agony, Treloar was excluded for exceeding the two-minute time limit and the race was run, rather surprisingly, and much to Treloar’s anger, with Cox very close to the track. It never got any better for Treloar as the night went on. Cox took another ride but then had to withdraw and was replaced by Mitchell Spear, but to add to his woes the bike wasn’t running properly and he eventually scratched from his final ride and finished with just 1 point for the night.
The support Solo races saw some close races between Jordan Stewart, Jake Mitchell and 16-year-old Dakota Ballantyne, who was making his senior debut, and resulted in a win for Stewart with 13 points, from Mitchell on 9 and Ballantyne on 7.
Another 16-year-old, Jaimon Lidsey, was due to race in the support events but was elevated to the main event to replace Josh Coyne, and was not disgraced despite some daunting tasks such as starting alongside the former World Champ Holder in his first ride. He was on the pace of many of the other riders and was very close to beating Worrall for the third place point in his final heat.
The next Gillman meeting is this Saturday night, 14 November, with the Eagle Fuels sponsored night. Early nominations suggest it will be predominantly Sidecars with 500cc Solo, 250cc Solo and 125cc Solo support races.
With thanks to Dave Parker at Gillman Speedway.
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