A large crowd attended the memorial meeting which was held at Mildura’s Olympic Park Speedway on Saturday night to celebrate and pay tribute to the life of Sidecar ace and dual World Champion, dual Oceania Champion and Nine times Victorian Speedway Champion, the late, Warren “Wazza” Monson, who died tragically at Heathcote Dragway last April, whilst testing a race machine on the Drag Strip.
The event started in a sombre mood as the Tribute ceremony commenced with all competitors on the infield of the Stadium, who were then joined by members of the Monson family and the members of the “Full Noize Race Team”, the team which Monson headed. A most respectful crowd joined in with Track officials, the family and the race team, to hear of the history and exploits of a great racer, whose affable and humble nature was recognised by all over his twenty plus years of involvement in the tough sport of Sidecar Speedway racing.
Monson, during last season was offered, by Mildura Motor Cycle Club, the opportunity to have a Testimonial meeting in recognition of his more than 20 years of service to the Club and speedway. The modest Monson initially did not believe that anyone would come to ride for him and he was less interested when he learned that it is usual, for Testimonial recipients, to receive the profits of any such meeting. Warren said that he did not want the money, but he did slightly warm to the idea, when it was suggested that he could donate such money to a charity of his choice.
It was immediately after the 2023 Australian Sidecar title in Perth, and, in fact, the last formal meeting of the Full Noize Race team, that Monson mentioned the chance of a Testimonial in the new season. The team was delighted with the Club’s offer and suggested that it would be a great opportunity to celebrate the humility of a man, who had helped so many people in the sport, even including his keenest adversaries, in a public celebration.
In late April, after a podium place in the 2023 Title and a brilliant, over 200 Miles per Hour successful, two direction pass on the salt lake at Lake Gairdner in SA, just days before the Sidecar Title, that Warren and his team were in a most happy place. It was after working on the “Salt race 1300cc Hyabusa” bike, post event, which was owned by long time employer and great friend, Phil Tainton, that he took the machine to a “test and Tune” day at Heathcote, when he had his fatal incident.
When addressing the great crowd at Olympic Park, Warren’s father, Trevor Monson, from Monson’s Honey and Pollination of Gol Gol, outlined results of the Coroner’s inquest following Warren’s sudden passing. Trevor advised that Warren had suffered a “medical incident” which caused his death and subsequentially, Monson senior appealed to all in attendance, to be aware of “vital health signals” and seek medical attention to avoid a similar result that had occurred with Warren.
In Trevor’s speech, he announced that any monies raised by this Memorial meeting, which, originally was to be a Testimonial prior to Warren’s death, would go the way of two Charities of Wazza’s choosing. Representatives of each charity, “Angel Flight”, where Peter Moren and “C.H.A.I.L.I.S” founder, and Sunraysia’s great Fund raiser, John Burfitt, spoke to the crowd and thanked them for their generosity.
A minute of Silence was held for Warren, which was then followed by a most powerful singing of the National Anthem, by Warren’s life partner, Theresa Dolphin. The emotional crowd was moved by the strength and dignity shown by Theresa, with her rendition of Advance Australia Fair and she received a wonderful ovation from all in attendance, many of whom were tearful at such a calm and strong performance. Most people agreed that they could have not done what she did, with such composure.
The pre-racing, Exposed Signage & Apparel “Dash for Cash”, where each team gets to race one “hot lap” against the clock, was won by Queenslander, Brodie Cohen / Jesse Headland, with a lap time of 14.62 seconds, just ahead of Mark Plaisted / Ben Pitt, with 14.63 seconds. This strong competition was an indicator of what was to come in the Monson’s Honey sponsored main event.
Sixteen teams were to contest the memorial with some of the best riders in the World present to pay their respects to Wazza, as he was widely known.
The first round of heats saw good wins to some of the main contenders with three times and current Australian Champions, Mark Plaisted / Ben Pitt showing smooth lines and good speed. A great contest was seen in heat two, when Brodie Cohen showed that his win in the pre event sprint was no fluke, by taking the win against dual World Champions, Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr. While the third heat saw a good win to the famous and most decorated ever Sidecar Champion, Darrin Treloar / Blake Cox.
