Mansfield rider, Max Fricke, has stormed to a lead in the 2019 Australian Solo Speedway Titles with just one round to go at Kurri Kurri on Saturday night.
Fricke, who is a past World Under 21 Champion and current Belle Vue skipper in England, has used his experience and guile to head the stack of great riders who are contesting the 2019 Championships.
Fricke took a win in round one at Gillman Speedway, Adelaide , taking 17 points, only dropping points to Jordy Stewart and Jack Holder during the heats to lead by one point over defending Champion, Rohan Tungate (16), 2012 World Champion, Chris Holder (12) and Jordan Stewart (11). Fricke was authoritative with his win and really set up his Title quest with confidence.
At Mildura’s Olympic Park, Fricke dropped a Primary chain on the line in Heat 11,which left Jordan Stewart to win that heat. Fricke finished the night on only 11 points, along with Rohan Tungate and 2016 Australian Champion, Brady Kurtz. Chris Holder rode well at Mildura, with a big return to form, scoring 14 points during the heats and then won the “A” Final and a further 4 points. The loss of 3 points cost Fricke, as he was only able to take third selection of gate in the “A” Final and ultimately finish in 3rd place behind Rohan Tungate. who was second on points after the heats. Brady Kurtz (11) made amends for a poorer showing in Adelaide and completed the night in 4th place in the “A” Final.
All three riders, Max Fricke, Chris Holder and Rohan Tungate left Mildura on 30 accumulated points each, with the contest really hotting up as riders travelled east to Undera and Wodonga for rounds three and four.
Into week two, on Monday night at Undera, Fricke (14) again took the points in both the heats, droppimg a point to Nick Morris and won the Final accumulating an excellent 18 points. Fricke considers Undera as his “home” track and would have expected to do well.
Chris Holder (12) was second in the final from Jaimon Lidsey (11) and Rohan Tungate (11), who had to come into the “A” Final by winning the “B” final ahead of Jack Holder (10), Justin Sedgmen (9) and Nick Morris (11).
Overall scores after Undera were Max Fricke (48), Chris Holder (45), with Rohan Tungate (41), slipping a little, to have some work to do. Jack Holder (31) was 10 points in arrears while Sam Masters (29) and Brady Kurtz (29) were just one point to the good of Jaimon Lidsey (28) as the riders moved to the new venue at Wodonga.
The mid week meeting at Diamond Park on Wednesday night saw Fricke again impress, gathering 14 points in the Heats, losing out to Sam Masters when Masters was out of gate one and Fricke out of gate 4 in Heat 4. Tungate (14) was good all night, riding tight lines on a rutty and dry track ahead of Brady Kurtz (11) and Jack Holder (11).
Jack Holder missed the “A” Final on countback and was joined in the “B” by Jaimon Lidsey (10), Sam Masters (10) and Chris Holder (10). The Holder boys had the inside, and outside gates, but Chris blasted from gate 4 and kept a wide line, avoiding the heavy ruts, moving past all three other riders in a big sweep of the first two corners. Chris made it into the “A” Final, but again from gate 4, was not able to repeat the dose against Fricke and Tungate, but did shut down Kurtz to take third place behind Rohan Tungate and the winner, Fricke.
Fricke (66) leads the points tally with an 8 point buffer ahead of Tungate (58), who goes to his home track, Kurri Kurri, for the last round on Saturday night. Loxford Park, Kurri Kurri is not as expansive as the Wodonga, Diamond Park circuit. Fricke should be comfortable at the Hunter Valley venue, but Tungate and former World Champion, Chris Holder (57), younger brother, Jack (57) and Brady Kurtz (41) will all want to put on a show in front of the NSW crowd. Sam Masters (39), Australia’s 2017 Australian Champion and current Victorian Champion, Jaimon Lidsey (38) with Nick Morris (35) will all still feel that they have some chance. Just to finish off the series well will be a big thing for those riders outside the top three.
The largest prize for these Australian riders is the opportunity to finish in Australia’s top three, which gives each rider a chance to then ride in the 2019 Grand Prix Challenge , which will be held during the forthcoming European season. This is the only way for any Australian riders to make it into the 2020 Speedway Grand Prix.
Chris Holder is demanding of himself to qualify to the GP Challenge, as is Fricke and Tungate. Fricke has been a GP Reserve in the past and is now ready to step up to higher competition. Tungate, an unassuming lad, is also ready and nothing would surprise if he grabbed a GP Challenge ride with both hands.
It looks as though Fricke might have his hands on the main prize with Tungate in second and Chris Holder to get the minor place on the podium as they have a substantial break on the rest of the field.
If Fricke is to win he will be the seventh different rider to win the Title since Chris Holder had a threepeat from 2010 after Leigh Adams won his tenth Title in 2009.
Fricke will be a most worthy Champion and his potential win could set him up for a super season of Speedway in England and Europe, with a Grand Prix Challenge and even a spot in the 2020 Speedway Grand Prix being the major prize.
After four rounds there have been no injuries, which is always nice, as fans do not want to see riders injured prior to the regular and heafty European season which is ahead of many of them.
The final round at Kurri Kurri will be “live streamed” by nrgTV through the Motorcycling Australia website www.ma.org.au. Start time on Saturday night is 7:30pm. Listen to Jason Crump give comments on each heat as the night progresses.