Phillip Island Round Six Saturday: The Riders Lay Siege to the Championships
A day that sought to find out every weakness, every foible and make the rider pay. It was as tough a day for every class as we’ve had this year.
Here’s what we saw on track in the mi-bike Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul:
Alpinestars Superbike qualifying and race one
Dunlop Supersport 300 Race two
Australian Supersport Races one and two
Josh Waters was unquestionably The Man in qualifying.
The conditions for this morning’s Alpinestars Superbike qualifying were as good as one could currently imagine for fast times: overcast and cool with a dry track.
And so it was. Josh Waters departed pit lane, completed his out lap and then put his bike on pole with a record-breaking 1:31.286 He pitted for a time, but honestly if he had just stayed in and perhaps lit a cigar it would have been the stuff of legend.
No one would top his time for the rest of the session, and that is not to say the other riders were slow. By the end of the session, the top eleven were into the 32s, and four riders were in the 31s. Nearly every rookie set their fastest-ever Superbike lap time. Yeah, the conditions were good!
Championship leader Mike Jones struggled at times and found himself as low as 8th while teammate Cru Halliday didn’t bother the timing screens until halfway through the session.
The times fell as the time on the clock ran down. Staring dipped into the 1:31s by 1/1000th second with ten minutes to go, and finally, Halliday graced us with his presence on track and immediately placed himself one spot ahead of teammate Jones.
Glenn Allerton found himself outside the top eight and would stay thusly.
And while beating Waters was proving to be impossible, Daniel Falzon unleashed his R1 and bettered his own personal best by over half a second, nailing down an incredible 1:31.596 to go to number two and claim fastest Yamaha of the session
The bloke who needed to be the fastest Yamaha – Mike Jones – was 8th at this point. While Maxwell wasn’t in P1, it was still a worrying sight for the championship leader.
Meanwhile, Waters was out again and to show it was no fluke, he just consistently lapped under Maxwell’s fastest lap.
With five minutes to go, Jones knocked out a 1:32.148 – 7th. Third row of the grid.
Maxwell put in a new tyre with five minutes to go. A final run beckoned and with it the chance to not only take pole and grab that precious single point.
But traffic and time would beat him and he was unable to pull out the desperately needed magic lap, despite managing to do the fastest first sector time twice without result.
At the podium receiving the AMX Superstores pole cheque was Josh Waters with Daniel Falzon (second) and Wayne Maxwell (third) rounding out the front row.
Mike Jones managed to work his way to fifth and would now start from the second row of the grid. Wayne Maxwell would be in front and slightly to his right at the start of the three races. With Ant West to Mike’s right, the starts would now be very, very interesting.
And… it was now raining.
And while it was not actually raining for the start of race one, it was most certainly wet. The riders tip-toed out on their wets and speculation in the paddock peaked. Westy from sixth? Mike to fire it up the inside of Maxwell? Would it dry up?
From the jump it was Falzon, but by turn one it was Josh Waters in the lead and before we really had a chance to consider who was where, Wayne Maxwell crashed on the exit of turn two and took with him his Boost Mobile with K-Tech Ducati Panigale V4R and perhaps his chance of winning the 2022 title.
After just one lap, Herfoss led from Staring, Allerton and Waters with West hanging on in fifth.
Jones was down in 13th and at any other time this would be a catastrophe, but with Maxwell out, it was a near non-issue.
At the front, the leading four traded spots like Supersport 300 racers and Sissis worked his way past West to set sail for the fast four out front.
After just five laps of twelve, the action and passing had been almost too much. Staring led, Allerton kept nudging towards the front and Herfoss was as low as fourth, but also set to lead if that wasn’t confusing enough.
Sissis had now wisely just measured his run towards the leading foursome but was knee down on wets through turn three just to keep all assembled a tad nervous and an absent Casey Stoner happy.
On lap six, Staring completed the fastest lap of the race and pushed out to a .8 gap. Josh Waters put his head down and chased hard and attached his Ducati to the back of the DesmoSport Ducati shortly after. Sissis passed a slowing Troy Herfoss.
