It's Very Close Now

NEWS Saturday 13th January 2018, 8:15am

by Howard Williams

Round three of the Australian titles held at Mildura on Friday 12th January brought the series back to life with Brady Kurtz scoring some big points to claw back from eight points adrift to draw level on the overall series scorechart with the man who had previously threatened to run away with the title Rohan Tungate. It’s all to play for heading to the final round at Gillman on Sunday evening.

In the final to decide the winner of the round it was Jack Holder who gated best and showed a clean pair of heels to the chasing Kurtz, Tungate, and Sam Masters in an uneventful final. Kurtz for the second meeting in a row was undefeated in the heats but again didn’t quite manage to complete his nights work by taking the major prize, although second place was an improvement on two fourth places in the previous two rounds. Holder and Masters had both finished with 13 points to secure automatic places in the main final. Tungate however had to do things the hard way by winning the B final after only just scraping into the line up after a countback that had seen Josh Pickering and Jye Etheridge also match Tungate’s eight points.

The semi final had plenty of excitement to make up for the main final. Max Fricke (12) has gated well to lead early but a fired up Tungate held the throttle on down the back straight and into turn three the first time round to bravely sail past Fricke to take the lead. Nothing that Fricke did was wrong, it was simply a very gutsy and well executed move by Tungate. Completing the semi final were two “quiet accumulators” of points Mason Campton (12) and Jordan Stewart (9). Campton had three race wins and had lowered the colours of both Fricke and Tungate in their respective heats and is “sneaky quick” when he puts his mind to it. Stewart continues to beat everyone you would expect him to beat but hasn’t yet managed to claim any of the bigger scalps to elevate himself higher up the pecking order.

Josh Pickering again has a hard luck story to tell. He only missed out on the semi final on a countback despite an early dent to his meeting chances following a fall in turn four in his first ride. That particular piece of track was problematical all night long and caused issues for several riders, most notably Matthew Gilmore who was denied first and second places after falling in seperate heats on his final lap in exactly the same spot. Pickering is in the “best of the rest” group with Campton, Etheridge and Stewart who are all that little bit below the top five (Tungate, Kurtz, Fricke, Holder, Masters) but who are all capable of exerting pressure on the name riders.

Masters again had a good meeting despite a disappointing place in the final on what he revealed after the meeting is a borrowed engine from Justin Sedgmen. Only bettered by Fricke and Kurtz in the heats his highlights were a neck and neck battle with Jaimon Lidsey when they met where Sam had gradually inched ahead over the first two laps and then pulled away, and a titanic struggle with the talented trio of Holder, Tungate and Pickering in heat 20 where Sam was supreme in emerging from the pack exiting turn two to lead all the way.

Max Fricke was professional and workmanlike again but we haven’t seen too many flashes of brilliance from him this series and he seems to be missing that elusive final 1% to take him to the very top of the tree this year. He lowered his colours to Mason Campton in his first ride but then excellently saw off the threats of Tungate and Masters when they met for two fine wins. Two second places behind Holder and Kurtz completed his heat rides, and then followed the disappointment of finishing second in the semi final.

For the second round in a row ex Monarch Jye Etheridge missed out on a semi final berth on a countback. His best effort was showing Josh Pickering the way home when they clashed in their heat. With an ounce of luck if the cards had fallen a different way he could have easily been in two semi finals in the space of three days

We move on to last round at Gillman on Sunday with the promoters dream of two riders level at the top with Kurtz and Tungate both on 45 points followed by Fricke (38), Masters (37), and Holder (36). It’s hard to see the champion coming from anyone outside the top two, and the fight for the remaining podium places is also well and truly on