While Victorian road racers have been suffering from a lack of track time due to travel restrictions, their foes based in the north of the country have been putting in plenty of laps at Morgan Park. Mike Jones and Aiden Wagner have been keeping sharp with regular outings at the tricky three-kilometre circuit situated near Warwick, 130-kilometres south-west of Brisbane.
Troy Herfoss and the Penrite Honda squad have also been using the circuit to shakedown the all-new Fireblade to ready the new Honda for ASBK competition. While both Jones and Wagner have raced at the circuit this year in earlier rounds of the Southern Downs Series, Herfoss had only completed practice days to hone the new Fireblade’s edge but was yet to blood that knife in competition.
After finally deeming themselves ready to rumble Penrite Honda did enter last weekend’s event and Herfoss started off on the front foot by taking pole position with a 1m12.777s, just outside the all-time lap record. Jones recorded a 1m12.609s during ASBK qualifying at the circuit last year on the 1299 Ducati, while Herfoss set the race lap record around the Queensland venue at 1m12.645s back in 2018 on a Fireblade SP.
The fastest race lap last weekend was Herfoss’ 1m13.033s in the fourth and final six-lap sprint on his way to victory in that race and also the round. Herfoss scoring three wins and a fourth place across the four six-lap races to bag 92-points for the round win. He was also leading the first eight-laps of the race he didn’t win, but a mistake late in the race saw him run off the track before rejoining the circuit to salvage fourth place.
“I was hoping to race the bike earlier in the year but we didn’t have a surplus of parts available to us so didn’t want to get mixed up with other racers and risk damaging anything. It was just so good to be out in a competitive environment, some fast guys where there with Mike and Aiden, and Oli getting out on the Superbike. It has just confirmed some things for us and now I am just so excited to go racing. Looking forward to going to the big show in ASBK to show what we can do as I am confidenet we have got a package that is ready to run up the front.”
Mike Jones won the longest race of the weekend, which at ten laps was still much shorter than the 16-lap distances run at the circuit during ASBK rounds, and came second in the other three bouts to finish the round seven-points behind Herfoss but won the four-round QLD Road Racing Championship.
“It was great to have another chance to go racing with the team. Although I took a race win, I wanted four of them this weekend, so even though there a lot of positives to take, I’m not content with the results and it motivates me to keep working. We’ve shown in testing that we’re capable of more and so now we have more motivation to push back to the top step when we get to South Australia next month.”
DesmoSport Ducati Team Co-Owner – Ben Henry
“I’ve got to be honest, I’m disappointed in our overall results this weekend. I just don’t think we matched the potential that we have, and we’re going to have to take this opportunity and use it to ensure we put everything on the table when we get to race the ASBK again. We didn’t get close to the times we’ve set in testing, but we were consistent, and both Mike and Oli were able to position themselves to take advantage of other riders’ mistakes. Despite the way I feel about our result, it was great to be at the track again, and it gives us some more direction as a team that we’ve been missing by not racing. I have to thank the club and the volunteers for another great weekend at the track and a well-run event.”
Oli Bayliss was having his second competitive outing on the V4 R Superbike and again the youngster acquitted himself well. He bounced back from a crash earlier in the weekend to 6-4-3-3 results that were good enough to give him third overall for the round ahead of Yamaha’s Aiden Wagner. Bayliss progressively got faster all weekend and set his fastest 1m13.655s lap in the final bout, only half-a-second slower than Jones.
“I’m happy to be on the podium this weekend. With three other ASBK factory-level riders on track, it proved that I can mix it with the lead group. I’m still pretty sore after my crash on the 600 in practice on Thursday, so even though I think I can go faster, I’m still pretty happy to come away with third this weekend.”
Aiden Wagner finished what was the final round of the series in fourth place after a fall in the last leg cost him any chance of a podium for the day or the series victory. Wagner finished with 3-3-2-10 results in the four races ran over the weekend and finished in second place for the championship, 18-points behind Mike Jones.
Wagner started the weekend on good form, regathering after wrecking a machine during Friday practice, and was in a fast moving pack at the front of the field that included, Troy Herfoss, Mike Jones and Olly Bayliss. He improved during the day and was again battling for a top two spot in the final race when he lost the front and went down on lap four. Wagner was able to scramble to his feet, pick up his factory Yamaha YFZ- R1M and return to the race to cross the finish line in 10th place.
“I felt pretty good on the track all weekend, I just wasn’t getting off the line as good as I needed to and had to charge my way forward in each race,” Wagner explained. “Herfoss and Jones were clean off the line and gapped me a little on the opening laps. I was able to draw them back in towards the end of each race but races only being six laps, I just made myself work too hard to get to the front. The final race I just got a little impatient and made move that I tried to force instead of waiting for the right time to pass. It was my fault and something I need to learn from. But I have enjoyed being at the races and back to events like this at Morgan Park. It has been fun and its also been awesome that Kev and the Yamaha Racing Team have been able to support me 100% at these rounds and I can’t thank them enough for the effort they have put in.”
Conditions at the circuit were hot on the weekend with ambient temperatures in the 30s and track temperatures over 50-degrees.
There are still two rounds of the Australian Superbike Championship left on the calendar as riders await updates on current COVID and border issues. Rounds at The Bend in South Australia and Winton in Victoria remain scheduled before the end of the year, with riders and teams hoping to finish off the ASBK championship after the opening round was ran way back in February. Wayne Maxwell dominated that opening round at Phillip Island ahead of Cru Halliday, but both riders have had little track time during the lockdown period and might be put on the back foot a little when racing resumes this year. A situation that is looking increasingly doubtful as weeks progress.
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