The ASBK Superbike class was obviously the main attraction at The Bend, but without the support classes there wouldn’t be a helluva lot of on-track action and drama over the weekend, but more importantly, there would be no breeding ground for new talent, and there is a whole load of youngsters coming through and showcasing their talents.
The five categories of the ASBK titles are like going to school; Junior racing is kindergarten, the Supersport 300 and R3 Cup are primary school, Supersport is high school and those lucky enough to graduate to university move onto the premier ASBK while those who graduate with honours move onto categories like World Superbike or MotoGP.
Looking through the ranks we have plenty of candidates keen on furthering their education, with a handful appearing to have the talent and ability, in coming years, to matriculate to the university of road racing on the world stage.
Pearson Tops Supersport
In the 600 cc Supersport Championship there was no more deserving winner than Broc Pearson. In the past few years he’s played second string to dual Australian Supersport Champion, Tom Toparis and 2018 Champ, Cru Halliday. Always there but didn’t quite bash the door hard enough to knock it down, to break through for a title.
Anyone that knows his history realises those knocks on the door have become more persistent and forceful, but there have been plenty of challenging moments – both physically, and mentally – that have knocked him from pillar to post and back again. It’s been a long, painful and confronting road for the Queenslander.
Pearson has overcome a major crashes, and even near death experiences in his quest for glory and at times for all money it appeared that his dream of road racing success was in the dust.
Thankfully, his determination and the support of many has put the trauma behind him. Broc now has a championship in the belt as he graduates to the Superbike class, in 2022. Not a bad way to celebrate your 21st birthday.
The championship battle between he and life-long race rival Tom Edwards went down to the wire. Pearson held a seven-point lead over Edwards heading to The Bend, with Max Stauffer in contention a further 13-points adrift.
The drama and excitement of the last round was a fitting end to a year that has seen them nipping at each others heels like pesky blue-heelers, with Max Stauffer keeping them in check.
Edwards won the first race by over five-seconds after Pearson made a mistake early in the race. Broc then mixed it with Max as Tom increased his gap but Max won the battle for second.
The gap between the pair had now closed to a solitary point advantage to Broc, with Max still nipping away ready for a mishap from either of them.
Pearson did a heap of soul-searching in the break between races. It was his worst result of the year, at the most crucial time of the year.
Whoever won the last race would win the title and it went down to a classic last corner of the last lap, with a last fast desperate drag to the line as Pearson crossed the line by the bee’s dick gap of just 0.05s!
No one likes to be the first loser, but Edwards was the first to congratulate Pearson on his feat and did not begrudge Broc one iota after the race.
The pair have been racing against each other since they were seven-years-old, chasing each other around the dirt tracks of Australia before the graduation to road racing. Their paths in road racing took different avenues before they reunited again this year to go head-to-head for the title.
There may have been only six races to the season, but in each one, the pair stalked and battled, breaking lap records while racing with the utmost respect for each other. It was heart-warming to see the pair embrace at the end of the race.
An annual award that commenced in 1988 is the “Samurai Award” previously known as the RK Chains Samurai Award initiated by AMCN editor, the late Ken Wootton.
The Honour Roll of recipients of the award is a who’s who of Australian racing with recipients such as Mick Doohan, Daryl Beattie, Peter Goddard, Marty Craggill and 27 other illustrious riders.
The winner this year, Broc Pearson, was the unanimous victor and had his name etched on the trophy. Another award well deserved.
Aussie Ex-Pats Return
The Supersport class had a couple of international riders making a very welcome appearance at the final round with Billy van Eerde, Harrison Voight and Senna Agius entering the class for the weekend.
Some may have heard of Billy van Eerde, who won the Asia Talent Cup, competed in the Red Bull Rookies Cup and this year, did a few rounds of the FIM CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship along with a couple of steers in the World Supersport Championship.
He was riding a fairly long-in-the-tooth Yamaha R6 and also had to learn the track but, like Jack, he was just happy to be there racing. In fact Jack was even on the spanners, assisting with his set-up.
Harrison (Harry) Voight is not as well known – at the moment – but he had a very confronting year racing in the FIM CEV Moto3 Championship. He graduated to that class after racing in the Asia Talent Cup in 2019 and 2020 and also the Northern Talent Cup in 2020 where he finished fourth.
For 2021 he was accepted for the Red Bull Rookies Cup and signed to the SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda team with fellow Aussie, Senna Agius. The above mentioned trio made up a quartet of Aussie competitors in the CEV champs with Joel Kelso – who won three races and finished fourth overall in the title.
The year started very well for Voight, with a 12th place in the opening CEV race, but then soon turned to crap. At the next round, he had a coming together with another rider, crashed and broke his collarbone that forced his withdrawal for a few weeks from both competitions.
