Rain had fell in the early hours but despite a stiff breeze, the track seemed to be holding on to the water, and a dry line was stubbornly refusing to appear around the 18-turn, 4.945-kilometre ‘International Circuit’ layout.
Only four ASBK Superbike competitors braved the wet circuit in the FP2 session this morning which saw Lachlan Epis enjoy seeing his name at the top of an Australian Superbike time-sheet for the first time.
It was not until around 10am that things really started to improve but even an hour later, when the Asia Superbike 1000 Championship riders took to the track for their 40-minute FP3 session, conditions were still far from perfect.
The important session for ASBK Superbike competitors did not take place until after 1330 and by that time the track surface was in pretty good shape, but the wind was still causing riders plenty of problems.
Under a new qualifying format for ASBK this season the Friday afternoon session is dubbed ‘Timed Practice’, and it is the times from this session that decide the nine riders that automatically qualify for the Q2 session just before midday on Saturday. The riders from tenth back in the Timed Practice session fight it out in a Q1 session, with the top three then being promoted into Q2, making for a final 12-rider tussle over the first four rows of the grid.
The opening 10-lap ASBK Superbike race is then scheduled to take place at 1540 on Saturday afternoon, with the remaining two races in this triple-header round slated for 1020 and 1505 on Sunday.
Superbike competitors did get an hour long session late on Thursday afternoon (Link) that saw Josh Waters top proceedings ahead of Bryan Staring and Wayne Maxwell. To be honest, the Thursday session is probably a better gauge of potential performance come the races than today’s chrono, where riders did not want to put a single lap more than necessary on their tyres, instead saving them for tomorrow.
With Staring pulling double duty across both ASBK Superbike, and also a stand-in role for Team Kawasaki Thailand in the Asian Road Racing Championships Superbike class, the extra track time to work on tyre longevity will be invaluable for the Western Australian. Staring was second to Broc Parkes in the FP3 session for the ARRC Superbikes.
Local favourite and YRT Superbike rider Daniel Falzon was the early pace-setter when ASBK Superbike Timed Practice got underway at 1340 with the 25-year-old setting a 1m52.769 on his first flying lap before then returning to the pits, where he remained for the rest of the session.
The 30-minute session was approaching its halfway mark before Troy Herfoss, Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell bothered turning a wheel. They circulated slowly on their exit lap, looking for a good track position that would give them clear air for a time attack lap, that in-turn would secure them an automatic entry in to Saturday’s Q2 session.
Herfoss went fourth quickest on his second flying lap but was soon bettered by Wayne Maxwell who moved up to P3 with ten-minutes left in the session.
Mike Jones was in P2 after recording a 1m52.943 on his first flying lap early in the session. Similarly, Bryan Staring had put a quick one in early and was P3 before being relegated to P4 by Maxwell.
Josh Waters then pushed Herfoss back to P6 while championship leader Cru Halliday stood at P7 ahead of Mark Chiodo, while Glenn Allerton rounded out the top nine. With five-minutes remaining in the session that entire top ten was sat in pit-lane…
Cru Halliday, Mark Chiodo and Glenn Allerton did go out again to try and better their times but failed to make any progress, thus that is how it stands until qualifying gets underway tomorrow just before midday.
I have to say it was a far from scintillating day for the Aussie Superbike category today, but that should turn around come qualifying tomorrow, and when the action starts proper with the opening 10-lap bout at 1540 Saturday afternoon. After today’s dark, unpleasant and blustery conditions the forecast is also for better weather on Saturday and Sunday also.
Morning warm-up for the Superbikes is scheduled for 0810, however at that time of the morning nothing will be getting warmed up, as the overnight temperatures could dip as low as two-degrees celsius overnight ahead of an afternoon maximum of 19-degrees.
Nic Liminton had topped Australian Supersport in FP3 but the South Australian had tyre problems in qualifying that left him languishing at the rear of the 18-rider field, ten-seconds slower than he had gone in FP3.
Tom Toparis went under Cru Halliday’s Supersport lap record to take provisional pole with a 1m55.964, almost a full-second quicker than second placed Broc Pearson. That time quick enough to have placed him 13th in the Superbike field!
Olly Simpson topped the YMI Supersport 300 qualifying session on a 2m10.949 from Hunter Ford, Ben Baker and Zac Levy made it a Yamaha 1-2-3-4 at the top of the timesheets.
Broc Parkes topped the Asian Superbike practice session from Bryan Staring, and with a 1m52.581 was the fastest rider overall at The Bend today.
For reference, the race lap record set on a green track here last April was a 1m52.939 recorded by Herfoss, but the pole record and circuit best lap last year went to Wayne Maxwell with a 1m52.175.
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