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2000 West Coast Results Page

Fast Fridays Speedway
Gold Country Fairgrounds - Auburn, CA

2000 North American World Championship Qualifier
Fast Fridays
May 26, 2000
From Gary Roberts

See the ACTION PHOTOS taken by Gary Roberts at the practice day!

Rider Heat Points Total Photo
Mike Faria 3 2 3 3 2 13 1997
Josh Larsen 3 3 3 2 2 13 1998 Josh Larson
Chris Manchester 3 3 2 1 3 12 1999
Sam Ermolenko 1 2 3 2 3 11 1998
Bart Bast 1 3 3 3 1 11 1999
Bobby Hedden 2 0 2 2 3 9 1999
Ryan Fisher 2 2 1 3 0 8 Ryan at Fast Fridays 1999
Dukie Ermolenko 1 2 2 0 3 8






Charlie Venegas 2 1 0 3 0 6 1997
John Cook 0 3 2 1 0 6 Cook Academy
Chad Felicio 2 1 1 2 6 from 4 rides Chad Felicio
Billy Janniro 3 0 0 0 2 5 Billy Janniro
Ian Ferris 1 1 0 1 1 4 1998
Eddie Castro 0 1 0 2 0 3




Tom Sephton - New York 0 0 0 1 1 2 1998
Robert Curry 0 0 1 0 1 2 1998
John Kehoe - Canada 0 0 1 0 0 1

Mike Faria won the run off to take the North American World Championship qualifier after he and Josh Larsen scored 13 points.

As mentioned in an earlier posting, the four qualifiers were selected as the two top scoring European based Americans and the two top scoring domestic based Americans. Since only two in the former category showed up for the event, Sam Ermolenko and John Cook automatically qualified before turning a wheel. But the competition for the other two places was fierce. Auburn's scratch main event wins last year were dominated by Mike Faria and Charlie Venegas, but the meeting started with no clear favourite. After scoring a 15 point maximum in this event 2 years ago, then having a disastrous meeting last year, I thought Sam Ermolenko would be keen to make amends, but since his qualification place was assured, the incentive was not there. The US based places went to Mike and Josh Larsen, both of whom, I understand will be taking their places at the Overseas Final.

John Cook proved what he has frequently preached, that a fire-breathing high performance lay-down is not essential to be competitive on America's small tracks. John rode a bulk standard 8 year old Jawa 898 with telescopic forks, that he first rode the day before. This was the first time John has competed in an Auburn event for many years, although he has hosted a number of John Cook Academy training sessions at this track. Despite a heavy fall in practice the previous day and another tonight, he showed his skills are as sharp as ever.

There was comparatively little overtaking. This was not for any lack of track preparation, the track had plenty of dirt and held up well.

Heat results:

1. Faria, Fisher, D. Ermolenko, Sephton
Faria from the gate, Dukie passed Sephton midway through the race.

2. Janniro, Felicio, Ferris Kehoe.
Chad Felicio replaced Eddie Castro who was disqualified for touching the tapes.

3. Larsen, Hedden, S. Ermolenko, Curry
Sam found a slick spot on the outside of turn one and nearly lost it out of the gate. John Kehoe found it the race before.

4. Manchester, Venegas, Bast, Cook
John Cook found the same slick spot and entered the turn backwards.

5. Cook, S. Ermolenko, Ferris, Sephton

6. Larsen, Faria, Venegas, Janniro
Larsen, Faria and Janniro came into this race with perfect scores. Only Larsen continued. This was probably the closest race of the night, with Larsen taking the gate, followed by Venegas. Faria got past Venegas, but was unable to make any effect on Larsen.

7. Manchester, D. Ermolenko, Castro, Hedden

8. Bast, Fisher, Felicio, Curry
In the first attempt to run this race, Kehoe fell and Felicio replaced him. In the second Felicio fell and there was a complete restart. In the third Ryan Fisher got a great start and lead Bart for a couple of laps before he got passed.

9. Bast, Hedden, Felicio, Sephton
Great riding from Hedden made up for a lousy start, when he got passed both Sephton and Felicio, at the same time, on the inside of turn 4.

10. Faria, Manchester, Curry, Ferris

11. S. Ermolenko, D. Ermolenko, Kehoe, Venegas.
Third placed Charlie tried every maneuver in the book to get past Dukie. Finally on turn 4 of the final lap he overdid it, fell and tried to get up quickly to finish ahead of Kehoe, but did not quite make it.

