Consistency, being hard when he needed to be and smart when he needed to be, were the key ingredients to Jason Doyle’s historic world championship. Oh, and toughness.
Particularly after the Sunday of the weekend in between the Prague and Horsens rounds.
In a Polish league match Doyle broke three bones in his right foot which required surgery to insert 14 screws and three plates on the Monday. He practised at Horsens on the Friday and walked to the rider introduction on the Saturday, on crutches! He top scored in the heats, won his semi and ran last in the final.
Doyle would not give in easily, but he did return to hospital after the meeting to have a cast put back on his foot.
In this year’s 12 rounds Doyle qualified for the semi-finals on all but one occasion and had four wins, six seconds and a third in those 11 appearances.
That led to him racing in 10 finals, resulting in two wins, a second, four thirds and three lasts – perhaps not the greatest conversion rate, but remember that the finals are for the best four riders at each round and the choice of starting gates often plays a significant role in the outcome.
The only time Doyle missed the semis was at Malilla after having “freshened up” his foot injury in a crash in the lead-up to that meeting.
But Doyle’s 10 final outings outdid all his rivals, with Dudek next best with seven, while his 19-point haul in Melbourne matched the effort by Antonio Lindback in Malilla as the best in a single round this year.
After retiring early in the British season it was always going to be a big ask for Watt in his farewell meeting. He fell in his first heat, then grabbed three third placings but only one point was actually earned by beating an opponent. Not the finish he would have hoped for after a career that included four SGP appearances in 2010.
Was this the same Chris Holder who won in Melbourne last year? A second, a third, two lasts and a fall, the fall ironically being the highlight of the night for the 2012 world champion – well not actually the fall, but that he was quickly up to his feet and getting the bike off the track so that the heat being led by Doyle did not need to be stopped and re-run. Fans really appreciated that effort.
Holder only hung onto 10th overall because Pawlicki was as poor as him on the night and he would have endured a nervous few days before he was announced as one of the four wildcard allocations for 2018.
Second best of the Aussies in the main draw, although outperformed by both reserves. In most of his rides he did not look out of place in this company and finished with four points from a second, two thirds and two lasts. At stages he led Dudek, Vaculik and Janowski in heats before losing out to them.
After earning the wildcard berth by winning last summer’s Australian Championship he had a horror night and may have been still feeling the effects of late-UK season injury. He was outed at the tapes in Heat 1 and scored just two points by beating compatriot Dave Watt during the night.
First reserve Brady Kurtz (below left) started Heat 1 when Masters fluffed his lines, and scored an all-the-way win. Next time, replacing Pawlicki, Kurtz was banished for a start infringement.
Second reserve Rohan Tungate (below right) got his first outing to replace Pawlicki, and he too won, passing Watt and holding off Janowski. He got a second outing, thanks to Kurtz, and won again passing Zmarzlik.
There is always something special when reserves come in and achieve like this. Their efforts did not surprise everyone and were generously applauded by fans. For Masters, Sedgmen, Kurtz and Tungate the Australian Championship in January will present a two-fold target.
If (and it’s a big if) there is a Speedway Grand Prix in Melbourne next year then a wildcard berth will be offered to the winner of the Australian Championship. Those in the top four will also earn a place in one of the qualifying meetings that lead to the SGP Challenge Meeting and a permanent SGP berth.
The four riders mentioned above, along with graduating Under-21 stars Max Fricke and Jack Holder plus Troy Batchelor and Nick Morris will be among those on that trail seeking to join Doyle and Holder in the SGP ranks.