Two of Australia's best young speedway protagonists will set aside their regular fellowship when they go head-to-head in this Saturday's Australian Under 21 Solo Speedway Championship at Undera Park Speedway, near Shepparton (Vic), on January 31.

Reigning champion Rory Schlein and Cameron Woodward, both 19, are incumbents at the Edinburgh Speedway team in Scotland during the regular British Premier League season, but the association will be jettisoned on Saturday night as they fight for national title honours.

The duo claimed the quinella in last year's final in Tamworth (NSW) -- after Woodward had gone through the heats undefeated - and will start this year's instalment as the two standout riders in the crack 16-bike field.

The bespectacled Schlein, from Hallett Cove in South Australia, must start proceedings as the outright favourite - not just because of his defending title status, but his 'warm-up' for the meeting has been of the highest calibre. That's because the teenager has just completed a strenuous three-week campaign in the national senior solo speedway title, with his zenith a victory in the B Final last Saturday night. He eventually finished seventh overall, while Cory Gathercole, another competitor this weekend, was 19th.

Meanwhile, Woodward, coming off a shoulder injury sustained in UK last year, has finished third and second in the last two under 21 titles, which may be an omen for his ascension to national champion on Saturday night. However, the portent is tempered by the fact that of the nine riders who have won the under 21 title since it began in 1987, seven of them were previous under 16 Australian champions - a title which eluded Woodward during his formative years.

Including Schlein and Woodward, eight riders from the 2003 under 21 meeting will return for this year's staging at Undera Park. That coterie includes Matthew Wethers - who is also a teamster at Edinburgh - Michael Slade, dual under 16 champion Mark Jones, Trevor Harding and Louis Myers.

Another notable inclusion is that of 16-year-old Queenslander Troy Batchelor, who won the most Australian championships of any rider in 2003 - across all disciplines. Batchelor was successful in the under 16 speedway and long track titles as he waved goodbye to his junior career, before emerging victorious in the senior long track slider title at Bathurst (NSW) last November.

The remaining riders will be Arlo-Anthony Bugeja, Brock Gates, James Holder, Sam Dore, Robert Ksiezak, Chris Holder and John Oliver.

 

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