One of the most underrated forms of motorsport is Motorcycle Speedway, and Australia is actually quite good at it. Six Aussies have won a total of nine Individual Speedway World Championships since 1936, with plenty of other riders having successful racing careers in Australia and abroad.
Australia’s 2024 national Speedway Solo Championship would begin in North Brisbane, then head to Kurri-Kurri Speedway in NSW. Round 3 would be held at Albury/Wodonga Motorcycle Club at Diamond Park Speedway, where I would join in on the tour.
Here's how it would all work. 15 of Australia's best riders would battle it out for the title, with 1 wildcard at each round, plus a couple of reserve riders. Four riders would compete in each heat race, with 3 points awarded to first place, 2 points for second, 1 point for third and none for fourth and there would be enough heat races for everyone to race each other once.
The eight riders who scored the most points would be split into two semi-finals, with the top 2 from each semi advancing to the final.
The machines that would need to be tamed would be these four-stroke single-cylinder 500cc speedway motorcycles.
Coming into Round 3, Rohan Tungate was leading the championship after a win at Kurri-Kurri in NSW, and a third-place finish during Round 1 at North Brisbane, with Max Fricke trailing in second after winning the first round.
Before the heat races began however, the 16 riders and two reserves would be introduced with the main contenders being interviewed.
My plan for each round was simple, try and get an action shot of each rider during practice, then shoot Turn 1 during the first few heat races and also grab some backlight photos with some nice light during golden hour. Luckily at Wodonga, the sun would set behind the start line giving me some golden Turn 1 photos. I just had to make sure to duck as the bikes passed by me, so I didn't get pelted with dirt (it hurts).
Turn 1 would also be the pit exit which isn't always the case at speedways, meaning I could photograph the riders up close, and the race start in the matter of moments. Albury/Wodonga's Diamond Park was definitely my favourite track to photograph during the final three rounds of the championship.
When the sun set, I would head inside the track to pan in the low light.
At the end of the night, Max Fricke would take his second win of the championship, followed by Ryan Douglas in second and Ben Cook in third
The speedway circus would pack up once again and head six hours west to compete at Mildura Motorycle Club’s Olympic Park Speedway just two days later.
Right along the Murray River, Mildura’s Motorcycle Club is secluded by many trees and a single dirt road in and out of the complex.
On track, the speedway’s corners are tighter, which would prove to be a bit tricky as for the first time, I would see riders falling off their bikes, and slide into the air fence designed to catch the riders softly.
Annoyingly (for me) after the first 4 heats, the racing would be stopped to wait for the sun to drop behind the trees and shadows to cover the track, which threw my plan of getting some crispy backlight shots out the window, so I had to improvise a little when racing began again.
Additionally, I went into the middle a little earlier than I'd hoped. Luckily Midura's Olympic Park is extremely well lit once it gets dark, with pretty much no dark spots.
In the final, Jack Holder would slide off his bike in Turn 1, leading to a DNF for him, and a refuel for the final three.
Brady Kurtz would grab the win ahead of championship leaders Max Fricke who now had a five-point lead over Rohan Tungate.
To decide the 2024 Australian Solo Speedway champion, the final round would be run at Gillman Speedway in Adelaide.
Apart from the slight banking in Turn 1, the track at Gillman is quite flat at it became apparent that dust not dirt would be what would cover myself and my cameras.
All eyes would be on Max Fricke and Rohan Tungate, especially since they were racing each other in their first heats. Every point they could grab would be crucial to snatch the championship, and on lap 2, Max Fricke would check up, lose control and slide off the bike, putting him on the back foot at the start of the night.
As each heat race went by, and I searched for some golden light, riders fought for each position as they slid through the dirt inches apart. Rohan Tungate looked good under pressure, winning multiple heat races and locking himself into the semi-finals as so too did Max Fricke.
Rohan Tungate and Max Fricke would meet again in a semi-final, and if Rohan Tungate could finish in the top 2, and Max Fricke miss the final, Tungate would win the championship.
That was exactly what happened. Rohan Tungate would win his semi-final race as Max Fricke would finish third and not make the transfer to the final, making Rohan Tungate your 2024 Australian Solo Speedway Champion.
Brady Kurtz would win again, followed by Rohan Tungate and Jaimon Lindsey in the final.
One final duel between Jack Holder and Jaimon Lindsey would decide third place in this year's championship, with Holder taking victory in the two-bike race to claim bronze behind Max Fricke who claimed second behind Rohan Tungate, your 2024 Australian Solo Speedway Champion.
It was very cool to follow the final three rounds of this championship, not only witnessing and capturing how the stories played out, but additionally travelling long distances to each track, in the same way the teams and officials would have done.