With Round 1 about to kick-off this weekend, moto-media man and former World Endurance and Australian Superbike Champion, Steve Martin gives us the low-down on the season opener for the Yamaha Motor Finance Australian Superbike Championship presented by Motul Pirelli (ASBK). Topics include; who is on the pace, the return of Troy Bayliss (Desmosport Ducati, 1299 Panigale R Final Edition), how the wildcards will fare and more.
What did you make of Official ASBK Pre-Season Test results and Glenn Allerton (NextGen Motorsports, BMWS1000RR) being fastest?
“After attending the test in person, I think it’s safe to say we could be in for one of the most exciting years ever. Allerton obviously impressed with his return on a BMW, but Bryan Staring (Kawasaki BCperformance, ZX-10R) also caught my eye with his performance on the ZX-10R. It looks like Kawasaki Australia have really stepped up their involvement for 2018.
“In general, there’s a whole group of guys now that can contend for race victories, possibly even more than last year’s amazing season, where six riders were still mathematically in contention for the championship at the final race for the YMI Superbike class.”
Josh Waters (Team Suzuki ECSTAR, GSX-R1000R) is the current champion. What’s it like to have the pressure of defending the #1 plate?
“Waters definitely wants to try to be the first rider this century to win four YMI Superbike Championships and prove he’s the best in the field. That absolutely puts pressure on his shoulders. Everybody says the Suzuki is a great bike with its handling and adaptability, but the rider still has to make the difference and have the cards all fall in his favour. He also has a new teammate in Mark Chiodo who has already showcased decent pace during the Official ASBK Test.”
With Bayliss coming back, what can we expect from him and can he still contend with the younger generation?
“I don’t think age comes into the equation with Bayliss. He’s never really completely retired and has always been competing here and there. I know he’s been playing it down, but he’s out there to win. I think we could see fireworks, Bayliss is not just there to ride around.”
50 Superbike entries for ASBK at WorldSBK. It seems like ASBK is back to its heyday in the 90’s?
“You say heyday, but this is the most amount of entries I’ve ever seen at an ASBK round. It just shows everything is heading in the right direction and my goodness the field is going to be tight.
“After 20 years of riding and covering ASBK, I can never remember such a bumper field going into the start of the season, like what we’ve got at Phillip Island. This isn’t a field of 50 also rans however, there’s plenty of depth there that will really spice up the competition. The heyday is happening right here, right now.”
Do you have a favorite for the win for Round 1?
“Talking about favorites for ASBK is now an unfair question because there are too many contenders to name. It could be anyone’s game this weekend.”
Have any riders caught your eye lately from the Test?
“I’m really interested to see how young 2017 Supersport Champion, Ted Collins (NextGen Motorsports, BMWS1000RR) fairs in his rookie YMI Superbike year on the BMWS1000RR. It’s going to be a huge step for him, but he’s a young rider with a wise head. We can expect to see him do well.”
“Over in the Kawasaki Supersport class, I’m also looking forward to seeing Nic Liminton (YRD, Yamaha YZF-R6) in action. Moving to a different setup this year, he’s shown that he could be in for improvement. I still think Tom Toparis (Cube Racing, ZX-6R) is the one to beat however.”
What do you make of the move of Cru Halliday (Yamaha Racing Team, YZF-R6) to a YZF-R6 for 2018?
“Yamaha are making a big play to win this year’s Kawasaki Supersport class with Halliday on the brand new R6. To come into that class with a factory entry shows they are a big organisation that put their money where their mouth is, and to have a rider of the caliber of Halliday is going to be tough to beat.
“You also have to look out for Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team, YZF-R1M) in his first year with Yamaha Racing Team. He scored the pole position and hat-trick of wins at the opening round of 2017.”
Wildcards Wayne Maxwell (Yamaha Racing Team, YZF-R1), Falzon and Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Team, CBR1000SP) will be competing WorldSBK and Toparis in WorldSSP, what challenges do they face?
“It’s going to be a hard ask for them to contend for a top position when they are against the best in the world, but you never know what ‘The Island’ will dish up in terms of weather. I truly believe when the flag drops, the talking stops and we’ve seen in the past that wildcards can be competitive.”
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Photos by Leonard Smith, February 2018. Words by PR.
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