Features 23 Feb 2023

Input: ASBK predictions

Expert opinions on the 2023 title favourites ahead of round one.

Excitement levels are ramping up ahead of the 2023 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship, with a number of contenders entering the upcoming season with a point to prove or a chance to make history. On the eve of the series commencing, CycleOnline gets Input from a range of industry experts regarding their predictions on who will lift the Superbike crown come season-end.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Steve Martin (former EWC/ASBK champion, ASBK commentator):
Superbike – 1. Josh Waters 2. Mike Jones 3. Troy Herfoss

If you look at Waters and the form that he has shown with that V4 R Panigale, he’s got to be the one to look at. The bike is one of the most high-tech in the field, it’s got everything, got a great team behind it and Waters has got the experience. He is also sort of in a position similar to what Wayne Maxwell was in when he joined the team in that he literally… this is his last chance to prove what he can do. He’s gelled with the bike, he has got it all to play for, so I think he is just going to show everyone how it is done. Jones, of course, we have seen what he can do, especially in the last race last year on a bike that is… there’s no disputing the Yamaha, it is one of the easiest and cheapest bikes to get going. Even though its electronic package is pretty standard, let’s say, compared to some of the other bikes on the grid, Jones is a rider who can feel grip through his throttle hand and make the most of it when he has to. Last year was an incredible year for him, but I think it is going to be a little bit tougher for him this year with Waters there. Herfoss is a guy that will literally not give up, if you look at where he was a couple of years ago after that incident, he is only doing it for one reason, and that is to win. Having ridden that bike, the bike is good, we saw what Senna Agius has done on it as well. I still think this is going to be the year where Herfoss gets some wins, but, I hope that I am wrong for him, but I feel the consistency over the whole year, the team still need to build and learn a little bit more. Although the bike is getting on a bit now, they did spend a lot of time rebuilding since that accident at Hidden Valley in 2021. With that new bike, even before he had that big crash he was having a lot of big crashes on it, but because he was at the top of his game, he was getting away with it and just getting back on it. Whereas now, they have got to find a way to make that bike consistent at every track.

Wayne Maxwell (three-time Superbike champion):
Superbike – 1. Josh Waters 2. Mike Jones 3. Troy Herfoss

Obviously, still working in the McMartin Racing team with the Ducati, I think our guy Josh, with the races at Phillip Island [last year], we showed in pre-season testing at Eastern Creek that he is strong, and he has got a point to prove. I think he is going to be a hard one to beat, so he is my prediction to stand on the top step come season-end at The Bend. You can’t really write off Mike to be a championship contender, history says he can win races and he does that and puts in the work, he is a fantastic rider. He’s in the biggest team with the biggest budget, so they are going to leave no stone unturned to try to fight for the championship and retain the number one plate. I honestly think Troy Herfoss will be in third, this year he will win some more races, and make another step forward. I think it will just depend on what sort of package the Honda guys can give him, to where he stands. We obviously know when he is on, he is on, but I’m not sure of the package that they can give him to be able to fight for race wins consistently. There are a few unknown factors, I think that Cru Halliday will be interesting this year, he’s got a new crew chief and he is away from his family and stuff, so he’s got a change of environment and hopefully that’s enough to bring the best out in Cru and see him fight for the podium round by round. Obviously Broc Pearson, another unknown. At the tracks where he has got experience, I’d say he will prosper, at the tracks where he probably doesn’t have enough experience will be his undoing regarding a fight for the championship. I think he will take another big step for the young guys, and you’ve got Max Stauffer who has worked super-hard with the MotoStars team, I think will be another guy who will stand on the podium for the first time in Superbike.

Daniel Falzon (two-time Supersport champion):
Superbike – 1. Josh Waters 2. Troy Herfoss 3. Mike Jones

I think Waters is going to be the hardest and most consistent person to beat. I think he has the best bike under him, and I think Josh himself when on fire is almost unstoppable, we have seen by how fast some of his lap times were at the Sydney test and the closing rounds last year. Also, I think that Herfoss is the dark horse of the championship. Obviously, he had his injuries last year, and personally I can relate to his injuries, they were horrendous, so he has something to prove this year but I think he has the fire back in his belly, and when Troy is on, he’s on. Look, I think the consistency of Jones is probably going to be hard to beat, he doesn’t crash very often and is consistently up there as well. So I think the championship will be between those three, and maybe every know and then we will see Cru Halliday in there as well. Waters, Herfoss, Jones is who I think will be the top three – I think Troy is going to have to ride the Honda beyond its ability to keep up with the Ducati.

