2021 ASBK FINALE – MAXWELL CROWNED | Sport
Wayne Maxwell wins back to back titles with victory at the ASBK finale while Jack Miller scores a podium
After all the hype surrounding the final round of the 2021 mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship, Wayne Maxwell and the Boost Mobile K-Tech team have proved unstoppable, successfully defending their crown at The Bend Motorsport Park.
With strong crowds helped by the presence of factory Ducati MotoGP star Jack Miller and 2018 Endurance World Champion Josh Hook, The Bend was buzzing with anticipation. During practice and qualifying on Saturday, Maxwell was able to reel off the hot laps at will, clinching pole position 0.7 seconds under the lap record. Miller, riding a lower-spec machine, was in second. His Ducati V4 R had been prepared by Demsosport Ducati’s Ben Henry, with the key difference being that only the standard road ECU was able to be used under Dorna’s strict testing rules. Local favourites Daniel Falzon (William Adams CAT) and Arthur Sissis (Uni) were genuinely quick, slotting in third and fourth respectively.
As the lights went out it was Sissis with his customary lightning start, however Maxwell managed the holeshot with Oli Bayliss (Desmosport Ducati) slotting in to third. Without launch control Jack Miller blew the start and dropped to seventh before moving to fourth, with Glenn Allerton (NextGen Motorsports) fifth. Falzon was an early crasher while Josh Hook, who was partnering Troy Herfoss on a second Penrite Honda Racing Fireblade, retired with a mechanical issue. Up front Maxwell was untroubled, gapping Miller by 1.3 seconds in the early stages, with Miller’s Michelin rear tyre already showing signs of movement.
Behind Allerton was Cru Halliday (Yamaha Racing Team), the first Dunlop-shod entry waiting to pounce if any of the others ran into tyre-wear problems. Bayliss, who had been running in fourth, suddenly dropped back and was forced to retire with a mechanical problem.
As the laps wound down Maxwell stood well clear with Miller hanging onto whatever tyre life he had left. Just behind, ready to make a move was Arthur Sissis, riding a patient and controlled race himself. Just as Sissis looked primed to take on Miller, disaster struck for local rider Evan Byles. He had high sided on the back part of the circuit and looked in terrible pain on the edge of the circuit, immediately triggering a red flag. A three-lap restart was declared, with most riders able to fit a new tyre – except Miller.
On the restart, Miller incredibly took the lead briefly, but was soon passed by Maxwell and clearly had no grip, literally slipping down the order. Also in trouble was Sissis, who later explained his clutch had been destroyed. “It was all good until the restart! I’ve been fast since the first practice, it was my best-ever qualifying, I knew being up the front I could have a good race. Jack’s tyre looked a bit rooted and I was just waiting a bit. I took off good, then I tried to hit second gear, but the bike went nowhere.”
Taking full advantage of Miller’s tyre woes was Allerton and Halliday, slotting into second and third behind Maxwell. The three-lap sprint offered high potential for a desperate move, with that fear realised further back as Aiden Wagner shoved it up the inside of Miller and lost the front, taking them both out of the race much to the disappointment of the crowd. Troy Herfoss rode to an incredible seventh place given his injury recovery after Darwin, with Penrite Honda team owner Deon Coote simply referring to the two-time champ as “an absolute animal just for being here”.
Race two was a chance for redemption for many, but after Miller struggled off the line it was Josh Hook who fell at turn one, taking out an unaware Sissis with him. Shortly afterwards Falzon highsided with several other riders involved, triggering another red flag. It was later revealed Falzon had broken his pelvis and femur.
Bayliss led briefly after the restart, before running wide and being shuffled back firstly by Maxwell and then Allerton and Miller. After several laps the front trio had settled as Halliday made his move on Bayliss. Halliday pushed on, getting the best view of Miller as his Dunlop tyre started to work.
“I saw Jack’s tyre after the first race, it was really chopped up, so I knew I could get close to him. I started rolling off some 51s later in the race. I would have liked to make the pass on Jack because I may never get the chance again.” Halliday emphasised just how hard Miller worked the brakes. “Where he was strong, I was too slow. Where he was a bit weak with the tyre I could gain on him. I was trying to use that back part of the circuit to my advantage, but I just didn’t want to push it too far. Maybe if there was another lap…”
By the end of the race Maxwell had sustained everything thrown at him, riding to a three-second victory ahead of an impressive Allerton, who commented, “any day you can say you’ve beaten Jack Miller, it’s a good day!” Miller completed the podium much to the delight of fans, with Miller in turn just as delighted to provide Aussie race fans some entertainment. In parc ferme it was an elated Craig McMartin that greeted the now 2021 champion Maxwell, once again unfazed by the pressure. He was joined shortly afterwards by his two young sons, showing rare emotion and choking back a few tears. Maxwell was adamant no decision had been made about 2022, but the privateer Boost Mobile team were largely faultless throughout the last two seasons. The temptation to ride on would be huge.
