Features 4 Apr 2023

Countdown: Early ASBK trends

What's emerging in the opening rounds of the 2023 championship.

With the first two rounds of the 2023 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) now complete, CycleOnline looks at eight storylines of interest in this Countdown feature as the series moves to Queensland Raceway for its next races.

Image: Foremost Media.

8. Podium beckons for Sissis: 
It could be argued it is a matter of when – not if – Unitech Racing’s Arthur Sissis will achieve an ASBK podium in the 2023 season. The former international has shown the potential to challenge for such a result on a variety of tracks, and conditions with his latest finish a fourth-place result in race two on the wet Sydney Motorsport Park under lights. Sissis missed the podium by just two-tenths in the most recent outing, also finishing inside the top five in the second race of Phillip Island’s opening round. With Queensland Raceway hosting the next races of the series, Sissis can draw confidence from the fact that he nearly achieved a podium result at the venue last year as he looks to build on a solid start to the season.

7. Pearson and DesmoSport pushing for uplift:
After finishing P5 in the official pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park and delivering strong results at the Hartwell Club Championship round at Phillip Island in the build-up to the ASBK season, things were looking promising for Broc Pearson and DesmoSport Ducati. However, 10th overall at the opening round wasn’t a fairytale beginning to their 2023 campaign as they battled an electronics gremlin throughout the weekend. Come Sydney Motorsport Park and the capable Queensland-based rider finished P6 in the wet race two, but wasn’t quite able to match the pace he delivered in the pre-season when the conditions were dry. Pearson has shown he can put the V4 R towards the front, notably going 4-4 on his debut with the team last year at Morgan Park, and both he and the team will be looking to build back to that form, then surpass it in the upcoming rounds.

6. All to play for in Supersport:
Much as it was two rounds into the championship, it’s all play for in Australian Supersport with a number of contenders capable of featuring inside the top three and fighting up the front. Harrison Voight had a clear pace advantage at Phillip Island, but with his absence throughout the majority of the season due to racing in the European Moto2 Championship, it leaves the door open for contenders to rise and stake their claim to the title. Sean Condon displayed dominant form in the dry at Sydney, but costly misfortune in race two and also throughout the opening round sees him 41 points from the lead. Last year’s runner-up Ty Lynch has shown consistency and speed when needed across the variety of conditions Supersport contenders have faced this year, and as a result leads the championship by eight points ahead of Olly Simpson who fell in the wet race two at Phillip Island. A steady start to the year sees reigning champion John Lytras third on 72 points, but the list of front-running contenders does not end there. 15-year-old Cameron Dunker showed he has the fortitude to win already in his rookie Supersport season, taking out the Sydney overall, while the likes of Jack Passfield, Tom Bramich, Supersport newcomer Hayden Nelson, Dallas Skeer, Scott Nicholson and Jake Farnsworth all have a podium proven pedigree. As the support classes approach the QLD-based stint of the series, it will be interesting to see who will rise and take charge of Supersport.

5. GT Racing emerges with Allerton:
The future of three-time Australian Superbike champion Glenn Allerton was initially uncertain, at least publicly, after NextGen Motorsports confirmed it would be taking a step back from ASBK this year. Prior to Phillip Island, Allerton had indicated his intentions were to source a Ducati V4 R with a Sydney-based team for 2023, however, difficulties in acquiring such a bike meant he competed in the season-opener on the familiar Shane Kinderis-prepared BMW platform, with the decision now made to see out this year’s campaign onboard the M 1000 RR in newly-formed GT Racing outfit. Debuting with the Sydney-based team owned by Trevor Groeneveld at SMSP, Allerton finished fourth overall and now sits a solid third in the championship standings following the opening two rounds. As GT Racing continues to develop, it will be interesting to see the pattern of Allerton’s results in the upcoming rounds as he pushes for a fourth premier-class ASBK title.

4. Starts an area of improvement for Staring:
Despite the deal with MotoGo Yamaha coming together relatively last-minute, Bryan Staring has been able to deliver credible pace onboard the R1 to open the 2023 season. Having qualified inside the top five at both rounds contested this year, Staring has often lost positions on the opening lap, leaving him with ground to recover throughout the races. Currently seventh in the championship standings, the upcoming round at Queensland Raceway sees Staring return to a track where he displayed strong pace last season. If he can get the starts sorted, it will make him an even more likely candidate for a top-three finish at the third round.

Image: Foremost Media.

3. Herfoss and Honda can’t be counted out:
Currently second in the ASBK standings, Troy Herfross and Penrite Honda Racing have emerged from the opening two rounds in a position where they can’t be counted out. Third overall with equal points to Mike Jones in second at Phillip Island and another P3 for the round in Sydney, Herfoss has been solid across a variety of conditions in the first two rounds. Additionally, he showed good form at the recent state championship event at Queensland Raceway which should bode well come the third round of ASBK between 28-30 April where he will look to reduce the 35 point deficit he faces to Waters.

2. YRT riders experience a share of misfortune:
Across the opening two rounds of the series, one of Josh Waters’ greatest challenges has come from the Yamaha Racing Team camp. Cru Halliday has entered 2023 with guns blazing, setting a new ASBK best lap at SMSP, topping both practice and qualifying at round two. He ultimately finished second overall in Sydney, but a racing incident in the opening bout of the season at Phillip Island saw him take evasive action at the high-speed turn three, which resulted in a costly crash and zero points haul to open his campaign. He was able to rebound and leave the opening round with 40 points thanks to a pair of second places, and now sits fourth in the standings on 79 thanks to his results in Sydney. Crucially, he is 47 points from championship leader Waters. Defending champion Mike Jones started the year with second overall at Phillip Island and was looking set to keep his consistent string of results going in race one at Sydney Motorsport Park before disaster struck and a mechanical issue forced him out of the race, scoring no points after his bike caught fire and remained ablaze for an extended period on the side of the track. Race two started on slicks in patchy conditions before rain meant it was re-started on a track that was declared wet. Only having one bike after the race one incident, there wasn’t enough time for the settings to be completely changed to suit the conditions and P10 was the best that Jones could salvage. Following the round two disappointment, Jones is eighth in the championship standings, 62 points from Waters ahead of Queensland Raceway, a venue where Jones dominated last year with pole position and two race wins.

1. Can anybody stop Waters?:
With five wins from five starts so far, the question on a lot of people’s minds is how long Waters can maintain his victory streak. What has made the start of Waters’ season even more impressive is that his victories have come in a variety of conditions, where he has shown both speed and composure to emerge as the head of the pack. While the number 21 has been immensely impressive onboard the V4 R, Queensland Raceway will provide a new challenge for himself and the McMartin Racing Ducati team, with last year’s winner Jones eager to rebound and a number of hungry contenders looking to land a race victory. While it’s hard to bet against Waters at any venue right now with the form he has shown this year, it could be argued he doesn’t enter the Queensland-based rounds as heavily a favourite as he did for Sydney Motorsport Park and Phillip Island. That could serve as a motivational boost for the three-time ASBK champion, or perhaps we will see someone rise and put a stop to the Mildura-based rider’s momentum next time out.