Snapper Andrew Gosling recaps the recent ASBK Test at Phillip Island
Monday 30th of January marked the start of the 2017 Australian Superbike season with the first official test of the year taking place at the ever beautiful Phillip Island Circuit.
After three days of perfect weather over the Phillip Island Classic weekend, Monday morning dawned overcast and threatening, the forecast was for 32-degrees and a reasonable chance of rain in the afternoon. It quickly became obvious that it was going to rain much earlier, and unfortunately is started almost as the first bikes went out on track.
The feeling of the day was by far the most positive I have seen in many years. With there now, finally, being only one clear Australian Championship again for the first time since 2008. There is a real expectation that motorcycle racing at the highest level in Australia is finally back on track and heading in the right direction.
The promise of free-to-air TV, as well as pay TV coverage and live streaming from all events, will hopefully help raise the profile of the sport in Australia.
A seven round championship is planned with six rounds currently confirmed and hopefully the one TBA round will be confirmed as Perth, hopefully ahead of the Championship kicking off as the support to World Superbikes in two weeks time.
First out on track were the Supersport 300/R3 Cup/Moto 3 class bikes. Sadly, there were no Moto 3 bikes present, so it is going to be interesting to see how that class goes throughout the year, especially with some of the class stalwarts such as Brian Horton moving to other classes.
The most interesting thing about the first session was the appearance of Troy Bayliss, who went out to show his son, Oli, the way around Phillip Island.
Broc Pearson, aboard a Yamaha R3, managed the fastest lap of the day with a 1:52:371 set in the final and driest session of the day. Was very hard to read anything into this class, as they seemed to get some of the worst of the weather conditions, along with not all bikes being up to their full specs, but there is a lot of good young talent present, as well as a number that weren’t at the test, thus I think it should be a very competitive class with a lot of really close racing…
Next out on track were the superbikes. 28 bikes were signed up for the test, with all the major manufacturers, except for Suzuki who are awaiting the new GSX-R1000, present with either factory or factory supported teams.
Yamaha easily had the lead in the number of bikes, with the 13 R1’s making up almost half of the bikes present.
The depth of talent in the Superbike class this year is at a level that we haven’t seen in many many years, getting into the top 10 is going to be an achievement.
Fastest lap of the day went to Michael Blair, who had put in a soft compound tyre and produced a 1:33:197 on his final lap of the day. The top four places went to Yamaha’s with the factory bikes of Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell in second and fourth places, split by a very impressive Daniel Falzon.
The factory Honda of reigning ASBK Champion Troy Herfoss was fifth fastest, just over half a second of Blair’s lap time. It’s a bit of a shame that the new Hondas won’t be available until mid year but it is still going to be a brave person who writes them off, with the quality of riders and the quality of the team that Paul Free has behind him.
Seventh place went to the returning Bryan Staring. The ex-champ was less than a second off the fastest time in his first ride back on an ASBK spec’ bike since he won the championship in 2011, and after spending the majority of 2016 recovering for serious injuries.
Other noteables making their debut in the Superbike class were Callum Spriggs on the ex Mike Jones Panigale and Troy Gunther on the Next Gen Motorsport run BMW, in 12th and 13th places they still have a way to go, but both performed well under the conditions, given their lack of experience with the bikes
Trying to pick a favourite for the for the Superbike championship this year is not easy, last years contenders, Herfoss, Maxwell and Allerton will for sure be up there again, but so will Staring and then add in Falzon,
Blair and Bugden could also win races throughout the season, thus it truly promises to be one of the best seasons ever.
Hopefully we will also see Josh Waters out there as well at some point, perhaps on a new GSX-R1000 when they arrive.
The final class of the day was the Supersports, although they had the smallest number of bikes and 3.303 seconds covering the top 10 riders, compared to 1.757 for Superbikes and 2.991 for the Supersport 300’s there is still clearly a lot of talent in this class and with more track time and better conditions the racing will be close.
My standout rider of the day comes for the Supersport class, Mark Chiodo has improved out of sight, he looked at one with the bike for the first time, not hanging off insanely far, and thus upsetting the bike balance on change of direction, which previously made him look as though he was on the verge of a crash most of the time. Now he is smooth and fast, his best lap time of 1:35.947 compares pretty well with the track record of 1:35.826, set by Shannon Johnson back in 2009 on a much higher spec’ machine than the Superport bikes we have now.
Time spent in Mildura with the Waters boys has obviously helped Chiodo develop a new attitude towards his riding, and as long as he keeps that up he will be a serious threat for the championship. In fact, this is the only class where I am prepared to name a favourite, I think Mark can win it, as long as he keeps his head and keeps riding the way he did on Monday.
Because of the weather it is very hard to draw any real conclusions from the test, none of the teams were able to get through their programs so we will have to wait until the first round kicks of in a couple of weeks as a support to the World Superbike round. What we can say for sure is that it is going to be one of the most competitive and hard fought seasons in many years, with anything up to 15 riders battling for the top ten, and at least half of those being able to fight for the win.
A classic season awaits….
2017 Phillip Island ASBK Test – Supersport 300/Y3 Cup/Moto3 combined times
#14 Broc PEARSON (QLD) Yamaha R3 321 1:52.371
#33 Reid BATTYE (NSW) Kawasaki ER 300 1:52.385
#71 Tom EDWARDS (QLD) Kawasaki ER 300 1:53.632
#37 Jack MAHAFFY (VIC) Yamaha R3 321 1:54.079
#1 Brandon DEMMERY (NSW) Yamaha R3 321 1:54.174
#93 Drew SELLS (VIC) Kawasaki ER 300 1:54.448
#39 Scott NICHOLSON (VIC) Kawasaki ER 300 1:54.495
#85 Ty LYNCH (SA) Yamaha R3 321 1:54.737
#333 Yannis SHAW (NSW) Kawasaki ER 300 1:55.300
#355 Laura BROWN (NSW) Kawasaki ER 300 1:55.362
#86 Oli BAYLISS (NSW) Kawasaki ER 300 1:55.812
#151 Locky TAYLOR (QLD) Kawasaki ER 300 1:56.092
#88 Luke SANDERS (VIC) Kawasaki ER 300 1:58.120
#21 Troy BAYLISS (NSW) Kawasaki ER 300 1:59.379
#15 Bronson PICKETT (WA) Kawasaki ER 300 2:00.837
#65 Jonah SITA (WA) Yamaha R3 321 2:01.245
#70 Troy RYAN () Kawasaki ER 300 2:01.355
#81 Matthew CARTELLONE (QLD) Kawasaki ER 300 2:02.465
#337 Greg FARRELL (NSW) Kawasaki ER 300 2:03.564
#133 Grace POUTCH (WA) Kawasaki ER 300 2:03.777
2017 Phillip Island ASBK Test – Supersport combined times
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