The Australasian Finals - 1981
Of the five who qualified from the previous years Australasian Final, somehow, only one went all the way to the World Final. And Billy Sanders ended the campaign as World Number 3. With only the one survivor from the Southern Hemisphere in 1980, it was decided that only the top four would progress from this year's Australasian Final. So, as it was in the first three years, some of the magic was back. This group would go to the Overseas Final [ wonder what genius came up with that one? ] at White City on July 12. On from there to the Intercontinental Final held at Vojens on July 25. That lead to the World Final, staged at Wembley on September 5.
Forty-one year old Ivan Mauger entered this years competition acting half his age. Despite being seeded to the NZ Final, he rode in the South Island Final at Christchurch for practice and now on a Weslake, finished an easy 3rd behind Larry Ross and Tony Briggs. Only upset from that meeting, Christchurch's Alan Mason, on his home track having a night to forget. On to the NZ Final at Napier on Febuary 6 and Mauger was simply in a class of his own, reflected in a maximum score. Although gating in Round One, Heat 3, Mike Fullerton swept passed on turn one. Ivan took back the lead at the end of lap 2. Result; Mauger, Fullerton, Beardsley, Goodall. No-one else got close and Ivan beat Mitch Shirra for the Title in their last race decider. Huge shock came in the run-off for the 8th qualifying place. Auckland's John Goodall was outgated by Graeme Beardsley from Christchurch and found no way through. They had both scored 8 points. Back in December, Goodall had won the 'Gary Peterson Memorial Shield' from Craig Pendlebury and Mike Fullerton. He was a firm favourite but that Round One duck proved significant. Gracious in defeat, he was quick to congratulate the newcomer.
Over to Brisbane on Febuary 21 for the Australian Final where Billy Sanders continued his dominance, winning from Phil Crump and John Titman. No real upsets in this one. The following week, Febuary 28 saw the staging of the 6th Australasian Final. Venue being the Liverpool City Raceway in Sydney. The following report is a blow by blow account I made, analysing video of every heat. Glad I did as the Christchurch earthquake destroyed my video collection and the VCR! Ah well never mind, worse things happen in China, I suppose. Anyways, here goes in my very best Wally Loak, "Well good evening ladies and gentlemen and it's err welcome to the Liverpool City Raceway here in Sydney Australia theere, for this eer runnin of the 1981 Australasian Fionel. And once again, it's Tracy Holmes bringing to your eyes, the sport of the shaleways thar, thick, fast and furious in the true Tracy Holmes style." Alreet alreet, I'll leave Wally to the tape recorder.
Round One. Heat 1. Larry Ross from the outside gates first from Danny Kennedy. Gary Guglielmi brings down Kennedy on lap 3. The race is stopped and Guglielmi is excluded, after Kennedy was at first found guilty?! Ross wins the re-run, holding out Kennedy, never more than 3 lengths behind. Result; Ross, Kennedy, Regeling. Guglielmi ex.
Heat 2. Phil Herne gates off gate one from Mitch Shirra who loses out to Mick McKeon on the first turn. McKeon moves in on Herne on the second turn, goes wide and Shirra drives inside both for the lead. A 6 length win for Shirra over Herne and 6 lengths back to McKeon. Result; Shirra, Herne, McKeon, Beardsley.
Heat 3. Tony Briggs is excluded for breaking the tapes. Interesting because it didn't look like it until the start-marshall helped him to pull back! [ Referee was Australia's Sam Bass and this was less than a month after the under-arm bowl in Melbourne! ] Re-run; Ivan Mauger dead straight from the inside there first from Billy Sanders off gate 4. Sanders fights hard for one lap then gives up and trails in second by 8 lengths. Result; Mauger, Sanders, Maxfield, Fullerton. Briggs ex/tapes.
Heat 4. Phil Crump gates from John Titman and wins by 6 lengths, 3 lengths back to Wayne Brown. Result; Crump, Titman, Brown, Bargh.
