AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, ADELAIDE. The 2018 Australian Speedway 500cc Solo Motorcycle Championship will go down to the wire at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway on Sunday night (14 January) after a dramatic turn of events in round three in Mildura on Friday night sees Rohan Tungate and Brady Kurtz equal on points going into the final round. Fans that can’t attend the race at Gillman can watch the action on http://www.nrgtv.com.au/. Jack Holder took the victory at Mildura in exceptional circumstances.
This season’s form rider, Rohan Tungate, held an eight point lead over 2016 champion Brady Kurtz after the first two rounds, and after three rides at Mildura the lead was still six points but while Kurtz won his final two heat rides to finish with a 15 point maximum, Tungate was only able to score 1 point from his last two rides.
With only 8 heat points, Tungate was fortunate to scrape into the last semi-final berth on a countback of heat placings ahead of Josh Pickering and Jye Etheridge, but the heat was on him to win the semi-final or surrender the championship lead to Kurtz.
Having never been a finalist (in Australian Championship rounds) at Mildura, and riding against Mason Campton and Max Fricke who had both beaten him in the heats, the odds were against Tungate, but he pulled out a massive ride when it was needed most to lead home Fricke, Campton and Jordan Stewart.
The line-up for the final was the unbeaten Kurtz, defending champion Sam Masters (13 points), Jack Holder (also 13) and Tungate.
In a surprise result it was Holder who led all the way to take the win ahead of Kurtz, Tungate and Masters which left Tungate and Kurtz equal on 45 points, with Max Fricke 38, Sam Masters 37 and Jack Holder 36 in a close contest for overall third.
Quite incredibly, the victory was Holder’s first ever win in an Australian Senior Solo Championship round and only his second A Final in a Senior Championship.
Although Kurtz showed on Friday night, it is possible to wipe out an 8 point deficit, Kurtz only had to reel in one rider, whereas Fricke, Masters and Holder will need both Tungate and Kurtz to drop a lot of points and it is unlikely both will fail, so the title appears to be a shoot-out between Tungate and Kurtz and both have previously won championship rounds at Gillman.
Tungate won the Gillman round in 2014 but, perhaps more tellingly, he has been in the first three in four of his six appearances and in the other two rounds he finished fifth (second in the semi-final), so he has a very good record at Gillman. His two fifth placings were in his first appearance in the championship, in 2012, where he quickly became a crowd favourite with his full throttle, never-give-in riding; and last season when he rode injured after a heavy crash in his first ride.
Kurtz has only ridden in two rounds at Gillman and although he had a poor meeting last season and only scored 5 points, he won the final in 2016 – leading home Tungate in the final, so it is even money who can come out on top at Gillman.
Although Fricke, Masters and Holder are unlikely to win the championship there is still everything to play for if they have World Championship aspirations.
The Championship points going into the final round are: Rohan Tungate 45, Brady Kurtz 45, Max Fricke 38, Sam Masters 37, Jack Holder 36, Mason Campton 30, Josh Pickering 28, Jordan Stewart 25, Jaimon Lidsey 21, Jye Etheridge 21, Matthew Gilmore 16, Cooper Riordan 14, Robert Medson 12, Joel Coyne 8, Declan Knowles 8, James Davies 4.
Some of Australia’s leading Sidecar riders will also compete at Gillman on Sunday night, including current Australian Champions Trent Headland/Darryl Whetstone, current Australia #2 Andrew Buchanan/Denny Cox, former Australian Champion Mark Mitchell/Dale Knights, Byren Gates/Michael O’Loughlin and Damien Niesche/Mitchell Spear.
Quotes from the riders
Rohan Tungate saying after the round; “I just had a bad night and changed engines. We thought that by putting a new engine in, it would put us in a better position, and it ended up backfiring on me. You live and learn from these mistakes, but I worked hard and got into the final now, we just have to push on and see how we go. Gillman is a good track for me and I’ve won a round there previously, I just got to keep it cool and not let the pressure get to me. You never know what may happen, its back to square one with equal points in the final round.”
Jack Holder shared; “It’s probably not one of my best tracks, but credit to the Mildura club, it was in excellent condition. Brady Kurtz has been on it in the previous rounds but I was just riding my own race and I’m pleased to win one! I like the Gillman track and I won the u-21’s there, I’m just trying to chase down the leaders. I’m just annoyed with what happened in the first two rounds.”