Features 7 Mar 2023

Profiled: Jai Russo

Early Supersport 300 leader on Phillip Island victory and 2023 ahead.

Yamaha-mounted Jai Russo delivered a breakout Supersport 300 weekend at Phillip Island to emerge with the round win and early class lead as the 2023 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) commenced. Following his maiden overall victory in the category, the 16-year-old features in our latest Profiled piece.

Russo stepped up to Supersport 300 ranks for select races in 2021 and delivered strong form at the opening round of the 2022 season, ultimately being declared the winner of race three at Phillip Island in the R3 Cup last year.

“Last season was a pretty good start actually because race three in the R3 Cup, I won after the disqualifications,” Russo explained. “It gave us a really good start to the year and we went into round two pretty confident. I think I was around fourth in the championship.

“From there, it was pretty good up until I had a pretty big crash on the Moto3 at Phillip Island. That meant I was injured for Wakefield, but I pushed through a few problems with the knee and got the riding under the belt. It was a really fast level last year, a lot of quick riders now who have stepped up to 600s.”

Image: Foremost Media.

Competing amidst a deep field of Supersport 300 and R3 Cup talent across the past two seasons has placed Russo in a position of strength for 2023, showcasing his racecraft to achieve victory in race one of this year’s Australian Supersport 300 Championship at Phillip Island, later riding on to take the overall in class courtesy of 1-3-6 results.

“We had pretty good prep for the weekend, but dad got pretty sick just beforehand and was in hospital,” Russo continued. “Levi – my brother – and I got the bike ready the week before, we went into the weekend with not really many expectations because dad wasn’t there with us but we still wanted to get a really good result and still worked for it.

“When we went into free practice one, I was really surprised because I came back from the session and I didn’t feel too confident because the lap times were a bit slower than last year, then Levi told me I got second. I was really happy about that, which led us to a good start to that weekend.

“Winning the race was a really good moment… I looked when I crossed the line and saw no one was really next to me. Crossing the line I was so happy, it’s hard to explain, was just so happy.”

Image: Foremost Media.

Although Russo was unable to attend the pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park, the R3 rider remains confident for the upcoming second round at the venue off the back of his results at Phillip Island and also the fact he has cut numerous laps around the circuit.

“I feel pretty confident with Sydney Motorsport Park, it’s just down the road from us and I have ridden there quite a lot in the past few years,” he added. “I feel like it should be another good round I’m hoping, just keeping the pace up from the last round.

“I don’t think the pack will be as big as Phillip Island – I think it was 17 riders or something in the first race before crashes, which is crazy. But yeah I don’t think Eastern Creek will be like that, I feel like there might be a front group, like four or five fast riders and then a few different packs, not as big as one pack.”

It’s still early days in season 2023, with Russo firmly focused on achieving strong results in the races that he does contest throughout the year to set himself up for the best possible opportunities in 2024.

“We are just looking for good results this year and we haven’t really worked it out [2024 plans],” he continued. “We are just racing everything we can race and this weekend I think we are going to the MiniGP round. We are just pretty much trying to race everything we can and see what happens from there.”