Editorial Note: American Travis Wyman, riding an Addicted to Track Yamaha YZF-R1, was 21st in combined Australian Superbike Free Practice results Friday with a best lap time of 1:36.760. View the combined practice results HERE
ASBK ’22: Round 6 Friday. There’s No Take Away Here…
The Friday of Round Six – held alongside the World Superbike event – saw all classes in the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship presented by Moul (ASBK) on track in the morning for first practices followed by afternoon sessions that were made up of qualifying for Dunlop Supersport 300 & Michelin Supersport, a second practice session for Alpinestars Superbike and the first race of the weekend with the 300s rounding out the day with an eight-lap journey.
A dry (and incredibly- a sunny) day today, it was interesting to see what the riders were capable of and just what takeaways they would have for when it turns damp- tomorrow…
Dunlop Supersport 300
The day opened to the sweetest sunshine one could possibly imagine. After the doom and gloom of the recent MotoGP event and the still gloomy forecast for the weekend ahead, it was just what the assembled crowd wanted.
Ryan Larkin opened up early with the fastest lap, but soon it was down to the proper business of going fast with the 300s feeling the pressure of a single practice session.
Championship contenders and race winners alike in Hayden Nelson, Snell, and Dunker all took a turn at the top and then 29th-in-the-championship rider Peter Nerlich uncorked a 1:49.488 to take the top spot for the session aboard a Kawasaki.
Whatever predictions had been made ahead of round six were sinking into the soft Phillip Island grass.
Qualifying was also held in bright sunshine, with the merciful weather Gods apparently happy to lull the Superport 300 crew into some sense of complacency and comfort.
As they are want to do at a fast circuit like Phillip Island, the Dunlop Supersport 300s formed a formidable pack with the fast guys exchanging lap times and fairing paint. Third overall Taiyo Aksu was fastest for much of the session, but as the minutes wound down it was Cameron Dunker up into P1, with second-in-the-championship Glenn Nelson 11th and struggling. While Supersport 300 racing can and does offer many opportunities to pass, being 1.2 seconds off pole will make life very tough if Nelson wants to contend for the title.
At the end of the session, it was Aksu from Snell, Hayden Nelson, Dunker and Gawith.
For all the efforts the riders make in qualifying, in Supersport 300, more often than not it makes nearly no difference.
For Taiyo Akso, the back half of the season has seen him hit a purple patch that could still propel him to the championship, but Phillip Island rarely respects form. As Troy Herfoss had noted earlier in the day “Everything has to be right here and you can still find yourself P10”. For Taiyo that meant a slide from P1 to P5 by lap three. While he remained close to the front- indeed spending some time in second late in the race, P5 was all he could manage at race’s end, just .4 behind the eventual winner Henry Snell who started alongside Aksu from position 2.
Where Aksu had slipped down to fifth, Snell had gone big and dropped as low as seventh on lap two. Riding a mature and calculated race, Snell didn’t allow this setback and the short 8-lap race to deter him, immediately working back into third place within in a lap and at this point, he might have just bided his time for the all-important run to the line- a critical skill in Supersport 300 racing at any time, but super-mega critical at Phillip Island.
Instead, Snell ran afoul of some pretty heavy passing and “rubbin’s racin'” shenanigans and found himself eighth with a lap to run. A brilliant -and his fastest – lap saw Snell’s #12 Yamaha salute in first place and take the maximum 25 points. Championship leader Cameron Dunker played a sensible hand to finish second and Hayden Nelson was third.
Dunker maintains a healthy points advantage over Glenn Nelson who was unable to substantially lift from a lowly 11th qualifying position, ending up in ninth.
Free Practice 1
Another early session, but bright sun and near-perfect conditions greeted the Supersport riders as they ventured out for their single practice session of the event.
With the single practice in mind, there wasn’t much time to mess about, and just three minutes into the 25 minute session it was Jack Passfield who dropped into the 1:30s with a 1:39.551 He would better his own time shortly after with 1:37.776
Tom Bramich would signal his intentions for the weekend as he topped the table, just dipping under Passfield’s time with 1:37.717
Passfield would beat Bramich’s time (1:37.512) and then dip lower again (1:37.029) and this time would sit in the hot seat right up until the last few minutes of the session before Bramich would assert himself and bite off a significant and valuable couple of tents to top the session with 1:36.905.
The Championship conders in first and second places -Lytras and Lynch- were third (1:37.390) and fifth (1:37.925) respectively as practice one ended.
A rude shock for the riders with just the one 25-minute practice session before launching into a 20-minute qualifying session after lunch.
“It’s the same for everyone” opined Tom Bramich- but he would say that after being fastest in the first and only practice session.
