Australian Superbike: Waters Wins Interrupted Race One At Phillip Island

Australian Superbike: Waters Wins Interrupted Race One At Phillip Island

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

Cool heads prevail in mixed Saturday conditions at The Island

Day two of the mi-bike Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul opening round was set to be frantic from the get-go. Alpinestars Superbike qualifying first up, followed by Supersport races of both flavors, then a Superbike race –  all before the lunch break.

A longer break with WSS and WSBK as fillers (JK guys!) followed and then we round off the day with a second Supersport race.

ALPINESTARS SUPERBIKE 

Qualifying

There was some speculation that the dominance Josh Waters enjoyed in the heat would be negated by the earlier-than-normal 8:50 am Alpinestars Superbike qualifying time.

What wasn’t discussed was the idea that he would not head out when pit lane opened. Yamaha Racing’s Cru Halliday and Mike Jones also elected to sit and watch for a bit as the 30 minute session got underway.

At 20 minutes to go, the full field were out with Penrite Honda’s Herfoss in P1. It’s been a signature of his form in 2023, when the bike is right, he’s fast into his first flyer and holds there. Max Stauffer showed his significant off-season forward steps with P2 and MotoGO’s new signing Bryan Staring made a welcome return to the paddock in P3.

Of course, once the big guns of Waters, Halliday and Jones hit the circuit proper the order began to alter radically. First, Halliday posted P2 on his first flyer, Then Jones went P1 on his first full lap. Then Halliday returned serve and went to P1.

Josh Waters had a gentle first full lap and then dropped the hammer, reeling off two mid 1:31s in a row and casually knocking the qualifying record off with a 1:31.100 – that time would have placed him second in World Superbike’s (admittedly much hotter) session yesterday.

With 10 to go, most pitted for a breath and to think about just what Waters had done and was continuing to do.

As the clock wind down, most headed out again. Ted Collins crashed without injury at Turn 9 and Halliday leapt over teammate Jones with an incredible 1:31.337.

Bryan Staring showed he’s got plenty to offer in 2023 and was fourth in what was an outstanding result.

The checkered flag came out to end the session – the fastest qualifying session in ASBK history. While the session confirmed Josh Waters’ outstanding form, just witnessing the top three achieving personal bests and world-class results was superb and a moment to savor and celebrate.

Josh Waters 1:31.100 (new qualifying record)

Cru Halliday 1:31.337

Mike Jones 1:31.649

Race One 

The weather ahead of the race played nicely and despite rain interrupting the session prior (WSBK Practice 3), the race started under overcast skies and a dry track.

Pole sitter Josh Waters took the lead into turn one, however, the crowd’s attention was on Arthur Sissis from the third row of the grid who launched like he was in a different sport… let’s say top fuel drags. He was second by turn two and third after Herfoss snuck past. Herfoss had stated beforehand – and was now showing us- that letting Josh Waters go off alone would be the ball game.

On lap two, into turn three, Arthur Sissis bike was struck with a brief electrical gremlin. Mike Jones had to check up while Arthur ran wide. Cru Halliday arrived at full attack and narrowly avoided hitting the back of both Jones and Sissis bikes only to run off onto the gravel at about 170km/h. Try as he might, he could not pull up before the fence, and chose instead to jump off his R1 rather late which proceeded to hit the fence and land on him. Mercifully, Halliday got up and walked away.

While this was happening, Waters had reeled off a 1:31.075 and gapped the field. Jones was through Herfoss but still 4 seconds in arrears.

Stauffer was fourth from Allerton in fifth, while Staring had a poor start and was back in sixth and then had a moment at turn four and ran wide.

At eight laps to go, Waters was comfortably in front, and the only person lapping in the 31s, putting nearly a second a lap in to the field. In sprinkling rain, Waters put his hand up into turn nine. The “warning; low adhesion” white flag came out. Down the main straight Waters had his hand up, Herfoss was back into second and was now the fastest man on circuit.

…and then the red flag came out to end the race due to the increasing rain. Oh dear sweet Phillip Island, you do know how to mess with us.

The riders entered the regular pit lane (at this round we use turn four for exiting the circuit) and grouped together at the end of the lane. With plenty of time until the next World Supersport session, we continued to ponder the skies. The ground was damp, but it wasn’t raining in earnest.

Yet.

The siren blew signaling three minutes until pit lane opened, Race Direction posted “One warm up lap, five lap race” and we waited to see what tyre choices would be made. On the face of it, a wet tyre would be a mistake, but a slick would be downright scary. Pit lane opened and some stayed put, Arthur Sissis literally sat on the fence. Mark Chiodo stood and stared down pit lane and then seemingly reluctantly headed out. We all waited.

Staring exited on wets. So too Stauffer, Epis and Pearson. Keeping up with who was on what was nigh impossible.

As they arrived at the grid, Sissis exited after a stall and then the bike failed to fire. He would start from pit lane.

At the restart it was Herfoss with the early lead, Allerton was brave and went around both Waters and Herfoss in one turn for the lead. Herfoss got back inside him while Max Stauffer went down and took Jack Davis out. Both were unhurt.

Waters picked off Allerton with four to go, but Allerton went around him again. Herfoss joined the party and took the lead again. Jones clawed his way onto the back of the train they went down the main chute three wide to give the fans something else to enjoy. Allerton was rudely unseated twice, but just stayed in the hunt as he’s Glenn-freakin-Allerton.

The track was drying so Waters jumped to the front and tried to get a gap. With three to go, he had .5 of a second on Allerton. The wrestle between Allerton, Herfoss and Jones let Waters do the very thing they were afraid of, The Great Escape. He was now two seconds off the front and barring incident, he was gone.

Perhaps realising this fact, the trailing trio called a ceasefire and tries to chase Waters. But Waters was still lapping in the 31s while they were all in the 33s. The only thing left to do was to fight for second place.

The finish line saw a cautious and slowing Josh Waters safely in first with 1.6 seconds back to Penrite Honda’s Troy Herfoss, then Glenn Allerton on the BMW.

In fourth was Mike Jones and fifth was an outstanding Mark Chiodo for his best finish in recent times. Ted Collins would be happy with sixth in his first outing in ASBK with Livson Racing, while Matt Walters would also be pleased with the debut of the new Aprilia in seventh.

Scott Allars on and R1 scored some good points in eighth while perennial racer and SBK paddock favourite Michael “Pops” Kemp was ninth. Broc Pearson was down in tenth, leading home the riders who elected for the wet tyre. It didn’t pay off this time, but at The Island, you can never be sure.

It was a frankly ludicrous race and it was absolutely riveting.

Michelin Supersport

Race One

+Under overcast skies the first Michelin Supersport race of the day got underway at 10:15 am. With Harrison Voight aboard his R6 in pole, the drag race to turn one saw Voight hold the lead from Olly Simpson with the always-good-at-The-Island Jack Passfield in third.

The baby faced assassin that is Cameron Dunker was up from Supersport 300 as champion and up into fourth in his first ASBK Supersport race. Tom Bramich had fluffed the start somewhat, allowing a few riders from the second row of the grid through and making life hard for himself. The 2022 category champion Lytras was pushing past a broken bone in his foot and a general dislike for The Island and was up to fifth.

Meanwhile Harry Voight was off… the front. After two laps he had an incredible near five second lead and was looking to be back in the pits in an ice bath with a recovery drink before the field were at half distance.

On lap three he broke the lap record to keep it fun. He was now at a 6.3 second lead from Tom Bramich who had skillfully worked his way up from as low as fifth.

At half distance, it was Voight from Bramich and Simpson with Passfield also staying in touch. Dunker was a few seconds further adrift and had Skeer, Farnsworth, Lytras, Nicholson, Lynch and Condon for company.

Rain appeared on the lens of the camera at turn one and the pit lane looked anxiously to the western sky to see what it would mean for the race.

With three to go, Voight basically had a 10 second lead from Bramich, while Passfield was now third. An indication of the weather/rain status was via Voight’s lap time – he had slowed into the 1:36s, despite having reeled off a lap record 1:34.979 on lap two.

The last lap was upon us and Harrison Voight was set to salute for his first win of 2023 and a back-to-back win after sweeping the final round of 2022 at The Bend. But the rain was indeed upon us, and race direction called a halt via a red flag. Voight stuck a leg out to indicate he was done for now and the race was wound back a lap, with Voight the winner by some 13 seconds to Bramich was who now becomes the nominal leader of the Michelin Supersport class once Voight is safely on his flight to Europe.

Jack Passfield was third with Olly Simpson fifth.

Race Two

The Phillip Island weather did the thing and we started Race Two for the weekend as the final on track activity for Saturday in drizzling rain and fading light.

It was mercifully still bright enough for top level racing and the riders started their warm-up lap a little after 5:30pm with the track declared wet and all riders on wets.

Harrison Voight was on pole and his earlier dominant performance was front of mind- but could he repeat in the rain?

Away! Bramich once again was caught napping and Voight gapped them immediately. Olly Simpson slipped into second place and then slipped off art turn two taking two riders into the gravel.

Riders were running wide and huge gaps opened after the completion of the first lap. Any hope of a closer race in the wet was lost in the mist.

Ty Lynch was up from the fourth row of the grid into second, but four seconds adrift. Sean Condon went down on the exit of turn four. Mitch Simpson was finding the damp very much to his liking and was third and two seconds a lap faster than those behind.

At the front, Harrison Voight was still the fastest on track and reeled off the fastest lap of the race – some three seconds faster than Ty Lynch in P2.

Tom Bramich crashed at turn eight with seven laps to go and the nominal championship leader was out. But more was to come when leader Harrison Voight also went down on the same lap.

Ty Lynch was now the leader with Lytras 16 seconds behind. Luke Sanders was hot on Lytras tail with a small gap back to Mitch Simpson.

The race had been so frantic that event commentator Mark Bracks noted “the timing monitors can’t keep up…” No one could.

With four to go, the race settled a little, with Luke Sanders past Lytras for second. The 2022 champion Lytras could easily be forgiven for letting Sanders go. With Bramich out, the points were now valuable, even if they weren’t the full 25.

Noel Mahon went down on the exit of turn four, dropping out of contention for the podium.

Lynch maintained his lead at about 15 very comfortable seconds and Sanders eked out a 2 second gap to Lytras. Jake Farnsworth was fourth with Mitch Simpson in fifth. The 2021 Supersport 300 champion Ben Baker was up to sixth.

Two to go and Scott Nicholson lost a host of spots after an issue while Ty Lynch just held his nerve, reeling off 1:51s lap after lap to stay at 14 seconds in front.

And so it was to the finish line, with fourth-row-starting Ty Lynch back in the game in a big way taking the win by 12 seconds to Luke Sanders with John Lytras in third.

In this race of attrition, Lynch was the deserved winner.

Supersport 300 

In case the Supersport 300 class of ’23 were not nervous enough, a technical glitch with the starting lights resulted in a complete restart – and a reduction of laps to seven. It was an interesting way to start the weekend for the Supersport 300 crew.

After the restart it was pole-sitter Cameron Swain out front briefly before the shenanigans began. A smaller group of nine broke away on lap two and they traded the lead in a manner that defies a written description. Swain was a good example. Variously leading – but also down in eighth – Swain knew he needed to keep challenging for the front as even a small gap could see the leading group splinter.

The leading nine were: Swain, Henry Snell, Brandon Demmery, Brodie Gawith, Jai Russo, Luke Jhonston, Casey Middleton, Cooper Rowntree and Marcus Hamod. And let us state very clearly; that group is presented in no particular order.

With three laps to go, the leading group of nine had six seconds over the smaller chase group. Russo had taken the win last evening and was working his way to the front and testing the field for his all-important run to the line.

But at the line, it was the experience and cunning of Brandom Demmery that shone through, taking the win by .148 to Snell with Russo in third. Pole sitter Swain found himself out muscled in ninth.

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