Max Fricke sees Monarchs as genuine title contenders

Max Fricke impressed in his first season
Max Fricke impressed in his first season
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Max Fricke watched a few clips of some of his best races of 2013 for Edinburgh Monarchs at the Capital club’s pre-season video show in the city last week.

And while he must have felt highly satisfied at what was beamed to the audience, he knows the expectancy on him to continue his rapid progress in Monarchs colours this term will place him firmly in the vanguard in the push for Premier League honours at Armadale.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Fricke who celebrates his 18th birthday this month, continues to be buttonholed as a rookie despite a tranche of luminary performances which astonished some observers in the sport in his UK debut season.

Fricke seems mature beyond his years and possesses an acute racing brain without being cavalier. He is also a polished and articulate speaker and if you throw a spanner at him to catch, he won’t drop it.

It’s this feeling of reliability which he seems to exude that has prompted Monarchs’ supporters to invest their faith in him. And although Fricke has only just taken the first few steps along his career path, how he copes with a more responsible role in the side this term could have a huge bearing on whether Monarchs’ new look line-up soars or completely bombs.

Fricke touched down in Edinburgh following a successful winter back home in Australia which saw him retain his Under-21 title and gain a top-ten finish in the three-round senior Australian Championship.

“These were the goals I had in mind for myself,” said Fricke “To achieve them was great and it has given me the ideal preparation for my second season for Monarchs. It is my plan to keep moving forward with Monarchs, even although I will be racing in a harder position within the team.

“I want to keep improving. I want to increase my average and just do my best for the team.”

Fricke is expected to be handed the No 3 race-jacket and will, initially, partner new American arrival Aaron Fox.

Said Fricke: “Riding at No 3 will be difficult and it is going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to meeting Aaron and racing with him. He seems a great guy and he is coming over here determined to do well.”

Monarchs do not have a recognised third heat leader in their ranks and the battle to fill that role could be the catalyst for some interesting jostling among their quartet of new faces. However, with a season of life in the Premier League now under his belt, Fricke could be the candidate to glide into the position.

“To be in the top three of the team would be great for me and a heat leader position is where I want to be. It is definitely up for grabs. It will come down to making starts and consistency – of course, you have got to have the speed as well, which I hope I’ve got.”

Monarchs will have a mini colony of Aussies in the pits this season with Sam Masters and Justin Sedgemen alongside Fricke, who says: “It will be good to have a couple of other Aussies riding for the team and it will mean a couple of familiar accents, too. But all seven of our side will help and support each other and I think that the team spirit will be really good.”

Sedgemen and Masters didn’t compete in the UK last season but Fricke does not think this places the pair at any great disadvantage. He said: “Typically, both of them rode well in Australia this winter and I think that will have helped them. However, it could take them a little time to get used to competing in the Premier League again, but they’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

Fricke is a young man who knows what he wants to achieve as a speedway rider. And his decision to sign for Outrup in the Danish Super League in addition to linking up with Polish outfit Torun underlines his recognition that you must broaden your horizons at a young age to reap glittering rewards further down the line.

“Torun is a great club with a very big set-up,” said Fricke. “And while I hope to get a spot with them at some stage this season it will be tough. They have got guys like Darcy Ward, Chris Holder and Tomasz Gollob in their team. It’s highly unlikely I’ll get a race but they have a couple of bikes across there for me to practise on. To get on in this sport you have got to experience riding in different countries on different tracks and competing in different atmospheres.

“It’s all part of my development and I’m really excited about it – it can only help me in the long run.”

Fricke admitted he would have liked to have doubled up in the Elite League, as teammates Craig Cook and Steve Worrall will be doing, but new rules compelling clubs in the top flight to track two National League riders’ at reserve stymied his hopes.

“Bringing National League riders into the Elite League, I’m not a massive fan of that,” said Fricke. “It brings down the quality of the Elite League, but you still have some great riders at the top end of that division.

“I think it will be tough for the NL boys. It is going to be interesting to see how it works and we’ll see in two or three years if it was a good thing or not.”

Fricke confessed that the Elite League is where his future ultimately lies, but stressed he has no plans to quit the Premier League any time soon.

“I have to be looking towards the Elite League eventually. But time is on my side and I’m still developing as a rider. I’ll be racing in the Premier League until it’s no longer an option.”

Fricke is energised that Monarchs, who were beaten by Somerset Rebels in the 2013 Play-off Grand Final, can go one better this time and claim a fourth championship crown.

“I think this season will be good for us. We have four new faces and while it will take time for them to find their feet, we have got a good mix at Armadale this year and are capable of reaching the play-offs again.”

Monarchs open their new campaign against Glasgow Tigers in the first leg of their Air Fence Challenge fixture on Friday, March 28.