Team Joe Rocket Suzuki's Australian Supersport rookie Troy Herfoss writes about his road race debut exclusively for Moto Online.
So here we are after years of watching I have finally completed my first road race, and what a cool place to start – World Superbikes at the greatest track in the world, so they say. I wouldn’t know because Phillip Island’s virtually the only track I have been able to ride so far.
The weekend started off with free practice early Friday morning. I knew that I didn’t have much time to get down to race speed, so I followed the number one bike [Jamie Stauffer] out of pit lane with the plan of following his wheel through practice and maybe learning a bit. I realised after exiting turn four that I had a bit of work to do because he was already exiting turn five! I made it through with a respectable time, though.
I then had an eight hour wait until qualifying started. The weather was windy, like every late afternoon at Phillip Island I guess. We only had 20 minutes to qualify and I had to race on them tyres because of the Supersport tyre rule, so I really had to go of pit lane, lay down a fast lap and park the bike to save the tyres for the race the following morning.
It wasn’t that easy. I got out there and the track was packed with riders trying to get clear track. I managed to get myself a lap where I didn’t have to pass too many people and then came into pit lane to see if it was enough. I couldn’t believe my eyes, fourth place, but with half the session to go there was still time to be knocked down the order.
I waited and waited, watching the other guys go out to do their laps, but at the end of the session I was still fourth – much better than I expected for my first Australian Supersport race.
Saturday was the big day for me, a feature race in the morning and the first championship race in the afternoon. In the feature race I had a terrible start but managed to get around the first lap in sixth. By mid-way I found myself in a three way battle with Ben Attard and Scott Charlton, who are much more experienced riders. I learnt a lot while battling close with them and even managed to split them up and finish fifth.
The first of the championship race that afternoon was tough. Everyone put in that little bit extra and I struggled. It was my first race with brand new tyres and, to be honest, I couldn’t use them to their potential. They have so much grip for the first four or five laps and I just got spat off the pack of the front guys, working my way back to sixth.
On Sunday I had my second championship race early in the morning. We had warm up in the wet but it dried up for the race. I got a reasonable start and finished the final lap in fifth, just behind Jamie Stauffer. I followed him for about four laps and following him was probably the most helpful four laps I’ve done on the road bike.
A small bit of drizzle come down and for some reason I felt really comfortable in the conditions and passed Jamie, and then quickly moved up to Attard in third. I passed him quickly also, but he wasn’t about to let the rookie get the better of him! We diced it out until about four feet from the finish line when he slip-streamed past to knock me off the podium by just 0.004.
I was devastated, but oh well, it was my first time racing there and even racing a road bike for that matter, so I can build on that for Tassie next month and hopefully improve on my result.
Editor’s note: Herfoss finished fifth overall for the round in what was one of the most impressive national road race debuts ever. Herfoss is the current American AMA Supermoto Champion, and has switched to road racing this year in the Australian Supersport Championship with a factory ride at Team Joe Rocket Suzuki.