Riders test ahead of MotoGP support races at Phillip Island

By Mark Bracks and Trevor Hedge

A few notable participants joined the regular punters on track during a Phillip Island Ride Day late last week as they finalised their preparations ahead of the MotoGP support races this coming weekend.

Dual Australian Superbike Champion, Josh Waters and the Cube Racing/Australian Outdoor Living riders Callum Spriggs and Tom Toparis, all got plenty of laps in across two days of testing at the fast and flowing Phillip Island circuit.

Callum Spriggs rode the DesmoSport Ducati for the first time while young Tom Toparis tasted the speed of a 600cc Supersport
Callum Spriggs rode the DesmoSport Ducati for the first time while young Tom Toparis tasted the speed of a 600cc Supersport – Image by Mark Bracks

Supersport rider, Mark Chiodo, tested on the first day after what had proven to be a frustrating weekend for him earlier in the month during the final round of the ASBK Supersport Championship at Phillip Island. The youngster also needed to take some time out to prepare for his upcoming VCE exams so did not take to the track on day two.

The full Cube Racing / DesmoSport Ducati squad was in attendance, but their Superbike rider, Mike Jones, had made it to the Island only to then quickly turn around and head back to Brisbane to pick up his passport. Jones was awoken on Wednesday nigth at Phillip Island to answer the call to replace Hector Barbera on the Avintia Ducati at Motegi. A role the 22-year-old will again fulfill this weekend at Phillip Island.

Callum Spriggs heads out on the DesmoSport Ducati - Image by Mark Bracks
Callum Spriggs heads out on the DesmoSport Ducati – Image by Mark Bracks

With Jones winging his way to Japan, Cube Racing’s Supersport competitor Callum Spriggs was offered the chance to throw a leg over the DesmoSport Ducati. It was Spriggs’ first time on a big bore machine, and his first astride a v-twin, and besides grinning like a cheshire cat, he  managed to post respectable times in the mid 1:37 sec bracket. Considering the amount of ride day traffic he had to contend with, besides learning a very different motorcycle compared to his 600cc Kawasaki ZX-6R, it was a pretty impressive first effort for the young Queenslander.

Callum Spriggs with Ben Henry and the DesmoSport Ducati - Image by Mark Bracks
Callum Spriggs with Ben Henry and the DesmoSport Ducati – Image by Mark Bracks
Callum Spriggs

“That is one great machine, ” Spriggs said after his first ride. “You think it would be easier to go fast on but it is a bit of a handful after riding the 600s.”

Callum Spriggs got to throw a leg over the DesmoSport Ducati - Image by Steve Duggan SDpics
Callum Spriggs got to throw a leg over the DesmoSport Ducati – Image by Steve Duggan SDpics

Spriggs will be back on his ZX-6R Supersport machine this weekend, however, as the DesmoSport Ducati squad have drafted Cru Halliday in to ride the fiery Italian redhead this weekend.

After making his road racing debut earlier this year in the 300cc production ranks, 16-year-old Tom Toparis spent the test adapting himself to the ZX-6R Supersport machine and improved every session.

Tom Toparis steps up to the Supersport ranks, pictured here with father Richard - Image by Mark Bracks
Tom Toparis steps up to the Supersport ranks, pictured here with father Richard – Image by Mark Bracks
Tom Toparis

“I feel heaps better on the bike and it is starting to feel more normal to me after being on the 300 Proddie all year. It’s a little scary as I am still having a bit of trouble with the change of direction at a couple of places, especially through the Hayshed and up to Lukey but we worked on the set-up a bit more today and I reckon come race weekend it will be a lot different. It’s still a lot of fun though. It was pretty hard trying to get through some of the traffic out there so I reckon next week, being with the Supersport field, I will be able to drop more off my times and be pretty competitive with a lot of the guys.”

Tom Toparis steps up to the Supersport ranks - Image by Steve Duggan SDpics
Tom Toparis steps up to the Supersport ranks – Image by Steve Duggan SDpics

The whole DesmoSport Ducati / Cube Racing outfit were also keen to pay attention to the goings on of Mike Jones and tuned in on the iPad as proceedings got underway in Japan.

