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The Bend ASBK preview: Herfoss and Waters to lock horns in title decider

By MA Media 0

The final round of the 2023 mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul (ASBK), at The Bend from December 1-3 will be a battle royale between Troy Herfoss and Josh Waters in the Alpinestars Superbike class.

For the first time in the storied 35-year history of the ASBK Championship, two riders are tied on points after the penultimate round, setting up a blockbuster finale of the highest order.

Waters (McMartin Racing with K-Tech Ducati V4R) will be in search of his fourth ASBK title and Herfoss (Penrite Honda CBR100RR-R SP) his third.

Herfoss, who recently dropped the bombshell news that he’ll be leaving his long-time employer, Honda, at the end of the season, says he’s “in the best form of his life”, while victory for Waters would be extra special after battling through a host of mid-season injuries.

The tension will be evident from the start of practice on Friday, with the two battle-hardened veterans not only keeping close tabs on each other but also the other riders who can potentially ‘spoil’ a championship-winning party – with defending champion Mike Jones (Yamaha Racing Team YZF-R1M) at the top of the list after claiming overall honours at The Bend in 2022.

The final Alpinestars Superbike showdown will be worth admission price alone, but the box office bonanza doesn’t end there: all the other ASBK classes – Michelin Supersport, Supersport 300, Yamaha Finance R3 Cup, bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup and the Sureflight Superbike Masters – are ‘live’ rubbers as well.

Some riders will have early match points, but in the others we won’t know the 2023 champions until the death knell. That’s what you get with such intense competition!

And for ASBK fans who can’t make it to the South Australian circuit, SBS On Demand is streaming all of Saturday’s qualifying and race action live and free so you don’t have to miss a minute of the weekend action.


Alpinestars Superbike preview
It’s all square, gentleman. Touch gloves, fight fair, no hitting below the belt and may the best man win. Lights out: it’s game on between Herfoss and Waters in the two 11-lap races!

The duo has two very different riding styles and approaches to their craft, but it’s all boiled down to The Bend after Waters slashed a 14pt Herfoss lead in the penultimate round at Phillip Island.

“This is an all or nothing situation, and that’s been my approach to get back in the championship fight,” said Herfoss. “Some of the battles have literally been to the last corner, fighting every inch of the track and I will have to do the same this weekend by racing as hard as I can, flag-to-flag.

“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. Regardless of what track we’re going to, I think we have put ourselves into a position where we can win the championship if we execute properly and things go our way.”

Waters’ mindset is more philosophical, with the Mildura ace still relieved to be in the championship hunt after an injury-ravaged year – particularly after a practice incident at the Suzuka 8 Hours world endurance race in early August when he was cannoned into by another rider.

“The win in race two at Phillip Island meant the most from across the year because of what I had gone through in the 10 weeks prior,” said Waters, whose early season run of four consecutive wins was peerless.

“I’ve had a great battle with Herfoss across the year. He’s a great racer and, like everyone on the grid, he’s a tough competitor who wants to achieve the same goal as we all do. We’ve competed against each other for a long time, so we know what to expect.

“To think that I’m battling for the championship after those years is a really special feeling. If I was lucky enough to win the championship, it would really mean the world to me especially after what happened earlier this year. It would be a very emotional win.”

Meanwhile, the battle for third is also a thriller, with just 6pts separating third-placed Glenn Allerton (GT Racing M 1000 RR) from Jones. The latter dropped two positions at Phillip Island, with his slim chances of retaining the championship evaporating after a crash in race one.

Bryan Staring (MotoGo YZF-R1M) and Phillip Island polesitter Broc Pearson (DesmoSport Ducati V4R) are also locked in a tight tussle for sixth, while the talent runs deep with the likes of Max Stauffer (GTR MotoStars Racing YZF-R1M), Ted Collins (Livson Racing M 1000 RR), Arthur Sissis (Unitech Racing YZF-R1) and Anthony West (Addicted to Track R1-M).

Stauffer broke through for his first podium finish in the premier class at Phillip Island, while it’s Sissis’ home track – and now that he has recovered from injury, he is sure to be at the pointy end in the opening laps of each race with his trademark lightning starts.

At The Bend last year, Herfoss won the opening race and crashed out of the second leg, as did Allerton, while Waters was riding shotgun for his teammate Wayne Maxwell who was in championship battle with Jones.

Waters finished fourth in the opening race, but the second race lasted until the first turn when he was taken out by visiting German Marcel Schroetter.