There was a brief settling of the order, with Starting leading from Waters and Allerton, a gap back to Sissis and a further and growing gap back to the next group. Metcher and Pearson had overtaken Troy Herfoss and then Ant West who might have preferred it wetter to display his prodigious wet weather skills and be kinder to his Dunlop.
Mike Jones got ahead of Ted Collins and teammate Halliday to move up to 11th to just gather up a few more points.
With ten laps completed, Allerton got the better of Waters for second, while Staring continued to push hard in first place.
A frankly unwanted dry line had emerged and Staring now had a one-second gap off the front with a lap to run and further pushed it out to 1.2 as the chasing pair of Allerton and Waters waved the white flag.
At the line, it was Bryan Staring in a repeat of his round one, race one victory with Glenn Allerton second and Josh Waters in third. Arthur Sissis had one of the better rides of the day to finish a valiant fourth. Jed Metcher could feel justifiably pleased with his fifth place, Senna Agius admitted he had been rather nervous just exiting pit lane, but rode a mature and sensible race to finish in sixth, Broc Pearson was similarly sensible and measured in seventh.
Troy Herfoss wound up back in eighth, a disappointing outcome after variously leading and dicing with the front runners early on. Daniel Falzon was ninth after starting from second, but he had stated earlier that his fast lap in the dry was one for the ages and that race pace might be an issue.
Mike Jones finished a remarkable race in tenth place to bank 11 points and stretch his Championship lead over Wayne Maxwell. Cru Halliday and Ant West were 11th and 12th respectively
With his DNF on lap one, not only did Maxwell concede more points to Jones, but also saw second place go to Bryan Staring on what was an extraordinary day for the championship.
Tomorrow sees the riders back for two more races to round out the weekend. As it has been in recent times, rain is of course forecast and the random nature of Phillip Island might be the king maker once again.
Bryan Staring: “Yeah, that was a really tough race, just reading the conditions every lap. Everything was changing and trying to stay consistent was difficult. And I made some pretty amateur mistakes out there.
“Everything was changing underneath us so quickly, now that it’s finished, it seems like it was an enjoyable race. But honestly, like you’re you’re on a knife’s edge the whole time trying to keep the bike on two wheels.
“I worked out, I had some drive grip on the guys and then I could use my top speed to my advantage. And after I sort of understood that, then I just worked it to where I needed to be. I knew I was slow in a few areas, but I thought ‘I’ll concentrate on my strengths here, minimize the mistakes and where I can’t push it’ and in the end, I’m so glad we got there!”
Glenn Allerton: “A lot happened. It was a race of attrition.
“With all the guys, what was great about that race was that we are all champions in our own right – that whole front four. I could have reached out and touched Bryan a couple of times, we were that close to each other, that close on the edge of grip. Yeah, it was a lot of fun.”
Josh Waters: “It’s good to be on the podium! The race was close in parts and it was good to be a part of it!
“There are a few areas we can make better for tomorrow if the conditions are wet again..”
See the full Race One results here
Pole sitter Tom Bramich ought to have been feeling reasonably confident ahead of race one this morning, having topped the timesheets in practice and qualifying reasonably comfortably.
It’s been a confident and affirming time for Bramich who started the year well, but had a series of falls, issues and subpar results that makes a championship unlikely, even if it’s mathematically possible.
Bramich lead the field early and found himself at the front of a group of three with Passfield and Lytras for company. Scott Nicholson hung on in fourth and the injured and mechanically plagued-on-Friday Ty Lynch.
For Lynch to have any chance of challenging Lytras for the title, he would need to not just challenge him at Phillip Island, he would need to beat him and get a few other riders between them.
On lap four, Passfield overtook Bramich for the lead and managed to grind out a 0.6 second gap. Fourth through sixth (Nicholson, Lynch and Skeer) were able to then attach themselves to the lead group to keep it interesting for championship watchers and race fans alike.
Rain flags came out on lap six, as we apparently didn’t have enough drama. Scott Nicholson crashed and valiantly tried to get going again from the gravel trap at turn nine.
..and then there were five at the front. Tom Drane was up in sixth, but some 6 seconds behind fifth. Skeer pitted.
