The 2023 mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul, thundered back into life at Phillip Island today as the battle intensifies across a number of classes.
In brilliant weather conditions which will carry over into qualifying and racing across the weekend, Yamaha Racing Team’s Cru Halliday (YZF-R1) was the Friday master in the premier Alpinestars Superbike class, while the returning two-time Aussie Supersport champion Tom Toparis (Cube Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) has already fired a warning across the bows of his Michelin Supersport opposition with a towering return to Phillip Island.
Meanwhile, the times were predictably tight across all the other classes as the business end of the ASBK season approaches: a period where even the smallest mistakes can be magnified, while late opportunity can knock for others.
Yamaha Racing Team’s Cru Halliday topped two of the three 30-minute sessions from his teammate and defending ASBK champion, Mike Jones.
Grip was the order of the day, or lack thereof to be more precise as times were way off lap record pace as riders battled a slippery track as well as a strong head wind slowing top speeds along Gardner Straight.
The Yamaha pilots were the only riders to dip into sub-1m33sec lap times, both achieving the feat in two of the three sessions.
Showing no signs of injury hangover from his accident at the Suzuka 8-Hour world endurance race in August, Josh Waters on the McMartin Racing with K-Tech Ducati V4R was third fastest on the day from the ever-improving Max Stauffer (GTR MotoStars YZF-R1) and series leader Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda).
“Today was strange,” explained Halliday. “You come to a track where you have a lot of data, and you think you will go back to it but…. It’s very, very green out there and not much grip.
“All riders are suffering from this and it changes the whole dynamic of the approach for the weekend to totally change the setup of your bike and try and get more grip.
“It’s frustrating but I can’t be too down: I am at the top of the timesheets. I actually surprised myself. I had a big one here at the Hayshed (turn eight) three weeks ago and I haven’t had a chance to ride the bike since then and it plays through your mind, so I am still a little bit tentative going through that corner.
“The team is working well. The bike is working good in the conditions. I’ve just got to keep chipping away. Everyone is going to get faster. Don’t get too cocky and take every session as it comes.”
Broc Pearson (DesmoSport Ducati) was sixth fastest from Glenn Allerton (GT Racing BMW M 1000 RR), with Bryan Staring (MotoGo YZFR1), Anthony West (Addicted to Track YZF-R1) and Ted Collins (Livson Racing M 1000 RR) rounding out the top 10.
Impressing in his first hitout on a Superbike at Phillip Island was Goulburn’s Tom Toparis (Stop & Seal Cube Racing YZF-R1). Fresh from his third place in the British Supersport Championship, he was only 1.6sec behind Halliday’s benchmark.
Not only was he a Superbike revelation, but Toparis has also wasted little time getting back into the local groove by dominating day one of the Michelin Supersport program at Phillip Island.
An all-new Cube Racing-backed Yamaha YZF-R6 and his first visit to Phillip Island in three years were seemingly minor impediments to major progress after setting a best lap of 1:35.642 – 0.8sec faster than championship leader Olly Simpson (YZF-R6), followed by 15-year-old sensation Cameron Dunker (GTR MotoStars YZF-R6) in third position.
“It’s been like the first test day of a season for me,” said Toparis. “I’m not only on the R6 but the R1 as well so there’s been plenty of track time and chipping away on setup.
“I’m really happy with how it’s all gone considering it’s been such a whirlwind, and I’m particularly excited about the R6 project as we’re looking at the possibility of competing in next year’s World Supersport round at Phillip Island on it.
“We’ll just keep working away, and I’m still recalibrating myself to the high-speed nature of the circuit after being away from it for so long.”
Toparis’ ASBK appearances at Phillip Island this weekend and The Bend Motorsport Park (in SA on December 1-3) could go a long way towards deciding who this year’s Michelin Superport champion is, with Simpson, Dunker and Ty Lynch (AMR Motorsports YZF-R6) separated by just 17pts.
Lynch was fourth fastest, while defending champion John Lytras is a round six scratching after a training incident resulted in a broken wrist and subsequent surgery.
Cameron Swain grabbed the day one ascendancy in Supersport 300, followed by Henry Snell, Marcos Hamod and Brodie Gawith, with championship leader Brandon Demmery back in eighth – but one who will certainly rise to the occasion as the stakes rise in qualifying and the three seven-lap races.
Swain was the benchmark in all three Yamaha Finance R3 Cup practice sessions. His best lap was 1:49.369, with Demmery second ahead of Gawith – the championship top three again making their presence felt. Swain and Demmery were both R3 Cup winners in round one at Phillip Island.
Riley Nauta was the star of today’s show as the bLU CRU Oceania Junior Cup returns to Phillip Island after being a support class at last weekend’s MotoGP round.
Nauta came out swinging, and was over a second faster than Archie Schmidt as he dipped below the existing lap record. Elijah Andrew was next, followed by Isaac Ayad and title leader Bodie Paige. Whatever happens in qualifying, the races will all go down to the wire…
The return of the crowd-pleasing Sureflight Superbike Masters class saw Scott Campbell lead all-comers on his Honda RC30, ahead of Keo Watson (Yamaha FZR1000), Murray Clark (Suzuki GSX-R1100) and Corey Turner (Suzuki GSX-R750).
For more information on the 2023 mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul, stay tuned to the ASBK website and social pages: