Phillip Island Round Six Sunday: We Have Some Answers, But Not All of Them…
The final day of Round Six saw Phillip Island at its absolute best in the morning and then remind everyone during the lunch break who’s boss with a solid shower followed by some sun, then rain… look, we’re all a bit traumatised by The Island weather so let’s just leave it there.
How was the racing? When is it not fantastic?
It was fantastic. The intrigue and the what-could-have-been factor was high for some, while the championship favourites played the game to their advantage across the board.
Next weekend sees the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul move to The Bend in South Australia where we will be joined by special guests and award all the championships.
Here’s what we saw on track in the mi-bike Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul: Australian Supersport 300 Race 3
Australian Superbike Race 2
Australian Supersport Race 3
Australian Superbike Race 3
The predicted rain of course stayed away, mostly to spite the forecasters.
A cliché we apparently can’t stop using, but nonetheless continue to use unabated is: “this could be the one that decides the title”.
The tension was evident amongst the field as they sat on the media grid, with stern faces all round. At the start, Falzon jumped away and Maxwell blew it to create more apparently necessary drama and found himself back in eighth. Waters settled into second with Herfoss rounding out the top three.
Simultaneously, Herfoss went into second, Allerton up to third with Waters shuffled down to fourth.
Maxwell was now sixth and had Mike Jones for company in seventh. While we were looking the other way, Herfoss took the lead from Falzon and Waters.
Waters started lap two fourth and was first by turn four, Herfoss was down to second, Allerton third and Falzon had been passed by a seemingly desperate and loose Wayne Maxwell. Agius tried a slightly ambitious move on Halliday but was unable to move up to seventh.
Mike Jones had shuffled about and was now eighth. Maxwell’s charge continued and somehow he was now up to second. The intriguing scenario was finally upon us; new teammate Waters was leading and Maxwell needs those 25 points. Waters was 1.6 seconds up the road, so pulling over and waiting for his teammate was not yet necessary.
Mike Jones, seeing Maxwell near the front, realised he needed to limit his losses and passed Falzon to move up to seventh.
Maxwell was on near-lap-record pace in unfavourable windy conditions, some .3 of a second a lap faster than Waters. The gap was still 1.3 seconds as they hit the line to complete lap five.
Herfoss was under attack from Halliday for third and it felt inevitable that the Yamaha R1 would make the pass on the Penrite Honda.
Herfoss made the CBR1000RR as wide as possible, but Halliday was dogged after a less-than-satisfactory (for him) Saturday result. The two riders would continue their hard dicing corner after corner.
Ant West’s charge came to an end at turn four when he went in a little too hard while trying to pass Allerton when he ran in deep and folded the front end.
Mike Jones was now pushing hard, realising that Maxwell was heading towards Waters and potentially a race win. The championship leader moved up to sixth after taking Allerton and then had a good look at Bryan Staring who was in fifth.
Halliday and Herfoss continued their battle into lap eight and Maxwell found himself on the pipe of teammate Waters and then into the lead as they swept into turn one. There were some murmurs in the media centre, but Waters always knew how this scenario would pan out.
While this was going on, Cru Halliday finally found a way past Herfoss for third and Jones was past Staring for fifth to limit his losses. Staring wasn’t going quietly however and was showing Jones a wheel at every opportunity, putting the DesmoSport Ducati’s horsepower to good use.
Maxwell was now .6 ahead of Waters and just needed to stay calm and bring it home. Waters had an insurmountable 5 second lead over third placed Halliday.
As they hit the line, Maxwell took the win and as they cooled down into turn two, had his head on a swivel to see where Jones had finished. Jones was down in fifth and doing all he needed to continue his seemingly inexorable run to the title in a week’s time.
Was the championship now decided? Some certainly thought so, with Jones on schedule- just needing to finish fifth for the remaining races to secure the title.
There were now 76 maximum points left in season 2022 and Jones led by 31 points.
Race Two results can be viewed here.
The World Superbikes had just completed their Superpole race as the ASBK bikes rolled out of their garages and where there was confusion ahead of the start in WSBK about whether to start on wets, dry tyres or a combination of both, it was far clearer for the ASBK crew; dry, dry, dry!
For all the talk of two wet races for Sunday, we were now on the verge of a second fully dry race and it was hard to see if the riders were relieved or disappointed.
There was agreement that fast-drying wet track race like we had in race one would be a nightmare, the past was now exactly that, as we stared down the barrel of the third last race of season 2022 for the Alpinestars Superbike class.
Away we went into the unknown. Falzon got another good jump, but it was Josh Waters who lead them away.
Through southern loop they settled briefly and then Mike Jones effectively secured the title when Maxwell booped the back of Herfoss and fell off as they went into turn four and the Boost Mobile with K-Tech Ducati Panigale hit the deck.
Waters continued to lead with a resurgent Mike Jones in second and Herfoss in third. Then came Allerton (4th), Falzon up in fifth and Staring (6th).
Cru Halliday found himself down in ninth at a circuit he has always been close to the podium spot or at the front.
For all this drama, we were only on lap three.
Turn four claimed three more riders on riders on lap four after Daniel Falzon lost the front end and took Cru Halliday and Senna Agius with him.
Up front Herfoss was now up to second place but Josh Waters was 3.5 seconds up the road and setting fastest lap times, but half a second off the race two pace.
Herfoss was now towing a long line of riders: Allerton, Jones, Staring and resurgent Ant West.