“I was having so much fun in that second race, spinning the tyre up, I was in a really good rhythm. The bike was amazing, the team gave me a great package – and they’ve had some really late nights in the lead up to this round – and this was the first time we’ve all been back together since Darwin. It’s so good to have my family around me this weekend, my two boys, today will be good memories for them for when they get older. I’m just going to have a break with my family now, and work out what the future has in store.”
Australian Supersport Championship
The Motorsports TV Supersport class was the tightest of all the championships heading into the final round, with three riders in the mix for victory. Broc Pearson (City2Surf Locksmith) held a slim seven-point lead over Tom Edwards (Bikebiz), with Max Stauffer (GTR Motostars Team) just six points behind and still well in the mix.
Pearson grabbed the crucial point for pole position but Stauffer and Edwards both made a sensational start, with Stauffer grabbing the holeshot. Edwards surged to the lead on the opening lap while Pearson, settling in third, began working on Stauffer. Billy Van Eerde (Trinder Racing), riding for the first time in Supersport in Australia, had entered on a borrowed bike and was settling behind Luke Power (White’s Powersports). By the second lap, Pearson had accounted for Stauffer but soon experienced the first of several ‘moments,’ losing the rear and forcing him to steady his attack on Edwards. Edwards had already built a solid two-second buffer on a circuit that is all about controlling tyre wear.
By mid-race distance, the gap from Edwards to Pearson had blown out to almost four seconds, with Edwards able to maintain his pace. In contrast, Pearson was being kicked out of the seat as his rear tyre protested. A DNF for Pearson would have been disastrous, while out front Edwards looked in total control.
Further back Stauffer and Power remained in touch, with Stauffer finally in range to make a move on Pearson by lap eight. At this stage, the top six were circulating under the old lap record. While Edwards cleared out for a 5.7 second win, Stauffer made a move stick on Pearson to take second. USA-bound Power was a late retirement, handing fourth to good mate Scott Nicholson (Traction Control Motorsport) with John Lytras (Caboolture Yamaha) fifth. This set up the ultimate battle for the title, with one point separating Pearson and Edwards.
From the opening laps of the second race, Edwards looked in control to lead from Pearson. Stauffer slotted in behind but was under pressure from Van Eerde and Nicholson, with Luke Power looking for a way forward. Up front Edwards was showing pace, but a big moment on lap four let Pearson through. Lap times were slowing as much as two seconds per lap as tyre wear set in, and the tension grew for the leading pair.
Edwards closed on Pearson, threatening to strike but not with quite the same conviction as before. Edwards finally had the confidence to make his move at the end of lap six, only for Pearson to pass him back. Edwards was strong in the back half of the circuit, whereas Pearson seemed to hold the advantage under brakes at the end of the straight. Pearson did just that as the pair entered the final lap, leaving it up to Edwards to make a move around the back. Edwards gave it everything, looking for lines and heaping on the pressure as the 4.95km distance wore down. This time around Pearson defended well, not even a moment at turn 17 could unnerve him, holding on for the race and championship.
Edwards and Stauffer were gallant in defeat, with Edwards having bested his own lap record during the race while John Lytras and Scott Nicholson finished fourth and fifth respectively. To make the top step Pearson not only had to triumph on the track, he also had to overcome breaking his back twice and numerous bolted and plated bones. The journey to Superbike now complete.
“Honestly, I went over the line and I thought ‘this can’t be real.’ A Supersport championship to some might be a breeze but I’ve been through a lot. I rode my heart out and trained my heart out to be here. I was really trying to manage that second race, I know Maxy doesn’t ever give up! Looking over my shoulder, that was all to know how far back third was. My own pit board can only tell me where second place (Tom) is, so for the majority of the race I’m also looking at his board. With a couple of corners to go there I could barely breathe, my mouth was so dry!”
Pole position in the Supersport 300 class went to championship leader Ben Baker (Yamaha YRD) but he was immediately under pressure in the first race from Archie McDonald (ProGP Racing Junior Team), Glenn Nelson, Angus Grenfell (ABU Engineering) and Tom Drane (Construction Supply Specialists). After a tight battle, McDonald took the victory from Drane and Baker. Race two was another torrid battle with up to 10 bikes in the lead pack. Nelson took victory by the slimmest of margins from Reece Oughtred, with McDonald making the podium. Zac Johnson made a brave ride to fourth, making moves to pass up to four riders at once and delaying Ben Bakers championship celebrations. The final race saw another battle between Nelson and McDonald, this time with McDonald taking the win by 0.077 seconds to Nelson. Drane completed the podium with Angus Grenfell fourth and the new champion, Ben Baker in fifth.
