||Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2016 - 21:55:44
The 2016 Australian Speedway Solo Championship is set for a blockbuster finish in Mildura on Sunday night after last night’s CBS Bins Round 3 at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway saw the third different winner, and third different points leader, after a thrilling night’s racing which saw all the top runners dipping in and out of favouritism as the night went on.
One race after another one of the leading scorers would pull off a blinding ride to have people talking in terms of championship favouritism, only for someone to go one better next race.
Rohan Tungate had won the first round, and Nick Morris the second, but it was 2015 Australian Speedway Grand Prix wildcard Sam Masters who went the third round as the series leader on 28 points, 2 points ahead of Tungate, Morris, Brady Kurtz and Max Fricke all on 26 points, with Mason Campton just a point further adrift on 25.
Masters lead was quickly whittled away, however, when Tungate won his first race and Masters could only finish third, behind Jack Holder and Kurtz, to leave them tied at the top on 29 points. Second place finishes for Fricke (behind Justin Sedgmen who won in a new record time) and Kurtz also saw them claw back a point on Masters, with them moving to 28 points.
Tungate and Masters maintained the status quo at the top in the second round of heats, both winning to advance to 32 points, while a good win by Morris over Kurtz saw him back in the picture, level on 30 points with Kurtz and Fricke, who was beaten by Masters.
Masters also won his third ride to advance to 35, but it wasn’t a happy result for Tungate. In the same heat as Masters, Tungate found himself in last place early on, behind Masters, Campton and much-improved Jordan Stewart. The recently turned 17-year-old Stewart, who earlier in the season earned his eligibility for a UK work permit with a podium place in the Victorian Championship, has improved in leaps and bounds since the start of the season and was able to resist continual challenges from Tungate until Tungate eventually fell and crashed into the fence trying to get past.
With every point vital, a pointless ride really brought Tungate back into the pack of chasers as wins by Fricke (over Morris) and Kurtz saw them move to 33 with Tungate and Morris on 32.
In the fight for a place in the final of this particular round, after 12 heats five riders – Sedgmen, Fricke, Kurtz, Holder and Masters – were on 7 points, and three – Morris, Tungate and Ty Proctor – on 6.
In the fourth round of heats Sedgmen beat Holder and Proctor in a race which saw them shoulder-to-shoulder into turn three; Kurtz beat Tungate and Fricke in a thriller with Fricke and Tungate passing and re-passing each other several times; while Masters and Morris had wins against riders who were out of contention, although Cooper Riordan and Alan Macdonald made it surprisingly tough for Masters, going either side of him on the first lap to relegate him to third place and it took him a couple of laps to regain the lead and leave him on track for a final spot and still as the sole series leader on 38, and now back where he started the meeting, 2 points ahead of Kurtz.
So to the last round of heats and the vital points needed for a place in the final.
Fricke was the first of the front-runners to ride, in heat 17, and he had no trouble winning against three of the bottom half riders to finish on 11 points, just enough to guarantee a semi-final place but unlikely to be enough to go straight into the final.
Heat 18 brought together Morris (9), Sedgmen (10) and Masters (10) and it was Sedgmen who raced away to the win leaving Morris and Masters to scrap over second place. After a couple of early passing moves it was Morris who prevailed, giving Sedgmen on 13 enough to go straight into the final, with Morris and Masters on 11 with Fricke.
Kurtz won heat 19 easily to join Sedgmen in the final with 13 points, while second to Proctor left him in a precarious position on 9 points, with only Holder (9) and Tungate (8) still to come in heat 20 and both likely to top his 9 points which they did, Tungate winning with Holder second to leave five riders tied on 11.
The countback saw Tungate join Sedgmen and Kurtz in the final, with Masters, Fricke, Morris and Holder in the last chance semi-final.
The series points at this stage were Kurtz, with a guaranteed start in the final, and Masters on 39, and Tungate, Morris and Fricke on 37 — it couldn’t be much tighter!
With the pressure on it was Masters who delivered, with a wheel-to-wheel finish ahead of Morris and Holder with Fricke dropping back after Morris got out of shape at one point, forcing Fricke to change his line and relegating him to last place.
The final could have gone to anyone of the four riders but it turned out to be a relatively comfortable win for Kurtz over Tungate, Sedgmen and Masters, which not only gave Kurtz his first-ever Championship round win but left him 3 points clear of Tungate and Masters in the series points.
After being in doubt for the meeting with a shoulder injury, Sedgmen did wonderfully well and picked up a bucketful of points (15) to more than double his points to 28 but he is too far behind for a podium place and with just his home track Mildura to go he would be very disappointed his fall at Undera saw him only score 3 points at a track he always does well on.
He hasn’t given up hope, however, of at least a finish in the top five which will give him a place in the GP qualifying rounds. With an expected high points haul in Mildura it is not out of the question but it won’t be easy and he is going to need other riders to drop points.
Going into Mildura Sunday night the leading point scorers are Kurtz 43, Masters 40, Tungate 40, Morris 37, Fricke 37, Holder 31, Campton 30 and Sedgmen 28. What price some run-offs to decide the finishing order of that lot?
Kurtz, Fricke and Holder will all be back at Gillman in a fortnight’s time to contest the Australian Under 21 Championship, with Fricke going for a fourth consecutive victory, a feat only previously achieved by Chris Holder. Leigh Adams also won four during his early career, but not in a row.
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