ASBK Championship contenders test ahead of Phillip Island season finale
The first Phillip Island ride day of Spring occurred this week and plenty of ASBK competitors used the opportunity to complete final shakedown tests ahead of the final showdown of the YMF Australian Superbike Championship.
The first day of the testing was hindered by strong winds and occasional drizzle, with most riders only completing two full sessions in what was a booked out opening ride day of the season.
Day two was a vast improvement, hard chargers managing to record some pretty respectable lap times considering the amount of traffic encountered on what was a public ride day.
The sixth and final event of the revitalised Australian Superbike Championship will take place at the iconic 4.45km track over the October 6-8 weekend.
There is 51-points still up for grabs at the decider, and with only 25-points covering the top four anything could still happen.
Troy Herfoss currently holds a slim six-point buffer over Josh Waters and the Suzuki man has been on fire of late, taking double victories at both Hidden Valley and Sydney Motorsports Park.
Both riders rode Phillip Island this week, and despite no official timing, Waters was reported to have been the pacesetter with a 1m33.2 on the GSX-R1000.
“It wasn’t a bad test. We only used one compound of tyre. For us it was more of getting a good base set-up to start with next Friday, working on suspension and we managed to achieve that. At a track day it is difficult to get times. Phil does a lot of work with the bike to make the bike work properly for me and he has got it really well set-up. The bike is definitely much better to ride after so much development. A lot more suitable to Phillip Island now than at the first round.”
Waters was closely followed by Wayne Maxwell, Bryan Staring, Troy Herfoss and Cru Halliday, all reported to have lapped in the 1m33s.
“We spent two days moving forward based on what we learnt from Eastern Creek, speed and handling on the new bike is promising in the laps we completed and I’m positive the new SP will hold its own in race conditions. There were lots of crashes at the test so I’m excited to build on the momentum we have gained. Personally, I’m really happy with where I am at, the big goals every year for me is to go into the final round fit and healthy and also not relying on my main competitors misfortune to help me win the championship, I’ve ticked both them boxes so now it’s about getting the most from myself when it counts.”
Corey Turner was on a flat 1:34 before an innocuous crash at Southern Loop late in the day.
“We started off a bit slow, as I was simply finding my feet around the circuit, as it was the first time that I have ridden the Ducati 1299 Panigale S around the ‘Island’. The first two sessions we had a few ‘teething problems’, which held us back a bit, but come the third session, we switched to the other bike and started improving from there. The third, fourth and fifth session we managed to get a few good laps in. For the final session we made another change to the bike, which definitely felt a lot better. With the bike feeling better I came back into the pits and put a new rear Pirelli tyre in the bike. We went out for a flying lap and I was on a good lap as well, but unfortunately I tucked the front end on the way into Southern Loop. It’s a shame the day ended the way that it did, as the team and I were making positive steps forward with the bike all day! The main thing is we know our pace is alright heading into the final round of the ASBK – Australian Superbikes next week. We’ll get the bike fixed up and then turn our focus to the final round. Massive thanks to Ben Henry, Troy Bayliss and the team sponsors for all the help. And of course thanks to everyone for all the continued support I get, means a lot!”
Interestingly, Yamaha Factory Racing team members, Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell were there by themselves, in separate garages. No YRT personnel to be seen and the pair doing all their own work on the bikes.
Wayne Maxwell is only 15-points shy of championship leader Herfoss, and nine-points off Waters. The Victorian took a hefty tumble at Sydney Motorsports Park, smacking a tyre barrier very hard, but has shook off any lingering effects from that incident and will be ready to rumble next week, at a venue where he has so often been absolutely scintillating.
Glenn Allerton spent a fair bit of time evaluating tyre options ahead of next weekend, not only changing compounds but also brands. Dunlop rears making their way into the back of the YZF-R1 at various times as the 36-year-old tested them against the Pirelli options . The three-time Australian Superbike Champion is not in the title hunt this season after suffering significant arm injuries early in the season at Wakefield Park, but was fiercely competitive at the most recent Sydney Motorsport Park round and is very eager to finish the season on a high.
