Swann Superbike champs set for ASBK switch
Kelvin Reilly’s BCperformance / SA Kawasaki outfit have just celebrated their highest achievement yet, with the crowning of their charges Robert Bugden and Kyle Buckley as Swann Superbike and Supersport Champions for 2016.
However, what is the premier outfit leading the Team Green charge in Australian road racing is taking their massive brace of riders, that span numerous categories, across to ASBK for 2017.
Official announcements are expected soon, (official announcement followed on December 23), but it has been known to insiders for some time that the outfit has been readying to join the other factory teams in the Motorcycling Australia backed series for 2017.
“I’m really pumped to continue working with the Kawasaki BCperformance team in 2017. We have built a great working relationship and shared some great results, none more than dominating the 2016 Australasian superbike series. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is a great machine that was fast straight out of the box and from there it has only become better thanks to the team. So to be able to harness all that we have learnt over the year and to tackle a new challenge of racing in the ASBK series is a super exciting prospect. The ASBK series is shaping up to be one of the toughest we have seen in a long time. I have every confidence in the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Kawasaki Motors Australia, Kelvin Reilly, BCperformance and my own ability to be able to run at the front and be a real contender for the championship. I can’t wait!”
Team Manager, Kelvin Reilly, had been negotiating to secure the services of Akira Yanagawa to come Down Under and add some international flavour to the series, and had been close to striking a deal. Ultimately, some contractual issues Yanagawa is under in Japan stalled that agreement.
In 2017 it will be Robert Bugden heading the Superbike charge once again for Kawasaki in Australia and he will be joined by Kyle Buckley, the young Queenslander stepping up to join the Superbike category for 2017.
Buckley is a rising young talent and it will be exciting to watch him transition to the Superbike category, while Bugden is, obviously, sure to be competitive.
Kyle Buckley began his development journey with the team as a Ninja 300 rider in the Kawasaki Insurances FX300 Ninja Cup. From there he progressed to race at supersport level with his Ninja ZX-6R and 2017 will see him take the ultimate step-up into the superbike class.
“After taking out the ASC supersport title this year with my Ninja ZX-6R, I am absolutely stoked to ride a Ninja ZX-10R superbike for the Kawasaki BCperformance team in 2017. It has been my life dream to be able to ride for a factory supported team and to have this in my first year aboard a superbike is something truly special. I will be putting in 110% effort leading into 2017 to be as fit, fast and focused as I can be for the year ahead. I know full well that the team will be preparing the best bike in the field for me and I am confident we can be competitive from round one. I look forward to it and hope that we can continue to move forward,” said the Queenslander.
The team’s exodus from the Swann Superbike series is another blow to the Terry O’Neill managed series. In a recent three-part interview with MCNews.com.au, Terry suggested that he will be making some changes to the Superbike rules in his series. He recently tested the waters with the successful integration of an AM-Sport sub-category, for older 600cc machinery in his Supersport class, and is going to introduce new Superbike rules, which will also allow machines that are not the ultimate in cutting edge sportsbike performance to be allowed more modifications, to help try and bring competitors on what is not the latest generation machinery into the series, to help bolster numbers on the Swann Superbike grid. It is clear that O’Neill will adapt to suit the new playing field, and try to ensure the Swann Superbike series attracts riders.
Especially as another high-performing Superbike contender is also switching to ASBK in 2017. YRD supported rider Michael Blair will contest the ASBK series in 2017, as a Yamaha backed semi-privateer in the series. While the official Yamaha Racing Team will likely always run Dunlop, due to their official ties through their accessories arm, Ficeda, who distribute Dunlop Motorcycle Tyres in a number of states, it would be interesting to see a top flight Yamaha on Pirelli rubber.
Josh Waters showcased exactly that at Winton earlier this year when he showed great speed in his one-off ASBK appearance there on a Pirelli shod VicPlates Yamaha YZF-R1 run by Jordan Coote. As the team did not have an official tyre deal with any tyre manufacturer, and were simply buying their tyres at the track, they again showcased the advantages that could bring when at the Phillip Island MotoGP support races they simply swapped back and forwards between Dunlop and Pirelli as the conditions changed, giving them the advantage they needed to win the Phillip Island MotoGP support events.
