A slightly overcast but fine morning greeted competitors for the opening Australian Superbike Qualifying session of season 2023. It had been a warm almost mediterranean style night and as a result the ambient temperature when riders rolled out of pitlane at 0850 this morning was already 25-degrees, however due to the early hour the track surface was only a couple of degrees warmer. Wind was negligible.
Conditions conducive to good times and most riders wasted no time getting out on track when the pit exit opened for the single 30-minute qualifying session.
Today not only marked the beginning of the new ASBK season but also the 29th birthday for defending champion Mike Jones. The birthday boy and his YRT team-mate Cru Halliday were the last riders to join the circuit, not heading out until almost a third of the session had been completed.
Max Stauffer went P1 early on after putting in a 1m32.497 on his first flying lap. Troy Herfoss then bested that with a 1m32.168 to push Max back to P2 and with 20-minutes remaining in the session Bryan Staring was third and Lachlan Epis fourth.
Like the YRT men, Josh Waters was in no hurry to join the circuit and didn’t leave pit-lane until most of the other riders had completed their first run and had returned to the pits. The tactic obviously in the aim of getting a clear track and preventing anyone getting a tow.
Cru Halliday recorded a 1m32.255 on his first flying lap and immediately backed that up with a 1m31.802. Mike Jones then made it a YRT 1-2, a 1m31.941 on his first attempt followed by a 1m31.649 to displace his team-mate from P1.
That lasted for all of about three-seconds when Josh Waters crossed the stripe for the first time to immediately go P1 on 1m31.508. Waters was then two-tenths quicker through the first split, three-tenths at the second split, on course for a new ASBK Superbike qualifying lap record… 0.441s under at the final split…. A 1m31.100 at the stripe, just a tenth off a 1m30, but more than half-a-second ahead of P2 and setting a new ASBK benchmark for Phillip Island.
Was there more to come? The session was only halfway through… Or would most of the top riders now be content and their focus now switch to preserving their tyre allocation…?
At that halfway point it was Josh Waters leading Mike Jones, Cru Halliday, Troy Herfoss, Max Stauffer, Bryan Staring, Lachlan Epis, Arthur Sissis, Broc Pearson and Glenn Allerton rounding out the top ten.
With five-minutes remaining all of a sudden things got busy again with most riders heading out on a fresh hoop for one last crack at bettering their fortunes.
Cru Halliday the first to make significant progress, fresh rubber helping him to drop half-a-second off his previous best to move back in front of his team-mate and up to P2. Bryan Staring then relegated Troy Herfoss to P5.
Waters was out again and put in a 1m31.204, a tenth off his best, but on already used rubber. Both YRT men were also putting in more 1m31s but just failing to improve on their best. That trio were still the only riders in the 1m31s as the chequered flag came out to signal the end of the session.
The first championship point of the new season going to Josh Waters. We now only have a couple of hours to wait before race one gets underway…
While not being able to match the pace of that top trio Bryan Staring and MotoGo Yamaha will be pumped with fourth on the grid. Herfoss won’t be quite as happy with fifth but young Max Stauffer deserves to be elated with his position on the second row.
Glenn Allerton heads row three ahead of Arthur Sissis and Broc Pearson while Lachlan Epis rounded out the top ten ahead of Mark Chiodo and Ted Collins.
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