NEWS Thursday 3rd January 2019, 11:55pm
A hot day that had reached 40 degrees in the afternoon greeted the riders as they gathered at Gillman on Thursday January 3rd to commence battle for the 2019;Australian Championship.
The weather wasn't the only hot aspect with a quality field assembled with a virtual guarantee of no easy races. The quality of the overall racing matched the pre meeting hype with races often having four riders side by side going down the back straight the first time with no clear leader. It was an extremely entertaining spectacle on a well prepared track.
The good news for Monarchs fans was that ex Monarch and fan favourite Max Fricke qualified first on 13 points and then in a titanic struggle with Rohan Tungate in the final led his 2018 Belle Vue team mate home to record a narrow win and his first ever Australian title round win and to lead the standings after the end of the round.
Completing the final placings were Chris Holder with Jordan Stewart listed as finishing fourth after a fall in turn one in the first running of the final.
Fricke seems to have added that extra 1% to his riding and is now the equal of anyone in the field and continued his dominant form after being unbeaten in last weeks South Australian title.
From an amateur psychologists point of view it's as if he has gone from believing he can win to believing he will win.
The other Ex Monarch in the field Sam Masters was far from disgraced after qualifying for the semi final on 10 points in seventh place only to encounter a very determined pair of Holder brothers plus Jaimon Lidsey in the cut throat quest to join the top three riders in the main final.
Chris and Jack Holder both gated and were going at it hammer and tong out front and despite Jack falling and clearing the track Sam was too far back to make any impact and came home in third to be adjudged as finishing sixth overall.
Nothing much that Sam did wrong but only managing one win in his five heats and the last pick of gates in the semi final left him with a lot to do once it got to the pointy end of the meeting.
And now to the disappointing aspect of the meeting regarding the 2019 Monarchs in the field.
Justin Sedgmen had his worst meeting in a long, long time and failed to trouble the scorers with five last placings. It was a very different Sedgmen to the one that qualified easily the previous night at the meeting to decide who would join the seeded riders in the championship field, and a very different rider to the one that two years ago led the standings of the Australian titles leading into the final round against many of the same riders in this years field.
It seemed to be a very subdued and down on confidence Justin and we hope his fortunes change in familiar surroundings at his home track at Mildura in two days time and that will kick start a positive remainder of the series.
Fellow 2019 Monarch Josh Pickering had suffered a heart breaking ninth place in the previous nights qualifier to be beaten on a count back for the final place on offer in the championship and was the first reserve for the meeting.
Josh only managed one ride after a tapes exclusion for another rider and ran up against the red hot Holder brothers to finish third and put one point on his scorechart. Not that we wish any other rider any harm but we hope Josh gets more chances to show what he can do as the series progresses.
We move to Mildura for round two with a bit of luck on the weather front, on Friday Mildura has a forecast top temperature of 46 degrees but on race day it drops back to a rather pleasant 28 degrees which should make it much more comfortable for the riders
The top eight after round one (including extra points from the final)
17 Fricke, 16 Tungate, 12 Chris Holder, 11 Stewart, Jack Holder, 10 Lidsey, Masters, 8 Brady Kurtz