The Supersport 300 Production class (and YMF R3 Cup for that matter) is shaping up to be a case of situation normal in 2018; the racing is going to be frantic and fantastic, and maybe even a bit mental.
Again all the action at Phillip Island was just a test but the 18 in attendance let it be known through their lap times that it will be heady mix of experience and raw novice talent beating each other up.
Not to mention the kids that turned out for the test will have a distinct advantage – if the weather holds – over the many more that will inevitably enter for the opening round at the Island in the near future.
Of the class of 2017 that were at the test, a few like Max Croker, Broc Pearson, Scott Nicholson and Tommy Edwards have left to move up to the high school of Supersport, with Edwards also competing in the WSSP300.
2017 Supersport 300 Champions
Here’s a look at last year’s Supersport 300 (Over and Under) Champions, as well as those for the YMF R3 Cup.
2017 YMF R3 Cup Champions
The 2018 Supersport 300 & YMF R3 field
Many riders remain in the Supersport 300/R3 Cup class ready to progress up the leader board, while a few very talented youngsters fresh from the kindergarten class of Junior Road Racing will step up to the primary school of Proddie racing.
Sure, there will be a few of the elder brigade – heaven forbid even some in their 20s and 30s and even older. While the class might be predominately teenagers aiming for a future career, for many it’s all about having fun in grassroots racing. Much the same as those halcyon days of two-stroke street bikes going hammer and tongs.
It was only a year ago that leading lady rider, Laura Brown had the Production 300 lap record at Phillip Island – albeit for 24 hrs – but 12 months in the realm of teenagers is an eon, and since then there has been a further two-seconds taken off the lap record to now reach 1:48.870.
The Proddie four-stroke lap record of today is no where near as fast as those once very rapid two-strokes (1:44.925), and the earlier 250 Proddie days when Troy Corser and Mat Mladin were punting around in the “Stars of Tomorrow” et al, but the intensity of competition is just as fierce.
Talking of Corser and Mladin, both road race legends were at the track keeping an eye on the goings on of many of the younger brigade, while involved in other ventures during the two days.
For 2018 the established pace setters leading the chase – at least in round one – will be Hunter Ford, Oli Bayliss and the brothers Bramich, Tom and Ben. Plus kids who made an impact last year like Jared Brook, Seth Crump, Corey Briffa and the younger brother of Hunter Ford – Zane, who hopefully will be back to full fitness after a wretched year in 2017.
Add in the graduates to the class and the fact that they don’t have any respect for reputations, and there will be an abundance of action that will ensure spectators hug the fences to catch it all.
There were a number of category novices at the test, including Harry Khouri (NSW), Max Stauffer, Luke Power, Andrew Edser, Hunter Penhallurick (from far north Queensland), and Ryan Dadd.
Take note as it won’t be the last time you read these names. All have the potential for big things and a few of them caught the road racing bug in the GP Juniors Cup last year. Corner, Mladin and Co. were all unknowns once too…
Tom Bramich was credited with the fastest time (1:50.561) from Hunter Ford 0.357 sec behind, and Oli Bayliss third, just 0.078 adrift. Bayliss was quickest in four of the session while Bramich and Ford shared the bragging rights the other four, although Bramich missed the opening session on each day and Ford missed the first one.
Who else will join the mix with this trio at the front during the year is anyone’s guess but the other teenagers that were there gave indication that they will be closing in, fast.
Tom Bramich’s brother, Ben will be one but he has stepped across to ride a KTM390 with Penhallurick alongside.
Sadly Ben’s test came to an abrupt halt during the first session of Day Two with engine troubles and he took no further part. Until then he was third fastest, so he can take some good feelings out of the test.
Behind Ben was Khouri and he is truly one to keep an eye on. Unlike most of the others, Harry has had no dirt track racing experience.
The 13-year-old started in the GP Juniors Cup last year and he was consistently the rider who took the greatest chunk out of his lap time from open to close of a meeting, always moving forward. In a short space of time he has gone from battling mid-pack, to now be pushing the leaders at every chance.
Such was his performance last year – and demeanour off the bike – he was invited to race the AMCN Yamaha R3 at the final round of last year’s Hi-Tec Batteries Australian Supersport 300 Championship at Phillip Island.
He took nine-seconds off his times in his baptism to the class and at the test took over six-seconds off to record a PB for fourth fastest, just in front of one of this season’s threats, Seth Crump.
