Features 12 Oct 2017

Countdown: ASBK moments that mattered

Eight factors that led to Waters winning a third-career crown.

The 2017 Yamaha Motor Finance Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) presented by Motul Pirelli was action-packed from start to finish this year, eventually won by Team Suzuki Ecstar Australia’s Josh Waters at last weekend’s Phillip Island finals. Reflecting upon the season that was, CycleOnline.com.au lists eight defining topics that ultimately counted when the final standings were tallied.

Image: Keith Muir.

8. Two-part race regulations:
At Phillip Island’s opening round, Yamaha’s Wayne Maxwell crossed the line first in the two-part third race, however due to the way the rules were at the time, race times from parts one and two were combined, dropping Maxwell down the order to fourth. Following that, modernised adjustments in line with international standards were made to the rules so that the order riders cross the finish-line in part two is the final result, meaning that if that race was to be repeated now he would have scored 25 points instead of 17 to win the championship in theory. It was the same for all, but it’s a simple fact that’s largely been overlooked at year’s end.

7. Drama strikes Falzon:
After taking pole position and winning all three races at Phillip Island’s opener, eventual privateer champion Daniel Falzon displayed his capabilities as a title-contender aboard his YZF-R1. He led the points through Wakefield Park and Winton, however following the mid-season break when the series resumed in Darwin, it all went pear-shaped from there once he was involved in that controversial crash with Kyle Buckley. He encountered further problems at Morgan Park and Sydney following that. Still, P4 in the standings was well-deserved and a rewarding result.

6. Tyre transfer at YRT:
Remember at the start of the season when Yamaha Racing Team was on Dunlop tyres for Phillip Island’s opening round? That subtly soon changed when, prior to round two at Wakefield Park, the factory organisation opted to switch to Pirelli and appeared to gain strength in certain areas as a result (however the injury of Glenn Allerton that weekend halved their title hopes). The fact that Yamaha-mounted Falzon won the opening round on Pirellis was also a contributing factor, which effectively left Kawasaki BCperformance leader Robbie Bugden and experienced Yamaha front-runner Cru Halliday as Dunlop’s primary premier class entrants.

5. Defence of Herfoss unravels:
Across the first four rounds of the season, number one plate-holder Troy Herfoss was a picture of consistency in terms of overall results in what was shaping up to be another run at the title. He was third overall at Phillip Island, won Wakefield Park, scored second at Winton and then again at Hidden Valley when the all-new SP2 finally arrived. He hit shaky ground by crashing out of race one at Morgan Park, but managed to bounce back and salvage P3 in race two. Near disaster was averted in Sydney when he somehow took second after struggling for pace early in the weekend and that result propelled him back to the top of the points entering Phillip Island. A mechanical in race one was all she wrote for Troy’s chances though and he’s had to settle for number three this season. It was an odd one!

Image: Keith Muir.

4. Maxwell’s mistakes:
We’ve had the feeling for a while now that it’s only a matter of time until Maxwell delivers YRT its first ASBK crown since Jamie Stauffer all the way back in 2007 (keep in mind they spent some time away from the series altogether), but this year wasn’t to be that year. Crashes in race one at Phillip Island (where he remounted), as well as the second races in Darwin and Sydney put a severe dent in his hopes, as did the ongoing challenge of getting his R1M off the line. Round wins at Winton, Morgan Park and Phillip Island meant that despite his troubles, he was a minor four points outside of the championship when the series concluded. Regardless of all that, he even led the series following round four, but it was a case of playing catch-up for the most part.

3. Arrival of the GSX-R1000R:
We reported back before the Darwin round that the new GSX-R1000R’s debut at round four shouldn’t have had much of an effect for Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Josh Waters performance-wise, since only the Showa Balance Free Forks (BFF) were vastly different to the standard model in ASBK trim. But those forks, paired with some added development, saw Waters break through at his favourite track on the calendar and from then on he worked his way into title contention. It was a superb result for Suzuki and one that showcases just how special this latest Gixxer actually is out of the crate.

2. Waters sweeps Darwin and Sydney:
Waters’ five race wins coming at Hidden Valley, Sydney Motorsport Park and Phillip Island were exactly the reason why he has become a triple national Superbike champion, respected as a Suzuki standout globally and a true class-act. To dominate in Darwin was one thing – and not completely unexpected – but to control Sydney’s penultimate round the way he did was extremely impressive. It was those results that put him within striking distance at the finale and he didn’t put a foot wrong at Phillip Island last Sunday.

1. Race one of the finals:
Speaking of the final round, with so much anticipation for a title-fight of the ages, it never really eventuated. Waters cleared off at the front for a convincing opening race victory to take charge of the points lead for the first time all year, while Maxwell was forced to once again recover from a slow start that cost him any chance of challenging for the win. Meanwhile, after carrying a six-point lead into the race when the lights went out, it soon became clear the factory Honda of Herfoss had developed a problem and he soon bowed out of the race and title-chase. Following that, although anything could have happened, Waters’ 13-point advantage with one race to go enabled him to ‘cruise’ home to a lonely fifth and clinch the crown.