Australian Superbike competitors met a new challenge this morning as they started to try and get their head around the intricacies of the ‘International Circuit’ layout at The Bend Motorsports Park. This brand new facility is situated just outside of Tailem Bend, a little over an hour East of Adelaide, near the junctions of the Dukes Highway and Mallee Highway.
Riders were blessed by the weather gods today with brilliant blue skies and very little wind to whip up all the sand still around the circuit from ongoing construction work.
The complex is still very much a work in progress with workmen and machinery everywhere. Even when we are back here in a couple of weeks, for the third round of the 2018 ASBK Championship, it will present only the initial almost blank canvas surrounding the tarmac that will eventually host a hotel complex and a level of infrastructure that will put every other motorsport facility in the country to shame, when it is finished…
Even with the almost perfect conditions the track was still very dusty, and this morning the cleaner line was not the line that will eventually become the ideal race line when these two wheel gladiators really start getting down to serious business.
Tyre wear is clearly going to be a massive issue. It is early days yet, but even at what are the modest speeds the riders are running now, compared to what the true race pace will be, tyres are degrading massively. Sand on the surface of the circuit will be part of the issue and the new surface will also be playing a part, but early indications suggest the circuit is going to torture tyres.
Of course, most teams have not even touched a clicker or changed a spring today, that might come later this afternoon, this morning was just for riders to get their heads around which way the circuit goes, and to start nutting out the fast way around the very testing 18-turn lay-out.
I then sat down with Penrite Honda Team Manager Shaun Clarke to look at the data trace and worked out a very rough initial guide to the corner speeds around The Bend.
Glenn Allerton clearly likes the place! The NextGen BMW man shaded all comers in the opening practice session with apparent ease. However, in the second session the honour of the first sub two-minute lap around The Bend Motorsport Park went to his young teammate Ted Collins!
Clearly the NextGen squad have got something worked out here very early on in the piece.
After the opening two sessions though it is Ecstar Suzuki’s Josh Waters atop the timesheets. Full results are listed further below.
And the honour of first one to bite the dirt at the new South Australian circuit this morning was none other than Troy Bayliss! The three-time World Superbike Champ’ was quickly back out and at it though and none the worse for wear after testing the run-off at turn one.
Troy Herfoss on Tailem Bend
We had a quick chat with Troy Herfoss immediately after the opening session this morning to get his initial feedback on The Bend.
Trevor Hedge: We’re here with Troy Herfoss who’s just had his first laps at The Bend Motorsport Park, what are your first thoughts on the circuit?
Troy Herfoss: Many thoughts, we’re going to race here in a couple of weeks, but for what you guys want to know, I haven’t raced everywhere around the world where it has a mixture of everything like this. That first sector of turns two and three remind me of a slower Silverstone, coming up into that first hairpin in turn six and it’s sort of a bit like Valencia, when you come flying around the fast left hander and brake heavily in there. It’s like a reverse Sachsenring down to the right there too. And this section down here at turn 14 and 15 is just like Red Bull Ring. You sort of come down the hill on the throttle, on the edge of the tyre, it’s extremely fast. It’s really incredible, it’s too much to take in, in 25 minutes. But apart from that it is very dusty out there, so the track is extremely green, so there’s no grip at all. It was just a lot of fun that first session, and I wanted to give Clarky something to do, but I was too busy having fun out there sliding around, enjoying a new track.
Trev: Talking about sliding around, everyone is toasting tyres here this morning, so we might see half a season’s tyre budget gone in a couple of days….
Herfoss: I just joked with the guys I’m glad Deon (Deon Coote, Penrite Honda Team owner), is flying in a bit late today, as there’s a few tyres going in the bike… We’ve really got no choice. In the past we’ve seen tracks which just really ruin tyres. I don’t think it’s that case here, I think it’s the amount of sand on the track, like sandpaper. So once that clears off, it should be a lot better on tyres.
Trev: Of course to clarify things for people out their on the internerd reading this, you’re not going out on new tyres, you’re going out on rubber with a few laps on it. As you can’t throw money away just to learn the new race track.
Herfoss: That’s right we’ve learnt over the years that a new race surface is very different. So we’re just putting whatever old tyres we have on at the moment. We’re going to be 10-seconds off at the moment, so there’s no reason to waste new tyres.”
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