News 3 Mar 2010

Racing Insider #9

Get up to date on the Australian and World Superbikes in this special edition of Racing Insider after their Phillip Island season openers.

A new season of ASBK got underway at Phillip Island alongside WSBK last weekend.

A new season of ASBK got underway at Phillip Island alongside WSBK last weekend.

First of all, apologies for a belated edition of this Racing Insider, largely thanks to late nights on busy deadlines mixed with long days on a variety of motorcycles – but I’m not about to hand over my job anytime soon! This week will see a special edition of the Insider column dedicated to the Australian and World Superbike Championships, which opened their seasons in conjunction at Phillip Island last weekend.

Round one is in the books with Wayne Maxwell winning on debut for Demolition Plus GAS Honda Racing, picking up pole and two wins to open his account for 2010.

Maxwell looked fast and was as confident as ever after a short off-season and very positive lead-up to the series, but don’t engrave his name on the series trophy just yet because he’ll have some very determined opponents including Josh Waters, Bryan Staring, Jamie Stauffer, Glenn Allerton, Shannon Johnson and more to fend off if he wants to hold on to his championship lead.

But we’ve all seen the race reports from the weekend, so I thought we’d look into some stuff from behind the scenes for this edition.

The Natural Aprilia team, run by Trinder Brothers Racing, had a slow start to the weekend with ex-Yamaha man Daniel Stauffer completing just three laps in the opening practice to place outside the top 20. An electrical gremlin caused frustration for much of the weekend, although Saturday and Sunday did see improvements. Let’s hope they get it sorted so we can see the #69 machine where it belongs at future rounds.

The Evolution Sports Group KTM team and Ducati Motologic effort showed up to round one with new colours on their team trucks for the first time of the year. ESG’s formerly red truck is now KTM orange, while Motologic’s outfit is now adorned with a host of Ducati decals to signify its new partnership with the Italian brand.

Other decent sized transporters that were new to the pits included the Cougar Bourbon Honda Racing truck, as well as privateer Kris McLaren’s ex-KTM truck that he’s sourced for the new year.

While there was a hive of activity at the Island during testing in the lead up to the ASBK opener, many teams waited until the race weekend to debut their final liveries for this season. Some fairings arrived Thursday afternoon, while a last minute rush for pit set-ups and posters was experienced by many.

There was a sense of panic in the week leading up to the season opener when Dunlop Australia anxiously awaited the arrival of the D211GP Racer tyres that are the Superbike control tyre this season. The tyres finally arrived Friday morning, with some riders having their first ever run on the rubber during session one of the weekend.

Dunlop Australia’s Ken Wieden revealed to me on Monday that they’ll be bringing in “thin gauge” tyres for next time the series is at the Island, however those who are panicking for oher circuits should take note that Phillip Island is the hardest circuit in the world on tyres apart from Daytona.

There were a lot of tyres that overheated and blistered in the races over the 12-lap distance, with a meeting called early in the weekend to advise riders and teams to use the Medium spec compound rather than the soft.

Aluma-Lite Racing made its return to national racing in the Australian championship on all-white Ducatis at Phillip Island, the Queensland-based team running veteran John Allen in the Superbike class and current Supersport number three Ben Attard in the Superstock A class.

Superstock bike or not, I think Attard is going to challenge some of the top guys in the Superbike field once he gets the settings sorted on the 1198 S;

The Yamaha Racing Team made its lone confirmed appearance in the ASBK series this season, the team entering its championship-winning YZF-R6s fielding factory stars Kevin Curtain, Pat Medcalf and Rick Olson in the Supersport category.

Medcalf crashed out of the lead of Supersport race one and broke his left wrist, adding to his Phillip Island injury list that included injured ligaments at the sae event one year ago.

The Superbike class had a strong grid of 24 bikes at the season opener, made up of a variety of Japanese and European bikes. There were eight Hondas, six Suzukis, five Ducatis, two Kawasakis, plus single runners on KTM, Aprilia and Yamaha respectively. Joining the Supers on the grid was a 22-rider field of Superstock 1000 racers.

Australian Superbike Champion Josh Waters expressed his brotherly love during the off-season by sponsoring younger brothers Brodie, who contests Supersport, and Superstock 600 rider Nicholas for this season. The younger brothers have earned Suzuki support for 2010, with elder brother Josh’s logo placed predominately on both bikes for the year.

Honda factory Motocross star Todd Waters was spotted in the ASBK paddock on Friday afternoon, checking out the opening round of the 2010 series as he awaits the MX Nationals opener to be held at Horsham next month. Waters is teammates in a way with Bryan Staring this season.

World Supers also kicked off at the weekend with some great racing action, the racing proving unpredictable and Leon Haslam and Carlos Checa coming out the big winners of the round.

The funny thing is that while we are used to them both being around for so long, the victories marked WSBK number one for Haslam and just number three for Checa.

Big crashes were the flavour of the weekend, but none were as scary as Chris Vermeulen’s race two crash while coming toward Lukey Heights in his Kawasaki debut. Thankfully he was okay, but anytime a rider collects a tyre wall it’s a massive safety concern.

Yamaha is going to have to work hard to retain their world title that Ben Spies won last year, with James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow starting their seasons on the deck in race one of the new season – Tosleand going down big time over Lukey.

Former double world champion Troy Corser did a good job to get a pair of top 10 placings on the BMW S 1000 RR, at leats keeping it on two wheels while teammate Ruben Xaus crashed his brains out no less than five times during his visit to Australia if you include testing. He and BMW made the decision for him to sit out Sunday’s races, but the truth is that he’s got a heck of a lot of work to do if he wants to regain confidence in the front-end of the Beemer.

Xaus took Haga out in the morning warm-up at Turn One, proving the final straw, however Haga managed to put in a solid run to podium in race one despite qualifying back on the third row. Both he and Ducati Xerox teammate Michel Fabrizio will be big threats this year, mark my words.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of the weekend was the lack of pace for Josh Brookes in his one-off ride deputising for fellow Aussie Broc Parkes. It was a tough one for Brookes, coming in on an unfamiliar bike that clearly wasn’t competitive for a top result, however the extra bike time will assist him in his quest for the BSB crown this year. Let’s hope it’s OK for Parkes when he returns!

That’s all for today, thanks for reading!