MotoOnline.com.au previews Phillip Island's WSBK and ASBK openers, plus more, in the latest Insider.
The Aussie hype is reaching fever pitch in the lead-up to this weekend’s opening round of World Superbike and I have a feeling we may very well see something special come race day Sunday.
It’s been a long time since we saw new Aussies on international spec machinery as wild cards, but that’s exactly what we’ll experience in Josh Waters and Bryan Staring this weekend. Funnily enough, the pair is also the most recent ASBK title winners.
Waters was exceptional in testing earlier this week, marginally out of the top 10 in his debut with Yoshimura Suzuki and the word is that the Japanese are already really impressed by him.
In fact, Waters’ performance was good enough to be top Aussie a few positions ahead of dual world champion Troy Corser, while Staring also chipped away at developing the brand new Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Staring’s teammate Mark Aitchison actually surprised me just how quickly he adapted to the Superbike after many seasons in Supersport, especially at a dauntingly fast track like Phillip Island.
The news that Chris Vermeulen came as a severe blow for Aussie fans, especially after the Queenslander has been the main man in the series pre-race press, but the important thing at this point is that he gets back to full fitness so we can see him reach his full potential.
In Supersport I’m confident that Broc Parkes can show his talent on home soil after an impressive test, plus Mitch Pirotta will have plenty of support in his first race for Kuja Racing on the world stage.
What we need to do at this point is get down to the Island, support the locals, and take in the first class action that’s set to descend on the world famous circuit across the weekend.
The pace of Spaniard Carlos Checa is testing has been absolutely phenomenal, setting the fastest ever lap of the Island for a Superbike and topping both days of the test.
Ducati’s former Xerox team may be sidelined, but you can bet that Checa has the best equipment the Italian manufacturer can possibly build when entering this year’s series. Plus, the flowing nature of the Island does suit the 1198.
I’m going to go out on a limb right here and put out some bold predictions as we prepare for the ASBK opener alongside the World Supers this weekend. Wayne Maxwell has all the stars aligned to be champion. He has the pace, the equipment and the experience, so I think he can finally do it.
The last time a rider rode for Paul Free’s team and then departed for a season and returned he earned himself a championship. That rider was Glenn Allerton in 2008, and I think Maxwell can replicate the result.
There’s no doubt that his Team Honda Racing teammate Jamie Stauffer will challenge for the title, but to be completely honest, I really would have liked to see Stauffer do double duty and dust off a CBR600RR just like he used to at Yamaha in his championship years.
Only problem is, that takes extra money, which everybody is struggling for at the moment.
At Suzuki, Troy Herfoss will win races. Give him some extra confidence and there’s no reason that he can’t surprise just like Staring did last year and Waters the year before.
His part time teammate Waters will miss the Island because he’s got the international wild card, but if he does complete the rest of the season then I think he will factor in the title chase despite missing the rounds.
Don’t rule out the likes of Allerton on the BMW or Craig Coxhell on the Demolition Plus GAS Honda, because both are former champions and I think both are still capable of returning to their best.
We’ll miss the familiar faces of Shannon Johnson, Scott Charlton and Dan Stauffer on the grid as all three are missing from the pre-race entries, however lets hope it’s not the last we have seen of them in national racing.
I was looking at the entry lists really closely the other night and from what I can see, all three categories racing at the Island will be closely contested throughout the year.
There was a bit of controversy after our times we gathered from the official test were published last week, but since the action starts tomorrow afternoon we’ll know exactly who has the pace and who doesn’t. Should be great to see.
The Superbikes have low entry numbers in 13, but the Prostock, Supersport and Superstock classes are all pretty solid and I hope many of the riders continue on for the remainder of the year.
Tomorrow marks the launch of the 2011 Rockstar Energy Drink MX Nationals, the event put on by the Macarthur Motorcycle Club at Appin in New South Wales.
The majority of the factory teams are set to attend, many of which are in their final preparations before the first round that will be held at Broadford on 13 March.
This year’s season launch is a little bit earlier in the piece and many have rushed to get their latest models prepared with graphics etc for the official media day.
I think one thing a lot of the Aussies are looking forward to is riding with Josh Coppins, getting a first real look at the pace he’s got and seeing how they stack up against one of the world’s best.
We saw what another ex-GP race winner Billy Mackenzie could do on his day last year, although the consistency and all-round strengths of defending triple champion Jay Marmont will be as strong as ever.
In some ways I feel as though the first race is here already, so it really is a nice preview at what’s to come for the year ahead. We’ll have a heap of content from the launch so stay tuned for that as the week winds down.
Australian Off Road
The Australian Off Road Championship starts this weekend in Bulahdelah, NSW.
Motorex KTM Off Road Racing’s Toby Price is going for his third straight Outright and E2 titles, while his teammate E1 and E3 champions – Jarrod Bewley and Ben Grabham – will essentially swap roles.
Interestingly, Bewley will ride a 300 EXC two-stroke this season, a bike that’s hugely popular when it comes to enduro riding in the real world.
Another top rider who is changing categories this season is former world champion Stefan Merriman, stepping down from the E2 class to ride in the E1s this year.
We’ll have all the results across the weekend.
That’s all for this week, stay tuned all weekend long from the latest in World and Aussie Superbikes direct from Phillip Island.