The opening 30-minute qualifying session for the deciding round of the 2017 Yamaha Motorcycle Insurance Superbike category got underway at 1050 this morning under sunny skies at Phillip Island. While the track was dry, and ambient temperatures in the high teens, there was still some wind gusts to keep riders on their toes as they negotiated the high speed snaking ribbon of blacktop that is the iconic Phillip Island circuit.
Conditions are predicted to remain about the same all day, however, rain is forecast for tomorrow, with the predicted heaviest falls due to drop around 1500 Sunday afternoon. With the scheduled start of the second and championship deciding Superbike race slated for 1520, a front row qualifying position will be vital in order to stay out of the spray early on in the race if that deluge arrives on time tomorrow. Let alone, of course, the absolutely vital single championship point awarded to the fastest qualifying rider here today.
While the circuit itself is fast, very fast, the 4.45km layout is not as much of a horsepower circuit as the high speeds might suggest. A horsepower advantage can most certainly be an advantage when it comes to duelling mid-race, and trying to get the upper hand over an opponent, however, when it comes to lap times quite often we see bikes with less outright horsepower lap faster than machines with a clear top speed advantage. We saw that demonstrated very clearly here a few years ago when Wayne Maxwell was on the Fireblade SP at MotoGP, while Glenn Allerton was on the NextGen BMW. Allerton was repeatedly 21km/h faster than Maxwell down the chute, which at 300km/h must translate to a 40+ horsepower advantage, but Maxwell hustled the Honda around here 1.2-seconds quicker than Allerton could manage here that weekend…
This season of course both Wayne Maxwell and Glenn Allerton find themselves aboard YRT YZF-R1 machinery, that has no shortage of top speed.
Over at Team Honda, this weekend marks the first competitive outing of the new Fireblade SP2 here at Phillip Island. Both Staring and Herfoss were clocked at 286km/h at the speed trap yesterday which certainly puts them in the ballpark. The Suzuki of Josh Waters registered 290km/h in FP3 yesterday while the Apex Civil backed YZF-R1 of Alex Phillis topped the speed charts in that session at 299km/h.
Daniel Falzon was obviously keen to get plenty of laps in early on in the session and was the first man in the 33s this morning, a 1m33.990 on his eighth lap before returning to the pits for tweaks to the JD Racing YZF-R1. The South Australian the early pacesetter in this session ahead of defending champion and current points leader Troy Herfoss.
Bryan Staring and Wayne Maxwell did not join the circuit until the session was well into it’s second half and Maxwell immediately shot to the top of the charts with a 1m33.242. Herfoss crossed the stripe shortly after on his first real dip at a fast time and was less than a tenth-of-a-second off Maxwell.
With six-minutes remaining in the session it was most certainly game on. Fastest sectors were flashing up repeatedly on the timing boards, but it was Troy Herfoss the first man in the 32s this weekend, a 1m32.851 on Honda’s new SP2 Fireblade topping the charts with five minutes remaining.
Maxwell then put in a quickest first sector but lost time around the back of the circuit, still improving his time to 33.201 but that was not good enough to knock Herfoss out of top spot. Let’s try again… Next time around Maxwell again quickest at the first split, up by 0.153, but again lost a couple of tenths in the next sectors and this time failed to improve. The YRT man then returned to pitlane, his challenge done for this session.
Thus Troy Herfoss sits on provisional pole with that scorching 1m32.851 ahead of Maxwell.
Team Suzuki’s Josh Waters third quickest and the second Crankt Protein Honda piloted Bryan Staring finished the session in fourth place, half-a-second ahead of Daniel Falzon.
Glenn Allerton was sixth quickest on the second of the YRT machines just ahead of Josh Hook who managed to hustle the Craig McMartin prepared Ducati Panigale R around the circuit in 1m34.416.
Matt Walters the fastest of the Kawasaki men today while championship contender Robbie Bugden languished in 16th place, despite putting in a hefty 16-laps in the 30-minute session, the most of any rider.
Bugden wrecked one of his BCperformance Kawasaki machines yesterday in an incident which also saw teammate Kyle Buckley go down. The number of laps that Bugden put in this morning suggests that he and the team were working on a long run to gauge tyre life. They were not present here testing early last week, unlike most of the top championship challengers, thus they lack that vital set-up data compared to their championship combatants. Clearly that 1m35.897 is no real gauge of Bugden’s potential tomorrow. Another ingredient that should not be dismissed is that with wet weather predicted tomorrow, most riders rate the Dunlop wets perhaps a little superior to the Pirelli options, and Bugden will race on Dunlops…
Final qualifying is scheduled to take place at 1440 this afternoon. The top contenders will be absolutely desperate to secure the quickest time today, that single championship point could likely end up being the deciding factor in who is crowned YMI Australian Superbike Champion for 2017…
YMI Superbike First Qualifying Times
Troy Herfoss – 1m32.851 – Honda
Wayne Maxwell – 1m33.201 – Yamaha
Josh Waters – 1m33.370 – Suzuki
Bryan Staring – 1m33.461 – Honda
Daniel Falzon – 1m33.959 – Yamaha
Glenn Allerton – 1m33.963 – Yamaha
Josh Hook – 1m34.146 – Ducati
Matt Walters – 1m34.479 – Kawasaki
Alex Phillis – 1m34.482 – Yamaha
Cru Halliday – 1m34.578 – Yamaha
Michael Blair – 1m34.946 – Yamaha
Corey Turner – 1m35.013 – Ducati
Beau Beaton – 1m35.341 – Ducati
Mitch Levy – 1m35.416 – Yamaha
Ted Collins – 1m35.656 – BMW
Robbie Bugden – 1m35.897 – Kawasaki
Jed Metcher – 1m35.898 – Yamaha
Sloan Frost – 1m35.944 – Suzuki
Aiden Coote – 1m36.803 – Kawasaki
Adam Senior – 1m37.741 – Yamaha
David Barker – 1m38.110 – Kawasaki
Kyle Buckley – 1m39.177 – Kawasaki
Ben Stronach – 1m39.322 – Yamaha
Trent Gibson – 1m39.542 – Suzuki
Brendan McIntyre – 1m39.797 – Suzuki
Matt Barton – 1m40.534 – Honda
Scott McGregor – 1m40.622 – Yamaha
Keith Harrison – 1m46.397 – Kawasaki
YMI Superbike Championship Standings
Troy Herfoss 226
Josh Waters 220
Wayne Maxwell 211
Robbie Bugden 201
Daniel Falzon 188
Cru Halliday 183
Bryan Staring 151
Corey Turner 138
Mitch Levy 119
Michael Blair 114
Beau Beaton 111
Glenn Allerton 96
Troy Guenther 88
Josh Hook 87
Kyle Buckley 83
Tom Toparis topped the opening qualifying for the Supersport 600 category this morning at Phillip Island. The Goulburn teenager only completing six lap in the session and it was his final circuit that credited him with provisional pole at 1m35.871, a very impressive time but two-tenths shy of his best from yesterday.
Mark Chiodo was second quickest and the triple-cylinder 675 Triumph clocked the fastest register through the speed trap at 260km/h. While Chiodo was seven-tenths of a second slower than Toparis, he had more than double that advantage over third placed Mason Coote.
On this morning’s qualifying form it looks as though tomorrow’s 2 x 10-lap races might be lonely affairs for the youngsters, with the real battle looking to be for the final step on the rostrum and likely to be fought out between Coote, Taylor, Condon, Hayes, Quinn, Carlsson and New Zealander Mitch Rees.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.