Josh In The Mix

NEWS Sunday 7th January 2018, 0:07am

by Howard Williams

In a thrilling meeting Rohan Tungate won the first round of the Australian titles for 2018 held at the Kurri Kurri but the best news of all for Monarchs fans was Josh Pickering finishing second in the final in front of ex Monarch Max Fricke in third with Brady Kurtz awarded fourth after falling in the first running of the final.

Tungate had been the best rider on show with a couple of thrilling dives underneath riders in the heats to take the lead being his highlights. Tungate was sublime in the final with a great gate to head the field and won pulling away. He was a deserving winner.

Pickering had again showed a propensity to overtake riders if he missed the start and while it’s frustrating to not gate well it’s enormously exciting for the crowd to see riders like Josh being so entertaining. Jordan Stewart was Josh’s first victim with an inside move to take second in his first heat. Jye Etheridge was the next notch in Josh’s belt with Etheridge gating only to see Pickering sail by on lap two to record the maximum points on offer. In his third ride Josh was up against quality with Holder, Fricke and Kurtz all on his inside and his task was rather difficult to say the least. One point was no disgrace so it was a case of keep positive and look forward to his next ride. His fourth ride saw Tungate and Masters lining up against Josh so it wasn’t getting much easier. This time Pickering surprised the crowd and probably himself too and made the gate !! Tungate was soon diving up the inside to take the lead and the move seemed to unsettle Josh who dropped back to third. Normal service was then resumed with a pass of Sam Masters to reclaim second. Another fine gate led to an uneventful win in his last heat and it was on to the finals.

His work in the heats had seen Josh qualify for the semi final on 11 points. Joining him was the impressive Jaimon Lidsey (11), Mason Campton (10) and Jack Holder (9). Already in the main final were Tungate (14), Fricke (13), and Kurtz (12). Another fine gate for Pickering allowed him the luxury of leading all the way and Josh was in the main final. Then in the “big one” Josh was in yellow with lots to do even though Kurtz had fallen in the first attempt of running the final. Tungate and Fricke were too good off the line and even though Fricke hit a hole which caused his bike to rear up and allow Josh into second Tungate was away and unable to be caught.

It was a mixed night for other riders with Monarch connections. Defending Australian champion Sam Masters was uncharacteristically subdued including a third ride retirement and no heat wins in his tally of 7 points and he would have been bitterly disappointed to not even qualify for the semi final. I privately wonder if Sam was on sub standard machinery, he was most “unmasterslike” and he has left himself a lot of work to do if he hopes to retain his title.

Max Fricke was professional and workmanlike all night although never quite matching “the zone” that Tungate seemed to be in on his home tack. Fricke only lowered his colours in the heats to a rampaging Tungate and a fast starting Jack Holder, and with his liking for Undera and his experience on a variety of tracks I wouldn’t be betting against Fricke at the end of four rounds when the major prize is handed out.

Before the meeting ex Monarch Justin Sedgmen had been optimistically proclaiming he would attempt to ride in the titles after breaking his collarbone in multiple places following a fall on Boxing Day, but Justin was unable to gain a medical clearance and was forced to sit on the sidelines. He was hoping for a good Australian titles to help erase the memory of a poor 2017 British season and he will want to get back as soon as he can to finish off the Australian season well.

The travelling circus moves on to Undera for round two next Wednesday (Jan 10th)