Jack Passfield was fastest out of the gate again and his methodology appeared to be “post something fast early, make ‘em chase you down”.
With only 20 minutes in the session, Ty Lynch had one out lap before heading back to the pits. An interesting strategy with the session short and the speed high from the get-go.
Jacob Hatch crashed out at Turn four and could only wait and see if his time would hold. Bramich made it business as usual with a 1:36.756 placing him back to P1 per the morning’s practice.
With half the session gone, Ty Lynch’s absence was not a strategy, it was a problem. A technical issue had seen him return to the pits early. As a result, he was yet to post a fast lap and was languishing down in 18th- last. His only chance of winning the championship was via taking advantage of Lytras’ non-domination of the PI circuit and instead Lytras was up in P3.
It was a full-on panic. Eight minutes to go, the R6 of a clearly injury-ridden Ty Lynch finally posted a top-ten time, but the opportunity to get to the front row was fast running out. Eight became sixth, but he was still 1.2 seconds behind the leaders.
Bramich was comfortably .3 ahead of second-placed Passfield and .7 ahead of third-placed Lytras.
Eleventh-placed Tom Drane crashed at fashionable-for-this-round-spot turn four. With his home region flooded, it appeared that the flat track champion may have had other things on his mind. He remounted and returned to the pits.
At the end of the session, it was Bramich from Passfield and Lytras to set up an interesting race on Saturday.
With the apparently “luxury” of two practice sessions for Friday, there wasn’t the sort of pressure on the Superbike riders as the other classes, but with the championship tight, a number of guest and new riders aboard some fast machinery, the pressure was still on at the jump.
Some 27 riders took to the circuit and it was Troy Herfoss who was at the top (1:33.700), enjoying some quality time as the fastest man at the circuit.
Glenn Allerton showed that the M1000RR likes it at the PI layout, while his former teammate from earlier in the year Josh Waters showed his hit out at MotoGP aboard a Boost Mobile with K-Tech Panigale was more than helpful as he too put in multiple bids for the top spot.
Reigning champions and the go-to man at PI Wayne Maxwell was top five as expected but not P1 as one might reasonably expect. The team had swapped bikes to ensure both were at their best, only to have the bike expire at Turn One. Maxwell thumbed a ride back to the pits and quickly ventured out on his #1 bike.
For all of Maxwell’s dramas, the real intrigue was with Mike Jones. Sixth and seventh for much of the session, he found himself in the unenviable position of needing to find a second to contend.
It was Josh Waters on lap ten who would set the fastest time of the session and with teammate Maxwell second, they found themselves some half a second ahead of surprise third-placed and top Yamaha runner, Ant West.
It was an intriguing first session and with rain predicted for the afternoon, perhaps the only dry session ahead of the weekend’s racing.
Free Practice Two
After FP1, the two Boost Mobile with K-Tech riders in Josh Waters (p1) and Wayne Maxwell (P2) could afford a little smile of satisfaction after not only going 1-2 but doing so by half a second over third-placed Ant West. Importantly for Wayne Maxwell Mike Jones was 1.2 seconds adrift in seventh.
But it’s hard to keep a good man down and even harder to keep a champion under wraps. While Waters was soon up to P1 again, it was Mike Jones aboard his Yamaha who was up to P2 early in the session.
All teams were working on setup and not all were in sync with their runs for the session, so while Cru Halliday moved up to P2, Maxwell was just heading out for his final run of the session.
But it was Josh Waters comfortably atop the timing screens, impressing the pundits in just his second event aboard the clearly dialled-in Craig McMartin prepared Panigale V4R.
Cru Halliday just willed his Yamaha into P2 from Ant West third and Wayne Maxwell in P4.
Overall for the day, it was Josh Waters, Wayne Maxwell and Cru Halliday.
The takeaways from the day were few with the weather set to play a bigger role from tomorrow onwards.
One takeaway of note was that the top riders in ASBK would have been well up the WSBK table, an impressive result for the local heroes against the more technically advanced and expensive World Superbike-spec machines.
Josh Waters: “Both our bikes were pretty good, but for me, the feeling was pretty good. We just went with what we had last time (at the MotoGP event).
“Obviously the bike’s quite good, so I’ve just been trying to customise it to me and we just keep chipping away”
Live Broadcast Information:
SBS 1-3pm highlights of race one & two Australian Superbikes and Australian Supersport in replay plus Australian Superbikes Race 3 live during the two hours of coverage
Stan Sport 1pm – 3pm highlights of race one & two Australian Superbikes and Australian Supersport in replay plus Australian Superbikes Race 3 Live over the two hours of coverage