Sunny skies greeted competitors at Wanneroo’s Barbagallo Raceway this morning as official practice got underway for round four of the Yamaha Motor Finance ASBK Championship.
Many riders also participated in an open free practice track day yesterday, without official timing. Track time particularly crucial for the large percentage of riders that have never before sampled the delights of the undulating 2.4km seven-turn layout.
This is a track that places high on the list of the most favoured to ride on amongst riders that know the challenging layout. There is no way the camber and elevation changes here can be appreciated unless you ride the track yourself.
Riders back Superbikes into turn one as they wash speed off after clocking over 225km/h down the pit straight, back a few cogs and the rear tyre stepped out under compression and rear brake, the entry in to turn one can be quite spectacular. Troy Herfoss and Matt Walters particularly good exponents of that dark art this afternoon.
The apex speeds dip as low as 80km/h through this double apex right hander before riders then fire through a kink accelerating through 170km/h before peeling in to the heavily cambered left hander, a particularly tricky entry, and one that has already claimed a few victims this week, including Wayne Maxwell.
The flick across to the right as riders negotiate ‘Skyline’ is both exciting and tricky, as a hill is crested before plummeting down to ‘the basin’, or as some call turn six, ‘the bowl’. Here speeds are slowed from over 220km/h down to just under 100km/h in the slowest part of this truly incredible corner. The elevation change is extreme, and the camber massive, then it is a long climb up out of the basin, cresting the hill at over 230km/h with the back wheel pawing the air before the rapid descent down towards the final turn seven, one of the highest braking loads in the country is experienced here. Teams run stiffer fork springs at this circuit to prevent bottoming out, as at the maximum point of brake load the circuit again starts a slight climb, before riders tip into turn seven, a 90km/h apex speed low here before slingshotting back up to the pit straight, crossing the line in 55-seconds if you hope to be competitive with the likes of Australia’s best.
Today the pace was set by Glenn Allerton, a 55.573 the best of his 23 laps in FP3 this afternoon, six of those laps were in the 55s. Allerton was just 4-hundredths of a second outside his own race lap record here, that marker a 55.533 set on a BMW S 1000 RR.
The fastest ever recorded time here on a motorcycle however was set down by Shannon Johnson on a Yamaha YZF-R1 way back in 2005, that scorcher a 55.35. The track was resurfaced in 2004, but is still in pretty good shape now compared to other short circuits on the Australian calendar.
Wayne Maxwell was second best today, a 55.667 only fractionally slower than Allerton. On early indications it could be a Glenn and Wayne show here this weekend, as we saw at Sydney Motorsports Park.Their competitors are going to have find some time tomorrow if they are to challenge this pair over the course of the weekend.
Mike Jones had a few technical problems yesterday, but his Ducati was singing a much nicer tune today. Jones’ best time came in the second session, a 55.810. Jones only managed to dip in to the 55s twice in FP3, the best of those a 55.912.
Ben Burke was the fastest newcomer to the circuit. Coming off a three-from-three victory at Mallala last weekend when contesting the rival Swann Superbike Series, Burke knuckled down to earn the intricacies of the Wanneroo layout. To be in the 55s already is very impressive with so little circuit knowledge. That suggests Burke will get quicker again as the weekend progresses and he learns to how best fire his BC Performance / SA Kawasaki ZX-10R around here.
Troy Herfoss was the quickest Honda man today, still searching for outright grip but happy with tyre longevity, Herfoss also dipped into the 55s in the final session, a 55.958. A good start will be crucial for Herfoss come race day, he will need to make sure he is mixing it up with his main championship rivals right from the off, ensuring they can’t repeat the same escape act they performed at Sydney Motorsports Park.
Daniel Falzon the final rider to break into the 55s, an impressive pace from the JD Racing R1.
Cru Halliday was disappointed with his pace and is searching for further improvement from himself tomorrow. He improved considerably in the final session and is now only half-a-second off the fastest time, but needs to find more if he is going to challenge his teammates. That time may well come as Halliday is new to this circuit, and still has plenty of time to get his head around it.
Matt Walters certainly looked to be enjoying himself, the Kawasaki Connection ZX-10R rarely had two wheels pointing in the same direction, if the Cessnock based rider keeps that up he will be a crowd favourite come race day.