It’s going to be a finale for the ages!

Michelin Supersport preview
If it hadn’t already been one of the most tightly contested championships in recent years between Olly Simpson, Cameron Dunker and Ty Lynch, there’s been a tonne more spice poured into the final round courtesy of some Aussies returning from overseas duties to bolster the already healthy ranks.

Leading the ‘invasion’ is Harrison Voight, who competed in the Moto2 European championship this year. Joining him will be Archie McDonald, Harry Khouri, Jack Mahaffy and Taiyo Aksu in the Yamaha YZF-R6-dominated field.

Voight rode at The Bend last year, took pole position and backed it up with two emphatic wins with a combined winning gap of over 10 seconds. He was then a towering presence again at this year’s opening Supersport round with another clean sweep.

Also lining up is Tom Toparis, who competed in the recent Phillip Island round and won the opening race before breaking his left wrist in a high-speed crash in the second. Since then, he has been a regular inside a hyperbaric chamber on the Gold Coast to expedite his return to fitness.

In the title battle, 15-year-old Dunker from Kurri Kurri (NSW) is poised to be the youngest ever Australian Supersport champion. He holds a 14-point buffer over Adelaide native, Simpson, and is fully aware of the pressure associated with winning titles after claiming the Supersport 300 and Yamaha Finance R3 Cup double in 2022.

How will it all pan out? With a handy buffer, Dunker can afford to let Simpson and Lynch finish in front of him, but conversely with so many wildcards in the mix they could also have a massive say in proceedings.

Supersport 300 preview
The Supersport 300 title is tighter at the top than it has been all year with just 2pts covering the top three: Henry Snell from Cameron Swain and Marcus Hamod. But it’s still a packed leaderboard, with Brandon Demmery only just adrift in fourth place, with Bodie Gawith also still in the hunt.

And don’t be surprised if local riders Jordy Simpson, Sam Pezzetta, Ryder Gilbert and Tara Morrison step up to cause some mayhem of their own!

Snell took over the championship lead at Phillip Island after two wins and a second, while Swain crashed in race one before recovering to score a third and fourth to complete a respectable scorecard.

The Bend won’t be a slipstreaming battle to the same degree as Phillip Island, with a withering lap time based more on the motorcycle racing staples: corner speed and picking up the throttle sooner on exit.

Yamaha Finance R3 Cup preview
The final round will be a mirror image of the Supersport 300 class – more fierce rolling scrums right throughout the field!

Swain leads the standings as he aims to replicate Dunker’s feat from last year and take out both titles – but he will have to be right on his game to execute the plan.

Swain has a slender 4pt lead over Gawith, who is 1pt in front of Snell, with Demmery sitting in fourth 10pts off Swain.

In the last round, the wins were split between Swain, Gawith and Snell.

bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup preview
The bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup is also on a knife-edge with three riders poised to take out the Cup. Mount Barker local, Archie Schmidt, holds a 1pt lead over Bodie Paige, with New Zealander Hayden Fordyce – who led the series after the first round – coming back to the fore at the right time to be 10pts off Schmidt.

Riley Nauta, who sits fourth overall, shared wins with Schmidt and Fordyce at Phillip Island.

Keep an eye on young dynamo Ella McCausland. She has a wealth of talent and at Phillip Island was right up with the leading bunch and even took a turn at the front, but crashes let her down.

Sureflight Superbike Masters preview
Since its inception last year as a part-time guest at various rounds of the ASBK the Sureflight Superbike Masters has proven to be a real crowd pleaser – and with four races this weekend, there is another opportunity to see them out on track.

There are five different classes to cater for a multitude of old Superbikes in various guises of differing engine capacities. There are Suzuki Katanas, a Bimota, a host of Kawasakis, Honda RC30s, as well as two-strokes like the Yamaha TZ750. And the level of presentation is outstanding.

Keo Watson, a dual class champion in last weekend’s Australian Historic Road Race Championship, leads the overall Sureflight Superbike Masters standings on his Yamaha FZR1000.

One blast from the past making a cameo appearance this weekend is three-time MotoGP race winner Garry McCoy on the same TZ750 that Troy Corser raced at Sydney Motorsport Park back in March. Will he revert to his “Mr Squiggle’ style? Maybe just a little at the final turn!

Isle of Man Classic TT winner David Johnson on the Carl Cox-owned Katana will join McCoy and hope to replicate his dominance from last year, having won all three races.