Robbie Bugden takes Saturday Ipone Superbike spoils at Mallala Hip Pocket Workwear AFX-SBK
While qualifying had been staged on a circuit still wet from significant overnight rain, when the lights went out to signal the start of racing, Mallala was dry. The track, however, was very dirty from the heavy downpours, and the dirt that had been washed on to the circuit made grip still very problematic in some areas. Riders were also suggesting that the Dunlop control tyre here used this year, was perhaps not providing as much traction as a different specification tyre used last year.
Ipone Superbike Race One
Unfortunately, the first attempt at running the opening Superbike race was aborted after Josh McFarlane high-sided his BMW coming on to the main straight. The Canberra builder was air-lifted from the circuit as a precautionary measure but we understand is in no danger.
At the 1220 re-start Ben Burke capitalised on his pole position to lead the 18-strong Superbike field in the first of three 10-lap bouts this morning at Mallala Motorsports Park.
Robbie Bugden made his way past Michael Blair and Matt Walters in the opening laps before then closing on the tail of his BCperformance / SA Kawasaki teammate Burke.
On lap four Bugden made his move past his less experienced teammate but Burke was not giving up the chase, and was perhaps also learning a thing or two about the 2.6km, 10-turn Mallala circuit from Bugden, as he followed the relative veteran at this circuit.
With four laps to go though Burke tried to use the conventional race line through the esses as he fought to close ground back on Bugden. This ended up being a costly mistake, as the regular tight inside line through the first right kink in the esses still had some remnants of mud on the surface, so much so that Burke ran wide and then the mess left on his tyres also saw him have a massive front end slide as he tried to negotiate the last right back on the start-finish straight. That mistake cost him 1.5-seconds, and from thereon Bugden could simply control the race from the front, or so we thought…
Matt Walters had been in a somewhat lonely third place until that mistake by Burke, and Walters now had a sniff of the possibility to steal second. It was not to be, however, as Burke responded to his own mistake by putting in a new fastest lap of the race, a 67.77, to close right back up on to the rear tyre of Bugden. It looked as though it was all going to come down until the last corner, but Burke’s attack was thwarted by a lapped rider getting in the way at turn eight, preventing an almost certain challenge through the kink or on to the finish straight.
Thus the win went to Bugden, but it was a much closer fought affair than the results sheet would suggested.
Ipone Superbike Race Two
Matt Walters had not enjoyed the benefits of the recent two-day test session attended by Burke and Bugden at Mallala last weekend. Thus his pace was sure to become quicker as the weekend wore on. That’s exactly what happened when the second Superbike bout got underway at 1410 this afternoon under sunny skies.
This time around Walters had the pace to join the Burke and Bugden show up front. The Cessnock Kawasaki rider led the race until Robbie Bugden made his move with just over two laps to go. Walters and Burke then engaged in a heady battle over second place, their tussle allowing Bugden to break away.
Burke and Walters rubbed fairings in their fight over that second place but it was Burke that got the nod. Up front though once again it was Bugden the victor, this time the margin a significant 1.7-seconds from first to second place.
Ipone Superbike Race Three
Ben Burke led Matt Walters down the pit straight for the first time with Robbie Bugden in third place ahead of Paul Byrne but the riders did not finish the opening lap before the red flag came out. Two riders had gone down and both them and their machines were in a dangerous position. Both riders eventually walked away and officials busied themselves clearing the stricken machines away from the circuit.
At the re-start it was Robbie Bugden that scored the holeshot ahead of Burke, Walters and Byrne. That order remained the same until lap three when Paul Byrne highsided himself out of the race on the left hander after the Northern Hairpin, the Irish ex-pat walked away visilbly frustrated but at least safe.
Meanwhile up front Bugden was pulling away from Burke and Walters. The vast experience of Buden around the South Australian circuit across his many years of Superbike racing clearly telling here this weekend. The track still quite dirty and will certainly be quicker tomorrow but Bugden still sneaking into the 67s.
A great battle was unfolding between local riders William Strugnell and Liam Wilkinson over fourth place.But after Matt Walters parked his ZX-10R in the gravel trap with four laps to run that battle became a tussle over a podium position.
Ben Burke had found his second wind in the second half of the race, also dipping into the 67s repeatedly to close right up on to the tail of his more experienced BCperformance / SA Kawasaki teammate, shadowing him at every turn over the course of the final three laps.
The fight over third place between Wilkinson and Strugnell also stepped up a notch with a lap and a half to run, the two just about bashing fairings with Wilkinson coming off the better in one particularly edgy tussle to sneak a couple of bike lengths on his foe.
Burke got the better of Bugden on the final lap but ran on when they went to negotiate the esses for the final time when as he challenged Bugden the Queenslander changed his line and Burke was left with nowhere to go but run on through the gravel/mud trap as he was committed to the pass, Burke managed to keep the ZX-10R from getting bogged, unlike Walters whose Kawasaki was still stood upright a foot deep in mud.
Burke rejoined the circuit more than ten-seconds down on Bugden, but still retained that second position from young Liam Wilkinson, who held on for that final step on the rostrum ahead of fellow South Australian William Strugnell.
With his perfect three-from-three victories today Robbie Bugden moves in to the AFX-Superbike Saturday Series points lead and now has a narrow five-point lead over Ben Burke, and 25-points on Matt Walters.
All the race action and interviews can be replayed from our video livestream page, just use the time slider at the bottom of the video screen to scroll back or forwards through all the action.
Hip Pocket AFX-SBK Ipone Superbike Saturday Round Results (Forms grid for Sunday)
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