News 14 Apr 2010

Racing Insider #15

Catch your weekly update from behind the scenes in the world of motorcycle racing.

A large corporate crowd waitches on as the Superbikes get underway at Hidden Valley on Sunday. Image: Keith Muir.

A large corporate crowd waitches on as the Superbikes get underway at Hidden Valley on Sunday. Image: Keith Muir.

Heading into last weekend’s Hidden Valley round of the Australian Superbike Championship, I’m not afraid to admit that I was somewhat sceptical of travelling that far for a round of the series.

That all changed as soon as I arrived at the circuit on Friday, the paddock looking similar to the set-up that Phillip Island puts in for the World Superbike event and more newspaper clippings on the wall of the media centre than I’ve ever seen before.

You have to give full credit to the series promoters and the Northern Territory government for getting behind the event in such a positive fashion, really pushing the event to ensure Superbikes are a great event on the Top End’s event calendar.

The track was also given the thumbs up from every factory and privateer rider that I’d managed to speak to over the course of the weekend, so all in all it was a good start in the NT for the ASBK.

Dunlop introduced a new front tyre for the Supersport and Superstock 1000 C and D categories on the weekend, featuring a slightly revised tread pattern, construction and compound.

A new rear will be next for the Supersport guys, likely in time for round three at Queensland Raceway in June, however the big change will be when the Superbikes take delivery of a 200 (instead of 190) profile rear tyre.

The Superbikes will remain with the same front, but the all-new rear is a lot newer tyre in the development stakes and should drop lap times quite substantially compared to what we’ve seen so far.

As for the on-track action, I’m going to start cutting down on that in the Insider column simply because we cover it all in Breaking News, however Josh Waters was simply unstoppable in Darwin.

Josh told me that he was more focussed at Hidden Valley, and interestingly when I asked him why, he said that it’s because he wants to go overseas next year, and to do that he’ll have to standout in a big way on a domestic level.

It was actually a very positive weekend for the Waters clan, with Josh dominating Superbikes, Brodie winning his first Supersport race on his way to second overall, and young Nicholas finishing fourth overall in the Superstock 600 class.

Apart from those boys, other standouts and improvers over the weekend included Kris McLaren, Ben Burke, Mitchell Carr, Aaron Gobert, Aaron Morris and more.

Queenslander Blake Leigh-Smith switched to Suzuki for the Hidden Valley round, riding an ex-Troy Herfoss Team Suzuki machine to seventh overall after contesting round one on a Yamaha YZF-R6.

Wayne Maxwell maintained his series lead in the Superbikes, but is looking forward to the new profile tyres on his Fireblade, while Robbie Bugden made a solid start to his 2010 campaign complete with additional support of Mack Trucks as his naming-rights sponsor.

Valvoline Superbike Team rider Glenn Allerton returned to the podium, the 2008 champion satisfied with his performance, a good result with Ian Irving as his crew chief and former Motologic mechanic Sian on the spanners.

By the way, congratulations the Glenn and his fiancé Alana, who will be new parents of a baby boy within the next few weeks!

Also before the Queensland round, Allerton will be heading to Malaysia at Sepang to contest the first round of the Asian Road Race Series, where he’ll be riding an ex-Cal Crutchlow YZF-R6 in between his ASBK duties.

One final mention needs to go to CJC Racing and Craig Coxhell, the team putting in just 15 laps at Winton before the round on the brand new BMW S 1000 RR and then driving the long haul for a very solid ninth place overall. The team, complete with Dave ‘Radar’ Cullen, and Craig can see the light at the end of the tunnel, using a completely stock engine in Darwin.

Interestingly, Craig has both a bike with ABS and one without it, using the non-ABS version at Hidden Valley, but saying that he’s definitely going to carry out some testing on the ABS bike to see where it stacks up.

One last note, Bryan Staring will be a race winner very soon in his return to Superbike with Cougar Bourbon Honda Racing. Using a brand new bike in Darwin, BS was on the gas, asserting himself as a contender alongside the likes of Waters, Maxwell, Allerton and co.

Heading into Queensland will be a very interesting round, with the Superbike and Supersport classes developing some very interesting rivalries at this stage in the game – exactly what the sport needs to accelerate its growth at this point.

It was all on track for Casey Stoner to win his fourth consecutive Qatar GP at the Losail Circuit under lights, but a devastating crash on Turn Four come lap five spelled an end to the Aussie’s season opener.

The funny thing is, last weekend actually marked the first time that Stoner has lost under lights at Losail, and the first time that Valentino Rossi has won at night time race.

Lorenzo and Rossi took a 1-2 finish for Fiat Yamaha at Losail.

Lorenzo and Rossi took a 1-2 finish for Fiat Yamaha at Losail.

Standing out at this round for me were Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies.

Lorenzo because he’s still injured and fought through the field, Dovi because he absolutely blitzed Repsol Honda teammate Dan Pedrosa, Hayden because he’s finally got that Ducati sorted to his liking, and Spies because he was top rookie.

What’s up with Marco Melandri? Everybody expected him to be strong in his return to Gresini Honda after a season with Hayate, but his nightmare continues as he was the final finisher on Sunday and very upset with his performance.

Stoner will be strong at Motegi’s second round, Rossi will be confident, and Lorenzo will be healed further, but the big thing is that no teams have tested at Motegi in the lead-up to the race weekend.

How about the Moto2 season opener? That was a surprising result as Shoya Tomizawa won from Alex Debon and Jules Cluzel, however the excitement and interest surrounding the class is unreal. It wasn’t a good result for Aussie Ant West, but expect him to be at his best when the series reaches the European swing on the MZ.

