Australian Superbike: Waters Crashes, Goes Fastest In Practice At Phillip Island

Australian Superbike: Waters Crashes, Goes Fastest In Practice At Phillip Island

© 2023, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. From a press release issued By ASBK:

Hot favourite Josh Waters recovers from early spill to set the pace on day one

Phillip Island was off to a flyer with bright sun, light easterly breezes all languidly lulling us into that sweet little bubble of belief that this is how it will be all weekend.

So yeah, straight into talking about the weather.

But we’re not truly here to talk weather- there’s time for that later- it’s round one of the mi-bike Motorcycling Insurance Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul, on a shared weekend with round one of the World Superbikes (also Motul sponsored!).

The 300s hit the track first and Cameron Swain was clearly keen to put his hand up for the role of titular favourite with Jai Russo second, Luke Jhonston third, Brodie Gawith and a girl in a hurry- Tara Morrison in fifth.

Michelin Supersport early practice saw the expected result early with Voight leading from Bramich and various others including Olly Simpson, Jack Passfield and 2022 champion John Lytras. Simpson and Passfield were both able to sit atop the table for a time until Harry Voight just settled down to business and reeled off fast lap after fastest lap. The box seat; he was in it.

In Alpinestars Superbike, what should have been a classic Josh Waters situation – go out, bank a few in P1 and then tweak, repeat, became a different caper utterly when he went down at turn two with 20 minutes to go, placing himself and McMartin Racing Team under pressure out of the gate for the weekend.

This happened not long after we just published that Waters was unlikely to repeat the crashes of his predecessor Wayne Maxwell. Stay out of the prediction caper.

Waters shook off the incident, though made it clear that there was a bike issue and he had not thrown it away carelessly in the first practice session. He was also keen to note that he really doesn’t care which of his two bikes he rides. The McMartin Racing team were not working on his nominal #1 bike, so the #2 bike is the one for Friday.
After lunch, the Supersport 300s were back out for a fairly frantic qualifying session. Cameron Swain made the unusual (for the 300 class anyway) decision to ride alone without any riders nearby. It paid off as he was the only rider to dip into the 1:49s for much of the session, and the 2021 Oceania Junior Cup Champion held that spot right to the completion of qualifying, with Brodie Gawith able to claw to within .015 of pole. Jai Russo was third while Henry Snell and Casey Middleton were fourth and fifth, respectively.

In Supersport qualifying, no one had any answers to the dominance of Harrison Voight. Some .802 up for much of the session over second-placed Tom Bramich, the overseas-bound Voight was lapping in the equivalent of 15th place in World SSP, on a much lower spec machine. Olly Simpson was third and Jack Passfield crashed mid-session but was still fourth with Dallas Skeer in fifth.

The much-anticipated arrival of Sean Condon full time in 2023 failed to ignite with the Wakefield round winner from 2022 down in eighth with 2022 Supersport champion John Lytras in ninth.

While many would be happy to know that Voight won’t be in the championship full-time in 2023, all will be striving to narrow the gap come race time.

The final ASBK practice session of the day was practice two for Alpinestars Superbike and it was Josh Waters in p1, neatly bouncing back from his crash in the first session. He had earlier noted he could lap the same on his #2 bike as he could his #1 bike and that was the truth. The team must have shared that confidence as they were in no hurry to even work on the crashed machine, focusing their attention on the remaining bike that was running.

The last on track event for the day saw the Supersport 300s first race for the weekend. Cameron Swain didn’t convert his pole and slipped down to as low as eleventh but kept contact with the leading group. Luke Jhonston, Casey Middleton, and Jai Russo diced up front with Brandon Demmery and recent OJC graduate Ryan Larkin inside the top five at times.

Peter Nerlich showed his Phillip Island form hasn’t diminished and took the lead with four laps to go. Of course, others offered an opinion on Nerlich’s lead and he was soon shuffled back to third as the biggest lead group we have seen in recent years headed down the Phillip Island straight once more.

Shuffle, Shuffle. Russo up to the lead with three to go. Tara Morrison into the top ten and… it was hectic.

Nerlich was now down in ninth, Middleton back into the lead and we still had two laps left. Nerlich and Larkin crashed at turn one and that alone shuffled the field once more. Tara Morrison crashed at turn nine after what had been an outstanding run- and start to her first full season of Supersport 300.

Into the last lap and Jhonston lead the leading 11 or so until Russo, Middleton and Demmery monstered him. Jhonston fought back into the lead but at the line it was Russo from Demmery and Middleton for the podium.

Jhonston had fought on for fourth with Snell (6th), Brodie Gawith (6th), Lincoln Knight (7th) pole sitter Cameron Swain (8th), Marcus Hamod (9th) and Cooper Rowntree rounding out the top ten.

After the flag, race direction noted that they would be considering a few issues from passing under yellow situation to investigating the five crashes during the race.

…and it wasn’t even the weekend yet.

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