Yamaha Racing Team’s Cru Halliday has laid down a marker at the start of the 2020 mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship season, quickest in Free Practice 1 at Phillip Island on the new 2020 YZF-R1. Halliday set the early pace of the weekend, his 1:32.500 a great start to a season where he is more determined than ever to break into the ASBK winner’s circle.
Grey skies greeted the teams and riders, with the notorious Phillip Island weather once again testing the riders. Offshore wind would ensure fast speeds through the speed trap down the main straight, with all the riders looking to get their weekends, and their seasons, off to a good start.
Riders had only done two laps in the session before a red flag stopped proceedings. Glenn Scott’s BCperformance Kawasaki had spilt fluid on the racetrack through turns 3, 4 and 5, requiring a lengthy cleanup for the session to continue. Once the session resumed Cru Halliday was the first rider to dip into the 1:32s, his 1:32.836 putting him to the top of the leaderboard with 15 minutes to go. Wayne Maxwell was the only rider daring to match him at that point, his best of 1:33.097 the next fastest.
With three minutes to go Josh Waters joined Halliday in the 1:32s with a 1:32.973, a great start for the privateer on his team’s first outing in an ASBK round. Maxwell improved on his best to a 1:32.988 leaving him third.
As the final flurry of laps came in before the chequered flag, Halliday further improved his mark to a 1:32.500, ahead of Maxwell (1:32.610) and Waters. When the chequered flag fell to end the session that’s how they stayed, Halliday fastest ahead of Maxwell and Waters, Aiden Wagner on his first outing as a factory Yamaha Racing Team rider in fourth (1:33.563). Glenn Allerton on the brand-new 2020 Maxima BMW S1000RR was an impressive fifth (1:33.806) while CAT Yamaha privateer Daniel Falzon was sixth (1:34.096).
ASBK Season Launch
Speaking at the launch event for the 2020 ASBK this morning, Halliday and teammate Wagner said they were impressed by the speed of their new 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1.
However Halliday said there’s also improvement needed in his riding to truly take the fight to Troy Herfoss, Maxwell and Mike Jones.
“This is the year I need to start winning races. I just think I need to get more aggressive in the races and understand where these other riders are faster than me at some of the tracks where I really need to pick up the pace- and this is one of them.”
Also speaking at the season launch, Desmosport Ducati’s Mike Jones was confident of getting his 2020 championship defence off to a good start.
“The pace that we’ve got’s quite good, we finished up second quickest at the test and heading into this weekend we’ve got good race pace. I feel like the races are going to be just as hectic and intense as they were at the end of last year. It brought the level of the championship up, the depth of field’s getting more and more, the level of the championship’s getting higher and higher.”
Penrite Honda’s Troy Herfoss has plenty of new elements to his race package for 2020, with a new tyre in Michelin and a new Crew Chief in Paul Free. But the biggest change for Herfoss is still to come, with the 2020 Fireblade still on the way pending the import numbers to make the bike eligible for ASBK.
“I’ve been watching the (WorldSBK) testing and all I care about is that the two fastest bikes (through the speed trap) are the Hondas! I’ve seen the bike, I’ve sat on the bike, I’ve started the bike, it’s got my name on it, it’s sitting there ready, the parts are ordered, they’re available, but we’re just waiting for the bikes to arrive in the country. Realistically it’ll be (here) the last half of the season.”
Boost Mobile Racing’s Wayne Maxwell has switched over from Suzuki to Ducati and has been impressed with the performance of the new-for-2020 V4R.
“It was really fast, that was the first impression! Just the way it accelerates, the bike is super-fast compared to the Suzuki, it accelerates a lot harder. Turning on the throttle… not only has it got a really strong engine the chassis also suited my style.”
Meanwhile over at Kawasaki BCperformance Bryan Staring says no news is good news.
“Nothing’s really changed for us, which is from my point of view a big positive. Same bike, same tyre, same team, same personnel. The racing (in ASBK) is really hard at the moment, and it’s also really good. Parity between the bikes is all quite good, and even with the tyre competition there’s a lot of brilliant things there.”
For Josh Waters this weekend marks his 100th race start in the ASBK, and his first with his own team. Waters announced his privateer effort officially only last Monday, and has been much more hands-on since departing Suzuki’s factory effort last year.
“It’s a lot different for me this year because my program is back to the grass roots. A lot of late nights over the last month, but I’m doing it because I love it. I’m fortunate to have some great sponsors on board and we’ve got a good little team behind us so just try and enjoy it and try our hardest.”
Maxima BMW have also taken delivery of their 2020 S1000RR ready for Round 1. Glenn Allerton feels that while the team have been struggling to come to grips with the new machine, it’s only a matter of time.
“We’re in a development phase with this new bike. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of support from BMW, but at the moment we’re on the back foot. It’s only going to get better from where we are. The potential of this new bike’s really high, we just haven’t been able to get the thing to handle in some of the corners especially on corner exit. It’s something that will only get better, and I’m looking forward to when we get on top of it.”
Round 1 of the 2020 mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship began today, February 27, and runs until March 1 at Phillip Island.
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