In an opening speedway meeting that fascinated a good crowd, the main action came down to a real test between two Dual World Champions at Mildura’s Monaghan Logistics, Gates Sidecar Cup at Olympic Park, on Saturday night.
Local team of Warren Monson and Andrew Summerhayes started off the new Mildura season with a good win after having been unbeaten during their heat races in the Gates Cup. The splendid form of the “Full Noise Race team” has continued from the way that they finished last season, which was only completed in May of this year.
Heat races during the night were exciting, as was expected by the Club, as entries for the opening meeting for the year had been packed full of talented riders and the good crowd in attendance were not disappointed with what they saw. A cold Mildura night, saw patrons warmed by the furious action on track with some excellent efforts being made during the night.
The riders in the middle of the field performed well, with some exceeding expectations, collecting a good point score which gave them opportunity for overall success.
Points were tight at the top of the stack apart from the unbeaten Monson / Summerhayes team. Three teams completed their heats on twelve points and, with only three initial places available in the Gates Cup Final, a countback was required to see which two teams, along with Monson,would get the direct draw.
Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr, locals AJ Pearce / Eli Bock and Broken Hill’s Rick Howse / Adam Commons were locked together, so the count of the number of wins, seconds and thirds was required to undertake the separation to select the two who would progress directly into the “A” Final. The Howse / Commons team had three wins as did Pearce / Bock, however, in heat six, early in the night Howse had led home Pearce, so the Broken Hill team would get the nod for second choice. Headland/ Kerr had scored only two wins for the night, even though they had gathered twelve points, so they unfortunately had to progress as the first riders selected in the minor, “B” Final.
Former Australian Champions, Trent Headland / Daz Whetstone, finished next on eleven points, so they took the second selection in the “B” Final. Separation was again required as the next two teams, Neale Hancock / Tubs Johnson and Darren Howse / Jack Wheeler, had scored nine points, with the Broken Hill pair having two wins ahead of the Mildura Club President, not having any heat wins for the night, so they got to be the last spot in the minor final after Howse.
The “B” Final was a fast and furious affair with the lead changing as riders charged to try to get an advantage and an obvious elevation into the Gates Cup final. Just going into the third lap, with Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr leading from Trent Headland / Daz Whetstone, then to Darren Howse / Jack Wheeler, who were being strongly challenged by Neale Hancock / Brendan Johnson, we saw Daz Whetstone lose grip from the second Headland machine and take a 50 metre spinning tumble towards the turn one safety fence.
Howse did a wonderful job to avoid hitting the rolling Whetstone, as Hancock slid in underneath Howse / Wheeler. Thankfully, Whetstone was not injured in the fall, but the Referee, Ken Macleod, had to be careful in making his decision whether to stop the race or allow it to finish, but under the RED lights.
The race went the full distance with the Red lights coming on as the lead rider, Mick Headland, rode into the final turn. Safety first had prevailed and Howse went directly to Whetstone to check that he was OK. It had been a nasty and fast “get off” and Whetstone was fortunate to walk away. The race was declared after the divided combination had been excluded for causing the race stoppage. There had been no interference from any other riders in the event, so Headland / Whetstone were excluded and the placings given as of the other riders positions when the event was stopped.
The Gates Cup final was an event filled with expectation as to whether team Monson could “ride the card” unbeaten or would the great form of both Rick Howse / Adam Commons or AJ Pearce / Eli Bock continue to the end of the night. Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr were left with the outside gate position, which was not unexpected as each of the other finalists had selected “as usual”.
The Final started with riders locked together through the first and second turns, with Pearce being slightly disadvantaged coming through turn two, but it not having effect on him until they were part way down the back straight, when they had to veer to the infield. The race was stopped and all riders were invited to the re-start as the problem had its genesis through turn two.
The second start of the “A” final saw Monson / Summerhayes get away with another good start, driving right into the best spot of turn one. The powerful Monson machine is able to carry wonderful corner speed and when called upon for a good response, Wazza was able to drive strongly from turn two and take a small advantage over Mick Headland into turn three. By this time, Howse / Commons led marginally from Pearce / Bock and that is how they finished the Monaghan Logistics, Gates Sidecar Cup.
Monson / Summerhayes had the best times for the night, with a sub one minute time in the first heat of 59.31 and again in the final race when he still recorded a race time of 60.03. The Gates Sidecar Cup, the opening meeting at Olympic Park for the new season was the first time that the Club has used automatic “electronic” timing by the use of “transponders” on each machine. Another innovation for Mildura Motor Cycle Club, the transponders will take out the human element to record times and keep track of rider’s efforts from meeting to meeting.
Apart from a wonderful effort from Pearce and Bock, there was another superb effort from the Cox brothers from the Hunter Valley, NSW. Denny Cox has been passenger for the New Zealand Champion, Andrew “Spud” Buchanan, who is contemplating his retirement. Back, earlier this year, when Denny turned 21, Buchanan made a wonderful offer to the younger Cox. “Spud” advised that, after serving a strong learning apprenticeship as a passenger, that Buchanan would provide his machine, complete with mechanical maintenance to Cox, who would take big brother Blake on as initial passenger, they would only need to pay for tyres and fuel and they could ride the very competitive machine all around Australia.
The Cox boys had their “maiden” ride in Saturday’s meeting and apart from a small mistake, when trying to line someone up to pass underneath in turn one and two, caused them an infield excursion, their riding was excellent. Just some points from that last heat ride might have seen them in the mix for a “B” final consideration.
Rick “Bartman” Stephens / Nick O’Brien along with Neale Hancock / Tubs Johnson, the Spear brothers, Jack and Mitch and Darren Howse / Jack Wheeler, all had good meetings with good results in what was a high quality and tough meeting.
Support events were exciting, as is usual with the entertaining Classic Sidecars. Local family team, Chris and Hannah Holmes took the chocolates from Marc Bowen / Ben Rankin, who was just ahead of Broken Hill’s Rob Kemp/ Nick Johns and Jake Zoch / Brady Bowen. Unfortunately for Rex Byrne, he and rider “Horrie” Hollis had a spill and Rex gave some ligaments in his knee a real tweak. Thankfully he will be OK and will probably ride in our next Sidecar meeting which will be the 2020 Victorian Sidecar Title on 4th January.