Thrilling weekend kicks of ASBK season


Race 1

The 2019 Motul Pirelli Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) kicked off with a nail-biting Kawasaki Superbike which went down to the wire here at Phillip Island. The opening round, of the seven-round national Superbike championship featured as part of the FIM Superbike World Championship Weekend, held February 22-24.

After an epic race long battle Team Suzuki ECSTAR Australia’s Wayne Maxwell (Suzuki GSX-R) managed to capitalise on a last-corner Aiden Wagner (Yamaha YZF-R1) error to claim the victory, finishing only a tenth of a second ahead of the Yamaha privateer with BCperfromance Kawasaki rider Bryan Staring half a second back on the new Kawasaki ZX10RR.

After a brilliant qualifying session yesterday, Wagner started on pole ahead of Yamaha Racing Team teammate Cru Halliday and Daniel Falzon (Yamaha YZF-R1). As the field launched off the line Troy Bayliss (Ducati Panigale FE) had a superb start from the second row of the grid. He catapulted into second position while Maxwell fared much the same to improve his position from sixth to third by turn 1. Both Wagner and Halliday seemed to have problems keeping the front wheel down off the line – Halliday dropping to fifth and Wagner all the way back in 10th.

As the field crossed the stripe to start the second lap it was Bayliss in the lead with Maxwell in hot pursuit. Halliday began his recovery by making his way into third with Staring also improving to fourth from tenth on the grid.

By the beginning of lap 4 the field had started to sort themselves out, with Aiden Wagner calmly working his way through the pack to hit the lead ahead of Maxwell and Bayliss. Bayliss’s hopes however evaporated at turn 1 after trying to overtake Maxwell around the outside, the two bikes touching sending Bayliss off into the gravel. The Ducati legend managed to get up and walk away, but his race was over.

At just over half distance the lead group was Wagner, Maxwell, and Halliday. Wagner still held onto the lead despite solid pressure from the pursuing Suzuki and Yamaha riders.

Late in the race it was on for young and old between Wagner and Maxwell at the front. Maxwell took the lead into turn 1, Wagner retook the lead at turn 2. Wagner went wide at turn 4 letting Maxwell through, however Wagner was already back in front by the Hayshed (turn 8). The action was fast and frenetic before Wagner settled into the lead with a lap to go and looked to be odds-on for victory.

Staring capitalised on his late race pace and found his way past Halliday into third, pushing the Yamaha rider back to fourth.

Second-placed Maxwell stalked leader Wagner through the whole of the final lap, eventually applying enough pressure to force the leader into a mistake. Wagner missed a shift at the final corner, found a false neutral and upset the bike. He managed to save the subsequent wobble but it wasn’t enough to save the race. Maxwell pounced and streaked for the finish line to steal the win and the fairy-tale from the young privateer’s grasp, ahead of Staring, Halliday, Waters and Falzon.


Wayne Maxwell was thrilled to take the victory.

“Super stoked!” he exclaimed. “I couldn’t believe my start, I’ve been struggling with starts for years but I found myself in that front group.

“I had speed early on when the grip was good and then when it went away I got a bit nervous and Aiden came past and he was going so quick in places I was struggling- it was a big seesaw! I knew he was just hanging in there and I was just hanging in there, but it’s a lot easier to follow so when he made a mistake out of turn 11 I was there to capitalise on it.”

Wagner was circumspect about the result despite losing the race. “I’m happy with second, I knew we could have taken the win” he said. “I made a mistake, fault of my own, didn’t positively shift enough so it upset the bike. But Wayne was there all race, he was just waiting for a time to attack.”

Bryan Staring was happy with his performance, and predicted more close racing to come over the weekend.

“A good start from what could have been expected from tenth on the grid, to start the championship with a podium, that’s always the goal” said Staring. “I don’t expect any two races to be the same this weekend, everyone’s so happy to fight at the start of the year. Let’s see how we go this afternoon.”

Race 2

A thrilling conclusion to the first race day of the 2019 Motul Pirelli Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) saw privateer Aiden Wagner (Yamaha YZF-R1) take the win against the factory contenders during the second Kawasaki Superbike Race. With Round 1 of the ASBK, held at Phillip Island as part of the FIM World Superbike Championship weekend (February 22-24). Kicking off with a spectacular opening race it’s hard to believe the action could have gotten any better, but that’s exactly what Australia’s best Superbike riders delivered.

The win came as a role reversal of Race 1 as Wagner clinched the victory on the final corner from Suzuki’s Wayne Maxwell (Team Suzuki ECSTAR, Suzuki GSX-R EL R)- the key difference, Maxwell ended the race in the gravel trap rather than the podium after a spectacular last corner crash.

Wagner once again started the race from pole position ahead of the two Yamaha Racing Team teammates Cru Halliday and Daniel Falzon (Yamaha YZF-R1). Suzuki’s Josh Waters (Team Suzuki ECSTAR, Suzuki GSX-R EL R) led the field off the line ahead of Falzon, and Wagner who enjoyed a much better start to Race 2. Halliday on the other hand lost a few places off the line, while defending ASBK Superbike Champion Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing, Honda CBR RR SP) leapt from eighth to end the first lap in fifth.

Wagner, Maxwell and Waters had a three-wide drag race down the front straight to start lap three. Falzon and Halliday also tagged onto the back of the leaders to make a five-way fight.

