The most eagerly awaited start to an Australian Superbike Championship season finally got underway at 1653 on Saturday afternoon under cloudy skies on a dry track.
The reasons for the anticipation were many, but it is fair to say that Troy Bayliss electing to make his comeback to competition within the ASBK ranks has added another level of interest, along with a fair dose of verve and vigour to the championship.
Troy’s son Oli had set the standard for his dad to follow by claiming victory earlier in the day with a brilliant win in a hotly contested 300 Supersport race.
All the front runners got off the line well and it was Josh Waters the clear leader as they tipped into turn one for the first time ahead of Daniel Falzon, Wayne Maxwell and Bryan Staring.
Glenn Allerton went up the inside of Troy Bayliss to challenge for seventh place but locked up the rear and was launched high into the air over the highside of the NextGen BMW S 1000 RR. An inauspicious start to the season for the three-time ASBK Champion. The melee saw both Troy Bayliss and Troy Herfoss lose positions while taking avoiding action, Herfoss said his bike was hit that hard it nearly knocked him off the bike.
Then, a few drops of rain started to fall around the circuit…
Josh Waters was escaping from the field, with 11 laps to run the Suzuki man had more than a full second over Maxwell, who had started to eke out a small gap over Daniel Falzon.
Troy Bayliss started to make a charge through the field, picking off a few riders before then commencing battle with Bryan Staring over fourth place.
Conditions were now a little precarious, with the ever so slight patchy drizzle at various points of the circuit. Bayliss wasn’t phased, he picked off Falzon with nine laps to run, he looked on a mission.
With eight laps to run Josh Waters held a strong three-second lead over Wayne Maxwell. Bayliss was now the fastest man on the circuit…
Then the patchy drizzle became rain…
Troy Bayliss was now all over Wayne Maxwell, then Maxwell went down at turn one as he arrived not knowing how much more rain was now falling at that part of the circuit. Troy Bayliss nearly followed him in but managed to just pull it up, earlier race leader Josh Waters had also ran right over to the ripple strip and put his hand up to signal the dangerous conditions. Bayliss also put a hand up after rejoining the circuit. The leaders wanted the race stopped…
In the flag-to-flag conditions riders were of course allowed to pull into pit-lane to change to a wet bike, thus organisers were in no real hurry to call a premature end to the race. Some time later though the red flag did come out, perhaps saving the riders from themselves, as nobody looked in a rush to enter pit-lane and swap to a bike set-up with wets, and also did not want to risk pulling in only for the race to then be continued. While the track was damp enough for it be very challenging on slicks, it was not wet enough to race on full wets. A rock and a hard place…
Riders returned to pit-lane and there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion as to exactly what the plan was going to be from here. Nobody looked in a hurry to swap to wets, conditions not wet enough to run full wet tyres, but very slippery and a bit of a gamble for slicks
Some riders were gesticulating their views and frustrations, most wanting a halt to proceedings, deeming it now not wet enough to run full wets, and with them now all lined up at the end of pit-lane, their tyres were now cold. Most riders wanted organisers to call it a day, but Herfoss wanted to race… Wayne Maxwell would also be allowed to re-start because he did not cause the red flag, so he too would have been very eager to get out there and have a chance to take some points in this season opener.
Teams then finally started to break out the tyre warmers and get ready to go again. One would have thought it would have happened instantly when the riders came back into pit-lane, and it was unclear from my viewpoint if that was because officials were not allowing tyre warmers to be fitted, or just the general pandemonium and confusion in pit-lane.
The decision was then handed dow that pit exit was to open at 1720 for a sighting then warm-up lap then back in to it. Normal time restrictions at Phillip Island not in force for international events so we can run as late as there is light.
Josh Waters looked ready to cruise to victory before the rain fell and then the Suzuki man actually missed the window that the pit exit was open, left stranded in pit-lane and missing out on some of the crucial track time to warm up his tyres. Instead, he sat on his Suzuki at the end of pit-lane, without tyre warmers, his blood pressure rising….
Riders formed up on the grid and then took off for their next lap, then Waters was allowed to join the circuit, and would be able to take his position at the front of the grid for the race re-start.
Some riders had made a gamble on wets but with the track almost completely dry and even with a shortened six-lap race distance, they are going to be obliterated in half that distance. Wayne Maxwell was one of the riders to take that gamble, a gamble that the YRT man lost…
Josh Waters again got the holeshot but this time Bayliss was hot to trot from the start and he was sniffing at the back of Waters’ GSX-R1000R right from the off. Bryan Staring was in third as they negotiated turn four for the first time, Daniel Falzon fourth and Aaron Morris up to fifth.
Troy Herfoss had a poor start but was scything his way up the field up to fifth before then engaging battle with Aaron Morris and Matt Walters.
With four laps to go it was still Waters from Bayliss while Daniel Falzon was running third ahead of Bryan Staring and Herfoss had worked his way up to fifth.
Troy Bayliss then rode around the outside of Josh Waters to take the lead as the Suzuki man started to take a little more caution with the rain commencing once again. Waters was then pushed further back by Falzon and Herfoss.
Troy Herfoss then took Falzon for second place but the YRT man came back at him. As they crossed the stripe with three laps to run there was nothing between Bayliss, Falzon, Herfoss and Staring. Things were hotting up…
Then a few more riders joined that leading group to turn it into a gaggle! Morris, Walters and Phillis joining Waters to turn that leading group into an eight bike affair.
Troy Herfoss then took the lead from Bayliss at MG Hairpin and led the field down the main straight before being swamped by Bayliss and Falzon swept past him at turn one, pushing the Honda man back to third.
Josh Waters was now ready to re-join the battle, pushing his way back to third place. Bayliss was back in the lead and pushing hard, the previous run out of turn 12 the Ducati reared up into a massive wheelstand but Bayliss stayed in the throttle and it looked absolutely spectacular.
Last lap and Waters was back in front, Bayliss up the inside at turn four, Herfoss swept through too, Bayliss wide at Siberia opening the door for Herfoss who walked right through it..
Around the Hayshed it was still Herfoss, Bayliss right behind him at MG, they wind up through turns 11, then 12, it would be a drag to the line, but Herfoss has it! Troy Herfoss the winner, Troy Bayliss second and Josh Waters third. What a race!
2018 ASBK – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One Results
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