Round 1 of the 2020 mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship kicked off today at Phillip Island as a huge weekend of motorcycling gets underway on MOTUL FIM World Superbike Championship weekend.
Practice sessions for Kawasaki Superbike, Motorsports TV Supersport, and YMI Supersport 300, and two practice sessions for the Oceania Junior Cup all got underway under overcast conditions.
Cru Halliday came out on top in Kawasaki Superbike, whilst Tom Toparis and Harry Khouri took Supersport and Supersport 300 respectively. Fastest in the Oceania Junior Cup was Angus Grenfell.
Cru Halliday (Yamaha Racing Team, Yamaha YZF-R1) emerged fastest in Kawasaki Superbike, the fastest of a red-flag interrupted session with a 1:32.500. On a track where the Yamaha rider hasn’t been as strong as he would like in the past, Halliday starts the season marginally ahead of his rivals Wayne Maxwell (Boost Mobile Ducati V4R, 1:32.610), Josh Waters (JW Racing Suzuki GSXR1000, 1:32.973) and YRT teammate Aiden Wagner (1:33.563).
“It’s a little bit surprising, I wasn’t hitting the lines I wanted to be, but I’m still doing faster times than I did in the test. We are on the 2020 bike, and I think I’m just gelling with it. It feels really comfortable to ride, the power’s a lot better, and the bike gets off the corner a lot faster than the ’19 model- I think that’s where we were lacking a lot last year. It’s only FP1, you know all the other boys are going to be on it tomorrow, but it’s a good way to start the weekend.”
Despite regularly running at the front last year, Halliday’s lack of a race win in 2019 ultimately proved fatal to his championship chances. Could this be the weekend he finally breaks through for a victory?
“If it’s not this weekend, it’s got to be this year. You always have the announcers saying ‘Halliday hasn’t got a race win’ and at first I didn’t really care because I was up there in the points, but when I start to fall back behind in points I started to get a bit frustrated hearing it – you don’t want to hear about a factory rider still without a race win. Hopefully this year we can get more than one!”
Motorsports TV Supersport
Many in the Supersport field will be glad to see the back of Tom Toparis (Benro Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) when he heads to Europe to contest the European rounds of the World Supersport Championship, as he left the field in his dust once again today to emerge fastest in Free Practice 1 with a 1:36.609.
However many of those competitors may have had a hand in Toparis’ session-topping performance, after Toparis crashed his bike last Sunday in testing.
“Really last-minute we got a Yamaha (to use this weekend) and, on Sunday I crashed it… pretty much wrote it off! So I borrowed parts from half the paddock to get it together for this weekend! We have no spares, no anything, we’re just here to ride I’m so grateful for everyone who’s helped us get here, and now it’s just a little bit of prep before we go overseas next week.”
In second spot was an impressive Oli Bayliss (Cube Racing Yamaha YZF R6) with a 1:36.937. He’s free of his World Supersport duties for today and can concentrate on ASBK, but it will be interesting to see if the youngster can maintain the frenetic pace of his double-duty weekend. Jack Passfield (Stay Upright Yamaha YZF R6) maintained his good form from pre-season testing to finish third fastest with a 1:37.775, he will be one to watch this year.
Australian World Supersport 300 rider Tom Edwards (Bikebiz Yamaha YZF R6, 1:39.360), making a guest appearance in the ASBK before returning to Europe, was sixth fastest.
YMI Supersport 300
Harry Khouri (Addicted to Track Yamaha YZF R3) topped the timesheets in Supersport 300, the only rider in the 1:48s for the session with his time of 1:48.643. He finished ahead of Luke Power on the Kawasaki Ninja 400 (Proworx, 1:49.791) and Luke Jhonston (Proworx Kawasaki Ninja 400, 1:50.596).
Edwards’ World Supersport 300 ParkinGO Kawasaki teammate, Italian Filippo Rovelli joins the ASBK this weekend along with Edwards. He is campaigning the ParkinGO/BCperformance Kawasaki Ninja 400, and finished the session fifth fastest.
bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup
Bookending the ASBK sessions for today were two practice sessions for the Oceania Junior Cup, with a number of new riders joining the familiar faces from the class of 2019. The youngsters showed plenty of improvement between the two sessions, with lap time differences from the first session to the second in the order of three to four seconds for many riders.
Victorian Angus Grenfell was quickest on the number 36 Yamaha YZF R15 (2:12.986) ahead of New South Welshman Cameron Dunker who joins the program this year (2:13.352). Third was the returning Marianos ‘Nos’ Nikolis sporting the famous number 46 (2:13.688) ahead of NSW’s Tom Drane (2:14.219) and Queenslander Lucas Quinn (2:14.660).
Round 1 of the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship continues tomorrow with Qualifying for the Oceania Junior Cup commencing at 8:25am.
The first session for Kawasaki Superbike kicks off with Timed Practice at 9:05 on Friday, and World Superbikes hit the track for the first time this weekend at 10:30 for their first practice session of the weekend.
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