Branford, the Hartwigs and Bowes win Eagle Fuels Track Championships at Gillman


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Saturday night saw the Eagle Fuels Gillman Speedway Track Championships decided for three classes, the 500cc Solos, Sidecars and Under 16 125cc Solos.

The first championship decided was the Under 16 125cc Solo Championship which was won by defending champion Patrick Bowes.

Bowes was the star rider with a maximum score in the heats and was a clear leader all the way in the final but there was a close race for the minor placings between Hugh Evans, Teagan Pedler and Angus van den Berg.

Evans held second place throughout but was initially under pressure from Pedler until she took a higher line down the back straight on lap three which allowed the closely following van den Berg to slip through into third place and he then challenged Evans but at the flag it was Evans second, van den Berg third and Pedler fourth.

The 500cc Solo Championship also saw a rider go through the card, with former British League rider Robert Branford too good for the home-based riders, although he had to fight hard in the final.

As the top scorer, Branford chose his favourite gate four, hoping to swoop around the others and into an early lead, but the fast-starting Declan Knowles cleverly took the high line to block Branford’s run. Unfortunately for Knowles that opened the door for Robert Medson to go under both to take the lead.

Branford got under Knowles at the end of lap one, and many times over the next two laps he drew level outside Medson but each time it looked like Branford would take the lead, Medson was able to match him. Branford then switched to the inside and got under Medson, in turn two, on the last lap and went on to win by 10 metres with the teenagers Knowles and Brayden McGuinness third and fourth.

Branford (12), Medson (10) and Knowles (8) were the direct qualifiers for the final, while McGuinness (4) won the semi-final ahead of Dakota Ballantyne (4), Seth Hickey (5) and Fraser Bowes (2).

Ballantyne, the defending champion, had a disappointing night. He retired from his first race, bounced back for a win over McGuinness in his next, and a third behind Branford and Medson in a good race in his third ride, before crashing heavily in his last heat. He was resigned to his night being over but found he’d still qualified for the semi-final and for a while it looked like he’d get a chance to defend his title as he made a good start and held the lead for a couple of laps. But he came into the meeting with an injury, and that added to his heavy fall in his last heat, meant he wasn’t able to hold the lead when McGuinness made a strong pass on lap three.

The Sidecar Championship was always going to be between the two nationally ranked riders, Mick Headland and Arron Hartwig, but unfortunately for all concerned, the riders and the spectators, things got a bit too close between the two in the final which resulted in a crash for one, an exclusion for the other, and an anti-climactic rerun for the spectators.

Prior to the final, Headland/Brenton Kerr looked the ones to beat after scoring a maximum in the heats, although they were a bit ragged in their last ride. Hartwig/Teagan Hartwig dropped just the one point, to Headland, in the heats, but while Headland scored an all the way win in that race, heat nine, Hartwig had his hands full with Tim Bichard/Adam Pascoe and only beat them home by two metres after they exchanged places three times.

The line-up for the final was Headland from gate one, Hartwig from two, first-year duo Nathan Fleet/Glen Zaworski from three and semi-final survivors Dean Hobbs/Justin Richards from four.

Hartwig was the best from the tapes to take the early lead but Headland quickly caught him and looked to be the faster of the two. Into the second lap Headland made an inside pass going through turn one, but as they approached turn two the bikes touched and Hartwig cartwheeled spectacularly.

Headland was excluded as the cause, but after a short break the Hartwigs were able to take their place in the rerun and led all the way to win their first Gillman Championship with Fleet/Zaworski second and Hobbs/Richards third.

The placegetters were probably as happy as the winners, with Fleet/Zaworski second in only their fourth meeting; and Hobbs/Richards third after originally not even qualifying for the semi-final.

Qualifiers for the semi were Tim Bichard/Adam Pascoe (6), Stephen Fowler/Benny Goodridge 6, Steve Browne/Colby Higgins 6 and Chris Bichard/Brett Lewis 5, but Browne did not take his place and was replaced by the next highest scorers, Hobbs/Richards 4.

From the start, it was Fowler and Chris Bichard in front but Tim Bichard got under both down the back straight and at the end of lap one it was Tim, Chris, Fowler, Hobbs. Fowler then went under Chris on the back straight on the second lap but the bikes collided, Bichard’s passenger Brett Lewis fell, and the two bikes ran onto the infield. Lewis and Fowler were treated for some time before a two bike rerun without Bichard (excluded) and Fowler (injured). In the rerun Tim Bichard went straight into the lead and looked set to cruise into the final, only for his bike to slow to a stop in turn four, leaving Hobbs, to complete the journey alone.

lat Track bikes provided the support events for the three championships and they provided their own brand of excitement before a bad injury for speedway sidecar rider/passenger Adam Pascoe in the all-in 12 rider feature race. Pascoe fell in turn two and was hit by other bikes and suffered a broken femur which will need a rod inserted.

Results-wise Doug Hayden was unbeaten in the heats (12 points), with John White (10) and Brad Lawler (9) next best, but it was Lawyer, despite being one of the riders in the Pascoe crash, who won the feature narrowly from Hayden and Dale Knights.

Photos by Judy Mackay.