News 22 Nov 2011

Phillip Island 8 Hour taking shape ahead of next month's race

Australian endurance racing enters a new era this December 4 with the launch of the Phillip Island 8 hour, a new endurance event that’s attracted a solid grid of teams racing to be first to etch their names on the inaugural trophy.

The move to the eight hour format follows endurance events held in Europe and Japan, like the famous Suzuka 8 Hour. In a visionary move, the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit is investing to build the race and attract national and international entries, with the long term aim, to pitch for a round of the World Endurance Championship.

The circuit has negotiated for the race to be televised in a two hour television package on SPEED TV nationally and have gained support from four tyre manufacturers and three of the major brands – Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda.

With a minimum of three riders per team and a Le Mans start, the expected field of 25 teams will race for a marathon 480 minutes – and cover an estimated 285 laps and 1250 kilometres of energy sapping racing.

But the action is not limited to first to the chequered flag. The battles for class wins run down the field, and across all five categories competing – being Superbikes, Superstock 1000, Supersport, Superstock 600cc machines and a BEARS class (British, European and American manufactured machines) – predominately featuring the potent Triumph 675 triple cylinder.

In endurance racing, tyres are often the dark science behind victory and defeat with rubber durability critical for success – especially on the tortuous 4.445km island circuit. With no control tyre for the 8 Hour, four of the major brands being Dunlop, Bridgestone, Pirelli and Metzeler are offering tyre packages and support services at the track.

Pit stops occur around the 45 minute mark, so refuelling strategies are paramount. Rules state that while refuelling, the rider must dismount and no other maintenance take place on the bike.

Hence, the longer the wear of tyres – especially the rear – the more time saved during those precious seconds of a pit stop. Team efficiency at the pit stop will also be critical, as lost moments could cost victory.

Favourites for outright victory would have to be the Team Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike squad of 2009 Australian Superbike Champion Josh Waters, three times NZ Superbike champ, Robert Bugden, and 2011 Superbike Rookie of the Year, Troy Herfoss.

Lead rider, Waters, showed his skill in endurance racing in July, when in his first attempt at Japan’s Suzuka 8 Hour, he snatched second with his Yoshimura Suzuki team. (Team Suzuki story attached )

Also in the superbike category – and adding an international flavour – is a four rider team from Japan including Mikiya Kimura and Yuji Okabayashi on a Suzuki GSX-R1000. While they might not be among the favourites, expect plenty of the usual commitment and passion from the oriental visitors.

The more powerful superbikes may be fancied to take outright honours, but an upset could emerge from the Superstock 1000 class. Although lacking the power of the superbikes, they are less severe on tyre wear and more economical on fuel consumption over the eight hour distance.

One of the leading challengers is the Bridgestone Endurance Team Suzuki of Trent Gibson, Greg Epis and Jordan Burgess. Epis has put the team together and has signed both Gibson and Burgess who have been racing in America’s AMA Championship with the Aussie Dave Racing of expatriate, Dave Anthony.

Another sleeper will be the Bridgestone-shod, Whitney’s Two Wheeled Workshop/RTG Electrical Superstock Suzuki GSX-R1000 team boasting the youngest rider to compete in the Australian Superstock Championship.

At just 16 years of age, Corey Snowsill is a two wheel talent. So much so, that the teenager from Sydney’s northern beaches, was granted special dispensation from Motorcycling Australia to ride a 1000cc machine as a 16 year old – two years earlier than normally allowed.

Fresh from completing Year 10 and about to commence a carpentry apprenticeship, Corey has a strong team behind him including renown Irish racer and 2009 Irish Superbike champ, Paul Byrne, Roy Gay, Paul Callaghan, and Darren Goodwin.

Another threat is the experienced FNQ Lager Team Yamaha R1, sponsored by Blue Sky Brewery in Cairns, and led by multi-Victorian Superbike champion, Steve Tozer.

Veteran two wheel madman, Phil Lovett from Cessnock, and his cohorts Simon Galloway and Matt Walters will campaign a Kawasaki ZX10R and should be heeded, after winning the Production class in last year’s Phillip Island 6 Hour.

Gunning for a podium in the Supersport class will be the second of the Team Suzuki bikes on the #11 GSXR600. Their lead rider is the younger brother of Josh Waters, Brodie, with Queenslanders Ben Attard and young Mitchell Carr also at the helm.

In the supersport class, two times world endurance champion, Warwick Nowland, has swapped his leathers for a management role. He will head the Insure My Ride/WRN Kawasaki Supersport team and has a hot line up of riders.

Nowland has protégé, Glen Scott on board the ZX6R partnered by recently crowned UEM Superstock 600cc Champion, Jed Metcher, who claimed a win and seven podiums during his title winning year.

Metcher and Scott both competed in last year’s Phillip Island six hour with Metcher finishing eighth overall while Scott partnered Nowland in his last endurance race, before the veteran turned to team management.

Boasting vast experience, is the crew of the Krusty Wobblers campaigning a GSXR600 in the Superstock 600 class. Riding in memory of the late Ken Wootton, and sporting his number 16 and blue terry towelling hat as mascot, the squad comprises the veteran quartet of historic racers, Albert Tehennepe, Robert Wallace, Peter Mizzi and Cliver Warner – who won the British 125 GP championship many moons ago.

Also in the Superstock 600 class, is the Honda Motorcycles backed Caulfield Park Community School project. The students are learning the ropes of motor racing and mechanics, and will campaign a Honda CBR600 which they have been working on for several months.

Their riders for the 8 Hour include Melbourne’s Aron Burgess (2011 Victorian Superstock 1000 title) and Dean Oughtred (2011 Victorian Supersport champ) and from Queensland, Andrew Kendrick and motorcycle instructor and mother of one, Erin Talbot.

As has been proven with endurance racing before, anyone entered has a chance of success. Expect the unexpected in this history making race, and don’t be surprised if a team from out of the blue barnstorm the island to claim the top gong.

Tickets are $45 for a three day; or $25 for Sunday only and are available at the gate. Concession and child (aged 5-15) rates available. Children 4 and under free.

For further information or call the circuit on 03 5952 2710.