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AMCN’s ASBK reporter Matt O’Connell gets on his soapbox about the format of Australia’s premier-class racing series

Recently, Motorcycling Australia (MA) called for the racing community to submit rule change requests for 2024. MA said it was “actively seeking feedback on all rules change requests for the 2024 Manual of Motorcycle Sport (MoMS) as part of the commitment to ensuring a fair and competitive environment for all motorcycle sports enthusiasts”.

What about the unwritten rules? Like when and where the series runs? Something I would like to see change relates to the structure of the season. As one prominent Superbike racer put it recently: “I’d like to see MA choose between the benefit of having Jack Miller turn up at The Bend versus the benefit of running the opening round with world Superbikes.”

The problem: ASBK doesn’t have an ‘off-season’.

Is Jack Miller at The Bend vitally important to ASBK? Yep. And I’d go so far as to say Jack deserves it. He genuinely puts in for the benefit of Aussie racing – I think anyone who has attended those rounds at The Bend would agree with me.

What about world Superbikes? Should ASBK continue that alliance? Yep. I agree with that one, too. I love the atmosphere and I love that we get to see our riders basically lapping at the same speed as international riders – but on lower-spec machinery. 

So, can we have both? The way things are at the moment, the season is bookended by February’s WorldSBK round and the finale at The Bend in December, which means there’s really no off-season. Does it matter? Yes. Teams need time to sort out sponsorship, who will be riding their bikes, implementing bike updates and testing… it’s a long brain-exploding list.

For the riders, they currently have to remain at peak fitness for 12 months of the year. While we’re at the pub having a few beers, at the pool or relaxing, Troy Herfoss is probably on his pushbike riding up a hill. 

Kinda funny until you consider there isn’t really any time off for any rider. I think a successful series needs that downtime so everyone can heal their mind and body properly and prepare for the next stage of competition. The top 10 in ASBK are either international-level athletes, or young guys learning from international-level athletes. It’s not the 2000s anymore: not one Superbike rider is sitting at home drinking beer and eating biscuits like Bandit Heeler.

If we look at the year itself, there are huge punctuations and the general consensus in the paddock is that it needs to be tidied up. It opens in late February at Phillip Island before a one-month break puts the series in Sydney for round two. One month later, it’s up to Quensland raceway before the Superbikes make the trek to Darwin six weeks later in the middle of June. From there it’s back to Queensland’s Morgan Park a month after that, then it’s a 14-week break to Phillip Island’s round six in late October ahead of the season finale six weeks later at The Bend in early December. 

On top of riders having to stay physically and mentally prepared for 12 months of the year, the added financial pressure is immense. Yes, there are testing bans – but riders and teams still need to ‘keep their eye in’. This means unofficial testing whenever possible, and that means dollar signs popping up everywhere. Tyres are expensive. Fuel is expensive. People are expensive. Bikes are expensive. Just because there are no ASBK rounds to race, it doesn’t mean the competitors can stay idle.

In my mind, a more condensed series would offer so many benefits. One possibility that is continually thrown around is to run ASBK as a summer series, a concept that almost got off the ground a few years ago, to be run by an events company set up by Troy Bayliss. Manufacturer support would be necessary – and by that I mean Yamaha would need to be fully on board. Without Yamaha, motorcycle racing in Australia would be in serious jeopardy. Rightly or wrongly, its wishes need to be respected. Sponsors, importantly, would reap the benefits of having a concentrated period of exposure. Football, any code, you name it, none of these sports run all year round. 

A summer series schedule would attract international riders to compete in Australia – and vice versa. There’d be plenty of top-level BSB riders who would jump at the chance to spend the summer in Australia keeping their eye in racing a Superbike at Phillip Island. We saw the reaction from Faye Ho and BSB supremo Stuart Higgs when they attended the St George Summer Night Series earlier this year – immediately there was talk of an Ashes-style racing series; all sorts of great ideas. 


The other area of consternation is track choice. Safety and practicality are two concerns constantly popping up. The biggest positive in the last 12 months is, of course, the addition of night racing at Sydney Motorsport Park. That was a crowd and competitor favourite, but could we race there twice in a season? Why not? Throw in a few more rounds – even double up on some tracks like British Superbikes which would also reduce the perceived need for ‘unofficial testing’. 

The final issue relates to scheduling: what is the benefit of running ASBK with Supercars? Exposure is huge, but so is the expense. I don’t know about that one. 

But perhaps the biggest departure in thinking if a summer series went ahead would likely mean the championship would span over two calendar years… but other ‘big’ sports do it (think NBA and NFL).

To run a series like ASBK in a vast country with limited resources is certainly not an easy feat and, really, the public has been treated to some of the best competition of any sporting league in this country. Period.

Yes, credit must go to Peter Doyle and his crew at MA for enabling that. But, if MA is serious about “ensuring a fair and competitive environment for all motorcycle sports enthusiasts”, perhaps it needs to look further than the current rulebook?  

R2-Round Celebrations

Words Matt O’Connell + Photography Rob Mott