Harry returned for the fourth round of the RBRC at the Sachsenring (Germany) and finished eighth in the second race. His best result of the year, so a great confidence boost. He then headed to Portimao for the fourth round of the CEV title. In the opening laps, he high-sided over the infamous crest of the roller coaster, unsighted from following riders then he was hit, breaking his femur, fibula with a compound fracture of the tibia for good measure.
It was an horrific incident and if the impact had been 30 cm higher, who knows where the 15-year-old would be. Harry was out of both titles but through massive hard work and determination made a remarkably rapid recovery from such serious injury
He competed in the the final round of the CEV at Valencia after a medical clearance with strict instructions not to go too crazy. Easier said than done for a teenager but Harry listened and scored a 20th and 17th places to finish the year to rush back here, go through quarantine to compete on a not-so-new race bike.
The good news is that Harry will again be with the SIC58 team in the CEV Moto3 class next year. Keep an eye on him as I reckon he will go a long way in the sport.
For 2019 Aussie Supersport 300 Champion Senna Agius the weekend was a perfect summation of his year in the CEV.
He was quick from the outset and looked a real threat for a victory after he qualified third for the Supersport class, but unfortunately there was an oversight in his quarantine on his return to Australia and he was then forced to withdraw from the meeting on Saturday afternoon and head to Adelaide.
Senna is not short of talent but he’s not short in height either, which was a massive detriment to him racing with all the lighter, short-arse riders of Euro heritage, in the SIC58 Team alongside Voight in the CEV title.
Moving up to the FIM CEV Moto2 class will be manna for him as his weight and height will be nowhere near as critical as in the junior 250 cc class, and he proved in his time at the Bend (and a few days ago at SMSP) he will kick some freckle next year in Europe.
As for the weekend for Billy and Harry, in the first Supersport race, the pair finished seventh and eighth respectively, and in the last race they both crashed out!
In R2, Billy was battling with the leaders in third position when he crashed at the end of the second lap, while Harry battling in the top six, crashed at the tight T6 Hairpin with just over a lap to go. Thankfully, both were uninjured.
Moving On Up
While Pearson and Stauffer may be moving on to the Superbikes, in a way, its a pity to see Max graduate. After finishing in the top three two years in a row and also being a race winner, he’d be an equal favourite for next year’s title.
With Pearson moving on I reckon he will adapt to a Superbike pretty quickly to be in the top five. Finally he will be sitting on a bike that suits his rather tall frame.
There are others that are also moving on.
Luke Power is heading to the USA to race in the MotoAmerica Supersport class with his good mate and Supersport 300 rider, Joe Mariniello (who’ll be competing in the Supersport 300 class), while Scott Nicholson may be heading over with them as a support crew with the trio based in Orlando, Florida. Look out Orlando, especially if LP gets dolled up in his watermelon PJs and matching hat for a night out!
While it will be disappointing not to see all of them racing locally, there are plenty to fill the void to ensure that Edwards doesn’t have it all his own way in 2022.
The Tom-E-Gun will start favourite for the title after finishing fifth in his first season last year and going oh so close in ’21.
South Australian, Dallas Skeer who finished fifth overall will be knocking on the door with the likes of Tom Bramich, Aidan Hayes and teenager John Lytras in the leading contingent more often.
Skeer has been on a Suzuki in the past few seasons but that will change next year with him switching to Yamaha after purchasing one of Pearson’s championship winning bikes.
Dallas is a quiet achiever going about his racing with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. This year he had the experienced Glen Richards in his corner as crew chief. Whether that continues next year is uncertain, but if he stays it will be a major benefit for Dallas’s championship aspirations.
Tom Bramich will be a front runner next year. I don’t doubt it. He has a good team and good support and if he hadn’t had a whoopsie in race one he would’ve been well in the top ten in the race and in the championship. In the family run team it’s taken a bit of time for Tom to settle into the 600 but he’s never been that far away from the front runners. Next year will be a different yarn.
The seventh place overall finish of John Lytras doesn’t mirror his year as he was an early casualty at the Wakefield Park round when he wrote off his bike early on practice day and was forced out of the meeting going down a wagon full of points.
With his ever improving progress expect the diminutive teenager to be right up the front from the first round.
A debutant to the class next year will be this year’s dual Proddie champ, Ben Baker. Ben has the talent to be up the front. It won’t happen immediately but rest assured he will be getting closer on every lap.
The 300 cc Classes
Baker from the NSW Central Coast created his own piece of history by being the first rider to claim the Supersport 300 Championship and the Yamaha R3 Cup in the same year.
Like Pearson in the 600s, Benny didn’t make it easy for himself. After finishing third in the opening 300 and R3 Cup races on Saturday afternoon, he came out for his first race on Sunday in the R3s and won the title with another third place (0.052 from the win) in a six rider bunch that was separated by 0.739 sec at the finish line.
