Bugden doubles up to strengthen his grip on 2016 Ipone AFX Superbike Title

By Trevor Hedge – Images by Keith Muir

SA Kawasaki’s Robbie Bugden had the measure of the 15-rider Ipone Superbike field at Sydney Motorsports Park today. The 36-year-old Arborist has always found the Eastern Creek circuit a happy hunting ground, and is the outright Superbike lap record holder at the 3.93km Sydney venue.

While Bugden’s times today were a long way from the 1m30.445 he set on a GSX-R1000 back in 2013, his 1m31.844 on the BCperformance ZX-10R was good enough to take pole position ahead of Matt Walters and Michael Blair.

Qualifying had been a disaster for Blair. The 22-year-old went for a slide down the road on his YRT supported YZF-R1. While the Gosford rider walked away uninjured, the same could not be said for his #1 machine. Blair was left to contest both of today’s seven lap races on his spare bike, which is down more than ten horsepower on his #1 bike and does not have the race wiring harness that provides much better engine braking control that allows for more precise corner entry.

Robbie Bugden with Phil Harlum - Image by Keith Muir
Robbie Bugden with Phil Harlum – Image by Keith Muir

Bugden capitalised on his pole position to take race one victory by 1.77-seconds ahead of Walters, who in turn had 2.4-seconds on Ben Burke, the BCperformance rider making it a Kawasaki 1-2-3.

Hip Pocket Workwear AFX Superbike 2016 – Round Four – SMP – Race One Results
  1. Bugden
  2. Walters 1.77
  3. Burke 4.126
  4. Blair 12.182
  5. Beaton 13.380
  6. Wilkinson 13.442
  7. McIntyre 27.444
  8. Swallow 27.484
  9. De Leon 33.634
  10. McMuray 70.137
Hip Pocket Workwear AFX Superbike 2016 – Round Four – SMP – Race Two Report

Walters and the Kawasaki Connection squad made some changes before the second bout to try and close the gap on their vastly more experienced rival.

The second race started well for Walters, away to an early lead ahead of Bugden, Burke and Beaton, Michael Blair was fifth.

Walters leads Bugden, Beaton and Burke - Image by Keith Muir
Walters leads Bugden, Beaton and Burke – Image by Keith Muir

Halfway around the opening lap Beaton got the better of Burke to steal third place, while Walters and Bugden entered turn one for the second time virtually side by side as they battled for the race lead.

Beaton was the fastest man at the end of the first flying lap, pulling well clear of Burke and Blair to strengthen his chances of a likely podium finish.

Walters leads Budgen and Beaton - Image by Keith Muir
Walters leads Budgen and Beaton – Image by Keith Muir

Ben Burke pulled a lot of ground back on Beaton on the next lap, however, to declare that his podium challenge was far from over.

At the front of the pack still nothing separated Walters and Bugden as the race passed the halfway mark.

Bugden nosed ahead of Walters on the penultimate lap, just as Burke also eclipsed Beaton for third place.

Bugden leads Walters - Image by Keith Muir
Bugden leads Walters – Image by Keith Muir

Bugden and Walters entered turn one side by side to start the final lap, while Beaton tried every trick in his book to stick with Burke and make a final claim for that final step on the rostrum.

Bugden managed to stretch away from Walters over that final 3.93km loop to take the win by 0.118 of a second while Burke held on to third position, crossing the stripe 3.5-seconds behind the race winner, and only a tenth ahead of Ducati mounted Beaton.

Today’s double victory strengthed Bugden’s claim on the Ipone AFX Superbike Title with the five-time New Zealand Superbike Champion now 50-points clear of Walters and Burke, who sit on 190 points apiece, six points clear of Blair.

This fourth round of the Swann Insurance Australasian Superbike Championship is a two day affair across Friday and Saturday, no racing will be held on Sunday.

Racing is schedule to commence around 10am Saturday morning with the RaceTech Formula Oz category up first ahead of the Kawasaki Insurances Ninja FX 300 Cup, while the premier Ipone Superbike category is third cab off the rank.

There are three seven-lap Superbike races tomorrow, and three races for each category, including the Supersport and combined FX Pro Twins / Nakedbike / eFXC categories which sees the electric bikes compete on track against the petrol powered cousins for the first time.

Hip Pocket Workwear AFX Superbike 2016 – Round Four – SMP – Race Two Results
  1. Bugden
  2. Walters 0.118
  3. Burke 3.609
  4. Beaton 3.701
  5. Blair 9.282
  6. Wilkinson 16.233
  7. Swallow 22.223
  8. McIntyre 25.612
  9. De Leon 32.03
  10. Baker 62.42
Hip Pocket Workwear AFX Superbike Championship Standings – Round Four – SMP
  1. Bugden 240
  2. Walters 190
  3. Burke 190
  4. Blair 184
  5. Wilkinson 142
  6. Beaton 123
  7. Swallow 96
  8. Byrne 94
  9. McIntyre 85
  10. Baker 82