Wet and wild Mallala Swann Superbike practice offers no indication of race pace
By Trevor Hedge – Images by Keith Muir
Competitors were greeted by a very wet Mallala Motorsports Park this morning, before the track cleaned up with somewhat of a dry line for the second session before the overcast skies turned angry a little before lunchtime and dumped their considerable contents over the 2.61km layout. Late this afternoon the track did again clean up a little but there was still some standing water and riders that bothered to go out later today did it just to get a feel for the Mallala surface in wet conditions.
Luckily, a large contingent of competitors participated in a two-day test session at the South Australian venue last week, in near perfect conditions.
Those riders will have a significant advantage tomorrow morning when the grid will be decided for the 3×10 lap Superbike races that will be staged across both Saturday and Sunday here this weekend.
Qualifying was originally scheduled for this afternoon but the inclement weather saw organisers push that back to tomorrow, when forecasts are for clear and fine conditions across the remainder of the event, which marks the third round of the 2016 Swann Superbike Championship.
The seemingly ever burgeoning BCperformance / SA Kawasaki squad were at the test session in full force, which served as not only a great shakedown for all their riders that participate in the various classes, but also somewhat of a team bonding session. And a couple of the younger members of the team were rewarded with a chance to sample some big-bore machinery for the first time.
Supersport competitor Kyle Buckley is a leading light of the Supersport category after making the step up from the FX Ninja 300 Cup to join the 600cc ranks for season 2016. Buckley got down to competitive 68.8-second lap times on his ZX-6R Supersport machine during testing last week, and was then let loose on the latest specification ZX-10R Superbike of teammate Ben Burke. Buckley enjoyed the experience immensely and managed to get down to mid 68s in no time, BCperformance are grooming the 21-year-old to make the step up to Superbike in season 2017.
Lead Superbike riders in the BCperformance / SA Kawasaki team Robbie Bugden and Ben Burke both circulated in the low 67s during that test last week, but simply just got a feel for the damp circuit here today. There is very little to be read into today’s times but, for what it’s worth, Bugden proved quickest with a 69.67-second lap, 1.40-seconds quicker than Matt Walters. SA Kawasaki dealer principal Evan Byles may also manage to spring some surprises here this weekend on his home turf.
Another rider on home soil, but at somewhat the opposite end of the competitor age spectrum, is young Liam Wilkinson. Son of long time competitor Richard Wilkinson, who is this weekend racing an FZ1 in the Pro Twin category, young Liam is campaigning a new YZF-R1. He will need to find a fair bit of time here this weekend to try and sneak onto the podium, but if things go his way Liam may manage to break into the top five.
Other locals include Suzuki GSX-R1000 rider Jason Ivkovic and Kawasaki hopeful William Strugnell, who got the better of Byles at the Easter Cup meeting held at Mac Park earlier this year. Adam Christie is another local hopeful that is capable of carding some decent results.
Beau Beaton is the sole Ducati Superbike rider here this weekend and was left ruing the lack of dry track time today. Beaton had a disastrous weekend here last year, with two crashes making a mess of the delectable Irving Vincent, the team went home early without finishing a race.
Beaton and the Irving Vincent are back with a vengeance this year, however, with both Irving Vincent’s readying to set a new lap record in Pro Twins, that marker currently held by Craig McMartin at 68.713, on a 1098 Ducati way back in 2007.
In Superbike, however, Beaton will be on the delectable Panigale R. The excellent braking characteristics and drive off the turns of the Ducati should be a great asset to the 29-year-old, but his relative lack of experience with the ten-turn Mallala layout may hold him back a little. Before the troubled Formula OZ outing last year, Beaton had only ridden the circuit way back in 2009 on an 1198. Still, come Sunday Beaton is almost certain to be in the mix and challenging for podium contention.
The sole Honda entrant in the Superbike category is Irish ex-pat Paul Byrne. The Inglis Plumbing backed LTR squad struggled with some teething problems on their newly acquired ex Team Honda Fireblade SP in the earlier rounds this season, but a recent visit to Wangaratta and the dyno of Geoff Winzer has the team confident that they will be on the pace here this weekend.
Matt Harding is more than capable of challenging for top five finishes if he can get on the pace here tomorrow and could even upset some of the established front runners if the Maitland (NSW) 29-year-old nails the set-up of his ZX-10R.
Earlier today we published interviews with two of the primary leading young talents of the Superbike category, Matt Walters and Michael Blair. Click their names in that sentence to open their respective yarns in new browser windows.
As for times from today, feel free to check out Computime, but as mentioned earlier, they are not in any way indicative of potential race tomorrow, and thus can largely be ignored.
All tomorrow’s action will be broadcast live from the circuit via the live-stream service right here on MCNews.com.au. Broadcast times are from 0945 each day local SA time, or from 1015 EST. Traditionally only the Sunday has been broadcast live, but from this round forward the Swann Superbike Championship will feature live-streaming of both the Saturday and Sunday competitions.
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