Seth is another who has have very little dirt track experience, as he simply has little interest in it, something that bemuses his Dad, three times Speedway World Champion, Jason. Seth took his first win in the class in atrocious conditions at the GP Supports and will be not far off doing it in the dry after what he showed at the test, keeping in mind he had crash at Winton a few days before.
Another KTM rider, Jared Brook was seventh fastest and 2018 will be a year where he makes impressive progress on his KTM, as will Corey Briffa, another KTM rider. Brook finished 15th in the Over 300 class last year while Briffa was 10th.
Bronson Picket is one junior that is staying in the class and will be sure to be in the mix this year. He didn’t have a good test, lapping some two seconds slower than last year, and this season he is on a Yamaha R3 after the Kwaka last year.
Another new kid on the block that has the pedigree and the talent to take this class by storm is Max Stauffer, the son of multi Australia Champion, Jamie. Max has an Australian dirt track title to his name and is another that commenced his road racing with the GP Juniors Cup last year.
On his very first stint at the Island he was sixth fastest after the two days and loved every minute of it, saying at day’s end, “I want to go faster. I love it.” One wonders what Max’s mum Emma must be going through, something similar to Kim Bayliss I presume!
Max started road racing as Dad, Jamie retired. Now Jamie is back racing and Max is stepping into the cauldron of 300cc racing. Added to this he will be racing in the GP Juniors Cup similar to Harry Khouri and there is plenty of track time for the Stauffers this year.
Another graduating from the Juniors is Victorian Luke Power riding a Kwaka 300. It will be interesting to see his progress throughout the year, as on a two-stroke machine he is a bullet. He did struggle on a Yamaha R15 in the GP Juniors Cup last year in comparison, so here’s hoping he adapts to the larger four-stroke machine more amicably.
Other C and D graders will be worth keeping an eye on with Mitchell Kuhne – younger brother on Matt, Ryan Dadd, Andrew Edser, John Hazeldene and another long distance traveler – Hunter Penhallurick from far north Queensland.
And, don’t forget Laura Brown. Last year turned to crap for her. After a stellar performance at the opening round and claiming the lap record (as mentioned above) she crashed in the dismal conditions of Round Two at Wakefield Park and broke her leg.
Once she gets her confidence back and starts pushing again she will be making an impact too – hopefully not with her body and bones! Maybe The Island is where it all comes together for her.
The Supersport 300s and Yamaha R3 Cup will have three races each at the opening round of the Australian Championships run alongside the first round of the 2018 Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island on 23-25 February.
ASBK Test – Phillip Island January 30-31, 2018
Combined Supersport 300/ YMF R3 Cup Times (TBC)
Tom BRAMICH (VIC) Yamaha 1:50.561
Hunter FORD (NSW) Yamaha 1:50.918
Oliver BAYLISS (QLD) Kawasaki 1:50.996
Ben BRAMICH (VIC) KTM 1:51.715 188
Harry KHOURI (NSW) Yamaha 1:51.870
Seth CRUMP (QLD) KTM 1:51.983
Jarred BROOK (QLD) KTM 1:52.232
Max STAUFFER (NSW ) Yamaha 1:52.578
Laura BROWN (NSW) Yamaha 1:54.359
Corey BRIFFA (NSW) KTM 1:54.543
Luke POWER (VIC) Kawasaki 1:54.674
Andrew EDSER (NSW) Kawasaki 1:54.817
Mitchell KUHNE (QLD) Yamaha 1:55.364
Bronson PICKETT (WA) Yamaha 1:55.576
Hunter PENHALLURICK (QLD) KTM 1:58.169
Zane FORD (NSW) Yamaha 1:58.232
John HAZELDENE (VIC) Kawasaki 1:58.334
Ryan DADD (QLD) Yamaha 1:58.622
The R3 Cup Prize Pool includes a total of $22,000 cash incentives. Watch the fiercely contested series at these venues:
Round 1 WSBK, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit VIC February 22 – 25
Round 2 Wakefield Park Raceway Goulburn NSW March 16 – 18
Round 3 Morgan Park Raceway Warwick QLD August 17 – 19
Round 4 Winton Motor Raceway Benalla, VIC September 7 – 9
Round 5 Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit VIC October 12 – 14
For more information on the R3 Cup and how to enter please download below.
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