News 25 Feb 2024

Phillip Island’s biggest factor following resurfacing

Tyre longevity better than anticipated in ASBK races so far.

In the midst of Phillip Island’s 2024 Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) season-opener, there’s been one key talking point throughout the paddock – tyre longevity following the circuit’s resurfacing in the off-season.

The picturesque venue underwent the procedure ahead of the 2024 season, which was its first since 2012, and has ultimately promoted tyre degradation as riders smash existing lap records, both in ASBK and the Motul Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) this weekend.

Tyre wear has been so severe that it’s forced WorldSBK promoters and its control tyre supplier Pirelli to implement a mandatory pit stop throughout races one and two under flag-to-flag rules, alongside reducing the race distance from 22 laps to 20 to accommodate the reduced tyre life.

Image: Foremost Media.

WorldSBK’s decision to implement a mandatory pit stop came ahead of the weekend, which had many questioning how the ASBK paddock would be impacted, despite its shorter race distances. With the national championship open to different tyre manufacturers, there are more variables at play.

Pirelli supplies the majority of the Superbike grid and offers three homologated rear tyre options, all of which were available and utilised throughout testing and free practice sessions this weekend. However, the decision was later made to have riders use their hardest available tyre option and by Sunday the duration was reduced from 12 to 11 laps.

Despite any disruption to those who based their set-ups on the initially available compounds, Pirelli’s move to solely making the ‘A’ compound available somewhat alleviated any concerns from a safety standpoint, with tyre longevity proving to be better than anticipated across the opening two races. And it’s a credit to the Italian tyre brand, placed well beneath the microscope.

Image: Foremost Media.

“It was a little bit up in the air until they made the decision on what you had to actually use, because the three tyres have worked quite alright,” Josh Waters (McMartin Racing Ducati) told CycleOnline, who managed his lead to secure victory in Saturday’s first race.

“I had to think smart because you could feel it – it’s not the tyre’s fault, it’s the surface’s fault. Look at all the manufacturers, they’ve suffered in the past when they last resurfaced it. It’s not that, it’s the surface, so the blame isn’t the tyre brands.”

While Waters, who also went on to claim victory in race two, was able to manage his tyre and race lead, it was a different story for Yamaha Racing Team’s Cru Halliday in the opening encounter, scrapping any strategy of tyre management as he charged his way from as far back as P13 to ultimately finish in fourth. He repeated that result this morning.

Image: Foremost Media.

“I was just charging forward,” Halliday recalled. “I saw Mike [Jones], Troy [Herfoss], and Harrison [Voight] up there, and it sort of took my mind off the tyre. I knew the tyre was going to be a bit touch-and-go before the start of the race. I think we’re all in the same position and we just have to deal with it.

“When I saw I was in 13th, I thought there’s no conserving this – I sent it pretty hard, and as soon as I got to Mike, I knew I was in a bit of trouble. To be honest, I saw he was struggling a bit too, but I just had a bit more pace than him, so I could pass and jump another position. There’s no way I could catch back up to Troy. they were gone.”

Race three of the domestic Superbike category was ultimately declared after an oil spill caused by Matt Walters (Aprilia), with half-points being paid after completing just four laps.