Cru Halliday takes first blood under clear blue skies at Sydney Motorsports Park
AFX-SBK 2015 – Round Three – Sydney Motorsports Park – Superbike Race One Report
By Trevor Hedge
A perfect sunny morning greeted competitors at Sydney Motorsports Park as they made their final preparations ahead of a busy Saturday schedule.
The classic 3.93 Grand Prix traditional Eastern Creek layout is being utilised for this third round of the 2015 Swann Australasian FX Superbike Championship, the same as used for the season 2015 curtain raiser back in March.
Cru Halliday had headed a Yamaha 1-2-3 qualifying result at round one and it was again the 26-year-old Camden rider that headed the timesheets for round three. Curiously, however, his pole position lap was actually slower than that recorded early in the year, when the YZF-R1M was very much fresh out of the crate from Iwata. A cold track holding riders back a little, but also the thought of excess tyre wear heading in to today’s two 14-lap Superbike races very much at the forefront of their minds.
It was tyre wear that held back the YRT riders here earlier in the year, their ominous 1-2-3 on the grid well clear of the Team Honda riders. Come race day however that form was reversed and Team Honda dominated the season opener, as the YZF-R1M pilots suffered tyre degradation issues. Thus the big question hanging over SMP this morning was, how well had YRT prepared their machines for the full race distance? Nobody had that answer until the flag dropped for the opening AFX-SBK race of the weekend at 1100 this morning.
Troy Herfoss knew he had to get away well from third on the grid and he did exactly that to lead the field through turn one. The Team Honda rider, and championship leader, maintained that lead for the duration of the opening lap before Wayne Maxwell used the superior horsepower of the YZF-R1M to blow past Herfoss down the chute, taking the lead on the run towards turn one as they started lap two. Halliday also made short work of Herfoss before then also getting the better of Maxwell and by lap three it started to look as though Halliday might be able to break away.
Sean Condon had not got off the line well, but nonetheless was judged to have jumped the start and was cited a 15-second penalty, to be applied at the end of the race. The penalty seemingly fired Condon up as he took Herfoss for third place on lap three, then set about taking the battle to the two YRT men up front.
While nothing separated that leading quartet for the remainder of the race, Herfoss was never to again threaten for the race lead. The Fireblade was very strong around the tight back sections of the circuit, which always brought the championship leader up on to the backs of the leading trio, every lap, but he just did not have the horsepower to make any serious challenge for position. The drag uphill from turn five to six saw him lose ground every time, which prevented him from making a successful challenge through the next complex of turns. Once onto the main straight he struggled to even stay in the slipstream of the Yamaha and Kawasaki men. That did not stop him trying though, and after 14 laps Herfoss crossed the line only 1.2-seconds behind the eventual race winner, his fastest lap of the race four-tenths slower than Halliday’s best, but over a full race distance the Fireblade is still proving very strong. Will the Honda prove stronger when track temperatures rise this afternoon..? Only time will tell.
The fastest lap of the race was not set by Halliday, but Sean Condon. The Bikebiz Kawasaki rider was very strong, and if not for a poor start might well have won this race. However, due to the jump-start penalty Condon was unceremoniously relegated to ninth place and stripped of any honours. A very tough break for the 26-year-old who led the field across the stripe in two of the final three laps.
Wayne Maxwell made his challenge clear when he took Cru Halliday around the outside for the lead at turn nine as the race passed the halfway mark. A lap later Halliday ran very wide at turn four, so wide he almost ran off the circuit altogether, but he recovered quickly and tagged back on the leading group in fourth place before quickly blowing back past Herfoss next time down the chute in a manner that clearly demonstrated the horsepower advantage enjoyed by the YRT riders.
Three laps later Halliday got the better of Maxwell on the uphill run towards turn six for second place, but it was Condon that enjoyed the race lead. Halliday and Condon took no prisoners in their battle for track position, the two rubbing each other up out of turn five as they headed towards the last lap board.
Halliday took the lead at turn one on the final lap and went on to win by two-tenths of a second over Condon. Maxwell an equidistant third while Herfoss crossed the line a further 8-tenths behind Maxwell. With Condon relegated to ninth that promoted Maxwell to second and Herfoss into third.
Cru Halliday – Yamaha – 1st – “It’s great to finally get my first ever Superbike win. While I am excited, I still know the job is not over yet as we still have one more race to go. I don’t want to get too confident just yet, as it was close racing out there. I knew it was going to be a bit of a cat and mouse game. I didn’t really want to lead too much of that race but sort of got a bit ahead of myself. I just hit the lead and tried to break away from the pack, but realised I was not getting away. I did slow things up during the middle a little bit to get my breath back. I did not suffer from any arm pump up, which is a positive thing. In saying that, it was a very physical race. Overall, I’m just overwhelmed to take my first Superbike race win.”
Wayne Maxwell – Yamaha – 2nd – “It was a hard fought race. Cru set a cracking pace at the start, he then slowed up the pace in the middle. I wasn’t too sure if that was his strategy. I knew there were some fast guys behind us and I didn’t want to get caught up in a battle for fifth. So I just hit the front and tried to set a rhythm, which allowed us to bridge a gap. It’s great to see Cru get his first Superbike race win and a Yamaha 1-2.”
While that leading four riders had been virtually nose to tail the entire race they had been chased for the majority of the 14laps by a group of three riders engaged in battle over fifth. Those protagonists were Glenn Allerton, Jamie Stauffer and Matt Walters. Mike Jones had threatened to play a part in that battle from time to time but, surprisingly, the Cube Racing rider’s pace was not quite up to par in this bout.
Stauffer had looked strong during the middle stages of the race, but eventually it was Allerton that conquered that second group. managing to pull away from them in the final laps to start closing on the leading quartet. Allerton couldn’t quite bridge the gap though and had to settle for fifth, fourth after Condon’s penalty had been applied.
Glenn Allerton – Yamaha – 4th – “I got a really bad start, however you expect that from the second row. But the most important thing is that I got up to fourth position, so I’ll take that. To be able to start from the front row is a good thing of course. There are a few little areas I have to work on before race two, such as exit speed in a few of the corners. We’ll get that sorted out, and then I think we will be good for the next race. The Yamaha Racing Team with Yamaha Motorcycle Insurance will make some changes now before we go back and attack race two.”
This is only round three of a long seven-round series. Today is also the Saturday AFX-SBK competition, the real sheep stations are played for in the Sunday Swann Australasian FX Superbike Championship races. That said, the Saturday competition this season is much more keenly fought over than it has been in recent years. No longer do the factory riders simply treat the Saturday races as practice sessions for Sunday, pulling in and out of pit lane during races to test changes, making a mockery of proceedings. In previous years the fastest lap times from the Saturday races decided the grid for Sunday. This year, the cumulative points score from Saturday decides the qualifying order for Sunday. A change that is certainly proving dividends and making the Saturday competition something really interesting, and well worth watching.
Another big change for the better, announced yesterday evening via live internet video streaming from the circuit, is that the series finale back here in Sydney, to be staged over the first weekend in December, will be televised live in a three-hour show on Foxtel. That series finale is a twilight Friday-Saturday meeting, and the final three hours on Saturday evening will be broadcast live from the circuit. The first time in almost 25 years that a stand alone motorcycle road race meeting has enjoyed Australia wide live television coverage. What better way to end season 2015 and announce the plans moving forwards towards 2016.
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