Finishing the year at Sydney Motorsport Park is a huge highlight for the whole Australian SuperBike racing fraternity. With most of the category championships still up for grabs, and some very finely balanced with as little as one point separating riders, this final round is closely watched by team statisticians.
It is an especially nervous time for family, too. In fact, I stood beside Brayden Elliots’ aunt while Brayden rode for his tilt at the Swann ASBK Supersport championship on Saturday in which he was tied after six laps with arch rival Callum Spriggs, and my ears are still ringing from the enthusiastic yelling and screaming.
In a move away from the usual Saturday/Sunday race meetings, ASBK organisers elected to make it a Friday/Saturday schedule with racing starting later on each day in order to run the timetabling through into a “twilight” meet in an attempt to offer “after work” racing for spectators on Friday night. It’s a creative attempt by organisers to bring more spectators to the event and cater for our ever changing social habits.
Friday saw the completion of the FX Extreme 2015 racing calendar. Whilst most were racing to end the season strongly Sugar Plum Racings’ Richard Draper was just pleased to be back in leathers following an absence since May due to shoulder surgery. Also in Pro Twin Craig Masters had spent the morning sorting out serious brake issues only to have to push the bike all the way back from turn 18 due to an oversight when someone forgot to fill the fuel tank. As he said”…with a thousand other things going on someone forgot to fill me up”.
Race one of Pro Twin/Naked Bikes early on Friday was a terrible way for championship frontrunner Kris Keen to start his campaign to win his championship. Both his bike and Chris Perini’s both failed to start off the grid and had to be pushed aside. Ben O’Connor jumped the start earning him a 5 second penalty. Craig McMartin was having a stellar race until Beau Beaton, who’d been shadowing him closely, jumped him on the second last lap taking the lead. Not happy McMartin waited his chance and slipstreamed Beaton all the way from turn 18 crossing the line two thousandths/second ahead of Beaton. Visually there was no appreciable difference between the bikes at the finish line. They actually looked like they crossed the line in a dead heat. Race Two saw neither Beau Beaton or Craig McMartin start. This left the field wide open for series leaders Kris Keen and Adrian Pierpont to further stamp their ownership on the title race. Unfortunately Darren Jones had other ideas with an 8 second runaway win from Pierpont as he and Keen crossed like Siamese twins side by side with only five thousands/second separating them. It’s incredible that the timing equipment can record such miniscule time differences.
Formula Oz, sometimes known as the “race what you brung” event, saw double duty for McMartin, Perini and Beaton. Beaton was pushed off the start grid with engine trouble and Perini failed to finish. McMartin however was mixing it up the front with category champion Paul Byrne, leading for most of the race until a last lap charge from Byrne took the lollies away from McMartin . Third place Ben Henry stayed comparatively close to the leaders and had left the main pack well behind. Race two was also a close affair as Beau Beaton got his troubled bike going again and put on a spectacular race with Paul Byrne that had the crowd running back and forth across the pit rooftop not wanting to miss any of the action. Once again Ben Henry had a nine second lead on the main pack but was unable to find the extra second he needed to get past Byrne to challenge Beaton. Side by side across the line and Beaton just edged out Byrne for the win.
Fridays Superbikes set up a tension filled expectation that something awesome was about to unfold. The last race on the FX Xtreme calendar did not disappoint. As the lead group of Troy Herfoss, Wayne Maxwell , Glenn Allerton and Cru Halliday ripped up the track it was very obvious that the championship was going to be earned the hard way today. And so it came to pass that Herfoss finally got his championship when pushing so hard Maxwell took a tumble at turn nine leaving Herfoss the 2015 FX Xtreme champ. Unhurt but disappointed Maxwell could only look forward to Saturdays three-race ASBK program to avenge his loss.
Saturday the Swann Australian Superbike program was unleashed and the day started with the eFXC electric bikes. Making a medium-high pitched whirring sound rather than a throaty roar it was quite strange to see these bikes hurtling down the main straight at 239 kph semi-quietly. The Voltron Evo piloted by Danny Pottage is clearly the faster bike and competently ridden giving him the 5 race wins during the weekend.
The Ninja FX-300 battle deluxe was really about who was going to take the second and third place trophies. Paul Young has a significant point lead and his two race wins today solidified his championship position. Only 21 points separated the next four riders which included Tony Jones and Jack Dawes who split the best results for the minor placings with Jones recording a 1-4-4 race record and Dawes a 3-2-2 all podium day.