Round Two. Heat 5. Herne off gate 3 from David Bargh and Kennedy. Bargh makes a race of it using all the track while Kennedy exploits this on the run to the flag, sneaking inside Bargh to pip him for 2nd. Then we see why, Bargh's rear tyre is flat. Result; Herne, Kennedy, Bargh, Fullerton.
Heat 6. Crump off one outgates Mauger next to him. McKeon blasts around the outside but as he does, Mauger powers under Crump for the lead down the back straight. Ivan wins by 6 lengths. Result; Mauger, Crump, McKeon, Regeling.
Heat 7. Guglielmi from gate 4 hits the front from Briggs and Shirra. Mitch throws it away literally when he effortlessly slides off on the first turn of lap 2. Guglielmi wins, 8 lengths from Briggs. Result; Guglielmi, Briggs, Brown. Shirra fall.
Heat 8. Sanders off gate 3 outgates Ross from the inside. Titman goes under Ross down the back Straight. A 6 length win for Sanders from Titman with Ross 8 lengths back in 3rd. Result; Sanders, Titman, Ross, Beardsley.
Round Three. Heat 9. McKeon gates from the inside while Kennedy holds off Titman down the back straight. Briggs makes a huge effort around the outside coming off lap 2 and actually passes Titman going onto lap 3. But this surprise move only lasts a few seconds as he falls on the first turn. McKeon wins it, only 2 lengths to Kennedy and another 2 lengths to Titman. Briggs bravely re-mounted to finish the race earning him much respect. Result; McKeon, Kennedy, Titman, Briggs.
Heat 10. Sanders gates from the inside and Regeling off 4 surprises Herne. However, Herne's experience kicks in and he grinds his young opponent down, taking him on the back straight of lap 4, an inside pass. Sanders wins by 6 lengths from Herne, 2 lengths to Regeling . Result; Sanders, Herne, Regeling, Brown.
Heat 11. Crump gates from the outside from Fullerton. Guglielmi and Beardsley tangle on the first turn both going down. The race is stopped and Beardsley is excluded. Re-run, Crump again from Fullerton who drops it on the 2nd turn. Easy for Crump, 3 lengths from Guglielmi. Result; Crump, Guglielmi. Fullerton fall. Beardsley excluded.
Heat 12. Tapes to flag win for Mauger but it is a race with Shirra always looking for that elusive way passed and Ross using all the track but to no avail. So it's Mauger 2 lengths to Shirra and another 2 lengths to Ross. Result; Mauger, Shirra, Ross, Bargh.
Half time scorechart reads; Mauger 9, Sanders and Crump 8, Herne 7, Kennedy 6, Titman - Ross - Shirra - Guglielmi - McKeon 5.
Round Four. Heat 13. Crump off gate 3 hits the corner first from Kennedy off gate 4. Shirra from the inside is third with Sanders last! Shirra falls, Sanders clips his bike and goes down as well. Shirra is excluded so his World Final hopes are all over again! The re-run sees Sanders put on two minutes. Crump and Kennedy are waiting at the start line. Sanders appears and when he joins them, they all go under starters orders. Then Sanders signals that he wants more time. Unbelievably, the pit gate has opened and Billy's spare bike is being ridden to the start! Crump visibly protests. Sanders spare bike is ordered off the track and then Sanders is excluded for breaking the two minute barrier. Billy rides off and is now in big trouble. Crump makes the gate but Kennedy gives chase that pays off making an outside pass going onto lap 2. Crump never quits but Kennedy wins by 3 lengths. Result; Kennedy, Crump. Sanders ex/2 mins. Shirra f/ex.
Heat 14. Regeling gates from the inside with Beardsley off gate 3 right behind him. Briggs comes underneath Bargh on the second turn as Beardsley goes from 2nd to last. It's a huge scrap with Regeling grimly holding off Briggs with Bargh charging around the outside. A blanket covers them for 3 laps. Going on to the last lap, Regeling packs up, Briggs clips him on the way passed and flys on to win by 6 lengths from Bargh. Result; Briggs, Bargh, Beardsley. Regeling ef.