The first round of 2010 marked ONE HD’s first go of running MotoGP live, with no coverage on Fox Sports for this year, as Daryl Beattie and Greg Rust commentated the race from here in Australia. I haven’t seen the pre-race show, but what did you guys think of the telecast?

Looking forward to the Japanese GP!

Man, it was good to see Nori Haga back at his best at Valencia as he went on to win race two, the Japanese Ducati Xerox star finally finding form in 2010 after a miserable opening couple of rounds.

Leon Haslam continued to prove that he’s a title favourite for Alstare Suzuki, showing no signs of backing off in his quest for the world title as he picked up another win in race one on Sunday.

The surprise for me was Leon Camier, teammate of Max Biaggi at Aprilia, who was on the gas and lead much of race two, however a pair of crashes ruled him out of a solid result overall.

Meanwhile, Max continues to look dangerous on the RSV4, very much a potential world champion.

I noticed in the closing stages of race two that three veterans had completely dominated the race, being Haga, Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Sometimes we wish that more young talent would rise through the ranks, and it certainly is, but there’s no doubt that these guys are using their experience to reap the maximum reward in WSBK 2010.

Finally, a big shout out has to go to Troy Corser and the BMW World Superbike Team following their fourth place in race one – the best finish in BMW’s history on the S 1000 RR. Something tells me a podium isn’t far away if they can continue that last touch of development work.

MotoOnline will be back on the road and on our way to another race track this weekend, continuing our coverage of the Rockstar Energy MX Nationals at Canberra’s second round of the 2010 series in the ACT.

Round two of a series is always a true indication of form for the season, especially considering the weather at Horsham’s first round, and you can bet that many of our Aussie riders will be eager to get one back on the internationals who currently lead the series.

Scottish star Billy Mackenzie won the overall at round one for the Kawasaki Racing Team, however the quick kids of Oz are most definitely Honda riders Todd Waters and Dean Ferris right now, so expect both to run up front in the chase for moto wins this weekend.

Mackenzie has been back to Europe since Horsham while the Aussies have been busy racing various state-based events, and you can’t count out defending two-time champion Jay Marmont after he soldiered on to third at round one despite coming down with the flu on race day.

And who will be the guys in the Pro Open class to bounce back after round one? I expect Cheyne Boyd and Kiwi Cody Cooper to be big improvers on their round one form, while both Andrew McFarlane and Craig Anderson also showed great potential at round one.

Plus, you would think that the Canberra track will suit Tye Simmonds’ factory KTM 350 SX-F, his podium finish in Moto three at Horsham surely giving him a boost into round two.

As for the Lites, PJ Larsen was the man at Horsham, while Ryan Marmont’s second place overall was a big boost of confidence in his return to KTM on the JDR Motorsports team alongside Larsen.

Serco Yamaha’s Kirk Gibbs scored a round moto and third overall at round one, but I think he’ll be stronger again at Canberra, while his teammate Ford Dale will most definitely be quick after winning a round of the Queensland state title last weekend.

A favourite for Canberra is Cody Mackie following his incredible form there last year on the Open class bike, while Kiwi Michael Phillips has one round under his belt and will likely be another improver at round two.

Luke George had a lot of attention at Horsham thanks to a Pro Circuit-backed Kawasaki KX250F, his sixth overall a solid result considering his comeback from injuries. He’ll be one to watch as he builds mementum.

Two guys currently out of the top 10 in the points are Rockstar Motul Suzuki’s Lawson Bopping and AXIS Honda rider Michael Addison, sitting 11th and 13th respectively, however both won the recent NSW title opener at Mount Kembla and could be dark horses for good results at Canberra.

Don’t forget to submit your tips for our MotoOnline MX Nationals Tipping Competition in the Forum, which can be found here. Prizes will be announced following Canberra’s round.

Also, make sure you tune into the MX Nationals official pre-race show and live commentary here, while check back on MotoOnline throughout Sunday for video interviews with the top contenders direct from the track.

The 2010 title is coming down to the wire, with Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey holding a slim 12 point lead with just four round remaining for the series.

Catching him is Ryan Villopoto, who took his seventh win of the season at Houston last weekend, but the wildcard in all of this is Australian dual series champion Chad Reed.

Villopoto sits just 12 points behind Dungey with four rounds to run in AMA SX.

Villopoto sits just 12 points behind Dungey with four rounds to run in AMA SX.

Reedy returned for fourth in Texas after a lengthy layoff, but the big question is whether he’ll race to win, or race to assist Kawasaki in claiming the title from Suzuki in the final rounds. For instance, if Reed is winning and Villopoto is second this weekend, will he let RV by? We’ll have to wait and see!

Reedy will also be a father in the next couple of weeks, so congrats to he and Ellie.

On the other hand, Dungey has been rock solid this season in his consistency, claiming another top five result in Houston and definitely not one to roll over as the going gets tough.

It’s been a great season in 2010 despite missing Reed and defending champ James Stewart through injury for most of the season, setting up (I hate to say it already) a great season in 2011!

Top Aussie in the points right now is Michael Byrne, still on the JGR Yamaha team, although he sits 11th right now with a slight chance of cracking the top nine if things go his way at the remaining rounds.

Best performing Aussie overall is Brett Metcalfe in fourth overall so far for the East Coast Lites after a sluggish start to his season, so fingers crossed he can crack a podium result overall in the series. Frenchman Christophe Pourcel successfully defended his title in Houston for the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.

That’s all for today, thanks for reading!