At half-race distance the action and aggression from the chasing packs was unrelenting. The dicing amongst the various packs was allowing Josh Waters to set off for the finish.
Staring overtook Herfoss down the straight but was unable to hold the spot. Staring continued to show him a wheel as often as possible. Jones and West were clinging on to the chase group as Waters just continued to plug away.
Ant West’s miserable run -when he was showing genuine form- continued when he suffered a flat tyre on lap seven and retired. A tough weekend for the hugely talented and enigmatic racer.
With three to go, Waters was five seconds away from the main chase group that was led by Jones, from Staring and Allerton. Herfoss was seemingly having the fade out that has punctuated much of his weekend and then had an ambitious lunge at Allerton at turn four on lap ten. Allerton ran wide and onto the MotoGP long lap asphalt and both riders now found themselves with work to do if they wanted to get on the podium.
Staring and Jones decided to have their own incident into turn four and the resulting touch sent winglet of Staring’s bike flying off his Ducati. While these two fought tooth and nail, Waters headed into the final lap with a smaller but still comfortable three-second lead while Herfoss was back up to the back of third-placed Jones.
At the finish, it was Josh Waters for the race and round win, salvaging something for the team after the disaster that was Wayne Maxwell’s double DNF situation. Staring saluted for second with resurgent Mike Jones on the box in third. Herfoss had muscled his way to fourth with Glenn Allerton fifth, Jed Metcher up to sixth, Arthur Sissis in seventh, Broc Pearson topping the rookies with eighth, a happier Max Stauffer in ninth and Matt Walters on his Kawasaki rounding out the top ten.
The overall result saw Waters from Staring with Allerton in third.
The championship? It’s not over, but race one at The Bend could see it all over. Jones sits comfortably atop on 269 points with Staring up to second on 238 and Wayne Maxwell third on 229.
With a maximum of fifty-one points on offer for the season, Mike Jones could be excused for making some room in his trophy cabinet.
Editorial Note: ASBK organizers did not provide a link to Superbike Race Three results. American Travis Wyman finished 13th.
Updated: Race Three results are here.
The riders form firmly established, we looked to Bramich, Passfield and Lytras at the start to jump away and they delivered in that order, although Nicholson was able to slip up into third and Lytras now found Ty Lynch directly behind him in fifth.
Up front, Passfield was now leading with Bramich settling for second… for now.
Lytras had returned the favour to Nicholson and was back in third and then we completed the first lap. Whew!
Bramich was back into the lead shortly after and Lytras was now challenging for that lead in second. He and Passfield traded spots and showed each other a wheel time and time again to keep it fun. Their shenanigans allowed Bramich to just slip away by a second.
Further back, Nicholson (4th), McDonald (5th), Farsnworth (6th), Skeer (7th) and the clearly injured Lynch (8th) battled on.
Gaps opened everywhere, perhaps due to the strong breeze that took away some of the usual Phillip Island drafting. Bramich was now out to a 1.2 second lead and Passfield in second had a 2.0 second gap back to Lytras.
The race settled in for several laps and the gaps stayed steady. Lytras didn’t need to push to protect his title chances and Passfield just slowly worked his way back to Bramich, narrowing the gap to the lead and moving to less than a second. On lap eight, Passfield put a pretty hard pass on Bramich, ran wide, understandably shut the door and was in front through the rest of the lap.
Bramich was either happy to follow or unable to pass and settled in to follow and let Passfield know he wasn’t going anywhere. The pressure saw Passfield push the bike too hard and HE folded the front into turn six (Siberia) and crashed out of the race.
Bramich now enjoyed an eight-second advantage and Lytras inherited second place.
With the luxury of this large lead, Tom Bramich took his second win by 8.1 seconds to round off a terrific weekend for the Victorian-based former Supersport 300 champion.
Dunlop Supersport 300
The 300s jumped away in the kindest possible bright sun and Snell led them out of southern loop to turn four. As a sign of the field’s growing maturity through the year, all riders made it to turn four in all three races upright and racing.
That said, ASBK Race Direction placed the start under review for jumped start/s.
Dunker led through the back half of the circuit onto the straight. The leading group consisted of Dunker, Snell, Hayden Nelson, Pezzetta, Cameron Swain, Glenn Nelson and polesitter Taiyo Aksu.
Through lap three, Cameron Dunker put his head down to try to get a gap or force errors and moved out to a .3 second advantage. The leading trio of Dunker, Snell and Hayden Nelson were now out to an overall 1.4 gap and the second bunch appeared to decide to work together to ensure they weren’t out of the podium running.
The battle for ninth was so tough there was a brief swapping of paint on the main straight to remind everyone that 300s race hard no matter where they are or who they are against.
Diminutive Dunker was hard at it lap after lap and somehow worked his way to a near two second gap and with two laps to go, a rare solo win in the 300s seemed possible.
Glenn Nelson’s tough weekend got tougher with a crash that made challenging for the championship far tougher.
Dunker however was sublime. A 2.5 second gap was now too much for the followers to chase down. The only person who could beat him was Dunker himself.
Three riders went down at turn four, an overly optimistic passing move up the inside saw Aksu, Swain and two race winner at this event Snell go down.
Dunker hit the line alone with an extraordinary 2.4 second gap from Hayden Nelson and Sam Pezzetta.
The 300s weekend was done, but the recriminations and “discussions” continued amongst the stranded riders at turn four.