Development role could lead to select ASBK starts during 2024 series.
It’s been no secret that Troy Herfoss has paired up with DesmoSport Ducati for 2024 in addition to his US endeavours, a move that has finally been formalised. The question remains, just how far the reigning ASBK champion can take the team forward.
Led by Gold Coast-based former national competitor Ben Henry, DesmoSport – ranking as Ducati’s official Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) program – has largely been shaded by McMartin Racing in recent years.
While McMartin Racing took Wayne Maxwell to the title in 2021 and then took things down to the wire in both 2022 and 2023, only to finish runner-up on both occasions with the since-retired Maxwell and fellow three-time ASBK champion Josh Waters, in contrast DesmoSport’s best finish since switching to the Panigale V4 R was courtesy of Bryan Staring’s third position in 2022.
For reference, Oli Bayliss completed his one and only season fifth in 2021 and then last year Broc Pearson was sixth overall after controversially replacing Staring to signal a youthful shift from Henry and Bayliss. DesmoSport’s lone ASBK crown came in 2019 with Mike Jones at the helm of the highly-developed Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition twin cylinder.
Herfoss, meanwhile, was the rider that clinched the ASBK crown in 2023 before making a shock departure from Penrite Honda Racing under ER Motorsport ownership, which then strangely closed its doors altogether. We first saw the 37-year-old Herfoss on the DesmoSport bike in early January, despite his prospects overseas with Indian, and a union is now official.
While it’s unclear if Herfoss will make any appearances in ASBK for DesmoSport alongside the already re-signed Pearson, who is still only aged 23, the smart money suggests he will be on the grid sooner or later – potentially as soon as Phillip Island’s opening round between 23-25 February. The more budget that can be found, the more often we could see the 2016, 2018 and 2023 champion on the grid.
“I’m just really excited for the year ahead,” Herfoss explained. “I love riding bikes, challenging myself, and that’s definitely what’s ahead of me. It’s no secret that Ben is a good mate of mine, so I’m excited to play some role in helping the team succeed at home too.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep me riding on a fast bike in between races overseas. Broc is a doing a great job on the bike and I’m looking forward to spending more time with him and the team for a strong championship campaign.”
Team co-owner Henry – who is partnered with Ducati legend and triple world champion Troy Bayliss in the Feel Racing business behind DesmoSport – is effectively pinning his hopes on Herfoss’ feedback assisting in taking the team to the next level, which in turn should aid Pearson in climbing the order on a more consistent basis. Put simply, race wins and a title challenge must be the goal.
“It’s great to have Troy part of the team this season,” commented Henry. “Broc’s riding really well, with significant improvement, especially through the last part of 2023, and Herf brings a level of experience that is incredibly beneficial to us in the garage as well as to Broc, that we’ve already seen some improvement from.
“We’re getting set for a strong season ahead and I’m really happy we’ve been able to have a bike for Troy to ride when he’s home and appreciate his support of our season goals.”
An underlying truth is that most in the know are of the opinion that if there is one Ducati to be on in the ASBK paddock, it is in fact the McMartin Racing entry, and not DesmoSport even if the latter has closer ties – albeit still somewhat limited – with the factory. Whether it’s an electronic advantage or otherwise, the results on-track have been evident.
The fact that teenager Harrison Voight, who is only 17, climbed aboard the Craig McMartin-built Panigale at the Sydney Motorsport Park-based Summer Night Series at the end of last year and won races immediately proves just how complete the McMartin Racing package is – and certainly reiterates the genuine capabilities of Voight.
Will Herfoss’ input be the final piece of the complex puzzle that DesmoSport is missing? Time will be of the essence, but so far and considering his mixed efforts at both Phillip Island and in Sydney over the past month among a talent-packed international opposition, it appears to be a work in progress. For now, the results of this development-type exercise will be telling.