ASBK Ready To Rumble In The Valley
This weekend’s round of the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul (ASBK), is the first time since 2018 that the premier national class has visited the challenging Hidden Valley Raceway, and all riders are ready to rumble in Darwin on the magnificent layout.
This is also the first time that the Alpinestars Superbike class in almost a decade have shared the stage with Supercars as part of this weekend’s Merlin Darwin Triple Crown.
Hidden Valley Raceway may be short in distance at 2.8km, but it is extremely demanding requiring precision, commitment, aggression, and courage from riders for a good lap of the circuit that many consider one of the very best in Australia.
The 1km long main straight starts the challenge, topping nearly 300kmph before the bravery of late braking takes over for the critical turn one. From there it is a charge over the undulating variations of the track to the daunting right-hand, turn five, before another hard braking spot at turn 6, then the charge over the last half of the track through one of the most confronting corners in Australia at turn 10. It is an intense corner to get correct, for the final part of the lap, but extremely easy to misjudge, and run out of bitumen. From there the next three corners are basically straight-lined into the final turn 14 where the drag race begins again.
The ASBK Championship first visited the track in the late ‘90s and has visited sporadically over the years.
ASBK returned in 2010 for four successive years before a mid-decade hiatus with a return of all the championship classes in 2017 and 2018.
The 12 races over those six visits have produced six different winners, with four of them all in with a chance this weekend.
The most successful rider at Hidden Valley is three-times Australian Superbike Champion, Josh Waters.
Josh was scintillating in his performances when he won five of the six races from 2010-12, riding a Suzuki, although he didn’t race here in 2013 as he was competing in the British Superbike Championship.
On his return to Australia, he added two more to his tally when the championship returned in 2017, and he smashed his own lap record by over a second (1:05.986), on his way to his third title that year.
This year, he is racing for Kawasaki BC Performance on a brand new ZX-10R that is in the early stages of development. Waters will no doubt take inspiration from his team-mate’s results here in 2018, as Bryan Staring aboard the BC Performance machine finished second and third and has been on the podium a total of four times at Hidden Valley.
2018 was a watershed year for ASBK at Hidden Valley with moments of history created over that particular weekend. The major standout of that year was the appearance of three-times World Superbike Champion, Troy Bayliss on his DesmoSport Ducati Panigale, and he proved that there was plenty of hunger left in the man that turned 50-years-old that year.
In qualifying for the event, Bayliss staked an early claim as he set the fastest ever lap for a motorcycle around the track (1:05.601), then in the opening race, led every lap in an exceptional battle with two-times Australian Champion, Troy Herfoss (Penrite Racing Honda CBR1000RR) and 2010 champion, Bryan Staring, to break through for his maiden win and an historic victory in the Championship.
Bayliss went oh-so-close to claiming the double win. He and Herfoss had another Herculean battle that went down to the final laps. Slicing and dicing for the lead, with less than four laps remaining, Bayliss hit a false-neutral in his bike as he barreled into the turn 6 hairpin and ran off track briefly. In his charge back, he overcooked it going into the extremely daunting turn 10 and dropped back to seventh. Herfoss won the race and broke the race lap record in the process (1:05.904), from Staring with Wayne Maxwell – riding for Yamaha – in third.
Those minor mistakes by Bayliss put a dent in his Championship hopes and graphically demonstrated the extremely thin line that overshadows every race at Hidden Valley and how precise, and inch-perfect, one must be.
Bayliss finished third overall in the Championship behind 2018 Champion, Herfoss with Maxwell in second place, just three points ahead of the mercurial Bayliss.
Bayliss will be otherwise engaged this weekend looking after his son, Oli, in his rookie year in the ASBK Championship on the DesmoSport Ducati but the usual suspects will be there also.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Oli could end up on the podium as he has finished fourth in his second race on the Ducati 1098V4R.
Most of the leading contenders in this year’s title chase have tasted the victory champagne in the tropics and it is anyone’s guess who will rise to the occasion in the two races at Hidden Valley this weekend.
In the four races held this year in the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul, the wins have been equally shared between defending ASBK champion Wayne Maxwell on the Boost Mobile with K-tech Ducati Panigale V4R, and his fiercest rival and very good mate, Troy Herfoss on the Penrite Honda.
It has been the Herfoss and Maxwell show this year with the pair sharing the wins at two-apiece with some close proximity but fair racing that will be remembered for years, but this track rewards horsepower and handling in equal measure so it opens up the challenge to the rivals that is led by Oli’s teammate, 2019 Champion Mike Jones, who sits third in the title chase.
Maxwell and Herfoss have both won at the venue with Maxwell a further four podium places, and Herfoss has three podium finishes. The other current rider that has won at Hidden Valley is Glenn Allerton on the Maxima Racing Oils BMW.
Allerton is another rider with three ASBK titles and after a wretched couple of seasons afflicted by injury, is back to his race pace and is sure to have the BMW on song with his rivals.
There are a few others worth keeping a close watch on; Unitech Racing’s Arthur Sissis is a leading privateer. Due to his experienced and success in Speedway he is a gun starter and is often the leader at the first turn. Also, since his switch to Yamaha this year, his race consistency has improved dramatically.
Allerton’s teammate, Lachlan Epis, has improved at every outing and qualified fourth for the rounds at Winton and Wakefield Park. Once he finds the missing piece in the jigsaw of sustained race pace he will be knocking on the door of a podium, and that could well be this weekend.
Leading the way this year for Yamaha will be 2018 Australian Supersport Champion, Yamaha Racing Team’s Cru Halliday. Halliday won both races here in 2018 in dominant fashion and now that he is back on a 1000cc, factory-supported machine will no doubt be keeping his rivals honest.
Besides a championship battle between riders and manufacturers there is also the bragging rights in the tyre war. The majority of the field run Pirelli rubber while Herfoss is the leading rider using the French Michelin tyres and the Kawasaki BC Performance team run on Dunlops.
The action promises to be as hot as the tropical sun that will shine on the drama that is sure to unfold. If you have never seen Superbike racing before you are about to witness something very special.
Fans can catch every practice and qualifying session on Fox Sports Australia. The Saturday and Sunday ASBK race action will also feature as part of Channel 7’s free-to-air coverage.
ASBK Round 4 – Hidden Valley TV Schedule
Friday, 18 June
10:25am – Practice 1 (40 min) FOX Sports
2:20pm – Practice 2 (30 min) FOX Sports
Saturday, 19 June
10:15am – Qualifying 1 (20 min) FOX Sports
10:40am – Qualifying 2 (15 min) FOX Sports
2:05pm – Race 1 (16 laps) FOX Sports/Channel 7
Sunday, 20 June
10:50am – Race 2 (16 laps) FOX Sports
2:05pm – Race 3 (16 laps) FOX Sports/Channel 7
Keep up to date with the latest news on the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul via www.asbk.com.au and following ASBK on Facebook and Instagram. You can also join our ASBK mailing list at www.asbk.com.au
ASBK CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR
Round 1 Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC February 18-21 – Cancelled
Round 2 Winton Motor Raceway, Benalla, VIC March 12-14
Round 3 Wakefield Park Raceway, Goulburn, NSW April 16-18
Round 4 Hidden Valley Raceway, NT – Supercars 2+4 (Superbikes only) June 18-20
Round 5 Morgan Park Raceway, QLD August 20-22
Round 6 The Bend Motorsport Park, Tailem Bend, SA September 23-26
Round 7 Wakefield Park Raceway, NSW October 15-17
Round 8 Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC November 5-7