Features 9 Feb 2023

Three Things: 2023 ASBK form guide

A closer look at pre-season indicators in the build-up to the opening round.

As the start of the 2023 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) draws closer, speculation continues to build surrounding the form and anticipated performance of each rider once the lights go out. In this Three Things feature, CycleOnline takes a closer look and some pre-season indicators ahead of the opening round at Phillip Island on 24-26 February.

Image: Russell Colvin.

St. George Summer Night Series

The St. George Summer Night Series races have been popular off-season events in recent years, allowing competitors to compete at Sydney Motorsport Park (SMSP) under the lights and often attracting a range of top domestic, and even international talent. Across the 2022/2023 series, a notable entry was BSB contender Josh Brookes, riding for Livson Racing as he prepares for the upcoming season abroad with FHO Racing on the M 1000 RR. Brookes has been the man to beat in the series, winning three out of four rounds with Josh Waters (McMartin Racing Ducati) the only one able to stop his round-winning streak. Asia Road Racing Championship-bound Lachlan Epis was able to score a race win at the opening round, as was Glenn Allerton (NextGen Motorsports) at round two, but Brookes has been a consistent presence, setting a strong benchmark for our local talent. A notable standout in the Summer Night Series Races to date has been Max Stauffer (GTR MotoStars Yamaha), who was able to make big inroads in closing the gap to the ASBK front runners in attendance, progressing to be in the podium fight at the latest rounds on 13-14 February, which featured Yamaha Racing Team duo Mike Jones and Cru Halliday, also DesmoSport Ducati’s Broc Pearson and Livson Racing’s Ted Collins. The final round of the series takes place this Saturday.

ASBK Sydney Motorsport Park pre-season test

For the first time since the series was rejuvenated in 2016, the official pre-season test moved from the iconic Phillip Island circuit to the world-class Sydney Motorsport Park. With the majority of the premier-class contenders in attendance across 1-2 February, it provided an indicator as to how everyone stacks up after the break. However, it must be noted that the pre-season test has not acted as an entirely accurate form guide in recent years, and in fact, since 2016 only one rider who has been quickest at the test has gone on to win the championship later that year, being Wayne Maxwell in 2020. There is no doubt that the pace of Josh Waters during the SMSP test earlier this month was menacing, the McMartin Racing rider was able to post a 1m29.570s during the first session on day two and continue to notch 1m29s laps throughout the day even as temperatures rose. R1-mounted Halliday also showed promise, fastest on day one under the lights as riders and teams prepare for the historic ASBK night races at the Sydney venue next month. Reigning champion Jones made progress throughout the two days, concluding the sessions third fastest as the final rider to enter the 1m29s bracket. It was a case of all the boxes ticked for Penrite Honda Racing’s Troy Herfoss, who historically has never delivered a standout pre-season test result but has been able to secure two ASBK titles across the last seven years. Herfoss best lap was a 1m30.024s, but he was confident if racing took place on first night of the test, he would be right in the hunt. Notably, Bryan Staring was absent from the official pre-season outing, having since been confirmed with MotoGo Yamaha for the 2023 ASBK season. Also, Allerton was not on track as he continues to develop his plans and infrastructure for the coming campaign, as it is clear that the NextGen outfit will take a step back from ASBK this year.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Hartwell Motorcycle Club Championship round one

While a host of top contenders and teams have ventured to Phillip Island at least once for a test or track day during the off-season, no official times or results are recorded from such days. However, a selection of ASBK contenders including Staring, Herfoss, Pearson and Collins competed in the first round of the Hartwell Motorcycle Club Championship, held at the 4.445km circuit on 4-5 February – immediately after the ASBK test in Sydney. Trying conditions that included rain and high winds provided a challenge, but ultimately it was Pearson who claimed pole for the shorter, standard races and went on to notch 3-1-1 results in those. For Staring making a reunion with Yamaha machinery, he crossed the line 2-3-2 in the shorter outings. Setting the fastest lap of the weekend was Herfoss, courtesy of a 1m32.388s, with the Honda rider also victorious in the 14-lap Greg Bailey feature race, leading Pearson who was just two tenths back and ahead of Staring in third who ultimately took the chequered flag 2.188s from the lead. A big take is that Herfoss cemented just how much of a stronger position he is in ahead of this year’s championship, as opposed to 12 months ago. The number 17 notably started from the third row in each of the sprint races, missing qualifying with a mechanical issue and opting to start the last race from the pitlane. With two rounds once more at Phillip Island in this year’s ASBK championship, being strong at the Australian grand prix venue could very well prove pivotal in the championship chase.