Image by Mark Bracks
Image by Mark Bracks

As for Waters on the Plates Yamaha R1, he was suffering with a recalcitrant machine that didn’t want to play ball. The team spent most of their time chasing gremlins so lap times were not a priority. It was a trying day for the lad from Mildura but Josh accepted the difficulties in his usual upbeat style and hoped that by MotoGP weekend the problems would be solved. Team owner Jordan Coote is keen to secure funding for his fledgling outfit to compete in a full season of the ASBK title next year.

Jordan Coote

“We are getting some pretty good support and at the moment we are approaching a couple of companies to see what funding we can secure for a proper effort next year. It’s only early days yet but we are aiming to use next weekend as a springboard for next year.”

Josh Waters with suspension tuner Steve Mudford
Josh Waters with suspension tuner Steve Mudford – Image by Mark Bracks

The Supersport category has 3 x 8 lap races across the MotoGP weekend while the Superbike riders have four 8 laps bout to contest.

The first Superbike race is scheduled to get underway at 1330 on Friday with the second bout slated for 1705 the same day. The opening Supersport encounter is scheduled for a late 1740 start time.

Saturday will see Supersport race two get underway at a frighteningly early 0805 which will be immediately followed by the third Superbike contest.

Sunday morning sees a slightly more reasonable start time of 0905 for the third and final Supersport race while the fourth Superbike bout is scheduled for 0940.

Riders amass points across the World Superbike support events and also the MotoGP support races to decide the Phillip Island Championship.

Yamaha’s Glenn Allerton dominated the three Superbike races at the Yamaha Financial Services Superbike World Championship round back in February. That perfect 75-point haul sees Allerton the clear leader in the 2016 Phillip Island Championship, but, Yamaha Racing Team management have no plans to contest the MotoGP support events, citing budgetary concerns.

Second place and third place riders in the Phillip Island Championship will also not be present this weekend, leaving the door wide open for recently crowned ASBK Champion Troy Herfoss to add another title to his resume. Only Michael Blair realistically has a chance to thwart Herfoss’ ambitions unless the Honda man suffers a DNF in one of the four bouts.

Phillip Island Superbike Championship Points
  1. Glenn Allerton – Yamaha – 75
  2. Mike Jones – Ducati – 57
  3. Wayne Maxwell – Yamaha – 54
  4. Troy Herfoss – Honda – 52
  5. Michael Blair – Yamaha – 45
  6. Ben Burke – Kawasaki – 41
  7. Daniel Falzon – Yamaha – 39
  8. Robbie Bugden – Kawasaki – 35
  9. Cru Halliday – Yamaha – 34
  10. Matt Walters – Kawasaki – 32
Phillip Island Supersport Championship

Recently crowned Australian Supersport Champion Troy Guenther enjoys a handy 16-point lead over fellow banana bender Callum Spriggs but the recently turned 18-year-old is not racing this weekend. Thus, like Superbike, things have very much tightened up at the top with little to separate the top ranked riders. 

After finishing third in the inaugural 2014 Phillip Island Supersport Championship to Daniel Falzon, then second to Michael Blair in 2015, Spriggs is aiming to go one better again in 2016 and take the winners trophy home to Caboolture this year.

Luke Mitchell has been performing very strongly this season, winning the Morgan Park round of the Australian Supersport Championship, and will be ready to capitalise on any mistake by Spriggs.

Western Australia’s Sam Clarke will be aiming to make up for just missing out on the Australian Supersport crown earlier this month at Winton by finishing season 2016 on a high note.

Goulburn youngster Tom Toparis will make his Supersport debut and it will be interesting to see how he measures up after only riding 300cc Production machinery since he first hit the tarmac earlier this year.

Tom Toparis steps up to the Supersport ranks - Image by Steve Duggan SDpics
Tom Toparis steps up to the Supersport ranks – Image by Steve Duggan SDpics
Phillip Island Supersport Championship Points
  1. Troy Guenther – Yamaha – 58.5
  2. Callum Spriggs – Kawasaki – 43.5
  3. Luke Mitchell – Yamaha – 41
  4. Chris Quinn – Yamaha – 40
  5. Ben Blyth – Yamaha – 38
  6. Ryan Taylor – Yamaha – 35.5
  7. Sam Clarke – Kawasaki – 30.5
  8. Ted Collins – Suzuki – 29.5
  9. Nic Liminton – Yamaha – 29
  10. Brad Shaw – Kawasaki – 28.5