Yamaha privateer Aiden Wagner has completed an extraordinary return to the local road racing ranks by claiming the overall victory in round one of the 2019 Australian Superbike Championship at Phillip Island.
The Queenslander won today’s third and final 12-lap race to complete a 2-1-2 scorecard at Phillip Island on his YZF-R1 – his first local Superbike event since March 2015 before he went WorldSSP racing.
He now takes a 16pt lead (71 to 55) over fellow Yamaha rider Cru Halliday into round two at Wakefield Park, near Goulburn (NSW), from March 22-24.
Josh Waters (Suzuki, 50pts) was third overall in round one, followed by Kawasaki pair Mike Jones (49pts) and Bryan Staring (48ts).
“It was unbelievable to take the round win, and I knew I still had it in me,” said Wagner. “Even though we are a privateer team, I have an awesome group of experienced guys with me and I had high hopes after a recent test at Phillip Island.
“The results didn’t really show in WorldSSP, but that experience has now made me a better rider.”
Today’s race provided a brilliant round one climax, as an initial five-way dice at the front eventually morphed into eight screaming superbikes constantly swapping positions around the 4.448km grand prix circuit.
And the pace was red-hot as well, with Jones setting a new lap record (1:31.881) as he spent most of the race arm-wrestling with Wagner for the top spot.
However, Wagner was consistently the more aggressive, and on the last lap he was unchallenged as he brought up his second win in succession ahead of Jones, Halliday, Daniel Falzon (Yamaha), Waters, Wayne Maxwell (Suzuki), defending champion Troy Herfoss (Honda) and Staring.
Race one winner Maxwell was back in action after his dramatic last-corner exit in race two when he and Wagner touched, while Aussie WorldSBK icon Troy Bayliss (Ducati) was again absent after two big crashes on Friday and Saturday saw him break fingers on both hands.
In the Supersport ranks, Tom Toparis was in a class of his own at Phillip Island with a clean sweep of victories, completing the round on 76pts ahead of fellow Yamaha riders Nic Liminton (60) and Oliver Bayliss (52).
Photos Cori Mitchell