Ben’s post race antics were one of the most bizarre championship celebrations ever witnessed in Australia; he was welcomed at Turn 1 by Lachlan Epis, dressed as a Roman centurion and Anthony Mariniello, – a close friend and supporter of Ben – dolled up like Emperor Julius Caesar. They presented the championship T-shirt and one-off gold-liveried helmet, and adorned him with a massive imitation gold chain with two rolls of Anthony’s home-made salami attached!
As they say; “Once seen, can never be unseen,” and watching Epis bend over in his rather short centurion outfit was one of those sights.
However with the 300 title up for grabs, maybe it was the pressure, maybe he was overcome with winning the R3 Cup an hour previously, maybe it was the weight of the salami or maybe not enough spuds from his favourite food cart but while in the leading bunch with a 37-point lead, he just had to bring it home. That would’ve been too easy so, he crashed at T1 at the start of lap four! He remounted to finish the race but the title lead was now 23 points.
Brando’s Last Tango
The end of the 2021 season marked the end of Brandon Demmery’s racing career. Brando has been a mainstay of the 300 cc Proddie class for the best part of a decade; one of the original competitors and won the title when it was still running the Ninja 250.
Brando came back from life threatening injuries after a start line incident in the 2017 MotoGP support races to still be a regular front runner.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and was never backward in expressing his thoughts, which could be detrimental but one thing was for sure, there was never a dull moment, and you sure knew where you stood with the man – good or bad!
His last race wasn’t a fairy tale winning end but he was just one second from the win in ninth position, mirroring the intensely close competition of the breeding classes, but he did leave a mark with a new Supersport 300 lap record to show there is still plenty of pace in him, if he did desire to change his mind.
I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
Another that uttered he would be hanging up the leathers is Zachary Johnson but I’d like to make a public appeal to Zac: Keep on racing as you will be missed with your spectacular riding style.
The Winning Feeling
Successful riders tell me that the first win in any class is a mighty relief.
Archie McDonald and Glenn Nelson will certainly agree. Both have been on a steady upward progress this year although Archie had a rough start to the year missing the first round with a broken leg – as did Angus Grenfell – but he certainly made up for that at the Bend.
Not only did he break through for his first win in the ASBK Proddie classes, he had a stellar weekend with two wins and a third in the Supersport 300, while in the R3 Cup he had one win and two second places, meaning he was on the podium in every race, taking round wins in both classes. An excellent way to finish his time in Australia, before he heads to Italy in 2022.
Queenslander, Glenn Nelson wasn’t far behind in accomplishments to crack his first win. In the opening race he looked to have the edge in a frantic duel with four others but took the long way to the line weaving across the straight while Archie nailed it in a straight line to win, momentarily thwarting his maiden win by another bee’s dick distance of an almost invisible 0.05-sec gap.
After being summoned to the head master’s office for a little chat regarding weaving during the race, Glenn was suitably admonished and ready to rumble on Sunday, and that he did with a race win in each class backed up with two second places, a third and a crash in the opening 300 cc race.
The fairly consistent results were enough for him the finish second overall in the R3 Cup class after Cameron Dunker was forced out of the final race of the year – crashing at T1 to bring out the red flag and a complete restart. While disappointing for Dunker he still held onto third in the championship.
Another to keep your eye on in 2022 will be Reece Oughtred who through consistent results finished second behind Baker in the Supersport 300 and it won’t be too long into next year where he gets a taste of that winning feeling.
As for 2019 OJC winner and last year’s R3 Cup champion Carter Thompson, it was a weekend to forget for he and his younger brother, Hudson, who both ended the weekend visiting a hospital.
Thompson the elder started out in fine form and looked to be back in his winning ways after he qualified first in the R3 Cup and second in the Supersport 300 class. In the opening R3 Cup race he was part of the frantic four rider duel with McDonald, Nelson and Baker to finish fourth but in the first 300cc heat he very uncharacteristically crashed while in a good position and walked away seemingly ok.
It only got worse for the youngster as in the opening race on Sunday, in the R3 Cup he crashed again virtually at the same spot, knocking himself out and breaking a collarbone.
But he will bounce back, he is a champion in the making, has been successful in the Asia Talent Cup and will race in the European Talent Cup next year.
Oceania Junior Cup
As with any junior program, the OJC continues to produce future stars and one of the brightest to come through is Cameron Swain.
While he won the OJC to join other victors it is the way he did it that had folk sit up and take notice. In the nine races this year he was never off the podium taking six wins, two second places and one third – the only OJC rider to podium at every race, and he wrapped up the title with two races to go. Not too shabby for a 13-year-old.