There were a few high profile crashes that added significantly to the costs of a ride day…
Bryan Staring and Cru Halliday both went down at the Hayshed. Both riders related that they had no warning as the front washed out at one of the fastest right-hand bends in the world.
“The two-day test was really important for us as it’s the first time we’ve been able to ride the new SP2 as a race bike at Phillip Island. The team came really prepared with a bunch of different suspension items to test and we worked through everything step by step. I was consistently fast, and I’m still enjoying this new bike more and more as we continue to develop it. The fact our test finished with a crash is disappointing, but won’t affect us in any way going into the race next week where I expect to be really strong.”
Yamaha privateer Cru Halliday destroyed his machine, the Hayshed outfield a muddy mess and his once pristine R1 cartwheeling through the kitty litter with Cru following.
Thankfully the Sydneysider was unscathed and able to continue on his spare bike.
On return to the paddock his wrecked bike appeared to have been the subject of some weird abstract art experiment as the gravel and mud turned the R1 into a bizarre mosaic of plastic, mud, stone and metal.
Halliday has had a good season in 2017, despite breaking away from the official YRT fold and running his own family backed outfit, he has been strong and consistent. Wakefield Park the major low-point of his season, Morgan Park the highlight. Halliday currently lies sixth in the championship standings.
However, it was another family backed privateer that completely dominated at Phillip Island when the season got underway in conjunction with the World Superbike event back in February. Daniel Falzon was unstoppable at the season opener, taking three wins and pole position for a perfect 76-point haul. The South Australian continued with great form at Wakefield Park and Winton but then struck trouble in Darwin. His title ambitions were then further dented at Morgan Park where a handlebar failure saw him crash out with no points from one of the races. A slip up at the most recent Sydney Motorsport Park round saw the South Australian slide further down the standings, the 23-year-old now in fifth place, five-points ahead of Halliday.
Falzon was absent from the test this week, as was fourth placed man Robbie Bugden.
The five-time NZ Superbike Champion has been remarkably consistent all year, Morgan Park the achilles’ heel of his championship quest thus far, but the Queenslander is most certainly still in the main game. Should any of the top three falter next weekend, Bugden and the BCperformance ZX-10R will be ready to pounce. Bugden is only ten-points shy of Maxwell, 19-points off Waters and 25-points from championship leader Troy Herfoss. Stranger things have happened…
Some more riders that were in attendance at Phillip Island this week included Sloan Frost, Michael Blair and Alex Phillis.
Jed Metcher will be racing a Race Center Yamaha YZF-R1 at the final round, also shook down his machine ahead of the ASBK series finale.
Recently crowned Australian Supersport Champion, Ted Collins made his debut on the Next Gen Motorsports BMW Superbike that he will race for the first time next weekend
“The job is done in the Supersport championship, so to me there is not much point doing the final round,” explained Collins at the end of the second day. ““My aim is to race in the Superbikes next year so the sooner I get on the bike the better. It’s going to take some getting used to but we are happy with what we did today. I wasn’t going for lap times, it was more just getting comfortable on the bike. And first impressions are that it is a weapon that will take some getting used to.”
Young Matt Barton continued his familiarisation with big-bore machines, lapping Phillip Island on a Fireblade SP.
Tom Toparis also lapped the circuit on his 600cc Supersport machine along with Cube Racing teammate Aidan Hayes.
Mark Chiodo put in laps onboard his Triumph Supersport machine and like Toparis, was disappointed to learn that Collins wont be fronting for the last hurrah of the Supersport season, the youngster opting to make his Superbike debut at the finale after already wrapping up the Supersport crown in Sydney.
“It was good to get back out and do laps. For me, it was more just riding time and try a few things that we have done at the last few rounds, that we have found tend to work at Phillip Island.”
If you don’t have much on next weekend, October 6-8, head down to Phillip Island to take in the sights and sounds of ASBK or stay at home and watch it live on SBS Television, or streamed via the ASBK Facebook page.
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