The wind was up but the sky was clear and the horrors and terrors of the weather the day before were hopefully behind us.
It was Phillip Island at her saucy best. Or was it? The cloud descended mid-morning and the *rain?* question was asked here and there, but no one can ever possibly pretend to know what is going to happen.
Phillip Island does what it wants, and you best remember that.
…and for the record, it did rain. But it was also mostly sunny.
Josh Waters lead the field into turn one and beyond as the Ducati Panigale V4R flexed in front of the 17 riders behind it. Glenn Allerton was up to second from the third row of the grid, denying Arthur Sissis his typical rocket launch.
Immediately, Josh Waters set about gapping the field, and gap he did, getting out to a 1.7 second lead and then…
The Race was red-flagged.
Not for rain. Not for a crash, but for the ol’ Cape Barren Geese who had decided to take a much closer look at proceedings at turn 12. #JustPhillipIslandThings
The restart (Original grid placings resumed) was rough on riders like Allerton who had previously moved from seventh into the top three, but after the restart, Allerton was up there again with Herfoss and Jones for company. Sissis also found the big launch button and was well in contention.
Chiodo high-sided at turn two and his Honda Fireblade cartwheeled for far too long. Chiodo took a moment in the gravel trap to gather himself. With a single bike to ride, his weekend was sadly over. Stauffer then went down on the exit of turn four – as he had in race one.
Meanwhile, Herfoss ran wide at turn one after out-braking himself and was now down in sixth, Allerton was as aggressive as he can be and overtook Jones who returned serve almost immediately.
We still had eight laps to go, and Halliday was in front of Allerton. At this point, the running order was Waters, 1.5-second gap, Jones, Halliday, Allerton and Sissis in fifth. Then came Herfoss with Staring, Ted Collins, Broc Pearson and Lachlan Epis in tenth.
Halliday got past teammate Jones at half distance and they diced hammer and tong to the delight of the crowd and the horror of the Yamaha Racing Team.
Herfoss was on the tail of Sissis fighting for fifth. Epis slid off on the exit of turn four, in a manner similar to Stauffer a little earlier. Herfoss was behind Allerton for just two corners before making his move and moving up into fourth.
Halliday was the now fastest man on the circuit and was off Waters, despite the apparent futility. It was now a race of time trialists, with second-plus gaps between first, second and third.
With two laps remaining, Waters had a 3.1-second lead and was content to just manage it. His fastest lap of the race had been on lap two, confirming his early desire to get away from the field. He was now content to lap in the mid-32s with Halliday .4 slower.
And it remained that way to the finish. Josh Waters took his second win of the weekend from a crash-recovered-and-valiant Cru Halliday with 2022 Champion Mike Jones in third, Troy Herfoss disappointed fourth and Arthur Sissis a terrific fifth.
With just one race remaining, a Waters clean sweep, complete with the bonus point for pole had gone from a dream to an inevitable reality.
All the sunshine! Away! The final race of three for the weekend under the Phillip Island sun and it was Waters as usual… but also Sissis from the third row as usual. Allerton was his aggressive best, but Sissis stood firm until turn four. Halliday tried to follow Allerton but was briefly unseated and lost a spot.
Up front, Waters was evidently keen to get home to Mildura as he was already a second up thanks to a 1:37.713 standing lap.
Mike Jones was in second place on lap two with Allerton and Herfoss in tow. Halliday was waiting to pounce with Sissis just behind him. Staring was a second back in seventh with Max Stauffer, Ted Collins and Broc Pearson rounding out the top ten.
Nine to go, and Waters was comfortably on his way to the three-peat with the bonus pole point, while 2022 champion Mike Jones gave chase. Waters was lapping half a second that the next fastest rider in Halliday, so the maths was against everyone but the #21-plated McMartin Racing Panigale V4R.
Herfoss in third was at the head of a group of five and had the faster Halliday right on his wheel. While Halliday’s pass felt inevitable, the 2023 edition of Troy Herfoss has been homologated with “you shall not pass… quite so easily”. But Halliday was not to be denied and the question now was “Will Cru catch YRT teammate Jones?” The last time they diced in race two it was of a manner most unbecoming- but very entertaining. The gap was less than a second between the blue R1Ms, and with half the race to come… it was on.
Staring in fifth tried a neat move on Herfoss into turn four but ran wide and effectively took a long lap penalty. Halliday was all over Jones and looking for a polite time to pass. He found it via some clever work that started at turn three and he got it done by turn four and dared to look ahead to Waters.
But that was no longer a realistic possibility as Waters was some 4.4 seconds ahead. Halliday would not give up, putting down the fastest lap of the race and dropping the margin to just under four seconds. Allerton, Herfoss and a watchful Bryan Staring continued a battle that has existed between them in one form or another for over 10 years. Clean, hard, gentlemanly racing and it was a sight to behold.
Waters looked at his pit board and when he saw the gap drop to under four seconds, just neatly banged out a few fast laps to get the gap back to five seconds. Halliday was now lapping in the low 1:34s to Waters mid 1:33s and with a lap to go, here were the three races in a row that Waters had dreamed of. Home in second was a valiant Cru Halliday who had DNF-2-2 to his name and Mike Jones in third to ensure that even here at a bogey track, he walks away with second for the round.
A late error from Herfoss at turn four gave Allerton a big enough gap to hold on to fourth, Herfoss brought it home in fifth with Starting a little way back in sixth.
Overall for the weekend, it was Josh Waters with a perfect 76 points thanks to pole-1-1-1 with reigning champion Mike Jones a very handy second with a hungry and slightly disappointed Troy Herfoss in third.
With just four weeks until round two, the much-anticipated return of the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul to Sydney Motorsport Park under lights and the season is already taking shape.
That shape is the ominous outline of Josh Waters aboard a McMartin Racing Ducati.
On a pretty damp track with the sun shining, the final Supersport race got underway and immediately, Harrison Voight was away, but not off the front as he is want to do.
Olly Simpson was all over the shop, variously up close but also quite far from the apexes (“I was just chasing dry track!” he said later). Jake Farnsworth had been showing serious damp weather speed and was up to second and trying to chase only to have a scary low-side on the way to The Hayshed, skidding down the middle of the track and then mercifully exiting the track quickly and safely.
These goings-on gave Voight all he needed to get a gap and he was soon out to 6 seconds. Behind Voight it was frantic. A single-bike-width dry line was appearing, but the riders were nevertheless three-wide down the straight and tipping into turn one in a manner that caused breath to be held.
With eight laps to go it was Voight from a determined Olly Simpson, a rejuvenated Ty Lynch, a very loose Mitch Simpson and the ever-present Jack Passfield. The gap to Voight had dropped to four seconds.
The fastest lap was with Olly Simpson; a 1:49, then Voight noted the drying track and was down to a 1:47. But for the fact that all riders were on an intermediate tyre, the lap times could have dropped even further.
With the track drying, Tom Bramich- who was down the order early- was able to get up to seventh and set off after the front group. Jack Passfield tried passing three riders into turn four, but had to settle for just two. He was now up to fourth. Declan Carberry had worked his way up to third through cunning and skill and was looking to cement his podium spot.
Voight now had 4.76 seconds back to Olly Simpson who had six seconds to the chase group consisting of Lynch, Passfield, Hayden Nelson, Carberry, Lytras, Mitch Simpson, Bramich and Glenn Nelson.
The chase group were fighting at every opportunity for third. No one held down third spot for more than half a lap and while Lytras seemed the most likely to hang on, Passfield and Lynch refused to let go.
Voight continued on his merry solo way and by the end of the final lap, he took a 3.5-second victory over an equally lonely Olly Simpson. Some four seconds later, John Lytras crossed the line for a very handy third place at a circuit where he wanted to limit his losses.
The overall points situation was quite the surprise. With various riders racking DNFs it was the still-returning-from-surgery Ty Lynch who was thereabouts all weekend and took the win from two-wins-and-a-DNF Harry Voight and The Phillip Island specialist Jack Passfield.
Voight indicated that he will not be at Sydney Motorsport Park for Round Two but would be keen to return to the championship potentially for the final round.
We now resume normal transmission…
The Supersport 300 crew rolled out in the bright sun early on Sunday to open proceedings for the day and Cameron Swain lead them away at the jump. Swain had said before the race he was keen to see if he could break away and get a gap, his preferred racing situation.
Opening a .6 gap mid-lap made it seem a possibility and the immediate chasers; Henry Snell, Jai Russo and Cooper Rowntree were perhaps a little too busy fighting amongst themselves for the right to chase Swain.
But The Island- especially when it is windy- is a tough place to get away in this class against the class of this field.
But Swain just kept his head down and reeled off fastest laps and while he had one of the lowest top speeds down the straight, he was working elsewhere to make up the deficit.
Chasing the lead group solo was Brandon Demmery who had inexplicably missed the front group and found himself six seconds behind the leaders in no man’s land. A two-point leader in the championship pre-race, the new on-the-road leader was Jai Russo.
Tara Morrison went down with three laps to go at turn four and would be rightly disappointed with two DNFs on a weekend that promised so much.
Meanwhile, out front, Swain was gone. He was now at 3 seconds and there were just the crumbs left to scrap for. He was still lapping around half a second a lap faster than the chasers. While we have seen riders in this class ride away from the field, the nature of the 300s – where the drafting is so important – makes Swain’s effort even more admirable.
Into the final lap, Swain held a 7.5-second lead from the chasers in Russo, Luke Jhonston, Brodie Gawith, Casey Middleton and Cooper Rowntree.
Pole sitter Cameron Swain took the win from Brodie Gawith and Luke Jhonston with Snell fourth and Marcus Hamod in fifth.
Overall, Jai Russo took the weekend by a single point over Brandon Demmery with Henry Snell third, Swain in fourth and Luke Johnston in fifth.
A close season of Supersport 300 awaits us. (Is there any other type?)