AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, ADELAIDE. As predicted the 2018 Australian Speedway 500cc Solo Motorcycle Championship went down to the wire at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway on Sunday night (14 January) with the result not decided until the final race of the series.
After Brady Kurtz wiped out an 8 point deficit on early series leader Rohan Tungate in round three in Mildura on Friday, Tungate and Kurtz were equal on points going into the final round, and they were still equal after 12 heats after both won their first three rides.
In the fourth round of heats, Tungate was beaten by Max Fricke in heat 13, but Kurtz won his ride to take a one-point lead but as fate would have they were drawn to meet in the last heat of the series, with Kurtz in red and Tungate in blue in heat 20.
It was a must-win race for Tungate and there was a nervous moment for him when he jumped the start but it was all four back for the restart of what was one of the best races of the night, befitting the occasion. Kurtz got ahead going through turn one, but Tungate was under Kurtz out of turn two to take the lead down the back straight, Then it was Kurtz back in the lead but Tungate right with him. At the end of the second lap, Tungate went under Kurtz and Kurtz clattered into the fence. If he’d fallen the refereeing decision would have been an interesting one, but he stayed on, albeit losing some momentum which gave Tungate a handy break. Kurtz regained a lot of lost ground, clocked the fastest lap of the race on the last lap and only lost by 0.096sec, but the series scores were now level again with just the final to come.
Unfortunately, there was no repeat of the heat 20 fireworks in the final. The gate positions were the same as heat 20, Kurtz in red and Tungate in blue, but this time Kurtz got crossed up slightly, in turn, one and found himself back in last place behind Tungate, Jack Holder and Fricke and that was basically the championship over.
Holder, who qualified by winning the semi-final, raced around Tungate down the back straight and through turn three and led the rest of the race for a good win, his second round win in succession after winning at Mildura, but Tungate was comfortable in second and the championship was his with 62 points to Kurtz’s 60.
Max Fricke finished third in the final and third overall, with 53, two ahead of Holder on 51.
Defending champion Sam Masters had a disappointing end to his reign as champion when he had to withdraw from the meeting with a foot injury sustained in practice. Victorian teenager James Davies crashed spectacularly right in front of Masters who had no chance to avoid a collision with his bike and badly knocked his ankle. He later came out for heat one but only lasted half-a-lap before he had to pull out of the race, and the meeting, because of the pain.
Young Davies was also out of the meeting, as he was knocked unconscious and was treated on the track for a very long time before he was able to be taken to hospital where latest reports indicated he had some fractures to his neck and some bleeding on the brain.
The four finalists, not surprisingly with their British League first division experience, dominated the meeting, but there was plenty of exciting racing from the others.
Mildura teenagers Jaimon Lidsey and Jordan Stewart were the next best on the scorecard with 10 apiece, and they did very well to outscore Mason Campton and Josh Pickering (both 9) who have had good results at Gillman before and both rode well again in this meeting.
Amongst their highlights, Stewart beat Fricke in heat three; Campton beat Holder in heat four; Pickering had an exciting race against Fricke in heat eight; and the races between Pickering and Stewart in heat eleven, and Stewart and Campton in heat eighteen were amongst the best of the night, alongside Fricke and Holder in heat nineteen, and Tungate and Kurtz in heat twenty.
The next best was Jye Etheridge on 7 points, who was perhaps unfortunate not to make the semi-final because of a fall in heat 18. He was in front, with Campton second and Stewart surprisingly relegated to last after initially leading, when Campton made an inside pass and Etheridge came down. Spectators had differing opinions on who should get excluded, depending on where they saw it from, but it was Etheridge who got the gong.
The rest of the riders all put on some close racing amongst each other, but in general were not a threat to the top nine, with Josh Coyne’s ride against Pickering in heat fourteen the best effort in that regard, when he led Pickering for two laps until Pickering’s experience got him by into second behind Holder.