Words by Mark Bracks
Images by Andrew Gosling – tbgsport
Eighteen riders started the ASBK Supersport test, with Oli Bayliss making the step up to the Supersport category this year, but no one could get near last year’s class runner-up, as Tom Toparis totally dominated all bar one of the eight sessions.
Toparis has left the Cube Racing Team where he’s been since he started road racing. After his years racing Kawasaki’s in both the 300 class and Supersports, Tom will be Yamaha mounted this year, basically doing it alone in a family run affair with a few sponsors like Landbridge Racing.
“It’s been a good weekend, for the first time at the Island on the Aussie Supersport bike. It’s good to get out and do some laps and learn. The bike’s really smooth and I think that’s the most important thing.”
The youngster from Goulburn (NSW) will also be doing a Wild Card in the Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island later this month on an up-specced Yamaha R6 which should give him a great opportunity to step up the leader board after his experience in the event last year, when he finished 14th in the race.
It was Tom’s first outing on the new bikes at the test and so there was a lot of setting up to be done to adapt to the characteristics of the Yamaha after his years on the Kawasaki.
“The new Yamaha R6 is just really smooth, straight out of the box. The chassis is a lot more… a bit more like a Moto3 bike. It feels a lot stiffer and a lot more race orientated and a lot more aggressive, the styling of it. The brakes are good, we can make the tyre last for a long time, which is really good. We just have to make a few decisions about what we’re going to run. We’re just messing around with a few little things, we went pretty fast this morning. We’ll see how we go and hopefully my little mate Oli won’t beat me anytime soon. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks to test the WorldSBK, I just rode it around today, no tyres or anything to get a bit of a feel for that too…”
Second fastest was South Australian Nic Liminton, also Yamaha mounted. It’s a welcome return for Liminton as he was sidelined for most of last year as he battled – and overcame – testicular cancer. It’s a confronting moment for a teenager, as it would have been an extremely difficult time for the close knit Liminton family but thankfully he is back to full health, and keener than ever to get on track again racing.
His times were slightly off his PB around the track as they are fine tuning their new Yamaha’s but understandably Nic is just over the moon to be back riding and racing in a few weeks, after his reality check of 2018.
“We had a lot to get through as we set up the new bikes back but I am so happy with where we are right now. I am just so happy to be back getting ready to race a full season. This is my first time ever on the new Yamaha R6. The suspension we’re still dealing with, hopefully we’ll get it all sorted by the race, but at the moment – the Ohlins – if we can get it dialed in, I reckon we can have a very good race. We had a base setting on the suspension at the start and we thought that was going to be amazing, but we changed a few things and we’ve got it to a pretty good point now. With a few more practice sessions we’ll be in a better place. Track time is definitely a bit of an issue, we don’t have much of it, compared to some of the other riders, so we’ll just try and learn as quick as possible and then hope the race is going to be good. Top three is where I want to be, I think Tom’s in a league of his own at the moment, but if we can slowly close the gap through each round to him, I want to be where he is by sometime this year. That’s the goal.”
We know the kid can ride but it was still a bit of a surprise to see Oli Bayliss third fastest over the two days. Ok, he has had a few sessions at Morgan Park on the 600 to get a handle on it but coming to Phillip Island is an entirely different bunch of coconuts.
The last time he rode there was on a 300 Proddie bike with massively different lap times, so it was a huge challenge but he took it in his stride and was only two-tenths off Liminton’s best time, with plenty of more experienced Supersport pilots behind him. Broc Pearson, also on a Yamaha, was less than a tenth of a second off, in fourth fastest, snapping at his heels.
“We’re still getting used to the track, we’ve ridden the bike four times, but on this track zero, so the first day actually surprised me. I didn’t realise we were going to go this fast, but I’m absolutely loving it, and it’s a great track to ride, and so much fun. I didn’t think I was going to get going this fast so early on. I was here three months ago and we were doing 1:49s and now we’re doing 1:37s, so it’s like a 12 second, 13 seconds difference and it’s just different to get used to how much more power it has than the 300. The weekend was very good. Very, very, very, very good! It was really helpful and it’s given me a lot of confidence going into the race. Our times weren’t bad, we were third or fourth overall and we are getting there. Hopefully practice at the race meeting we can crack a 36, maybe even a 35. It’s going to be hard, but with a bit of help, with another rider being towed along and a few other changes to the bike – I’m losing a bit of top speed, so if we can get all of those problems sorted out, hopefully we can go a bit faster. I’ve three of my best mates out there, Tom [Toparis], Ty [Lynch] and Broc [Pearson], so it’s going to be weird racing them all, but also going to be really fun. Hopefully we can still be friends after the finish, if shit happens!”
Pearson who was fourth fastest, was his usual rapid self but a big get off at Turn One towards the end of day one slowed things down a bit, as on day two he never quite got to the times of the previous day and on his own admission says that he always has trouble with the track.
“We started off Day One really good, and I think I prepared well for this season, I’m a lot fitter and a lot more flexible. Yesterday morning started really well, I missed the first session due to some electrical issues, but we got out there in the second one. Instantly I was into good times, so I was really confident. Leading into the last session I was first on the times at about the middle mark of the session and went back out and had a new set of tyres and was pretty confident to go a bit faster. I ended up making a mistake in Turn 1 and had a bit of a fall, and then Day Two just hasn’t gelled so much. I sort of get over that kind of stuff and don’t get effected but I think I found a bit of a limit yesterday that was like hitting a wall today, getting to a speed that I couldn’t really pass. So I think I just need to work on a few things with my riding, I don’t think it’s mental or physical, it’s just time on the bike, which I don’t get much off. So hopefully we can get a bit of that between now and end of the month.”
Another debutant in the class is the 2017 Australian Supersport 300cc Champion, Reid Battye, returning to the domestic title chase after a disastrous season in Europe last year. After winning the title Reid had high hopes of competing in the Supersport 300 World Championship that Tom Edwards competed in, but a botch up with registering for the over-subscribed grid saw the teenager left out in the cold and living in Italy.
He returned to Australia half way through the year and so has not had much riding but was impressive in his first outing on the new Suzukis and was fifth. Like Bayliss, Battye will definitely be a threat once he gets more in tune with the bikes and he has the added bonus of Phil Tainton fettling his bikes between meetings. Expect him to give it a big shake
Just adrift of Battye was Sam Lambert who has had an on-again off-again relationship with the class in recent years but in that time has proven to be one that is in the upper part of the field but has lacked the budget to complete a full season. Let’s hope the Northern Territorian can stick around for the entire season as the sound of the MV Agusta he is riding on full noise is just majestic, and he is not too far off the pace.
While Toparis may have had a distinct edge in lap times over the others the difference in times between second (Liminton) and seventh (Aiden Hayes) was just over a second, and the rest were close behind.
Add a few more that were not at the test and others that are rising through the ranks like Scott Nicholson (who is in his own team this year); Aiden Hayes who is hoping to contest the entire season; as well as Ty Lynch who is gaining advice from Jed Metcher to improve his performances; Rhys Belling; Jack Passfield; Dallas Skeer; and the ever competitive Chris Quinn, and the 2019 Supersport category will have plenty of spice to compliment the other classes.
Supersport Combined Practice Times – 2019 ASBK PI Test
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