On lap five Falzon crashed out of the race at MG (turn 10), before retiring. Halliday and Wagner appeared to tangle soon after at Honda corner, forcing Halliday to sit up and dropping him back to fourth. Maxwell briefly retook the lead from Wagner before Wagner got it back again on lap eight to make the order Wagner, Maxwell, Waters, and Halliday in fourth.

At the front of the field Wagner’s bike was bouncing all over the place as he struggled  to keep the front end planted under acceleration while trying desperately to retain the lead. On lap 10 Halliday overtook Waters for third place at turn 10 while Wagner and Maxwell swapped paint as they tipped into turn 1 on lap 11.

As the laps wound down Wagner appeared to be held up by lapped traffic, allowing Maxwell sneak by him at turn 4. Wagner only just avoiding dropping down to third as Halliday looked set to sneak by as well.

As they came through the last corner to begin their run to the line, Maxwell left a sliver of daylight up the inside and Wagner seized the opportunity. Side by side contact between between the pair saw Maxwell go down, leaving Wagner to cross the line ahead of Halliday and Waters.


Wagner was apologetic to Maxwell over the final corner incident, with the two seen to shake hands after the podium.

“In turn 12, Wayne left the door open and I took the opportunity” said Wagner. “I didn’t mean to run into him or make contact with him, but we had been making contact this whole race, down the straight, in all the corners. But that’s racing. I’ll buy him a beer after this. Wayne’s always been good to me, I didn’t mean to take him out. But I got the race win this afternoon on a privateer Yamaha and I can’t thank the team enough.”

Cru Halliday was measured in his response to second place.

“I sort of made it hard for myself you know, I didn’t get the best of starts, I got sort of swamped” he said. “And then I made another mistake with Aiden, he went a little bit wide and then he went out of view and I thought I had a clear run and he just came back through – a racing incident. I just need to stay on the bike and get points as I can, but we’ve done that so far.”

Waters ended the race in third, an improvement on his fifth in Race 1.

“For sure in race two it was our strongest race” Waters confirmed. “It’s a long championship, I just need to keep my head down and bum up.”

Race 3

The third race was another entertaining display, with Waters leading the pack off the start from Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team, Yamaha YZF-R1). As they tipped into turn one, polesitter Wagner was fourth but made it back to third by turn three. Wagner then got underneath Falzon at turn 10 to claim second and at the end of the first lap it was Waters from Wagner, Falzon, and Halliday. Two surprises amongst the leaders were Jones and Arthur Sissis (Powerfone Suzuki GSX-R) who both managed to make great starts and join the top guys at the front. Jones would go on to claim fourth spot in the pack ahead of Halliday on lap three while Sissis unfortunately couldn’t sustain the pace of the frontrunners and dropped back to finish 11th.

Jones was on an absolute charge and pulled off a lap record 1:31.881 in his pursuit of the leaders who chopped and changed amongst themselves. A lead change on lap five saw Falzon finding a way past Wagner as they tipped into turn one before Falzon went too deep into two and got bundled back to fourth for his trouble. The Yamaha Racing Team rider then squabbled with teammate Halliday over second and third positions while the chasing Wayne Maxwell (Team Suzuki ECSTAR, Suzuki GSX-R EL R) and Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing, Honda CBR RR SP) crept up on the lead bunch to form a seven-rider train.

In the second half of the race Wagner and Jones were swapping positions with regularity, Jones ultimately taking the lead going through the Hayshed on lap nine. Two laps to go and the lead group was Jones from Wagner, Waters, Halliday, Falzon and Maxwell, with Herfoss now starting to lose touch ever so slightly. Just before the last lap began Halliday seized the opportunity to scoot through on Waters to claim second.

As the field began the final lap Wagner made his move for the third time in a row this weekend, however there was no controversy this time as he cleanly slithered past Jones before turn two. As they rode through the lap Wagner pulled far enough in front by Jones’ apparent favourite passing spot at the Hayshed to defend his lead to the line, crossing first ahead of Jones, Halliday, Falzon, Waters and Maxwell.

Wagner was thrilled to climb on the top step of the podium. “It’s awesome to take the round win on the Landbridge Racing privateer Yamaha. It was really good to battle out there with Mike, another privateer and a really experienced rider. Well done to all the boys on the podium, it’s awesome to take this win home and I’m going to sleep really well tonight!”

Mike Jones surprised a few onlookers with his superb ride on the privateer Kawasaki, whilst a question mark hangs over his head as to whether he will contest any more rounds of the ASBK this season.

“Obviously absolutely ecstatic with the race,” he said. “Made a really good start and got away with the guys at the front and that helped me keep the lap times up and be there at the finish. It’s been a challenging time here since the ASBK Official Test here a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve shown that within six days of riding we can be up here at the pointy end.”

Halliday was pleased with his overall third in the race and second place for the round, in his first round returning to the Kawasaki Superbike class after winning the Supersport class last year.

“It was unreal” he said. “I sort of lost count of the lap board, I was that focussed on the race. Once Jonesy and Josh got past me I sat behind them for a little bit. I got the lap board with two laps to go and I thought I have to get in front of either Josh or Mike, they’ve got a touch more power than me and I’ve got to make sure I have enough of a gap down the straight.

“Third for that race and second overall for this round, I can’t say enough. I came here with top five as my goal and we knocked that out of the ballpark. Can’t wait for Round 2!”