Honda Racing BSB contender looks toward the 2017 season.
After a breakout season in the British Superbike Championship (BSB) last year, experienced Australian international Jason O’Halloran will shoot for the title in 2017 aboard Honda Racing’s brand new CBR1000RR SP2. With seven podiums including a race win to his credit, O’Halloran finished fifth in the final standings during 2016 and will now carry that momentum into the upcoming season. CycleOnline.com.au contacted him while at home here on the south coast of New South Wales to speak about what’s ahead.
The new Honda is coming for the upcoming season, so you must have a lot of excitement for that.
Yeah, definitely. We’ve been waiting for the new Honda, because I’ve personally raced the current one that came out in 2008 since then. Especially for the past two or three years we’ve been looking for an update, which has taken a little while to come, but I rode the new Blade at Portimao in January and it was everything it says. Although it seems similar and still like a Fireblade, I think they’ve done a good job improving what was already a good bike. The power, you notice straight away, the fly-by-wire was good and for the guys buying it as a street bike, you can’t really ask for a better system in terms of electronics – the auto-blipper, quick-shifter and everything on the standard bike is incredible. They’ve waited a long time to bring it out, but now that they have it’s going to be really special.
Will you get much time on the race bike ahead of the new season?
It’s going to be a bit tight. The guys got the SP2, I think, on the 16th of January and the boys have been working on them at the workshop since then. We’ve got five or six days testing planned before the first race at Donington, so we will go to Spain at the beginning of March. We’ve got three years experience at a place called Monte Blanco now, so it’ll be a good reference. I think the plan is to get the first race out of the way, then do some more testing afterwards, rather than trying to rush it… that’s the plan we’ve got at the minute. We’re going to use the same swing-arms, the same tanks and the fundamentals such as Öhlins suspension and Nissin brakes will feel very similar – the general base of the bike isn’t going to be miles away from what we’ve had. I don’t think it’s going to take too long to get up to speed, as long as we get our heads around some more power and the fly-by-wire, we should be good to go.
Last year you ended up fifth in the championship with some really strong results along the way, so I guess this new bike’s come at a good time in your career, considering the continuity and the form you’ve been in…
Without a doubt, the timing of the new bike is good. Say, if it had come out a year ago, I’d just come off the back of a broken femur and smashed up hand, so would’ve been going in not really being able to understand the changes. Getting through 2016 and obviously having a really strong year, being fully-fit and 100 percent, the momentum’s there to make the most of the new bike. The timing’s good and I’ve been in the British championship for a long time now, so I think this year – everyone says it every single year – I am really going there to win the championship, knowing how I was riding last year and what we had. Most weekends from round four or five we were up in the top three and had six rounds on the bounce where we stood on the podium and were in the leading group, plus there were a few other races we possibly could have won or at least had more podiums. I think we’re in a good place as one of the top guys in the championship now, so we just need to take that next step to start winning some more races and put a challenge to the likes of Shakey [Shane Byrne] and Leon [Haslam], and I’m sure the likes of [Sylvain] Guintoli and [Davide] Giugliano will be there this year as well.
How important is it, once you’re in the Showdown, to really capitalise on that sector of the series?
Yeah, the Showdown format is really hard. Now that I’ve been involved in it, I realise how much harder it is than what it looks from the outside. I went to Oulton Park, which was the last round before the Showdown started, and I’d already qualified for it at the previous round. At the end of that round I think I was something like 70 points ahead of fourth in the championship, then once we moved into the Showdown I came away like four points down. It was all thrown out of the window because of the format. We started the Showdown really good at Donington, getting on the podium in race one, but I was taken out of the second race on the first lap. From that point onwards we just struggled to get it back – you can’t afford to have a DNF, but everybody who hasn’t qualified for the Showdown have nothing to lose. It gets more out of control because they’re trying to get up there and show they deserve a ride, but you’re in the Showdown and trying to build points toward the championship. Now I’ve got a year’s experience with it, I’m more aware and more conscious of it, but from a spectator’s point I think it’s good. From a rider’s point though, it’s really tough. A year’s worth of work basically starts again, then it becomes a bit of a luck of the draw [laughs], but I think it works for everyone.
You travelled over to the UK for the 2009 season, leading into your ninth year in BSB now. Are you there for good or do you hope to achieve the championship and keep moving on?
To be honest, at the minute I’m really happy where I am. When I left Australia back in 2009, the goal was to make a road to the world championship, but as everyone finds out when you leave Australia, things get a lot tougher and sometimes we don’t get the mapped out path that we think we’re gonna get. It’s taken me a long time to get to Superbike racing and the point where I’m actually comfortable, so now I’m kind of established in BSB with a great team in Honda Racing behind me, a lot of personal support and sponsors, and a really good environment. The BSB is also such a good championship to be involved in, so to move away from that, the only way I could now is say, if I won BSB and got a chance to join Ten Kate, then sure I would go and race in the world championship, but at the minute my focus is to try and be British Superbike champion. I’m still quite young, still only 29, so I’ve got a lot of years to really make the most of it – look at Shakey winning the BSB championship last year and he just turned 40. The potential’s there to race for quite a number of years and BSB is only getting bigger, so as a rider it’s about capitalising on the position that I’m in.