Wild weather conditions could play a significant part in deciding the podium for this weekend’s sixth round of the Viking Group Australian Superbike Championship at Phillip Island, running alongside the 500 kilometre V8 Supercar endurance race.
Predicted barrelling winds and steady showers throughout the course of practice, qualifying and two, 10-lap races will keep riders and teams on their toes, with setup likely to vary by the session.
Time will tell if the storming run of Superbike points leader Bryan Staring can be stopped, the Gold Coast-based Cougar Bourbon Honda rider has won four consecutive races and enjoys a handy advantage at the top of the table.
Closest challenger, fellow Honda rider Wayne Maxwell, said a number of factors would come into play this weekend.
“The races are shorter, for a start, which changes strategy. There’s certainly no chance of tyres overheating but whether or not there is an advantage in sprinting an entire race or holding back until the last few laps remains to be seen,” explained the Demolition Plus GAS Honda pilot.
“The conditions are something we all have to manage. We are expecting it to be pretty wet and windy for most of the weekend, so hopefully the setup won’t vary too much. I definitely need to win this weekend, there is no two ways about it. The buffer Bryan has is enough for him to be comfortable, so I need to push my hardest.
“Queensland didn’t go as well as it should have and I’ve made the job harder for myself, but Phillip Island is a track I do well at and I’ve already got a couple of wins in the bag from earlier in the year.”
Staring, who is closing in on a maiden Superbike title, said he was aiming to maintain the gap over Maxwell and a fast-finishing Glenn Allerton.
“I’ve had a few weeks to train at home and we completed a good test at Phillip Island just over a week ago, all signs were positive and the new bike is feeling very strong,” said Staring. “We’re well prepared so there’s no reason why we can’t come away from this weekend with another good haul of points.”
Staring sided with Maxwell on the subject of Victoria’s vicious weather and said it would be the rider who kept his cool that came out on top.
“Wind and a wet track certainly make things difficult but these are conditions we all have to deal with. A mistake-free run will be vital, there’s only 10 laps in each race so a good start will be important as will consistent, quick laps right to the chequered flag.”
2009 champion, Team Suzuki’s Josh Waters is on the mend following his crash at US circuit Willow Springs but will not contest this weekend’s round.
Waters said he would be concentrating on a return at Symmon’s Plains for the final round rather than risking another rider’s or his own safety.
“I feel like I am ready to race and would love to be on track this weekend but I’m following medical advice and will not rush my return, I don’t want to put anyone at risk out there,” explained Waters. “The championship is now out of reach but I am really focused on getting back on track for the final round at Symmon’s Plains to round out the year on a high.”
Waters predicted the final two rounds, including this weekend’s Phillip Island showdown, would be a battle between Staring and Maxwell.
“I don’t like to be a spectator but the battle between Wayne and Bryan is going to be intense and great to watch,” he continued. “Wayne is unbelievable at Phillip Island and, going on history, I think he will have the edge.
“Symmon’s Plains is another track he is very good at. On the other hand it has been Bryan all the way since the middle of the year, if he continues to ride the way he has then I can’t see anyone being able to get the points on him over the last four races.”
Following an impressive second place finish for the round at Queensland Raceway, Ducati Motologic Racing’s Jamie Stauffer is another rider that will be in contention for a podium placing.
Stauffer and team manager Paul Free have come to grips with the steep development curve of the Ducati 1198R which will come into its element on the sweeping Phillip Island circuit. He will be the lone Ducati pilot this weekend with teammate Jordy Burgess still sidelined after a qualifying crash last round.
BMW S 1000 R pilot Craig Coxhell will be looking for another rocket start to Saturday and Sunday’s 10-lap races after an impressive performance at Ipswich. The CJC Racing machine shot from the second row of the grid to lead the field into turn 1 in the second race of the day.
Two maximum points hauls saw Coxhell close the gap even further in the Superstock 1000 A&B points race, and like the Ducati, the BMW should come into its own this weekend.
Action from both races will be telecast live on Channel 7. Race one will be shown between 2:00pm and 3:00pm on Saturday, while race two will be shown between 11:30am and 12:30pm on Sunday.
The Insure My Ride Australian Supersport action will resume with Team Suzuki’s Troy Herfoss leading the charge. Herfoss’ winning run was ended at Queensland Raceway, but not by a championship challenger.
Yamaha Racing Team pilot Kevin Curtain slipped through and stole a pair of race wins, but is not on track this weekend.
A solid effort by Triumph rider Christian Casella saw him step up as Herfoss’ closest opposition following a lacklustre round for Brodie Waters.
The Supersport field, bolstered by entries from the Superstock 600 class, will also contest two 10-lap races across the course of the event.
Fans can meet Superbike and Supersport riders in a special event alongside V8 Supercar drivers to be hosted at Pino’s Trattoria in Cowes tomorrow. From 5:00pm-6:00pm riders will be signing autograph and chatting with fans.
Campground, grandstand and L&H group ticket holders will have the opportunity to attend an exclusive event with ASBK riders as well as V8 Supercar, V8 Ute and Mini Challenge drivers to be held on Saturday evening.
Hosted inside the Island Pavilion at the circuit from 5:30pm, the event will feature a series of rider and driver interviews and allow fans to chat and grab an autograph with their heroes
A BBQ and drinks will follow the formalities and a performance from Jason Singh, lead singer of Taxi Ride, will round out what is set to be an entertaining and insightful evening.