AUS: Superbike round three preveiw

Big guns head to Winton After a month-long recess, the 2004 Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship (SAASC) roars back into like for round three at Winton Motor Raceway (Vic) from May 14-16. A total of 180 riders have entered ...

Big guns head to Winton

After a month-long recess, the 2004 Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship (SAASC) roars back into like for round three at Winton Motor Raceway (Vic) from May 14-16.

A total of 180 riders have entered across the seven national-level classes at the popular northern Victorian circuit, including near-capacity grids in the two premier classes -- Production Superbike and Supersport.

In Superbikes, 21-year-old hotshot Josh Brookes (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) currently leads the way on 81pts after a brilliant start to 2004, which also included a sensational victory over fellow countryman Kevin Curtain in round two of the Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island in late March.

The Bringelly (NSW) rider, who was sixth in last year's Superbike title, has won two of the four races he has contested on the all-new CBR1000RR -- the same tally as Nikon Yamaha's Daniel Stauffer (YZF-R1). However, high-scoring efforts in his other two outings have already helped him forge a healthy 25pt (86 to 61) lead in the Superbike standings, with Stauffer and 29-year-old Adam Fergusson (Castrol Honda) deadlocked in a two-way battle for second from thrice Australian champion Shawn Giles (Suzuki GSX-R1000, 53).

"I'm really looking forward to returning to Winton and some normality," said Brookes, referring to a number of issues which marred round two of the championship at Wakefield Park (NSW). "Castrol Honda tested at Winton earlier this week, and I couldn't be happier with how things went.

"I'm continuing to get more out of the Superbike, which was my main focus during testing."

Brookes has never won a Superbike race at Winton, with his best result a pair of seconds in 2002 behind the-then Yamaha-mounted Jamie Stauffer and Giles respectively. Meanwhile, Daniel Stauffer is a two-time winner around the tight 3km circuit -- one apiece in 2002-03. Last year's victory in race two was particularly meritorious after a high-speed crash at Phillip Island a month before saw him compete at Winton with the residual of some serious injuries.

The doomsayers were proved incorrect after his fighting effort in 2003, and that might be the case again this year after Stauffer -- a former dirt track gun - broke his collarbone in testing at Winton earlier this week. The 27-year-old aircraft engineer broke the bone in three places, but is still optimistic that he'll be on location at Winton -- armed with his trademark fighting spirit.

In addition to Brookes and Daniel Stauffer, the other two riders likely to triumph in one or more of the 12-lappers at Winton are Fergusson and Giles. Fergusson, from Melton South (Vic), can never be discounted on out-and-out determination alone, while Giles has always been a Winton pacesetter -- he whitewashed the equivalent round way back in 2001 and still holds the current lap record -- a four-year-old benchmark of 1:23.733

The remaining factory-backed contingent at Winton will come in the form of Team Kawasaki duo Jamie Stauffer and the experienced Robbie Baird (both ZX-10Rs), Team Suzuki's Damian Cudlin (GSX-R1000) and 2002 national Supersport champion Shannon Johnson (Nikon Yamaha YZF-R1). Then there's the top-notch privateer cast, including the Honda-riding Brown Gouge Nova Racing equip (Brent George and Shaun Geronimi), Stephen Tozer (Stafford Yamaha/Over Racing YZF-R1), Jay Taylor (Link International GSX-R1000), and Nick Henderson (mylink Wireless Racing/Geoff's Auto CBR1000RR). The latter is currently in equal fifth alongside 33-year-old Baird on 45pts, while Taylor won race two at Wakefield Park, which was affected by a number of riders electing not to compete -- including the entire distributor-backed connection.

In Supersport, the irrepressible Brookes (Castrol Honda XCBR600RR) has already surpassed Curtain's four-race triumphant start to the 2003 season, which he achieved win a win in race two at Wakefield Park. Hitherto, his only real 'blemish' is failing to garner a bonus point for pole position at Wakefield, which went to teammate Fergusson.

Still, Brookes' lead over Fergusson is already an intimidating 24pts (101 to 77), with the Supersport balance of power now firmly in the hands of Honda after Yamaha dominated last year's title -- the tuning from brand won 12 of the 13 races, with Curtain and Brendan Clarke doing most of the winning.

With Curtain now back on the world stage and current Aussie number two Clarke (Nikon Yamaha YZF-R6) in the middle of a form slump, the major Yamaha challenge at Winton should come from Glenn Allerton (Data Dot Yamaha/Sydney City Motorcycles YZF-R6), who sits in third on 47.5pts from Jamie Stauffer (Team Kawasaki Australia ZX-6RR, 42) and 2002 250 GP champion Russell Holland (Action Motorcycles CBR600RR, 39).

Other leading names in the 38-rider field -- sans teenage wiz Jason O'Halloran (CBR600RR), who is still indisposed after sustaining multiple fractures at Wakefield Park -- will include Baird (Team Kawasaki Australia ZX-6RR), Judd Greedy (Brown Gouge Racing CBR600RR), Mark Aitchison (Brisbane Motorcycles, CBR600RR), 2002 Australian 250 Production champion Jordan Coote (Road Rocket/Valter Moto YZF-R6) and two-time Australian dirt track champion Chris Seaton (Floyd Parkes Kawasaki ZX-6RR).

Of the three remaining classes with Australian championship status at Winton, the Aprilia-backed FX Pro-Twins battle is currently the most keenly contested, with Craig Martin's Ducati 999S up against a couple of high-spec, limited-import Aprilias -- the RSVR Factory Aluma-Lite machines of evergreen John Allen and Benn Archibald. McMartin, with four wins out of six races, is the current pacesetter on 132pts, with the Aluma-Lite teammates in a stalemate for second on 118. Irrespective of who prevails in the Winton seven-lappers, standby for Allen's lap record of 1:26.652 to progress into the annals of history -- period.

In the Honda RS125-dominated 125 GP grid -- only one 'dissident' is aboard a Yamahas TZ125 - last year's number three Mick Kelly (Fairbairn Cranes Honda RS125) is a 23pt (126 to 103) leader over promising teenager Matthew Kuhne (Aluma-Lite Racing) as he chases a second Australian title, while Archibald (Aprilia RSVR Tuono) is showing his teammate Allen a clean pair of heels in the Flexirider Insurance Australian NakedBike Championship -- 152pts to 120.

The remaining action at Winton will come in the form of the YMF Loans Australian Superstock Cup and the two C&D Feature races. Gareth Jones (Sports Motorcycle Racing/Gold Coast Yamaha YZF-R6) leads the former by 14pts over fellow Yamaha rider Brendan Roberts.

Qualifying for all classes starts at 9.00am on Saturday, followed by the opening five races -- of 24 -- later that afternoon. The three Superbike races will be held on Sunday.

WINTON RACE SCHEDULE

* Friday, May 14 -- practice from 9.00am

* Saturday, May 15 -- qualifying from 9.00am; racing from 3.45pm

* Sunday, May 16 -- warm-up from 9.00am, followed by racing

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET IN?

* Saturday $15; two-day pass $30; children under 16 free

* Free access to the pits and car parking

* Programs $5.00

TELL ME MORE ABOUT WINTON

* State: Victoria

* Track length: 3km

* Opened: 1961

* Circuit web site: www.wintonraceway.com.au

-mm-

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Series Other bike
Drivers John Allen , Adam Fergusson , Gareth Jones , Kevin Curtain , Brent George , Nick Henderson , Brendan Roberts , Jamie Stauffer , Mark Aitchison , Damian Cudlin , