TEAM JOE ROCKET SUZUKI:
Team Joe Rocket Suzuki rider Josh Waters kept his championship challenge on track at the fifth round of the Australian Superbike Championship at South Australia’s Mallala Motorsport Park on Sunday, August 30.
A drama-packed fifth round started positively with Waters continuing his, and the all-new GSX-R1000K9’s form, by topping the timesheet in Friday’s practice with the first sub 1:06 lap for a Superbike.
Qualifying also bode well for Team Joe Rocket Suzuki with Waters and reigning New Zealand Superbike Champion, Robbie Bugden securing front row starts, and three-time Australian Superbike Champion Shawn Giles leading row two in fifth grid position.
Sunday’s main event looked set to demonstrate the pedigree of Australia’s Superbike talent and the racing did not disappoint.
Race one saw Waters set a new Superbike lap record for the 2.6km South Australian circuit, clocking 1:05.803 on lap four, underlining the pace of the new GSX-R1000K9s in only their second race meeting since debuting at Sydney’s Eastern Creek Raceway just three weeks previously.
However, the depth of the domestic series’ talent pool was demonstrated with Wayne Maxwell claiming victory over his teammate Glenn Allerton by 0.291sec. Team Joe Rocket Suzuki riders Waters, Bugden and Giles finished third, fourth and fifth respectively.
In race two, Waters set out to reverse the race one results and was challenging Maxwell for the lead when a hi-tensile aftermarket bolt in his Suzuki GSX-R1000’s gearshift linkage broke with less than two laps remaining.
With his Suzuki stuck in second gear and revving to the limiter the 22-year-old continued to circulate, hopeful of collecting enough championship points to stay in touch with series leader and defending champion Allerton.
Waters was able to cross the finish line in third place, behind Maxwell and Allerton, and thus minimise any points’ damage. The top five was rounded out by Suzuki teammates Bugden and Giles who repeated their race one order.
With a 36pt tally from two third placings, Waters finished the day third overall and maintained second on the championship points table, 11pts adrift of series leader Allerton.
Waters, who is in his first season of Superbike racing, had entered the round just 7pts adrift of Allerton, so the eventual 11pt gap keeps him in contention for the Superbike championship.
“The new bike is awesome, and I felt I was riding well enough to take a win today,” said Waters. “I made a small mistake in the first race which let Wayne and Glenn open a gap, but I was ready to have a go for the win in race two.”
“It’s been a positive day to be only 11pts off the championship lead – I can’t thank the team and my teammates enough.”
Allerton leads the seven-round series with 217pts to Waters’ 206. Maxwell lies third on 198, with Giles fourth (165pts) and Bugden fifth (154pts), giving Team Joe Rocket Suzuki three riders in the top five.
In the Australian Supersport Championship 22-year-old Troy Herfoss, on his first visit to the circuit, put in an astonishing performance to qualify his Team Joe Rocket Suzuki GSX-R600 second-fastest alongside reigning champion Jamie Stauffer, and then recorded two fifth placings to finish fifth overall for the round.
Herfoss, the 2008 US Supermoto Champion and in his first full season of road racing, proved how quickly his learning curve is developing by running at the front of the field in both Supersport races against far more experienced opposition.
Stauffer took overall round honours in the Australian Supersport Championship from Bryan Staring, courtesy of the bonus point for pole position, with Shannon Johnson third. Stauffer and Staring shared a win and second apiece.
The next round of the 2009 Australian Superbike Championship is at Victoria’s Phillip Island Circuit on 16-18 October, 2009, where the sixth round of the national championship will run alongside the MotoGP World Championship.
PHIL TAINTON – TEAM MANAGER
“It’s been another great weekend for the team – and could have been even better if not for the bolt holding the gearshift linkage on Josh’s bike breaking. It was a brand new hi-tensile bolt so you can’t plan for those sort of things.
“A new Superbike lap record to Josh, our three riders in the Superbike top five, the pace of the new GSX-R1000K9s in only their second race meeting, and Troy proving he can mix it at the front of the Supersport field made for a pretty good weekend all round.
“Troy’s performances continue to impress, as he’s only in his first full season of road racing and still learning every time he goes out there. The four riders who ended up finishing ahead of him in the Supersport races have all won Australian road racing championships, so to lead all of them at some stage needs to be acknowledged.”
“I couldn’t believe it when I went to change gear and the lever wasn’t there. The linkage bolt must have broken as I went into Turn One with two laps remaining, ‘cos when I came out of Turn Two and tried to select third there was no lever.
“I was comfortable on the bike all weekend, and was going to have a go at Wayne (Maxwell) out of Turn Three and up the back straight. There were parts of the circuit where he was stronger than me, but there were parts where I was faster.
“We’ve come away with a lap record and I’ve only lost four points to the championship lead – it could have been a lot worse.”
“I’m happy to come away with two fifths and remain fourth in the championship, but the bike was capable of more than me this weekend.
“To be honest it was a bit frustrating for me as I struggled with race fitness across the weekend. It’s the first time I’ve been to a physically demanding track since my crash at Queensland Raceway last year, and Mallala caught me out a bit as I wasn’t expecting it to be so hard on my body.
“I had a bit of trouble with my ankle on Thursday and Friday, but the guys at Racesafe strapped that for me and it was a lot better on Saturday and Sunday. Then I got some arm-pump due to the heavy braking, which I never get. The Racesafe guys sorted me out again, so I owe them big thanks.
“I’m looking forward to Phillip Island now, as it’s a track that flows and is a track I enjoy riding at. The new K9 will be awesome there – just as it’s been at Eastern Creek and Mallala.”
“The new 2009 bike is fantastic. Last round at Eastern Creek I got faster and faster across the weekend, and this weekend it’s been even better as we continue to dial it in.
“Qualifying third fastest, and running at the front in both races in only my second outing on the K9 proves the bike is up to the job.
“I feel really comfortable on the new bike, and fourth overall is a great result. I feel I can run with the leading group now. Bring on the Island.”
“I was happy with my qualifying result and with my lap times, and my race pace was good. I could run with the leaders in the early laps, but it was hard to stay with them for the full race distance.
“I’m happy with two fifths in the two races and fifth overall, but I know there’s more to come. The team gave me a bike that was capable of winning this weekend, and I feel I’m able to run with the front guys on circuits I know.
“It was my first time at Mallala, and it took me a little while to get up to speed. Mallala is quite a tricky circuit with lots of hard braking. I just need to get some more experience, but that’s coming with every outing – it was only my sixth road race meeting.
“I’m looking forward to the next two rounds at Phillip Island, as it’s a track I’ve raced at before.”