THE THREE MUSKETEERS: Best mates Cooper Riordan, 19, Jaimon Lidsey, 18, and Jordan Stewart, 19, will play the roles of both support crew and competitors at this year’s Australian Solo Speedway Championship, beginning this weekend. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
AGE should be no barrier for Sunraysia speedway guns and best mates Jordan Stewart, Jaimon Lidsey and Cooper Riordan in the 2018 Australian Solo Speedway Championship.
The teenaged-trio join Mildura star and Australian number two Justin Sedgmen in making up a quarter of the National championship field for the second consecutive year.
Jordan, 19, Jaimon, 18 and Cooper, 19, have grown up together and have been mates since kindergarten. While it gets competitive between them if they compete in the same race, they all enjoy being part of the sport together.
The Sunraysia quartet join a first-class field across four rounds of the Australian series beginning tomorrow night at Kurri Kurri, NSW.
The Championship then heads to Undera Speedway on Wednesday, to Mildura’s own Olympic Park next Friday, with the final round to be played out at Adelaide’s Gillman Speedway.
The legendary Leigh Adams was the last local rider to win the national crown, claiming his 10th title in 2009 ahead of five-time winner Chris Holder.
Sedgmen came second in the 2017 Championship behind Sam Masters and was third in 2015.
Reigning champion Masters will be back to defend his title, but Pelaw Main rider Rohan Tungate has etched himself into favouritism after a blistering season so far. The 27-year-old has taken all before him in recent rides, including the Mildura Motorcycle Club Phil Crump Trophy in November. He also won both races he competed in against a world-class field at the Australian Speedway Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Our local young guns, however, have some decent form of their own to ride in on. At the Victorian Under 21 Championship in November, Jordan took the title with Jaimon in third and Cooper fourth. Jaimon was third in the 2017 Australian Under 21 Championship behind Max Fricke and Jack Holder, both of whom will compete for the senior title.
Jordan, who is already in his fourth Australian Solo Championship push, said although he hasn’t raced as many meetings this year, he hoped his experience in Australia’s top competition would hold him in good stead.
“It’s good to be able to take it in and get a bit of experience,” he said.
“It was great to be able to win the Vic Under 21 title. I also had a pretty good run at the South Australian Title and the NSW Under 21 title so my form hasn’t been too bad.
“It will be great to race alongside the boys again. Cooper, Jaimon and I have been mates for years and we always travel together to meetings. The boys really help you relax and love to have a joke. If you have a bad race, they don’t treat you any differently and it helps take your mind off it.”
Cooper said his first two forays into the Championship had been tough and the competition is fierce.
“You’re in a field that includes the best speedway riders in Australia so it’s hard work,” he said.
“I’ve learned a fair bit from my first two years. I want to be able to mix it with all of them and hopefully get myself a few points after each round. The top five riders are pretty even, but Rohan Tungate is probably the one to catch.”
Jaimon said the local trio enjoyed racing together, just not competing directly against each other.
“It gets pretty competitive between us and there are bragging rights on the line,” he said, laughing.
“Last year was my first crack at the Australian Championship. It was a great experience and I performed better than I expected, coming 12th out of 16.
“My last few meetings have been pretty good so that helps give me some confidence. The aim is to do better than last time so a top 10 finish would be ideal.
“Anyone in the field can win on their night. That’s the nature of motorsport, anything can happen.
“The hardest thing about titles is that it is so even across the field. You might have an awesome race and finish five lengths ahead, and then in the next race you’re either off your bike or stuck at the back. You have to be on your game.”
Justin Sedgmen’s preparation, however, has been far from smooth, suffering a triple break in his collarbone and being forced to have a plate inserted on New Year’s Eve.
The 25-year-old suffered the injury thanks to a heavy spill at a Boxing Day event in Kurri Kurri.
Justin had been struggling with a shoulder injury throughout the European season, but with plates now fitted into his shoulder he is holding off on making a decision on whether to ride in the first round of the Australian Championship tomorrow.
“The operation was a success and I’m now recovering,” Justin said.
“I’ve had lots of messages of support from across the world and it’s meant a lot. I really want to race in the first round. It means so much to me each year to race for the Championship and I want to add my name to the list of winners. I know I’m good enough to do it.
“It’s not how I imagined things going. I hurt my shoulder real bad at the start of the season in Italy and I never really gave my body a chance to recover. In the end it cost me and I had to give my shoulder a break on the doctors advice. This fall has aggravated that injury plus now I have a plate in my other collarbone. It’s not ideal but I’m not one for giving up, I want to race.”