Josh On The Infield

NEWS Wednesday 10th January 2018, 11:31pm

by Howard Williams

  Edinburgh Monarchs

Rohan Tungate proved that his first round heroics at Kurri Kurri were no fluke by again winning the final at round 2 held at a Undera on January 10th to build on his series lead.

Following him home was Sam Masters after a much improved showing with Jack Holder occupying third after earlier advancing from the cut throat semi final. Rounding out the top four was Brady Kurtz who was excluded in the final after falling and bringing down Holder. It was the second time in a row Kurtz had made the main final but was not able to complete the four laps. After being unbeaten in the heats Kurtz would have been bitterly disappointed. Kurtz had finished the heats with 15 points with Tungate and Masters both on 13.

The semi final had been a tight affair with Holder (8 points) just managing to hold off ex Monarch Max Fricke (11) with Matthew Gilmore (8) and Jordan Stewart (9) making up the numbers. Gilmore’s highlight had been a superb gate from yellow in heat 11 to storm to the lead riding around Jack Holder. Unlucky riders to miss out on the semi final on a countback were Jye Etheridge and Mason Campton who also finished on eight points.

Masters had returned to top form that he was so desperately missing in round one and was second top qualifier behind Kurtz. His highlight was undoubtedly his first ride where Sam was drawn in gate four with the fast gating Fricke drawn in gate one, Sam had a blinder of a gate and was round the field before turn one and won convincingly. That seemed to give him a much needed confidence boost and set him off on the right path for the night. Sam was undefeated in his first four rides and clashed with Kurtz (plus Tungate and Gilmore) in a superb heat 20 that could have easily been the final. In the middle of turns one and two on lap one it was Kurtz, Tungate, and Masters all side by side and neither of the three wanting to give an inch. When the dust settled and they entered the back straight it was Kurtz who had willed himself into the lead with Tungate and Masters in close proximity but there was no stopping Kurtz.

At the other end of the scale was the unfortunate Josh Pickering. After a blinder of a meeting at a Kurri Kurri Josh acquired three excellent second places (behind Kurtz, Tungate, and Masters) but found himself on the wrong end of two exclusions for going infield. Both exclusions were a result of Josh looking for a gap on the inside of the rider in front of him but by the time Josh arrived at the gap the rider in front had moved in towards the pole line and the gap was no more and there were not many safe options for Pickering to choose other than to head infield. He would have been disappointed as the exclusions were probably on paper in his two easiest rides and he had done the hard work to get decent points in his other heats. Having said that, from a pure spectator point of view you would rather see riders being positive and looking for passing opportunities rather than sitting back and simply maintaining their position.

Ex Monarch Max Fricke had a very sluggish start failing to record a heat win in his first three rides but then bouncing back with two late heat victories. He gave a masterclass in how to skilfully and safely move a rider out whilst going underneath Matthew Gilmore when they met in heat 13 and it was a work of art to watch. Gilmore would be putting that move in his little black book of tactics he needs to acquire in the future. In the semi final Holder was simply too good out of the gate and that was Fricke’s night over and done with one race too soon for his liking.

The other ex Monarch in the field Jye Etheridge needs a mention. He was always there or thereabouts to amass eight points and while he wasn’t a huge threat to the top scorers it won’t take much improvement before he is. He seems to be very much of a slow & gradual improver and he would be hoping that improvement continues. His heat six win whilst showing Matthew Gilmore the way home was his stand out ride of the night.

The series continues in two days time with round three at Mildura with Tungate (35) enjoying a very handy series points lead from Kurtz (27), Fricke (26), Masters (23), and Pickering (20)