Max Top Again

NEWS Thursday 10th January 2019, 10:00am

by Howard Williams

Max Fricke has headed into uncharted territory with a stellar performance at the Albury Wodonga track on Wednesday Jan 9th to snare his third win in the four rounds held thus far this series to find himself in a virtually unassailable position leading the Australian title race with only the final round at Kurri Kurri yet to come. Fricke (66) has extended his series lead to eight points over Rohan Tungate (58) with Chris Holder (57) another point further back. Next best Jack Holder is a further fifteen points adrift and you would think out of contention for a series medal with only a possible nineteen points available for an unbeaten meeting.

In the final Fricke and Tungate had staged an enthralling battle with Fricke leading early only to have Tungate cut back underneath him at the end of lap two to establish a narrow gap. The Tungate lead didn't last long with Fricke returning the compliment a couple of bends later with a classy inside move and there was no stopping Fricke after that. Meanwhile behind them Chris Holder had won another tight battle of his own with Brady Kurtz for third place. As a sign of how dominant the top three have been they have all featured in every final with only Brady Kurtz (twice), Jaimon Lidsey and Jordan Stewart managing to join them to compete in the ultimate race of the night.

In the semi final Chris Holder emerged victorious after another magical pass over brother Jack. Chris seems to take special delight in doing that to his brother as he had done the same thing at Undera two days earlier. The inside gates had been far superior all night long and Jack from gate one had got the best of the start but there was no stopping his elder sibling who stalked and passed Jack with what looked an effortless pass but in reality needed all of Chris's skill to execute. Jaimon Lidsey and Sam Masters had completed the quartet vying for the all important remaining place in the final.

Unfortunately for Monarchs fans Justin Sedgmen had again experienced a difficult night scoring only four points to finish well down the field. Justin had ridden well at Undera but the move from the 270 metre track just outside Shepparton to the far bigger and faster 360 metre track in the Murray River town again seemed to highlight a lack of top end speed and catch Justin out. He could get away with a lack of top end speed at the tight confines of Undera but at Albury it was a different kettle of fish. On top of that the track was patchy and rutted up towards the end of the meeting and it's exactly what a rider doesn't need when he is a bit down on form and confidence and seeking some improvement.

The luck of the draw had Justin's first two rides from the two outside gates and with the inside gates working far better it was not the easiest assignment to start the meeting with. Gate three in his first ride saw a point scored behind Brady Kurtz and Nick Morris, and an extreme outside gate in ride number two resulted in a last place behind Lidsey, Chris Holder, and Jordan Stewart. Most races were being won from the inside gates.

Sedgmen's third ride just about summed up his entire series. Rapidly away from the favoured inside gate and out to a clear lead on lap one he was soon overhauled by Tungate and then a bit later by Masters and Justin recorded another point. He would have been crying out for more horsepower. At this point nobody could have blamed him for becoming a slight bit despondent. Ride four was disappointingly similar to he previous ride with this time a great start from gate two meaning an early lead but that was soon ruined by virtue of Jack Holder cruising by. A second and two more points meant his score was now up to four.

By the time his final heat ride came around I think Justin just wanted the meeting to be over. Drawn beside Max Fricke and unable to match Fricke's gating skills Justin found himself in last place once they settled. That's the way it stayed with Fricke a long way out ahead of Ryan Douglas and Kye Thomson and Justin's score remained on four points.

So we move on to Kurri Kurri on Saturday for the series finale. It would be a brave man to bet against Fricke but Tungate on his home track will be formidable. Sedgmens job will be to stay upbeat and finish on a high note to give himself something to build on and to take some positive thoughts with him to the UK in March