After a sensational ASBK season it now all comes down to one last slugfest at Sydney Motorsports Park to decide who will be king.
A full year’s worth of fitness training and racing by the riders, endless hours spent in workshops by mechanics and team members, more changes of shock internals than they can count, and a frightening amount of discarded tyres.
They all want to win. They all hate losing with a mind-bending angst and frustration at levels that normal people will never experience or understand. This is how they are wired. You don’t get to this level without an all-consuming competitive inferno in the belly.Most of these boys are older now, so that level of frustration and desire is, publicly at least, kept in check and under control, most of the time…
The tension in the air though is still palpable… There are more nerves than normal, among not just the riders but everyone involved in their campaign within the pits, and their loved ones outside the pits.
The pressure on the mechanics to get everything right is enormous. Imagine the tiniest mistake in preparing the bike costing your rider the championship after you have sweated blood for them all year and given your all…
In respect to the main championship contenders, probably a couple of hundred grand has been spent on each of the factory boys in the quest for the ultimate prize in Australian Road Racing, the 2019 Motul Pirelli Australian Superbike Championship #1 plate.
Only 4.5-points separate Troy Herfoss, Wayne Maxwell and Mike Jones heading into the finale, but they are not the only contenders in what has been the closest-fought Australian Superbike Championship ever.
Despite a costly Phillip Island tumble, Cru Halliday is most definitely still in with a shot at the title and with storms expected to arrive at Sydney Motorsports Park on Sunday afternoon anything could happen, and probably will. Josh Waters and Bryan Staring are also still mathematical chances.
While not in the championship chase, the likes of Daniel Falzon, Mark Chiodo, Matt Walters and Glenn Allerton could play a part in how those cards falls on Sunday. Jamie Stauffer is out of retirement and on a new Ducati V4 R, while short on set-up time, if the heavens open on Sunday he will be in the mix.
Kiwi Damon Rees might come to the fore and shake up the established pecking order in the wet, while the always fast-starting Arthur Sissis is capable of mixing it up front. Alex Phillis might also surprise with an extra burst of pace.
ASBK season 2019 has been the tightest motorcycle road-racing competition this year the world over and has been thoroughly action-packed. I expect no less from the final pair of 13-lap bouts that take place tomorrow.
Mike Jones has been in peerless qualifying form this season and has taken pole position at the previous four rounds, The Bend, Morgan Park, Winton and Phillip Island has all seen the DesmoSport Ducati rider on pole.With things so tight at the top the single point for pole position today takes on even more importance.Jones might not have topped the time-sheets on Friday, and in fact was only fifth quickest, but he did put in the largest number of genuinely fast laps across the sessions which suggests they have a good race set-up.
Cru Halliday was also strong all day, topping both FP1 and FP2.Wayne Maxwell ended Friday second quickest ahead of Daniel Falzon and Troy Herfoss.
The temperature was rising as Superbike competitors readied for their 35-minute timed practice session on Saturday morning.Track temperates were heading towards 40-degrees but were still much cooler than what riders experienced here on Friday afternoon. The conditions were more conducive to fast times and Maxwell dropped in 1m30.524 on his first lap. Falzon was also quickly into 1m30s. A few minutes later Herfoss was also in the 30s and was then joined by Mark Chiodo who dropped into the 30s for his first time ever.
Cru Halliday then went out halfway through the session and dropped in the fastest lap of the weekend thus far, a 1m30.187s on his first lap of the session around the 3.93 kilometre regular Sydney Motorsports Park Circuit. This traditional lay-out termed as the Gardner Circuit, while the new extended track is dubbed Brabham Circuit.
With 13-minutes remaining Mike Jones crossed the stripe for the first time and became the first rider to dip under the magic 1m30s mark. A 1m29.893s on his first lap out and he was happy to head back to the pits.
That time by Jones was good enough to stand all the way to the chequered flag.Halliday second, Maxwell third, Herfoss fourth, Chiodo fifth and Falzon the last man in the 1m30s in sixth.
Josh Waters was seventh fastest but only by the narrowest of margins over Matt Walters, despite the Cessnock Kawasaki rider having an off at turn nine during the session.
Bryan Staring the final automatic Q2 qualifier in ninth.
The riders from 10th back in the Timed Practice session have to fight it out in a Q1 session, with the top three in that session then promoted into Q2, making for a final 12-rider tussle over the first four rows of the grid. A little like we see in MotoGP these days.
The temperature was considerably hotter by the time the Q1 session got underway, track temperatures above 50-degrees and the ambient nudging 33-degrees.
Q1 kicked off on schedule at 1440 as competitors did battle to secure a top three position and earn their promotion through to Q2.
South Australian speedway supremo Arthur Sissis was the early pace-setter before Jamie Stauffer overhauled him halfway through the session. Three minutes before the end Damon Rees shot to the top of the charts with a 1m31.671s, an impressive time considering the very hot track temperatures.
Lachlan Epis then leaped up the timing monitors with a 1m32.284s to take second place with 90-seconds remaining in the session. Allerton then crossed the stripe with 45-seconds remaining after putting in a 1m31.988s to push Epis back to third and Stauffer out of the top three.
In the dying seconds Allerton then went top by less than a tenth-of-a-second over Rees. Sissis improved to move back up to third momentarily before Epis then improved his marker to 1m31.958s, ruling Sissis out of promotion to Q2.
Thus Allerton topped Q1 from Rees and Epis and it is that trio that earned promotion through to the final 15-minute qualifying battle. Allerton had swapped back to the previous model S 1000 RR for qualifying after using the practice sessions to work on a set-up with the new model but then felt they needed more development time before continuing with the new model.
