The 2019 Australian road racing scene fired into life with the opening round of the Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) held in conjunction with the season opener of the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) at the iconic Phillip Island circuit in Victoria.
In a huge weekend of racing, the Yamaha Racing Team (YRT) started their championship aspirations on a very positive note with riders Cru Halliday and Daniel Falzon showing they have the speed, skills and machinery to take them to the podium this season and both took a lot of confidence from the championship opening weekend.
Halliday led the YRT charge on the weekend and landed in second place for the round in a stunning return back to Superbike racing. On a track that Halliday admits he has struggled with in the past, he put that behind him and charged to 4-2-3 results in the three legs contested over the weekend to secure the podium finish.
The New South Welshmen started the week in good form posting competitive lap times in the practice sessions but then unleashed a scorching lap to put him second on the grid for the opening race.
If the opening race set the scene for this years’ championship, then we are in for a barn burner, as the top five riders flashed across the finish line within one second of each other after 12 laps were completed. Halliday taking fourth but also knowing he had more in him. The second race was just as tight as the top three were within .4 of a second with Halliday in second place.
While the third and final moto was another intense affair with six riders elbow to elbow on the front straight on the final lap with Halliday in third.
“If you had of told me on Thursday I would leave Phillip Island second in points on my return to ASBK, I would have said you are dreaming,” Halliday beamed. “We started the week strongly but still needing to find some speed but the YRT crew went to work and found exactly what was required and the bike was amazing in every race.
“The depth of the field this year is good and the opening few laps of every race is so intense as track position is vital. You simply can’t give up positions early in the race as they are so hard to get back with the amount of talent on the track this year.
“But I’m stoked with the weekend and can’t thank everyone at YRT enough. Kevy gave me a bit of a revving early in the week and threatened me about putting his grandmother on the bike if I didn’t step up and that’s what I needed. Thanks to the entire team and so motivated to make the most of this start to the season and keep the Yamaha R1M at the front of the pack at the next round,” Halliday signs off.
Daniel Falzon also showed he will be a legitimate championship contender this year despite an up and down weekend at Phillip Island. Like Halliday, he stepped up when qualifying got serious and charged to third on the grid for the opening race.
Falzon finished the weekend in ninth place with 6-DNF-4 results but that isn’t reflective of what he is capable of. The sixth place in race one saw Falzon on the rear of a fast moving freight train and looking for an opening that never eventuated. Race two again saw Falzon in good position early and in the lead group. On lap four and looking to move forward, he tagged the back of the rider in front and went down, resulting in him not being able to finish the race.
But to his credit, he rebounded well for the third and final moto to finish in fourth place and leave the Phillip Island circuit knowing that he belongs at the front of the field.
“While the overall result wasn’t great to finish in ninth, I think there are a lot of positives I can take away from the weekend. I was able to set a personal best around Phillip Island in qualifying and then lower it again in the final race, so we have made gains in both the bike and myself over the past few months.
“The racing was close and I was never further than two seconds from the lead in any race, it was just the fall in race two that cost me in the points but there is a long way to go and I just need to ensure this is my worst round and I stay fast and consistent throughout the rest of the championship.
“With eight to ten riders capable of winning races, each round could see a big mix up in the points, so staying inside the top three in each race will be vital. We have showed we are capable of that here this weekend, so we will regroup over the next week and come back at round two focused on getting back onto the podium,” Falzon ends.
Round two of the Australian Superbike Championship now heads to Wakefield Park, near Goulbourn NSW on March 22-24.