By the time you read this, the dust should have settled on the second round of the YMF Australian Superbike Championships at Wakefield Park. It may not have been the windiest road racing meeting ever seen in Australia, when you consider Phillip Island, but it was surely the dustiest. It was brutal.
The Goulburn district of NSW has a habit of putting on some challenging conditions. Last Sunday was a step above but plenty braved the conditions leading to one of the biggest crowds seen for an ASBK event. At one point during the afternoon the skies appeared apocalyptic as a dust storm engulfed the track.
The fierce gusting wind produced its own problems but the dust added another element completely to the challenge that is racing at Wakefield. The riders related that there was more dust on certain parts of the track than others, adding to the sketchiness that the conditions generated.
Wakefield Park is a short, tight, bumpy, technical and a very demanding ribbon of bitumen with little room for error. It is a track that has to be really attacked to get the best time, a little similar to Morgan Park.
The guys that race the big bore machines around there on the limit, are astounding gladiators. Realistically, the track is too small for a Superbike to be properly unleashed. There are not too many overtaking opportunities and passes have to be on the firm side of the equation.
The weather may have done its best to ruin a great race day on Sunday but it didn’t dampen the riding displays put on by Australia’s best riders with some exceptionally close racing across all through the six classes saw lap records tumble.
Friday was the best conditions of the three days with Wayne Maxwell posting the fastest ever lap for a motorcycle around the 2.2km circuit, a 57.152 sec lap, 0.358 sec under his present lap record, which was set on the return of the ASBK to the Southern Highlands track in 2016.
It’s not until you witness the likes of Maxwell, Herfoss et al, man-handling these 170kg bikes around the track tht you gain a very minimal understanding of how bloody hard they are riding.
Additionally to the effort of Maxwell – who went oh so close to cracking a 56-second lap – other classes recorded fastest ever laps on the Friday, the GP Juniors Cup missing out on the clean sweep by just 0.041 sec!
Saturday saw conditions ramp up with temperatures rising, as well as a few tempers needing pressure relief valves. Riders have a big bug-bear about being followed; giving a tow to their rivals and this added drama and intrigue with scenes off track reflecting the amount of passion and commitment the riders put in.
It is sensational to see that two riders of the calibre of Wayne Maxwell and Troy Herfoss, who are good mates off track, battle so hard on-track. The scenes in Parc Ferme after Superbike Q2 for the interviews were priceless, with Maxwell and Herfoss virtually nose-to-nose after Maxwell accused Herfoss of getting a tow off him to set his pole lap.
Maxwell threw the first barb with the claim, and Herfoss responded during his interview. It appeared that the incident had all calmed down as people dispersed, but Maxwell said something to Herfoss and then Herfoss returned served with some heated words between the pair.
In reality they are like two brothers: one minute they will be at each other like two fighting cocks strutting around and in each other’s faces, and an hour later it’s all sweet.
It is not the first time it has happened between the pair and by the antics on Saturday afternoon, it won’t be the last time. Rivalry. It is what the series needs. A bit of fire never hurts in any sport. Bring it on fellas. Tailem Bend will be entertaining!
When the dust was still swirling the meeting ended with a new championship leader in Troy Herfoss. Both Maxwell and Herfoss took a win and a second place apiece, with the Honda man claiming the overall round victory by virtue of the extra point for his pole position.
Defending ASBK champion, Josh Waters openly admits he doesn’t like Wakefield Park very much, but he was in the mix until the later stages of each race. Sensibly, he elected not to push too hard to keep pace with the leading pair and kept up his consistency with a pair of third places to take the final podium spot of the weekend. The defending champ is now second in the championship, 10-points adrift of Herfoss.
Old Boy Bayliss did pretty well for himself in the second round. The team still doesn’t quite have the handling sorted of the Ducati Panigale to realise better performances. When they do, expect to see him battling for race wins. In the opening leg TB21 was right in with the leading pack as he battled to keep Falzon behind him but in the end finished with 5-6 placings, proving yet again, he has still got it.
Other noticeable moments in the Superbikes included…
Glenn Allerton, who with a battered body was remarkable to finish seventh and eighth. He reckons he’s a few weeks off being back to full fitness. When he does, the three-times champion will add another element to the leading pack.
Another “Ol’ Boy” Jamie Stauffer put in some solid performances in his first races in well over a year, and when asked how his fitness was, he replied, “What fitness?”
There is a very strong group of riders that are circulating just off the wizards at the front. The likes of Alex Phillis, Michael Blair, Kyle Buckley, Matt Walters, Corey Turner and Arthur Sissis. The freight train of bikes chasing each other was an impressive sidelight.
It’s great to see Sissis back road racing after a sojourn on the speedway. Arthur left Moto3 a few years go and we hadn’t seen him for a while but he is back and was improving all through the weekend.
Keep tabs on the apprentices Ted Collins and Mark Chiodo coming through. Don’t expect overnight sensations but they will graft away in their first Superbike year and the results will surely come.
And finally don’t disregard Bryan Staring. He will bounce back at Taliem Bend after his disappointing second race at Wakefield when he crashed and lost some ground in the championship battle.
The current points spread sees Herfoss 10-points in front of Waters who in turn is eight-points in front of Maxwell. Daniel Falzon, Troy Bayliss and Bryan Staring are in close proximity, one little hiccup can change the entire season, and there is still five rounds to go…
One positive from the atrocious conditions is that with the location of Tailem Bend there is an odds-on chance that a similar scenario will be dished up. It is almost certain there will be dust on the track as, at this stage, there is next to no grass surrounding the circuit. Whether the winds turn up again, is anyone’s guess.
The certainty is the racing is again going to be spectacular.
ASBK Superbike standings
Troy HERFOSS Honda 105
Josh WATERS Suzuki 95
Wayne MAXWELL Yamaha 88
Troy BAYLISS Ducati 82
Daniel FALZON Yamaha 81
Bryan STARING Kawasaki 76
Michael BLAIR Yamaha 63
Matt WALTERS Kawasaki 57
Alex PHILLIS Suzuki 56
Glenn ALLERTON BMW 53
2018 ASBK Calendar
Round 3- The Bend Motorsport Park, Tailem Bend, SA April 19 – 22
Round 4- Hidden Valley Raceway, Darwin NT June 28 – 1 July
Round 5- Morgan Park Raceway, Warwick QLD August 17 – 19
Round 6- Winton Motor Raceway, Benalla, VIC September 7 – 9
Round 7- Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC October 12 – 14
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