Superbike Q1 Results
BMW S RR
Honda CBR SP
Ducati V4 R
Dominic DE LEON
Cru Halliday, Mark Chiodo and Troy Herfoss all put in quick laps in the first five-minutes of Q2 to go 1-2-3 before returning to pit-lane.
At the halfway point of the session the top seven riders were all in the pits… Halliday on top from Chiodo and Herfoss, Maxwell fourth ahead of Jones and Falzon while Allerton was seventh. Eighth placed Damon Rees was the final rider in the 1m31s at that half-way point of proceedings.
With six-minutes left in the session all 12 riders were in pit-lane. A minute later there was an exodus from the pits as they all headed out for their final charge.
Falzon was under at the first split and on a flyer, then orange sector times started filling the timing monitors as Chiodo, Herfoss, Jones, Staring all set first sectors quicker than Halliday’s earlier benchmark.
Falzon went top with 2min-30s remaining on a 1m30.039s, Herfoss went second on 1m30.070s.
Halliday then put in a 1m30.298s to go third, Chiodo was fourth and then went under at the first split before hitting the deck, his pole challenge done.
That’s it. Falzon takes that vital championship point for pole and denies the championship challengers their chance to take another point. That’s the South Australian’s first pole in two years.
With rain forecast from midday tomorrow we are extremely likely to have at least one wet race. Quite possibly the final 13-lap battle that decides the championship will be staged in wet conditions.
After the heat of the past few days this circuit will, initially at least, turn into an ice skating rink when the rain first falls. If it does rain, will organisers then stage a quick-fire wet practice session ahead of a wet race if the forecast precipitation levels hit the circuit tomorrow afternoon…? The tension and nerves just went up another notch….
Tom Toparis may have wrapped up the Motorsports TV sponsored Supersport Championship at the penultimate Phillip Island round. It is fair to say that the Goulburn teenager was clearly a class above the competition in the category this season.
This weekend though there is a new challenger. Tom Edwards is back from European adventures in the Supersport 300 World Championship and has stepped up to a 600 for his return to the domestic ranks. A BikeBiz backed YZF-R6 his mount and today Edwards showed just how competitive he is by finishing QP1 second to Toparis. A 1m33.054s not far off the 1m32.739s of Toparis and suggests that Edwards might take the fight up to him on Sunday.
Broc Pearson is currently second in the Supersport Championship with a significant 28-point buffer over South Australian Nic Liminton. One trip up from the Queenslander though will be enough for Liminton to perhaps steal that #2 plate at the final juncture…
Due to much higher track temperatures in the second qualifying session most of the front runners were nowhere near the times they had set in QP1, thus the grid was largely decided on Q1 times.
Hunter Ford topped Supersport 300 Qualifying ahead of Max Stauffer and Senna Agius. Stauffer had been quickest in QP1 but Ford pipped him out of top spot in Q2.
Hunter Ford capitalised on his pole position to lead Levy and Stauffer on the opening lap of the eight-lap opening race of the weekend which was staged in sweaty 34-degree ambient temperatures at 1420 on Saturday afternoon.
By the end of lap two Senna Agius had worked his way to the front of what was now a five-rider battle at the front of the field with Luke Jhonston in the mix.
Agius then managed to ease away from his pursuers over the next few laps and by half race distance led by a full second.Max Stauffer was left to tussle over second place with Ford, Levy, Jhonston and a fast finishing Brandon Demmery.
Stauffer did enough to claim the second place but with that clear victory Agius has trimmed Stauffer’s championship lead down to 11-points with two races still to go.
Hunter Ford took pole for the YMF R3 Cup ahead of Max Stauffer and Zac Levy despite Ford not turning a wheel in Q2. His Q1 time of 1m43.315s held steady at the top while fellow front row qualifiers Max Stauffer and Zac Levy also secured their spots on their Q1 time set in the cooler morning conditions.
Max Stauffer scored the holeshot on lap one but there was some consternation about possible jump-starts as race direction immediately indicated that the start was under investigation.
Zac Levy took the lead from Stauffer and Hunter Ford then demoted Max further to third place. Stauffer was not done though and was back in the lead on lap three as officials then informed us that Zac Levy had been penalised for a jump-start.
Ford moved back through to the lead with four laps to go with Levy then again pushing Stauffer back to third. John Lytras, Brandon Demmery and Ben Baker were also in that leading pack and in podium contention. Reece Oughtred then joined that party with two laps to go, then at the last lap board only half-a-second covered that entire top seven.
At the flag it was Hunter Ford with his nose in front of Brandon Demmery and John Lytras in third. Max Stauffer fourth ahead of Zac Levy, but Levy will be relegated down the order in the results after the jump-start penalty is applied.
With that victory Ford extended his championship points lead over John Lytras to 20-points.
The bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup qualifying sessions looked like they were racing as they all tried to slip-stream each other.
At the end of Q2 though still nobody had beaten the 2m01.026s set by Marianos Nikolis in Q1 thus the young Sydneysider was on pole for the late afternoon race with Cormac Buchanan and Archie McDonald rounding out the front row.
Come Saturday afternoon though it was Tom Drane that won an exciting battle to take victory over Nikolis with McDonald rounding out the podium.
Thompson may have finished fourth but that was enough to extend his championship lead over Angus Grenfell to 31-points after Grenfell suffered a DNF.
Aaron Morris blitzed the Superbike Masters field in qualifying with a stunning 1m34.293s to take pole position ahead of John Allen and Stephen Kairl.
Morris led by five-seconds at the end of the first lap of the six-lap Saturday afternoon race. That gap was just under ten-seconds by the end of lap two and it was clear Morris and the C&M Motorcycles FZR1000 Yamaha were in their own race.
The best of the rest was John Allen on a TZ 750 who ultimately maintained a significant advantage over Stephen Kairl to take second place.
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