Heat 15. Another easy win for Mauger. Herne had a terrific race against Titman until lap 4 when Titman lost power, went out wide for Guglielmi to steam underneath. Mauger by 8 lengths from Herne. Result; Mauger, Herne, Guglielmi. Titman ef.
Heat 16. It's a tapes to flag win for Ross, 3 lengths from Brown who totally stuns McKeon and the Sydney crowd. Result; Ross, Brown, McKeon, Fullerton.
One Round to go and the scores are; Mauger 12. Crump 10. Kennedy & Herne 9. Sanders & Ross 8. Guglielmi & McKeon 6.
Round Five. Heat 17. Easy win for Mauger, 6 lengths to Kennedy. Result; Mauger, Kennedy, Brown, Beardsley. So Ivan Mauger is through and Australasian Champion. Kennedy has 11 points and has to wait for the next outcomes.
Heat 18. No-one can qualify so it's all about pride. Titman off gate 4 hits the front from Fullerton. Shirra passes Fullerton on the outside going on to lap 2. Mitch stays outside and reels in Titman. He passes Titman outside to lead on to lap 4, going on to win by 3 lengths. Fullerton is 3rd, 6 lengths behind Titman. Result; Shirra, Titman, Fullerton, Regeling.
Heat 19. Sanders must win and surely it's been cooked already. Well eerrr maybees, maybees not though! Guglielmi gates off the pole line, Mckeon from the outside is second to the turn with Sanders 3rd. Billy gets by Mckeon on the back straight. Guglielmi then blocks every move as Sanders goes inside, outside, everywhere to no avail. Guglielmi stuns the Sydney fans as he wins by a length. Result; Guglielmi, Sanders, McKeon, Bargh. Sanders is furious and verbally lets Guglielmi have it back in the pits. What did Guglielmi have to gain by eliminating the Australian Champion? Or was there more to this saga underneath? It was not pretty and to potentially KO Sanders from the World Title chase was 'pretty vacant'!!!
Heat 20 with a fascinating scenario. The win for Crump will see him second overall with 13 points. But if Ross wins from Herne and Crump, they will all have 11 points equal with Kennedy! Or have they cooked it for Herne to win from Crump, giving them 12 points each and keeping Ross out of it? It was going to be one hell of a race for sure! Here is how it went; Ross gates from gate 4 with Herne off 1 and Crump off 2. Crump then completely misses the corner and Tony Briggs dives inside for 3rd place and immediately puts the squeeze on Herne. If there had been any pre-cooking, the recipe just went out the hut window. Herne holds off Briggs on the outside, going into the second turn, Briggs picks up drive and locks up at the apex. Crump has already made his move for an inside pass. He storms inside and collects Briggs bringing them both down in an alarming mess. Crump was immediately excluded! Somehow, Tony Briggs after receiving medical attention lines up for the re-run. This saw a straight forward win for Ross with Herne never far away but happy just to sit and safely qualify. It was an extremely brave Tony Briggs who completed the race for his solitary point. Result; Ross, Herne, Briggs. Crump ex.
In the run-off for 2nd, Kennedy wheelied from the gate and held off Ross winning by 2 lengths. Result; Kennedy, Ross, Herne.
The 5th place run-off never happened. Crump refused to ride. Result; Sanders awarded. Crump ns.
Final result; 1st Ivan Mauger. 2nd Danny Kennedy. 3rd Larry Ross. 4th Phil Herne. 5th Billy Sanders who will be reserve for the next round.
Well, who would ever have thought?! The Australasian Final in Sydney with Sanders and Crump both gone. This meeting was everything a World Championship qualifying round of such magnitude should have been with all the thrills, spills, high drama and shocks. The future of this event looked extremely healthy indeed! [ UNDERBELLY ALERT ]
Heat 1. Ross, Kennedy, Regeling. Guglielmi ex.
1st Ivan Mauger. 3 3 3 3 3 15
This article was first published on 3rd March 2019
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