As for 2017, Josh Waters is currently in Japan taking part in some of the wacky Japanese Auto-Race series where riders compete in flat track style events on tarmac, but the Mildura speedster is widely speculated to be close to inking a deal to ride a GSX-R1000 in the 2017 ASBK series. A lot hinges on when the new GSX-R1000 will be available in Australia and while the deal is not yet done, it seems likely that Waters will be on the ASBK grid in 2017.
Signs are that Matt Walters and his family backed Cessnock Kawasaki ZX-10R will also make the move to the ASBK series in 2017.
Daniel Falzon will be back on the Yamaha, and with another year of experience under his belt should be a regular visitor to the podium.
Callum Spriggs will step up to fill the shoes of Mike Jones on the DesmoSport Ducati, adding yet more young flavour to the series.
Troy Guenther steps up to Superbike on a NextGen BMW in an exciting move after taking out the ASBK Supersport Championship in 2016.
Also re-joining the ASBK ranks will be Sam Lambert. The Northern Territorian will ride a privateer level BMW S 1000 RR in season 2017.
While it is widely presumed that Yamaha Racing Team have signed Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell for 2017, no contracts have yet been put to bed. It seems unlikely that the duo will not continue with Yamaha, but as of today, nothing is set in concrete at YRT.
While not confirmed as yet, Aaron Morris will perhaps make a return to ASBK Superbike ranks in 2017. Morris is currently negotiating a World Endurance Championship berth, but has also rumoured to have been negotiationg a possible opportunity to ride a Ducati in ASBK 2017.
Crankt Protein Honda have committed to ASBK for 2017 and cemented their 2016 ASBK Champion, Troy Herfoss, to remain with the Paul Free managed squad. Bryan Staring returns from Europe to ride for the squad and adds yet more talent to the ASBK field
The only established top flight Superbike competitor yet to be sorted it seems is Cru Halliday. The 28-year-old is investigating the possibility of running a privateer based YZF-R1, and hoping to be able to put a team together to realise that goal. While Ben Burke is contemplating a year away from competition.
In 2015, virtually all the top flights competitors raced in the Swann Superbike category, with only Superbike rookies Mike Jones and Daniel Falzon competing in the M.A. series.
Yamaha and Honda made the switch in 2016. Now with BCperformance Kawasaki also joining ASBK in 2017, the scene is set for an absolute cracker of a season.
Who do you want to win?
Personally I want the young guns to upset the apple cart. There can be nothing better for the sport than if the youngsters can step up and challange the established stars. Hopefully Buckley can master the Superbike quickly and take some race wins, the same goes for Spriggs on the Ducati and Guenther on the BMW. With Blair joining ASBK on the Yamaha, and Falzon with another year of experience under his belt, how good would it be if a Superbike race podium, at least once next year, is filled with three of those five youngsters while up against the well established stars of Australian Superbike?
In the support categories there is also reason for anticipation with more young blood coming in to the series. Young Tom Toparis steps up to Supersport. Quite a few other previous 300cc category competitors are also contemplating such a move.
While in the youngster categories Oli Bayliss will step up to the plate and young dirt track star Billy Van Eerde is expected to experience some tarmac competition in 2017. And with the recent announcement of the new Yamaha R15 based GP Juniors Cup for 12-16 year-olds, things are looking bright indeed.
2017 Australian Superbike Championship Calendar
- Round 1: World Superbike Championship, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit VIC, February 23-26
- Round 2: Wakefield Park Raceway, Goulburn NSW, March 17-19
- Round 3: Winton Motor Raceway, Benalla VIC, April 28-30
- Round 4: TBC, June
- Round 5: Morgan Park Raceway, Warwick QLD, August 25-27
- Round 6: SMSP, Eastern Creek NSW, September 8-10
- Round 7: Phillip Island Grand Prix Cuircut VIC, October 6-8