Image: Foremost Media.

Tom Reynolds (Motorcycling Australia communications and marketing): 
Superbike – 1. Josh Waters 2. Mike Jones 3. Cru Halliday

With Josh, it’s not just the raw speed, he has got the experience and the knowledge to keep it going. Even if he can’t make it work like Maxwell did at Morgan Park for example, I just think he is going to put so much pain into them throughout rounds one and two that it will really put everyone under pressure. I don’t think he makes the same sort of mistakes that Wayne can fall for, and I think the team will be better this year as well, because even they got into a bit of a hole with a few set-up and minor errors. I reckon Josh is going to have it all together this year. Jones is consistently there about, I mean he is the reigning champion and he has shown why. If Halliday can get a good start to the season, then he might surf that wave of confidence and be very dangerous for the rest of the year. I think at his best, he can beat Mike at the first two rounds and then use that to propel himself through the season, he’s even my dark horse for the championship. I reckon he can run second at Phillip Island, and second at Sydney to Josh – I think Josh is going to clean sweep the first five races of the year [three at Phillip Island, two at SMSP]. Pearson has predicted he will get a win, or at least thinks it’s possible, and I agree. I also think Max Stauffer will be on the podium, I think Arthur Sissis can land a ‘proper’ podium, and I will be very interested to see what Allerton can do once he gets that Ducati sorted.

Troy Guenther (CycleOnline):
Superbike – 1. Josh Waters 2. Mike Jones 3. Troy Herfoss

Waters jumped on the McMartin Racing Ducati V4 R last year and made an immediate impact. His outright dominance at Phillip Island in 2022 across the MotoGP support races and ASBK round six would indicate he will be tough to beat at the opener this season. Also, the pace he displayed in a range of conditions at the Sydney Motorsport Park test was worrisome for his competitors, so on paper, I would say Waters is the favourite to win the first two rounds. Considering the number 21 is generally hard to stop once he builds momentum, strong results in the opening races will make him exceptionally tough to overcome in terms of the title. I expect Jones to be right in the mix, his racecraft, consistency and ability to deliver highlighted by his championship win last year and the standout performance at race two in Tailem Bend. In terms of rounds, Hidden Valley will be an interesting and crucial one for the championship because it’s where Jones won last year, also a circuit where Waters has dominated in the past. I expect Herfoss will be fighting at the pointy-end throughout the season and I don’t question his capabilities or tenacity – I’d have him down as the favourite to win the Morgan Park round. However, I’m not sure if he will have the outright speed on the Honda that Josh will have on the Ducati, and Jones might have that edge when it comes to consistency. Hence, I slot the number 17 into third. Halliday and Allerton are dark horses in my mind. Also, it would be great to see Broc Pearson, the vastly improved Max Stauffer and the fast-starting Arthur Sissis land on the podium or even notch a win, but in terms of the championship, it’s hard to bet against the three that are listed.

Alex Gobert (Foremost Media):
Superbike – 1. Mike Jones 2. Josh Waters 3. Troy Herfoss

To me, after a rider and team combination wins the title in the past season, it’s hard to look past them repeating – at least on paper. Jones was convincing on his way to a third premier class crown, including pole position and the overall win at The Bend’s finals, so until anybody goes ahead and actually beats him, I feel Jones and YRT have to be the favourites leading into 2023, even if he hasn’t been able to go back-to-back following his previous titles in 2015 and 2019, respectively. Jones was exceptional upon return to Yamaha and appears to be in the best form of his career. The Waters/McMartin Racing V4 R combination has been strong though and if Josh can keep things clicking over the course of the series, including through the mid-stages, with confidence on his side, he can clearly at least take the championship down to the wire. Third is a tough one because it could be a number of riders and chances are they too will be in the mix for the title because I’m tipping one of the closest battles we’ve seen in ASBK history. Naturally, considering Herfoss was fourth last year and Maxwell has now hung up the helmet, he should be next in line, but I think Halliday will be improved and right there as well so it’s difficult to split them. How about Bryan Staring then, who was third in points last year with DesmoSport Ducati? Well, in my opinion, the MotoGo Yamaha team needs to give him the package to contend first because it has been a late start for them together and then we will see where he truly stands. Outside of that, let’s see what Allerton can do down the track if his plans to get on a Ducati eventuate, as beyond Phillip Island this weekend on his existing BMW, I’m not exactly certain what he has in the works and what that will happen. It’s gonna be a good year!