Add in that Cam has never crashed in two years of the OJC and won the 2021 title by 56-points, and he is sure to go a long way.
Cam will remain in Australia next year but has been invited to compete in the Asia Talent Cup alongside fellow Aussies, with Carter Thompson fronting up for his third year in the series, while Marianos Nikolis will join the ATC for a second year.
As mentioned above it was a wretched weekend for the Thompson brothers with Hudson the younger, who debuted in the Oceania Junior Cup this year, also joining his brother with a trip to hospital.
Hudson finished fifth in Race 1, and scored the fastest lap time of Race 2 before he crashed at the tricky turn 6 and suffered an ankle injury,
Look out for Teerin Fleming too, the younger brother of Varis. He is just old enough to race and was granted a Wild Card to compete before joining OJC full time next year. A typical case of brotherly rivalry as he finished in front of his older sibling in two of the three races, with the pair finishing on equal points.
The OJC will no doubt give rise to many future champions, but over the weekend at the Bend there were a multitude of riders that had come through the junior ranks in the past, that has now morphed into the OJC that we recognise today.
On a personal level, after running the GP Juniors Australia program for three years with the Yamaha R15s, from 2016-18, it’s very special to witness so many graduates of the class succeeding; Harrison Voight, Max Stauffer, Joel Kelso, Tom Edwards, Luke Power, John Lytras, Ben Baker, Reece Oughtred, Harry Kouri and Glenn Nelson are doing so well. Then there’s a few more like Zylas Bunting and Marianos Nikolia that competed in the GP Juniors. It makes an old man very proud to have had some effect on road racing.
Combine those names with Jack Miller, Billy Van Eerde, Josh Hook, Daniel Falzon, Mike Jones and Remy Gardner that competed in the MRRDA series, as well as Tom Edwards and Joel Kelso whose initial road racing commenced in the MRRDA as did Lachlan Epis, before continuing with GP Juniors, proves emphatically that the junior programs have succeeded in the past.
Go back before the MRRDA was formed, and the likes of Wayne Holland and Tony Hatton started the Moriwaki 80 series in the mid-1990s that featured fledgling riders such as Wayne Maxwell and Josh Brookes.
Now it is run with the ASBK at every round with such a professional setup, the OJC program will provide even more opportunities for young Aussie racing hopefuls to have a broader avenue to achieve their dreams. The lines of your little black talent spotter’s book will be filled with plenty of names to be used for future reference.
Summing up a watershed weekend
There were so many positives about the final round but one observation from the spectators’ point of view is worth consideration. A few mates from Phillip Island rode over, meeting up with others that rode from interstate for an excellent adventure and camped out. The general consensus was they would never complain about the spectator facilities at the Island ever again.
The lads related to me that the Bend is a great layout and while the pit lane facility is world class with a hotel, corporate facilities and a restaurant and bar to watch the action, plus sky decks for a great view, and a great campground adjacent to the track, but if you are out spectating around the track, it’s a very different story.
While there are some great vantage points, perched on the mounds to watch the racing, there is very little in way of facilities; with no toilets, or food vans and no protection from the elements particularly the gamma rays. You have to bring your own quick shades, eskies and anything else you might need if your desire is to remain in the one spot. .
Added to that I was informed, they were assaulted by dry hot winds and dust with barely any grass and massive weeds and clumps of nettles and thorns ready to attach themselves to human flesh.
Overall the entire weekend was something very special. There’s no denying that the presence of Jack Miller, along with Josh Hook, Harry Voight, Billy Van Eerde and to a certain extent Senna Agius, added exposure on an international scale through the myriad of broadcast avenues that aired the event.
Their participation, combined with the local talent that strutted its stuff over that weekend will benefit the future exposure and ever increasing popularity of the ASBK Championships.
Let’s hope the racing gods see fit to allow a full season of competition that will culminate in another stellar event at the Bend Motorsport Park in early December, next year, and Jack will have the opportunity to grace us with his involvement again.
You never know who may come to play with him! Thanks Jack and thanks Hooky for dangling the bait for him to bite.
In many ways 2021 was more challenging than last year in the hurdles and detours that had to be negotiated with this bloody wretched pandemic.
In closing for the year, a massive thanks to everyone involved is due and as such, I’d like to thank everyone from M.A. who worked tirelessly to ensure that we completed a championship, to the officials, the riders, teams and families, to all the spectators that attended the events in this challenging year to assist in making it what it was – no matter how many rounds were changed and/or cancelled.
Also thanks to the amazing bunch of people I had the opportunity and pleasure to work with during the year to broadcast the event at the circuit and around the world. I trust we were entertaining, although it’s a fact of life you can’t please all the people all the time, and indeed some of the people any of the time!
Here’s to a massive 2022. A merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each and everyone of you.
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