Untroubled Waters makes it five victories from five starts in 2023
The juggernaut that is Joshua Waters and the McMartin Racing with K-Tech Ducati V4 R continue to dominate the Australian Superbike Championship, recording two race wins at Sydney Motorsport Park to remain unbeaten in 2023. It was the first visit to the New South Wales circuit since 2019, and this time it would be under lights in a condensed format that saw practice and qualifying completed on the Friday with racing concluding on Saturday night.
The Yamaha Racing Team duo of Cru Halliday and Mike Jones threw down the challenge early, with local Halliday busting Robbie Bugden’s qualifying record from 2013 to take pole from his teammate Jones. Waters completed the front row and, as the first race got underway, it was Waters that led. If ever there was a chance for Halliday to claim his maiden Superbike victory, it was this weekend and his start didn’t let him down, maintaining touch in the opening laps along with Glenn Allerton (Spectro Racing Oils – GT Racing BMW), Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing) and Max Stauffer (GTR MotoStars Yamaha). Jones had work to do after slipping to sixth, sitting in front of Arthur Sissis (Unitech Racing Yamaha) and Bryan Staring (MotoGo Yamaha).
As the field settled, battles emerged as Waters attempted a breakaway. Halliday responded, and further down the order Jones had also upped the ante – firstly accounting for Stauffer then Herfoss and Allerton. Herfoss was late on the brakes at every opportunity, latching on to the battle for fourth with Allerton, Staring and Sissis with Stauffer not far away. As the frantic pace waged on, Halliday began to reel in Waters before disaster struck for Jones as his bike expired in a cloud of white smoke along the front straight. The red flags were brought out, the race declared and Waters continued undefeated.
“That was out of my control,” lamented Halliday. “I’d closed that gap from seven tenths to a tenth, there was absolutely a move coming.” Herfoss completed the podium followed by Allerton, Staring, Sissis and Stauffer. Ted Collins (Livson BMW), Broc Pearson (Desmosport Ducati) and Matt Walters (Australian Motorcycle Marine Finance – Aprilia) rounded out the top 10.
Later in the evening, Race 2 saw ASBK racing under lights for the first time ever – with the added complexity of a wet track. Sissis blitzed the start while Halliday and Allerton were flying, but it was all for nothing as steady rain fell, bringing out the red flags with an eight-lap restart announced.
Sissis made another flyer but a determined Herfoss pushed through, followed by Halliday and Allerton into the driving rain. As Herfoss and Halliday ran deep and wide at Turn 1, Waters, who had been sitting patiently mid-pack, made his move. The Mildura rider then gapped the field by nearly a second in the space of one lap and, by the time Herfoss made a pass on Allerton at the start of lap six, Waters was over seven seconds clear in a wet-weather masterclass. Behind Herfoss, the podium fight was on. Halliday and Sissis had both dispatched of Allerton, with Sissis hunting down his maiden Superbike podium. It wasn’t to be, with Sissis remaining fourth but ahead of Allerton who had to fight to keep the fast-finishing Pearson at bay. Collins and Stauffer were next home, with Jones taking 10th. With his main bike fire damaged, the YRT team had very little time to prepare his second bike for wet running. The outcome means Jones now has plenty of work to do to stay in the championship fight for 2023.
“It was an incredible result this weekend, especially in the wet where we didn’t really have a lot of data for setup. I felt like the faster I rode the better the grip was, because the tyre was generating more heat. At the start of the race I could see everyone was struggling and I didn’t feel great myself, so I had to change the way I rode. In the first race I did have some grip issues, but the pace was so fast – racing under the old lap record for all but one lap. It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time if you get a red flag; it worked out for us and now we prepare for Queensland.”
The series now moves to Jones’ home track of Queensland Raceway over 28-30 April.
With another large Yamaha-dominated field of 26 riders, Sean Condon (Digbiz Earthworx) used his local knowledge to take pole in the Michelin Supersport class but it was Oli Simpson who snatched the holeshot ahead of Tom Bramich (Carl Cox Motorsport), who made an incredible start despite qualifying in seventh. Jake Farnsworth (Worth Race Developments) also started hard, taking the lead from Simpson by the end of the second lap.
A large group formed at the front that included Hayden Nelson (Taree Motorcycles), John Lytras (Caboolture Yamaha), Ty Lynch (AMR Motorsports) and Cameron Dunker (GTR MotoStars) – but it was Farnsworth and Simpson giving it everything alongside the experienced Condon. A mistake at Turn 3 dropped Simpson down the order, while Condon held his composure to seize the lead following a huge moment for Farnsworth. Settled at the front and finding confidence, Condon was unstoppable and took the flag by one second from Farnsworth. Bramich completed the podium with Simpson, Dunker, Lynch, Lytras and Nelson fighting it out down to eighth.
Race 2’s mixed conditions left riders scrambling to decide on tyres. While Simpson charged through from the second row of the grid, Race 1 winner Condon went backwards after choosing to run on slicks. Three laps in Simpson held the lead from Lynch and Dunker with Jack Passfield (Stay Upright) and Luke Sanders (Race Center) also looking strong. After impressing in the wet at Phillip Island, the luck of Sanders ran out as his rear-end flicked around with venom on the approach to the fast Turn 4. As Dunker and Simpson pushed out front, the rest of the field battled the drying circuit depending on their tyre choice. Condon crashed out while others moved forward, including Scott Nicholson (Traction Control Motorsport) who was on a charge.
With two laps remaining, Dunker looked threatening, but a slip from Simpson allowed him through. Nearly 20 seconds behind, Passfield and Lynch had fallen into the clutches of a chasingJonathon Nahlous (Complete AV), Dallas Skeer (YRD) and Nicholson. The bad luck continued for Passfield, left behind as Nicholson drafted Nahlous and Nelson to the line to take third to fifth. Simpson took second, while the focus was deservedly on a jubilant Dunker, claiming victory in the wet in only his fifth Supersport start.
“When I saw it was starting to rain in Race 2, there were some flashbacks to Phillip Island where I didn’t do so well. I was happy to sit behind Oli the whole race, as he gave me a reference for how the track was. The last two laps he made a mistake and I was able to capitalise on that. I can’t thank my team enough and also thanks to Aidan Hayes for letting me ride his bike. “
REPORT MATT O’CONNELL + PHOTOGRAPHY ROB MOTT