Former Aussie champion, Trent Headland / April Cottrell, took a win and Cohen, Treloar and Plaisted scored top points again in round two, leaving those three teams unbeaten. Treloar and Plaisted continued their good form and Mick Headland broke through for his first win of the night, as did Shane Hudson / Adam Constable, who scored after a wretched start to the meeting, relegating Cohen to a third place and the loss of two valuable points in that heat.
Mick Headland again won against Broken Hill’s, “Bart” Stephens / Nick O’Brien, Treloar was beaten by Cohen and Plaisted dropped all points to Cohen too, when he and Pitt were excluded, after cutting turn one and were penalised by the Referee. Hudson won again in a farcical race where he was the only finisher and then Byren Gates / Mick O’Loughlin had a strong win against Broken Hill youngsters, Max Howse / Riley Commons, to see out the fourth round.
The final round saw Treloar on top with 11 points, Cohen and Mick Headland on 10 each with Plaisted on 9, while Stephens, Gates, Trent Headland, Howse and Hudson were still in touch and a chance of a “B” final position.
Brodie Cohen / Jesse Headland secured a win and completed the task on 13 points in their last heat and Plaisted / Pitt took their fourth win ahead of Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr to complete their heat riders on twelve points each, with Plaisted gaining the best selection as the team had scored four wins against Headland’s three. Hudson / Constable moved on to 9 points and in heat twenty, Treloar / Cox went to the top of the leader board with a win and 14 points to gain first selection in the Warren Monson Memorial final.
Support Sidecars had been interesting all night with Dean Hobbs / Daniel Low taking charge, ahead of Byron Mordaunt / Will Lepoidevin who were a close second. There was some carnage amongst the others as the skill level in some cases was not as strong as the top class.
Providing wonderful entertainment all meeting was a strong field of Dirt Track specialists, who were headed by Ben Brooks with Rowan Tegart, Josh Waters, Nick Waters, Josh Knights and Jordy Stewart having some close contests all evening. This “elbow touching” field was national Title standard and the many patrons enjoyed some keen and spirited racing by this “all local” group.
The “B” final was the last chance for any glory on the night and Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr were the favourites to get the final spot in the Monson Memorial however, Gates / O’Loughlin, Howse / Commons and Trent Headland / April Cotttrell had recovered and gathered enough points to also make it into the penultimate event.
Inside and outside gates were successful from the start line and both Headland and Howes fought down the back straight until Mick Headland managed to get more control and carried good speed through turns three and four. Headland went on to claim the last place in the decider, with Howes finishing next ahead of Gates and Trent Headland.
Track conditions had been splendid all night with good lines available on a very consistent surface. Track friability had allowed all riders to get good grip at any point around the track. Once again, Olympic Park Track managers had provided an excellent race surface which gave all participants an equal chance of success.
Ther Monson Memorial saw Treloar select gate one, not wanting to let any of the rest of the field start from inside of him and predictably, Cohen selected gate two, with Plaisted selecting gate three, leaving last chance qualifier, Mick Headland to the outside spot.
Cohen got away well from the tapes and led Treloar for half the race distance when, unfortunately for the Queensland pair, they caught a small “slick” patch and the machine started to turn sharply to the inside with Cohen forced to throttle off and let the ever present Treloar through on his inside. Treloar did not need a second invite and he and Cox went on to claim the major prize with Cohen / Headland in second, Mick Headland / Brenton Kerr a narrow third, ahead of Plaisted / Pitt, who had been caught up earlier in the race and were then out of contention.
A most enthusiastic and energetic, but respectful crowd warmly applauded the finalists as they had applauded and appreciated the efforts of all riders during the night. Patrons could tell that podium positions in such a significant and powerful meeting had meant so much to all the riders in the field. There was still a deal of raw emotion as they all remembered their mate “Wazza”
Next Friday, Australia Day, 26th January will see the 75th Anniversary meeting for Mildura Motor Cycle Club which they will celebrate with the GT Onsite Windscreens “Phil Crump Solo Classic” and the Karym Cleaning, “Sidecar Shootout” as the feature event of the night’s program, which, like the Monson Memorial will have a 7:00pm race start scheduled. Australia’s top Solo riders are booked, as is three times World Champion, Englishman, Tai Woofinden, who returns to Olympic Park to defend his Phil Crump Trophy. A field of eight invited Sidecars will contest the Sidecar Shootout which has the “Dudley Bradshaw Trophy” as the main prize.