The race winner Archie McDonald will compete in the bLU cRU European Talent Cup in 2022, and said being in the high profile ProGP team came with drawbacks. “It’s a bit of pressure and they expect a lot, but I know I can improve again next year…it does feel good to get a win on the board!” The weekend belonged to Baker, however, completing a comprehensive championship win in race three by 28 points to Reece Oughtred.
“Coming into the weekend, I didn’t feel too stressed, but that last race, that was quite stressful! I was constantly just sitting up trying to find some clear track…every corner, if you weren’t overtaking someone, you would get smashed up the inside. I’m just glad it’s over! Towards the end of the weekend, you can notice everyone improving, sorting out their suspension setups, that type of thing, so the races become more hectic and the lead group becomes bigger. But the whole team has worked really hard for the double championship, and now I can’t wait to get started on next year.”
For the first time one rider has been able to double up and win both the Supersport 300 title and Yamaha R3 Cup, with 2021 champion Ben Baker (Yamaha YRD) never off the podium at The Bend. After qualifying on pole, it was Carter Thompson (GTR Motostars Team) that led race one from the start, forming a leading group with Glenn Nelson (Buddys Pest Control), Baker, Archie McDonald (ProGP Racing Junior Team) and Angus Grenfell (ABU Engineering). After a strong battle through the race, McDonald prevailed for the win from Nelson and Baker. Race two on Sunday saw Carter Thompson fall heavily on the second lap, running wide on the entry to turn 14. After the restart Varis Fleming took the fight to Nelson, but Nelson held on for the win from McDonald and new champion Baker.
Baker was congratulated by the field and donned the customary gold helmet on the cool down lap. In parc ferme Nelson revealed he was lucky to see the last lap board, but held it together for the win.
“I also didn’t have my knee sliders on, so just had to use my leathers, I was happy to see the chequered flag!” Nelson explained. In the afternoon the final race also had to be restarted after Cameron Dunker crashed at turn one, triggering a red flag. New champion Baker ran riot at the restart, pulling away from the field by one second per lap to claim a stunning six-second victory over McDonald and Nelson.
Oceania Junior Cup
Two riders in the bLU cRU Oceania Cup managed to hit the podium in every race at The Bend, with Ryan Larkin claiming the round win. “I’m just so happy to be here on this track, they were crackers of races!” said Larkin. The 14 year-old from Swan Hill, who said he learned to ride on a Pee Wee 50 chasing chooks, took the race-one victory after battling Cameron Swain and Nate O’Neill. Swain said he was well aware of the championship points position, knowing that second was enough for him to claim the title.
“There was a point in that race where I got a little swallowed up, back to fifth, but I knew if I finished at least second I would have the title wrapped up. That means in the next two races I can just go for it and not have to worry about the championship.”
Swain delivered, taking victory in the second race from Sam Drane with Larkin third. Nate O’Neill, Harrison Watts, Levi Russo and Hayden Nelson filled a tight top seven, covered by 1.5 seconds. The final race also produced a strong battle between Larkin and Swain, with Larkin taking his second victory, Swain second and Hayden Nelson third.
1 W Maxwell Duc 51
2 G Allerton BMW 40
3 C Halliday Yam 35
4 J Metcher Yam 28
5 L Jhonston BMW 23
W Maxwell 183, G Allerton 140, C Halliday 123, T Herfoss 120, O Bayliss 103
Motorsports TV Supersport
1 T Edwards Yam 45
2 B Pearson Yam 44
3 M Stauffer Yam 38
4 J Lytras Yam 33
5 S Nicholson Suz 33
B Pearson 135, T Edwards 129, M Stauffer 116, S Nicholson 91, D Skeer 90
Dunlop Supersport 300
1 A McDonald Yam 68
2 T Drane Kaw 54
3 A Grenfell Yam 46
4 G Nelson Yam 45
5 R Oughtred Yam 45
B Baker 171, R Oughtred 143, Z Johnson 134, C Dunker 127, A McDonald 119
YMF R3 Cup 300 Round 3
1 A McDonald Yam 65
2 G Nelson Yam 63
3 B Baker Yam 61
4 T Drane Yam 48
5 A Grenfell Yam 47
B Baker 131, C Dunker 96, R Oughtred 89, B Demmery 76, C Gilmore 72
bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup Round
1 R Larkin Yam 68
2 C Swain Yam 65
3 H Nelson Yam 49
4 L Russo Yam 45
5 H Watts Yam 44
C Swain 208, R Larkin 152, L Russo 137, H Watts 121, N O’Neill 121
REPORT MATT O’CONNELL PHOTOGRAPHY ROB MOTT