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Emotion and pride behind motivation for 2023 title fight

By MA Media 0

It all comes down to this, the final battle.

It’s never happened before in the 35-year history of Australian Superbikes but for the first time, the title-fighting protagonists enter the final round of a championship season tied on points.

An intense battle between Penrite Honda Racing’s Troy Herfoss and McMartin Racing’s Josh Waters will reach its conclusion at The Bend in South Australia but exactly who is best placed to go on and claim the title from here is anyone’s guess, as the two title rivals are so evenly matched to the point where they are virtually inseparable.

The stats page reads that Waters has seven race wins to Herfoss’ six, 10 podiums for Herfoss and nine for his counterpart, two pole positions have gone the way of the McMartin rider while the Penrite Honda man has one to his name.

The two heavyweights feel the heat of the high-pressure situation but fully embrace the challenge of what lies ahead as it adds fuel to the entertainment factor that draws so much interest to the national road race championship.

“I’m really excited because it’s a privilege to be racing for a championship as not everyone is fortunate enough to be in this position,” Herfoss explained.

“I’m lucky enough to have done this a few times now and it’s great to be able to fight for a championship once again.

“To go into an event locked on points with your nearest competitor lifts the skill of the rider to another level and I hope I can do that again.”

For Waters, who has endured a year of great highs and lows that threatened to derail his season, the challenge of fighting through the pain of injury in a bid for title No.4 spurs him on to prove any doubters wrong that he can get the job done.

“I’ve been in a similar position before, but never equal on points which is great for the championship,” he said.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous as everyone on the grid strives to be champion, but all I will do is go and try my hardest.”

Josh Waters

Having started the year in blistering fashion with dominant performances at Phillip Island and Sydney Motorsport Park, the form of Waters has been patchy since his stranglehold on the competition in the first quarter of the season bagging only two wins and a further two podium positions since.

While still salvaging top 10 finishes, mistakes in races at Darwin and Morgan Park were costly as his rivals bridged the points gap.

The mid-season break enabled Waters the opportunity to compete at the Suzuka 8 Hour in August but a fractured shoulder and wrist sustained in a qualifying crash, and subsequent surgery to repair the damage meant he was in a race against the clock to compete in round six at Phillip Island, getting the approval to ride only the week prior to the event.

His familiarity with the track, as one of his stronger circuits, was an advantage as he clawed back the momentum needed to remain in the title fight.

“The win in race two at Phillip Island meant the most from the year to date because of what I had gone through in the 10 weeks prior,” Waters explained.

“To think that my wrist gave me a lot of grief two weeks before the event and then receive the required treatment that enabled me to race is crazy.

“Staying in the hunt and pushing through the pain at Phillip Island was what I needed to do to keep myself in the fight for this championship.”

Ahead of his final weekend riding for Penrite Honda Racing, winning title No.4 after a year where he virtually chased his tail would carry a lot of meaning for Herfoss who is using an emotion-charged mindset to secure the victory this weekend.

An average start to the season at Phillip Island meant he was behind the eight ball initially, but victories at Queensland Raceway, Darwin and Morgan Park enabled him to claw his way back to the outright championship lead following round five.

Unlike his title rival who won races with ease, Herfoss has fought every millimetre of track with an ‘all or nothing’ approach to be in with a shot at this years ASBK title, battles that went to the final corner a key component of a season he describes as ‘normal’.

“In the first two rounds, I felt like I wasn’t in the championship fight because Josh was so dominant, but we kept showing up and banked strong finishes where we could,” Herfoss said.

“It’s been a lot of fun because on his day, Josh has been super dominant and on my days, I’ve just scrapped through.

“Heading into the final round, I don’t think there’s anything separating us because we’re both riding very well and it seems to be a track we perform well at.”

Troy Herfoss

Despite an outcome from round six at Phillip Island where he admits he could have performed better, the Penrite Honda rider is not letting it get in the way of his positive mindset where he will launch an all-out attack to get the job done this weekend.

“I am arriving at The Bend in the best form of my life with absolutely no excuse not to win,” he emphasised.

“I like the track, I’ve had success there, the bike is working really well, the team is functioning brilliantly, and I feel like I’m riding as good as ever which means we have put ourselves into a position to win the championship if we execute properly and things go our way.”

The significance of winning carries great meaning to both title contenders who have kept their heads down, plucked away at their craft and have worked hard to be in this position.

The pressure of delivering for not only themselves but their respective teams, sponsors and the supporter group is the catalyst for closing out this year’s championship in style.

For Herfoss, who considers the impacts of COVID-19, serious injuries sustained in a nasty crash at Darwin in 2021 and working back into form from it, achieving the ultimate success would make up for a tough couple of years.

“It’s been a long time coming for me and I owe it to the team amongst other key stakeholders to get the job done,” he stressed.

“They invest in me to win a championship which they’ve done for the last couple of years but unfortunately, we’ve come up short.

“It would mean a lot to repay our sponsors and supporters by winning another championship.”

On the flip side for Waters, who always believed in himself despite the doubts of some to perform well in recent years, the thought of clinching a third ASBK title incites great emotion.

“If I was lucky enough to win the championship, it would really mean the world to me especially after what happened earlier this year,” he said.

“This is also made possible by a small group of people who really believe in me which I am forever grateful for and to think that I’m battling for the championship after those years is a special feeling.

“It’s up to me to keep trying and believe in my own ability.”