Supersports was earmarked on the program as a definite “do not miss”! In particular all year there has been a fierce competitive chemistry between Callum Spriggs and Brayden Elliot. Coming into todays racing only nine points separated the pair. Add to the mix Michael Blair who wasn’t out of contention either only 24 points back of Elliot. So when Blair took race one with Elliot in second, Spriggs lead was dwindling. They were coming after him. Race two and Elliot reversed the win-second relationship with Blair and Spriggs was relegated to fourth. The tension on the pit lane balcony was palpable. As I mentioned previously Elliots’ aunt was a nervous wreck. So race three, the absolute final race of the year and Spriggs and Elliot are separated by only one point. A real cliffhanger. Eight laps from glory. They line up, the starter sends them on their way and Elliot gets the better start. Spriggs hasn’t started particularly well all day and ends up hitting the first turn in sixth. Troy Guenther decides to throw it all down and squeezes Elliot wide in turn two to take the lead. Elliot seems to settle in to a “stay close to Guenther” mindset all the while keeping a watch in his rears hoping like crazy that Spriggs gets caught in traffic. Calculating on the fly it appears that all Elliot needs is for there to be one rider between him and Spriggs come the chequered flag.
By lap five Spriggs has jumped up two places sitting in fourth. Elliot turns on the power and is now trying everything he can to edge past Guenther. He does on two occasions through turn two only to be thwarted by Guenther holding him at bay both times. Its mid lap seven and Spriggs eventually gets past Blair into third spot and is hammering towards turn nine looking to try and put a final move on Elliot. Spriggs brakes super late into nine and finds himself so wide on the exit that he’s in the dirt. Lost opportunity and Elliot squirts away. Elliot now knows that he must get past Guenther if he is a chance to win the championship. Elliot jumps on the juice even before he’s out of turn eighteen trying to slipstream Guenther down the straight. He’s so so close… even riding the fastest lap of the race at 1:30.06 with a top speed of 256kph. He’s within two one thousands /second of Guenther across the line. First-Guenther…Second -Elliot…Third – Spriggs. BUT…its not over yet. The drama continues. Now both Elliot and Spriggs finish equal on 373 points. TIE!!! The rules say that a countback on quantity of podium finishes are the mechanism by which a stalemate is to be broken. With eleven podiums Spriggs is awarded the victory in this most enthralling series.
The Superbikes came to battle with an already tied series. Wayne Maxwell (Yamaha) and Troy Herfoss (Honda) are locked at 316 points. Allerton (Yamaha) is not out of it either only 34 points adrift. Three races away from deciding the “king of the mountain” Australian SuperBike Championship. And race one was exhausting to watch. It was by far one of the best races of the series. Herfoss held pole. Crappy start and all of a sudden in the blink of an eye he’s in fifth place by turn two. Jamie Stauffer (Honda) grabs lead but with superior straight line speed Mike Jones (Kawasaki) takes it away from Stauffer. Stauffer puts on an underarm move on Jones at turn two but runs his line wide and Jones takes it back with a “thank you very much” move. Stauffer using his craftiness takes and holds the lead while Herfoss took no prisoners moving back up to third and attacking Jones. Running wide on the last lap Herfoss’ chances went out the window and Stauffer held on for a magnificent win. Maxwell finished fourth. Advantage Herfoss! Race two and Mike Jones just went nuts. Herfoss hung on and Maxwell too. They both knew that there could be no other rider between them if they were going to keep the points differential to a minimum. Maybe there is something in the saying…” keep your friends close but your enemies closer”. Race two finished Jones to Herfoss to Maxwell. Just out of the podiums Glenn Allerton was only five onethousands/second away. Race three and for the first time all day Herfoss saw what the back of Maxwells bike looked like. Jones once again took off like a scalded cat and Stauffer, who didn’t feature in race two, suddenly unleashed the beast he had brought to race one. He and Jones ended up only one- onethousandths/second apart at the line and Maxwell so close they could have all been triplets. Herfoss was within two seconds of the lead group but one suspects that he already knew what the outcome of this race meant for him. If the fact that he came in the back gate standing on his pegs with arms outstretched to the heavens and one finger on each hand pointing skyward said anything then we all knew that we were looking at the new 2015 ASBK Superbike Champion.
Words and pics by Rob Annesley