Wanneroo ASBK Recap ahead of Morgan Park

With ASBK about to converge on Morgan Park for the penultimate round of ASBK 2016 Bracksy takes a look back at round four

Last year, after a nine year gap (2006), the full ASBK circus crossed the Nullarbor to rekindle the relationship. The premier Superbikes category, however, has had a couple of championship rounds at Wanneroo in 2011 and 2012, as a single class support act to the V8 Supercar series.

Barbagallo Raceway at Wanneroo may be a short layout, with just seven corners but, you really have to be on your game to make the place work for you. A tenth of a second can make a big difference and there is no time to rest, at all. 

It is a very physical lap, confirmed as a rider pulls his helmet off to reveal face and hair saturated in sweat after each session. The change of elevation and topography may not equal Phillip Island, but it is intense despite the relatively short 2.4km lap distance.

There is not one rider I have spoken to that doesn’t like the place. The locals have a secret groove around the place that takes years to unlock. This was amply demonstrated when the ASBK Championship visited the Perth venue early last month, Sam Clarke completely dominating the Motul Supersport category with pole, two wins and a new lap record.

Sam Clarke celebrates victory at Wanneroo - Image by TBG
Sam Clarke celebrates victory at Wanneroo – Image by TBG

There were new lap records set in every class, eclipsing the two long standing Superbike and Supersport class records that stood for over a decade, as well as those set last year on ASBK’s return to the west.

There were plenty of standouts, but where to start? I don’t want to seem like I am forgetting anyone as there was some cracking performances form the old hands as well as the emerging school of talent in all classes particularly the Production class.

First up a big congratulations to Wayne Maxwell for taking out the Superbikes by a solitary point over defending champion, Mike Jones with Glenn Allerton a strong third.  Maxwell appears to be on a roll but the way the season is going, with Wayne being the third leader in four rounds, anything will probably happen.

Wayne Maxwell, Mike Jones, Glenn Allerton
Wayne Maxwell, Mike Jones, Glenn Allerton

Troy Herfoss deserves an accolade as he wrung the neck of the Honda to actually lead both races – albeit only for the opening laps before being overhauled. Maybe Morgan Park will suit the Honda?

Troy Herfoss leads ASBK race one at Barbagallo Raceway, Wanneroo - Image by Keith Muir
Troy Herfoss leads ASBK race one at Barbagallo Raceway, Wanneroo – Image by Keith Muir

There are plenty of moments from the Wanneroo weekend to reflect on but the standout, for me, is Matt Battista (#75) . He is an inspiration and one of those characters that you shake your head in amazement at his determination to overcome an adversity that is arguably the major confrontation that anyone can face in life.

First, a bit of background as many might not have heard of Mr Battista. Matt is a Sandgroper and was a top notch motocross rider who had a crack at road racing. He made a good fist of it, his transition from dirt to tarmac saw the barrel chested Battista take out the WA Superbike Championship in 2007.

Matt Battista in action at Wanneroo in 2008 - Shortly before his life changing accident
Matt Battista in action at Wanneroo in 2008 – Shortly before his life changing accident

While defending his championship in 2008, fate stepped in. He had a crash at the challenging Skyline Corner (T5) and next thing – in layman’s terms – he is paralysed from the tits down and confined to a wheelchair. I use ‘confined’ in the loosest possible turns. I use the word ‘respect’ in the strongest possible terms.

He can still put in 60-seconds laps all day. How he does it with his feet taped to the pegs and taking all the forces through his arms with amazing upper body strength is mind boggling. It provokes even more head shaking when sensationally fit athletes regale you with tales about how physical the track is.

Matt qualified 14th out of 31 entries in the Club Challenge support class with a time of 62.572 on a Ducati 1098, after having some problems with his machine all weekend. (Pole was a 59.693). But, no matter where he qualifies, he has to start from the back of the grid because Matt needs someone to hold the bike, until the lights go out. But once they go out, look out. He is a determined rider but hasn’t really come to grips with the V-twin, as he has previously lapped consistently under a minute on a four-cylinder machine.

ASBK Clubman Turn One
ASBK Clubman Turn One

In the first race he finished 15th, 22nd in leg two, as after three laps the bike was afflicted with a slipping clutch and a DNF after the first lap in race three when the clutch finally gave up the ghost. His fastest lap over the weekend was a 61.704. Many able-bodied folk would be extremely happy with times like those posted by Matt. Hats off to you, mate.

The camaraderie of the Moto3/125cc class is something special. They all pit together in an extended family atmosphere with plenty of banter and when something goes awry, they all chip in. First to go was 14-year-old, Victorian Dylan Whiteside. He was ruled out early when he broke his collarbone after the engine seized on his machine and spat him to the ground at T1. When a similar problem afflicted 15-year-old, Locky Taylor’s bike the Whiteside’s offered their bike to Locky who gratefully accepted. As he was sitting out the weekend, I invited Dylan up to do a bit of commentary with me as he had his left wing in a sling. As the first race took off, Locky Taylor grabbed the lead – as he usually does – with Dylan chiming in saying, “Did you see how fast my bike is?” No sooner had he said that, than Locky biffed it into the weeds at the hungry T4. Dylan learned quickly of the commentators curse. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Another to chip in was very fast local lad, Dave Doughty who stepped in to keep Queenslander, and championship leader, Brian Houghton on the grid by loaning him on if his 125cc two stroke machines after Brian’s Moto3 machine lunched itself.

Topping off the day for Moto3 was seeing Ben Leonard break through for his first two wins in the Australian Championships. Ben with his Dad, Peter and Mum, Michelle are another of the many family affairs that make up the majority of entries in the classes. After knowing Ben since he was about 12-years-old, it was excellent to witness him drink from he victory cup for his fist wins and the overall for the weekend.

