A lot will be at stake when Sam Masters rolls out onto the Kurri Kurri Speedway track this Saturday for the opening round of the 2018 Australian Speedway Solo Championship.
The 26-year-old Novocastrian will be defending the championship crown that he won for the first time last year in front of his home crowd and he knows all too well the importance of scoring top points in the first round of the four-round championship series.
Should Masters successfully defend his title, he will be the first rider to win back to back titles since former World Speedway Champion Chris Holder from Appin, NSW, won three consecutive Australian Championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Masters is also in line for four straight Australian Championship podiums. He finished runner up in 2015 and 2016 before climbing to the top step of the dias last year.
Chris Holder was the last rider to achieve four straight podiums with third place in 2009, followed by his three consecutive wins.
Hunter Region Hall of Famer Todd Wiltshire was the last local region rider to achieve four Australian Championship podiums. Wiltshire won the title in 1999 and finished third the following year with runner up places in 2003 and 2006.
The winner of the Australian Speedway Solo Championship has the opportunity to launch into an international pathway. They will have priority for the ‘wild card’ spot in the final round of the 2018 World Speedway Grand Prix held at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne in October.
Other doors that open up for the Australian Champion include the opportunity to compete in the World Speedway Grand Prix qualifying rounds as well as the chance to be selected for the Australian team to contest the 2018 Speedway World Cup.
Pundits are scouring through the record books to check on the best ever representation of Hunter Region riders in the national championship.
Former Australian speedway solo champion Brady Kurtz (Cowra NSW), current Australian Under 21 Speedway Solo ChampionJack Holder (Appin NSW), former multiple Australian Under 21 Speedway Solo Champion Max Fricke (Victoria) and former dual World Under 16 Speedway Solo Champion Matthew Gilmore (Cowra NSW) add to the quality field selected by Motorcycling Australia to compete in this year’s title race.
Masters heads the list of five Hunter riders including Rohan Tungate (Pelaw Main), Mason Campton (Kurri Kurri), Jye Etheridge (Buttai) and Josh Pickering (Heddon Greta).
Gates open at Kurri Kurri Speedway this Saturday at 1pm with racing scheduled to start at 7pm