Brayden Elliott was the quickest Suzuki rider ahead of Sloan Frost, the New Zealander rounding out the top ten ahead of a clearly struggling Jamie Stauffer.
Still coming back from injury and unable to find a clear direction with set-up, Jamie could only manage a 56.92, and that came in the opening session. Things only got worse from then on with a best of 57.03 in FP2, and then slower again in FP3 with a 57.117. Clearly some homework to do. Jamie holds the Supersport lap record here with a 57.004, set on a YZF-R6 in 2006. To be no quicker ten years later on a Superbike would be a serious slap in the face to the likeable 37-year-old.
Superbikes are back on track tomorrow, Saturday, at 1220 for Q1 before Q2 at 1445. Pirelli Superpole for the top six is scheduled to get underway at 1540.
Support Class Reports by M.A.
A total of 16 Motul Supersport riders took to the track for their first practice session at Barbagallo this morning, and within five minutes of being out on track, Championship leader Troy Guenther (Graffiti Alley Racing) recorded a time of 58.290, which couldn’t be topped within the 30-minute session. Only slightly off Guenther’s pace was WA local rider Sam Clarke, who wrapped up the first session with a 58.469, while Cube Racing’s Callum Spriggs was third quickest on track with a 58.797.
When the second practice for the Motul Supersport class kicked off, competitors were welcomed with warmer track conditions, and it was Banham WA Racing’s Clarke who burst out of the box to set the fastest time (57.634) from Guenther who late in the session posted a 58.206, placing him in second – The third quickest time in Practice 2 was snatched up by JNL Racing’s Luke Mitchell, while Spriggs and Chris Quinn completed the top five times.
In the third and final practice session for the Motul Supersport category this afternoon, Guenther launched on to the track setting a lightening fast 58.189 on lap two, but by the halfway mark in the session, local man Clarke once again made his way to the top, putting down a 57.742 which couldn’t be matched for the remainder of the session.
When times from all three practices were combined, it was Clarke’s 57.635 lap in Practice 2 which saw him finish quickest throughout today’s sessions, while Guenther bettered his times in the final practice (58.189) placing him in second. Mitchell, Spriggs and Quinn were all separated by the narrowest of margins (.482) and completed the top five combined times.
Honda Moto 3/125 GP
The Honda Moto 3/125GP class competitors relished in the fresh track conditions at Barbagallo this morning, and it was the most experienced rider out on track Brian Houghton who was fastest with a 1:03.556 time, while rival 14-year-old Locky Taylor put down a 1:04.606.
In the second practice session for the Honda Moto 3/125GP class, once again Houghton asserted his authority, improving on this morning’s time to drop .551 of a second (1:03.005). Following Houghton’s lead and despite a minor crash during the session, was Scott Pettit with a 1:03.353 lap, followed by David Doughty who wrapped up the second free practice third fastest on track.
In the final practice, there was plenty of excitement with the session red flagged twice to clear small crashes – However when the third practice resumed, Houghton once again couldn’t be beaten, and when the times from all three sessions were combined Houghton remained in the top spot with a 1:03.005 lap time from Practice 2, from Pettit (1:03.353) and Doughty (1:03.512).
In the Over 300 Production class, Yamaha R3 mounted Brandon Demmery shot to the top of the times during the first practice on track this morning, with a 1:08.106 lap time, while in the the Up to 300 Production class Race Centre’s Drew Sells was quickest with a 1:09.042 time.
In the second practice session for the Production Class, YRD’s Callum Alderson improved on this morning’s times, recording a 1:07.615 lap handing him the top spot. However, with just over six minutes to go, the session was prematurely red flagged due to a rider running off at turn one. When the session resumed, despite the efforts of his competitors, no one was able to get close to Alderson’s 1:07.615 time, with Demmery (1:08.012) and Sells (1:08.372) each wrapping up the second practice with the second and third quickest times on track respectively.
In the final practice session for the day it was once again Alderson who showcased his consistency in the Over 300 Production category, bettering his times and recording a 1:06.902 lap ahead of Demmery who snatched up a 1:07.643. Reid Battye topped the times in the Up to 300 Production class with a 1:07.648, followed by Sells and Sam Condon who completed the top five combined fastest laps.
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