Diminutive Tayla Relph is another of the hard chargers in the Moto3 category, and one of the increasing number of ladies that are becoming more competitive every time she jumps on the bike. The young Queenslander broke through for her second win after taking out her first national win at Eastern Creek in April. I truly admire young Tayla. She is a true battler and never takes a backward step as she has had some massive crashes but always bounces back with a smile on her face. On the weekend Tayla was basically doing most things herself as her dad was working so she had to grab the tools  but with the friendships in the class there were plenty of people to help, mainly Brian Houghton. They might be all fierce rivals on the track but the respect and helpfulness of the entire class is tremendous.

David Doughty, Tayla Relph
David Doughty, Tayla Relph

Tayla is also a demon on the brakes echoed by the thoughts of her rivals after each race and she showed the spectators her braking prowess at the final turn on more than one occasion.

Tayla wasn’t the only girl racing as there was a good smattering in the Production class, spectators witnessed five girls battling for honours, all Westerners. Jessica Boujos led the way to take out the ladies category in the Proddie class.

Both Ben and Tayla are two that have come through the junior ranks after competing in the old MRRDA series. In fact there were a good number of ex-juniors that made an impact on the weekend in the west, led by the pair that claimed the Superbike lap records.

Defending Superbike champion, Mike Jones claimed the fastest lap around Wanneroo for a motorcycle. Allerton broke the record first up in Q2 shaving a few hundredths off the long standing outright lap record held by Shannon Johnson on his Yamaha from 2006. Jones chimed in and soon after in Superpole took another three-tenths of a second off, and went oh-so close to cracking that elusive 54-second mark (55.029).

Mike Jones, Wayne Maxwell
Mike Jones, Wayne Maxwell

Less than 24 hours later privateer Daniel Falzon nabbed the official lap record when he went under Glenn Allerton’s benchmark from 2011 in the hectic opening race.

Daniel Falzon, Cru Halliday, Troy Herfoss
Daniel Falzon, Cru Halliday, Troy Herfoss

Other ex juniors to impress were Nic Liminton with his best qualifying in Supersport (fourth), and Ted Collins in his first year of Supersport is improving all the time reflected in his fifth position in race two.

ASBK 2016 - Round Four Wanneroo - Supersport - Nic Liminton and Chris Quinn
ASBK 2016 – Round Four Wanneroo – Supersport – Nic Liminton and Chris Quinn

The Production class was where the ex-junior racers really shone through as Callum Alderson, Brandon Demmery, Drew Sells and Reid Battye were fighting for the major placings. The race craft of these kids is truly inspiring and how they conduct themselves off the bike is equally impressive.

Tom Toparis leads Brandon Demmery at Wanneroo
Tom Toparis leads Brandon Demmery at Wanneroo

One that hasn’t come through the ranks but is certainly a talent to behold is 16-year-old Tom Toparis from Goulburn (NSW). No dirt track or motocross racing, Tom’s experience comes from riding on the paddocks of his home. Additionally, I don’t doubt that being a lifelong family friend of the Herfoss’ that a few tips from Troy and his dad, Mark may have been of some assistance. He has adapted to the cut and thrust of the street fighters in Proddie racing exceptionally quickly and he is not too far off a podium finish.

As many know I am a massive advocate of junior racing, and I suppose, is reflected in my taking over the reigns of MRRDA (and renaming it GP Juniors Australia). It was a very proud moment to see many of the riders that I have known since they were teenagers continue their individual improvements and accomplishments over the years and now be some of the leading riders in their chosen categories.

It proves, again to me how important it is to continue – and expand – junior development. Something many folk are determined to do so that we can close the gap on the domestic competitions of other countries. If you would like to be involved, I am all ears.

Mentioning the juniors, I cannot forget, Wayne Maxwell, as he is another that came through the ranks of the Moriwaki 80s before the junior MRRDA nursery was inaugurated, and look what he has achieved.

I have heard it uttered many times that there is not much depth in Australian racing. That may be true to a point, but you cannot blame those that are racing and admittedly, the locals did their bit to bolster the grids in all classes with around 80 sandgropers entering for the event

One can only race against who is there. Some may think the talent isn’t too deep, but one look at the lap times will tell you there is plenty of talent chipping away, and this was amply demonstrated in the Production class. The battles throughout the field were enthralling.

Another thing that impressed me about the weekend was how strong the local WA scene is. For an isolated place that has only one real track the support shown on the weekend was very impressive. Whatever they are doing over there it is working.

One who was working, and working up a sweat as well, was one of Australia’s better riders of the ‘80s, Michael Dowson made a welcome visit to the place of much of his success on the ASBK weekend. He donned the leathers for the first time in 16 years and showed that once you have it, you very rarely lose it.

MD has been a part of Yamaha’s 60th Anniversary celebrations and it was a fitting place for him to do some laps on the race-prepped Yamaha of Colin Cameron – the brand he became synonymous with after winning a couple of Castrol 6-hours with Kevin Magee.

On his last fling around the track, between races, he found his old groove and did a handful of laps in the flat 60-second bracket, within a few tenths of each other. Extremely impressive. Besides that, he was on hand to present some trophies at and he gave me a big buzz by coming up to the commentary box to share the duties in the Superbike races with myself and Steve Martin. We had a lot of fun during the call and I look forward to catching up with him again soon in commentary.

The ASBK Title chase is back on in earnest next weekend, August 5-7, at Morgan Park, a technical circuit situated near Warwick in Queensland. If last year is anything to go by, it should be another action-packed event in front of another strong crowd.

Hope to see you there.

Mark Bracks