Round Six – Phillip Island
Friday morning round-up
It is a sensational morning down here at Phillip Island as the penultimate round of the 2023 mi-bike Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul got underway under perfect blue skies, and that is expected to hold for most of the weekend, however some cloud will roll in tomorrow and bring some stronger winds with it.
With 14-points separating Troy Herfoss and Josh Waters heading into this round, it is fair to say that Herfoss not only brings the hot form into this pivotal round, but also that despite also having a hefty motocross crash that left him injuries (eight broken ribs amongst other things, ouch…) to recover from during the mid-season break, he is better prepared than his primary foe in the title chase.
Josh Waters went down hard after being collected by another rider during the Suzuka 8 Hour at the beginning of August. The collision left him with as he told us in this interview this week, “I fractured, dislocated and tore ligaments in my right wrist as well as dislocating my shoulder and fractured my humerus bone. The injury was a greater tuberosity shoulder fracture.”
Despite his setback, Herfoss has been on the bike a lot, and has been logging plenty of kilometres at Phillip Island. As has Mike Jones, Glenn Allerton, Bryan Staring, Ted Collins and Max Stauffer. In contrast, Waters has done very little as he lets his bones, tendons and muscles heal. Thus he comes into this battle a little underdone. However, he has done some time on the bike both here and at Tailem Bend in the past couple of weeks to try and get back in the groove.
Waters dominated here at the beginning of the year, and set a new ASBK race lap record at 1m31.075 in the process. Waters time set at the opening round is only three-seconds off the MotoGP race lap record here at Phillip Island, a 1m28.108 set by Marc Marquez a decade ago. The fastest race lap at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix was a 1m28.823 set by Jorge Martin.
Cru Halliday was also a force to be reckoned with here at the beginning of the season and ran Waters the closest, the YRT man recorded a fastest race lap of 1m31.743. The best race lap Fabio Quartararo managed on the Yamaha MotoGP bike last week was a 1m29.927. Less than two-seconds quicker, despite being 40 km/h faster through the speed trap. Cru was just about as quick through the middle sectors of the circuit on the YZF-R1M, while the MotoGP bike finds its time around the final sector onto the chute and also in the first sector of the lap.
More recently, it was Glenn Allerton that beat all-comers here early this month when many of the ASBK front runners did battle in a round of the Victorian Championships. However, their speed was nothing like what was demonstrated by Waters here back in February.
Bryan Staring has been finding more speed from the MotoGO Yamaha and young Max Stauffer has been improving at every round. They are both better prepared ahead of this round than they have been at any time earlier in the season.
This weekend we also have the wildcard that is Tom Toparis, who is only throwing his leg over a Cube Racing prepared and Stop N Seal backed YZF-R1M here this morning. Toparis is fresh back from a British Supersport season that saw him finished third, and young Jacob Hatch has also come back from a season in the British Junior Superstock Championship to throw his leg over a Superbike this weekend! Veteran Jed Metcher is back in the ring along with Mark Chiodo, and Anthony West is finding more confidence with his new team.
The track temperature was 22-degrees when riders exited pit-lane this morning at 1020 for the opening 30-minute practice session.
Mike Jones wasted no time getting down to business, a 1m33.4 on his fourth lap. Back into the pits then out again to log some more low 33s, followed by a 1m32.885 on lap 16 to top the session ahead of team-mate Cru Halliday on 1m33.240.
Josh Waters stopped the clocks at 1m33.403 on his ten th lap of the session to go third quickest ahead of Troy Herfoss and Broc Pearson. It is early days yet though with many of the field yet to show their hand as they shook things down this morning before things start get serious later in the day. Nonetheless, a great start to proceedings for YRT.
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