Bramich found the pace a little tough and dropped to fourth, Declan Carberry crashed at turn eleven and…
The red flag came out and we called a ceasefire.
The rain pulled a “classic Phillip Island” and refused to fall in earnest, but certainly damped things. Then it did rain in earnest, we all looked at the dismal radar images and the grid was a flurry of teams swapping to wets for the restart.
The assembled foreign media asked local media what they thought the weather would do and received a collective shrug.
The Island does what The Island does.
Several riders departed pit lane for what was perhaps a sighting lap and Lynch and Lytras found themselves apparently set to start from pit lane.
And then they declared the race done – with partial points awarded – and we all ran to the podium to see who won.
In the end, it was Passfield from Bramich and Lynch. Lytras was fourth to keep the championship reasonably safe and the half points for the shortened race did him no harm whatsoever.
It was, to quote Werner Herzog, “MADNESS”.
Bramich, Passfield and Lynch
Unusually and perhaps outrageously, race two for Michelin Supersport started on the dry track in bright sunshine. Weird, we know.
John Lytras jumped pole sitter Bramich to take the lead while a keen-to-get-involved Ty Lynch moved up to third.
Keer moved past Lynch to make things tricky for the challenger while Lytras was being simultaneously passed by a determined Tom Bramich.
At MG, turn 10, Skeer and Lynch came together and both slid off and out of contention. It was a tough blow for the already injured Lynch, who would now also concede more points to Lytras. ASBK Race Direction placed the incident under investigation.
Passfield was now promoted to third, but some 1.3 seconds behind the leading duo of Bramich and Lytras. Nicholson was some seven second further back, so the battle for the podium seemed settled.
Passfield pulled out the fasted lap of the race on lap four and this brought him to the leaders and a new battle began. Passfield was happy to show Lytras a wheel into turn one and do the same again at turn four.
Lytras clearly felt Passfield presence and rode slightly defensively as a result. Passfield completed yet another fastest lap of the race and celebrated by passing Lytras through turn one. Passfield was inevitable with his pace and took the lead at the Hayshed and lead the trio onto the straight to complete lap six.
While he was fast when chasing, leading is another caper altogether and Bramich was able to get ahead. Passfield returned the favour and Lytras just sensibly watched on. Passfield was able to gap Bramich a fraction and this prevented a main straight slipstream, so he lead into the 8th lap.
John Quinn had crashed heavily, but uninjured to end his run.
Through the final lap, Passfield continued to lead and then had a brain fade at MG- turn 10- and ran wide, allowing a surprised Bramich to use his considerable skill through turns 11 and 12 to advantage to take the win by 59/1000th of a second.
Tom Bramich: “I knew it was going to be a close race, Jack and Johnny are always good in a close battle. I knew that there were going to be a few of us fighting at the front.
“I was planning to overtake him (Passfield), but when the door opened I was pretty happy, I just needed to hold on through the last sector and I got to the line..!”
Dunlop Supersport 300
Aksu leads the field away and of course he only does so to allow Dunker, Snell at al to get a run on him. A pack of eight forms by lap one and they trade spots.4
Dunker consistently placed his R3 at the front of the pack, perhaps reasoning that the best way to stay out of trouble is to keep it behind you. While a solo break away in the Supersport 300 class is unusual, it’s also not impossible so Dunker just kept plugging away, but never found himself too far from his octet of willing sparring partners.
At the halfway point, the leading eight riders were- in no particular order as it’s impossible: Snell, Aksu, Swain, Pezzetta, Hayden Nelson, Dinker, Gawith and Glenn Nelson who managed to latch on to the lead group. Nerlich and Larkin rounded out the top tan, but Nerlich fell on the second last lap.
The final lap saw Dunker drop as low as eighth, Pezzetta lead, Aksu close to the front and Nelson and Snell there abouts as well.
As noted previously, The Island rewards the clever in the Supersport 300 class and while Cameron Dunker was able to time his run pretty well, it was Henry Snell who saluted in first place after playing his cards to perfection.
Another brilliant 300 race- and all before 10am!