12. Larsen, Cook, Fisher, Castro

13. Venegas, Castro, Sephton, Curry

14. Faria, Hedden, Cook, Kehoe

15. Bast, Larsen, Ferris, D. Ermolenko
Dukie fell on the first corner.

16. Fisher, S. Ermolenko, Manchester, Janniro
Ryan Fisher rode on Sam's tail for a couple of laps waiting for him to make a mistake. On the third lap Sam bobbled and Ryan was straight into first place.

17. Manchester, Larsen, Sephton, Kehoe

18. S. Ermolenko, Faria, Bast, Castro

19. Dukie, Janniro, Curry, Cook.
John Cook tipped the back wheel of Billy Janniro, causing a nasty looking accident. Much of the debris went through the wall, the race was stopped and Cook disqualified.

20. Hedden, Felicio, Ferris
In the first running of this race, Venegas touched the tapes, was disqualified and replaced by Felicio. In the next attempt, Ryan Fisher ran into Felicio. Ryan then got the disqualification. After that is looked more like a procession.

Regular referee John Grant was not available, so promoter Dave Joiner was referee. Dave made his starting gate procedures clear for the riders at the practice session and at the riders meeting. But a number of disqualifications were still necessary. Much to the annoyance of the crowd and sometimes the riders. The referee's job is a difficult one, but for the promoter its extra hard and should probably try to be avoided.

Generally a good meeting, but there were a few riders who I would have expected to score points. Charlie had a bad night, I would have expected him to qualify. Billy Janniro has had trips to Australia last winter and a trip to the Czech under 21 qualifying round. He is a promising youngster and many of his fans were hoping he would qualify. A number of riders admitted that they would be pleased to give up their place if Billy had qualified behind them. But he was simply not getting good gates and at this level of competition, battling through from behind is not always an option.

Others did better than I was expecting. Chris Manchester seems a lot more confident this season and was showing the kind of form he demonstrated when he became US National Champion. It was good to see Ryan Fisher do well at this level of competition, after his disappointing show at the 1999 National.

Back to normal Speedway next week, with John Cook threatening to show up again.

Gary Roberts' Pre-Race Observations:

The format will be the conventional 4 man scratch heats, each rider getting 5 rides, to enable him to race against every other rider throughout the course of the night. 3 points for a win, 2 for second, 1 for third, 0 for last. At the end of the night the two highest point scoring US based riders and the two highest point scoring European based riders will qualify to enter the Overseas Final in Poole, England, where they will compete against the top Brits, Aussies, New Zealanders and South Africans. Last year, the 4 qualifiers were the 4 highest point scorers. A change in the qualifying criteria was decided at the AMA meeting back in December last year. At that point it was assumed that more European based riders would be competing, indeed it was assumed that more European based riders would exist. The American contingent in Europe is currently very thin. Brent Werner has chosen not to contest the event this year, Ronnie Correy has given it a miss for many years. So as things have worked out, John Cook and Sam Ermolenko are competing for 2 places. Sounds easy, but that was not the way it was intended. I don't think that anyone would deny that Sam and John are both strong candidates to represent America in the Overseas Final and I would expect both of them to go on to qualify for the Intercontinental Final.

However this makes the battle for the other two places much fiercer. It would be nice to see America's young future hopes get a chance to compete in the Overseas Final, but the question must be asked, are they ready? Have Billy Janniro and Ryan Fisher got sufficient experience on bigger tracks?

Another thing that must be considered is that both the Australians and the Brits have currently got a lot of very strong contenders both in the GPs and going through to the Overseas Final. The FIM, who arrange the overall qualification process have the responsibility to make the qualification process as fair as possible. If America can not send over sufficient competitive riders, it is up to the FIM to reassign those slots next year. This would make the route to future success even more torturous for America's future hopefuls. It is therefore imperative that competitive riders qualify.

With a star studded line up like this, there are a number of riders who could win the event and it will be interesting to see who the US qualifiers are. It will also be interesting to see if, having qualified, they actually go and compete in the Overseas Final. A number of successful qualifiers in the past have turned down the opportunity, for a number of reasons ranging from financial, to plain lack of desire. There are plenty of reasons not to go. The need to take time off work, (remember, all these Speedway riders have a day job) the difficulty in getting hold of competitive equipment, lack of familiarity with racing on a big track. The other consideration for a US based rider is that if he manages to overcome all these hurdles, and succeeds in qualifying for the Intercontinental Final, he then has to do it all again.

This event has been the source of much criticism in the past, because European based riders have to come back here to qualify if they are to pursue the World Championship. They have to compete on a track that is half the size of the tracks they usually race on, against a field or riders who practice on these small tracks every week. But at the end of the day, the true championship contender will make it. Remember Sam Ermolenko 2 years ago? Five straight wins.

Friday evening will be interesting.

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