A large and enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the skills of the best Solo and Sidecar Speedway riders as they contested the GT Onsite Windscreens – Phil Crump International Trophy and the Riordan’s Paint and Panel – inaugural, Gates Sidecar Cup at Olympic Park on Sunday night (5th November 2016) Olympic Park, Mildura.
Racing was wonderful in the Solo division, who raced during the first part of the meeting. The crowd was enthralled at the skills of the newly crowned 2017 FIM World Speedway Champion, Jason Doyle, who still has a broken foot, and last night was feeling quite unwell, having picked up a stomach bug which affected his balance.
The professionalism of Doyle shone through, however, as he rode and won his four qualifying heats, but chose to sit out the Phil Crump Final, as the Final is always held with six riders over six gruelling laps. Doyle spent much of the remainder of the night signing autographs and having photos taken with the many fans who have enjoyed Doyle’s eventual success after him having such a wretched time with bad injuries over the past three seasons.
Doyle, internationally has been a popular winner of this year’s World Championship and he was always keen to ride in the Phil Crump meeting this year, like last year he was hospitalised in Torun, Poland during the penultimate Grand Prix and was not able to compete in the Australian Grand Prix, which would have probably seen him win the World Title in 2016. Jason was keen to keep his booking from last year and was delighted to be here this year to help celebrate the Mildura Club’s 70th Anniversary.
During the heats for the Phil Crump Trophy, the top Internationals headed the points table with each of Jason Doyle, Rohan Tungate and Nick Morris being unbeaten on twelve points. Locals filled the next two places with Justin Sedgmen finishing on eight points and after a great night of riding, Cooper Riordan, was next with six points.
More locals were involved at the next level, as the Phil Crump format always ends with a six-rider, six laps final and there was a contest between Jordan Stewart, Matthew Gilmore and International, Rob Branford, all locked together on five points each. Gilmore had the best result using the Count back process, but Stewart and Branford could not be separated in the normal way, so it came to a “coin toss” where Branford was eliminated from the Solo Final.
Gate picks were somewhat unpredictable, except for Sedgmen who has a keenness for gate six. However, that was not to be good for the local star as he did not finish the event, pulling out midway with a mechanical problem. Tungate took gate one, with Riordan in two.
Tungate got away from the start very well with Morris, from gate four and Sedgmen right on his wheel until Stewart took an unaided spill in the apex of turn one which saw the Referee deploy the red light to stop the race. Stewart was excluded from the re-run which just made for a little more room at the start line but particularly turn one.
Tungate again made a start and again just ahead of Sedgmen and Morris, but Cooper Riordan was always close and used his confidence gained during the night to good effect to stay in contact.
Plenty can happen in a six-lap journey, and this race was no different. Morris challenged Tungate for much of the race and until his machine let him down, Sedgmen was always in the mix. The final placings were Rohan Tungate, another new name to be added to the Phil Crump Trophy, making now five different winners for each of the five years contested.
Nick Morris finished off a good night by taking second place, and Cooper Riordan took third place while riding in top company. The podium place for Riordan is probably his best result ever, and that should give him great confidence going into an important season for him.
Dual World 250cc Champion, Matty Gilmore finished a creditable fourth place and should be most pleased with his efforts given he was youngest in the field by a fair shot.
Phil Crump presented his Trophy, saying that “he was delighted to see the standard of the racing and enjoyed the commitment of all of the top flight group for providing great entertainment”.
A major interval saw the Track remade into a track more accommodating for Sidecars and when they got going, they did put on a wonderful show.
Top quality Sidecars were in the field with the current FIM World Sidecar Champions, Warren Monson / Andrew Summerhayes having their first ride as World Champions in front of their home crowd. They had three great wins, taking nine points until they were excluded for an infringement in their last ride and finished on that score.
The most experienced group saw trouble in each camp with dual World Champion, Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr retiring from their third heat and taking no further part. Similarly, nine times Australian Champ and World Champ, Darrin Treloar had a poor night for him as he was only able to gather for points in three rides and then withdrew.
The fastest and best riders on the night were the Broken Hill pair of Rick Howse / Adam Commons who had three wins and then were involved in a spill and they scored two points in the re-run to top the points tally with eleven while the brother /sister combination of Arron and Teagan Hartwig were next on ten points. One further back was Monson / Summerhayes, who, with their nine points were still seeded straight into the Gates Sidecar Cup final field.
The “B” final was another event which was stopped and had to be re-run. In the first call, mark Plaisted. Ben Pitt shot from the start and would not have been caught until Sydneysider, Shane Hudson lost his passenger, Cam Bell in turn three of the third lap. The red light went on immediately, with Hudson being excluded, and, as so often happens, the rider who was dominating in the first running, got a rotten start and Damien Niesche / Mitch Spear went on to win over the current Australian Champions, Trent Headland / Daz Whetstone.
Just as in the Solos, the Sidecar competitors rode as there was no tomorrow, with fans enjoying every little scrape of paint and every passing manoeuvre from each team. There is no doubt that the Sidecar gladiators are well received and enjoyed by all spectators.
The Gates Sidecar Cup saw Monson had throttle trouble on the line and wheeled his bike away before the start, so it was always to be a race in three. Once started the Gates final was evenly contested with Howse / Commons making the holeshot and led comfortably until the Hartwigs got their machine hooked up in the dirt and started to make good ground on the Silver City pair., but both led Niesche.
Hartwig just continued to work Howse over and made a great pass mid-race and then went on to win the event, in what was a significant moment for the family crew.
The family had been reticent to commit to another year of racing as much travel is involved with Teagan living in Mildura and working in Adelaide and Arron based in Waikerie. Tthe chances to get together are sometimes difficult.
Fans, however, are sure that this early success in the season will be just the impetus that the Hartwigs need to now put a good season together.
The inaugural Gates Sidecar Cup was presented by Les Gates and Sue Gates on behalf of their wider families, with Les saying that “the family was honoured to have the major Sidecar trophy named after them and how much he and enjoyed the skill, speed and pleasure that so many of Australia’s top Sidecar exponents had come to ride in the first ever Gates Sidecar Cup”
In the after meeting Clubrooms prize giving social, held after the racing, the Club made excellent presentations to Jason Doyle to commemorate his 2017 World Championship and to Warren Monson and Andrew Summerhayes to commemorate their 2017 World Sidecar Championship.
This meeting is the only time that the Solo and Sidecar World Champions appeared on the same program, which was suggested, was another “first for Mildura and Olympic Park”.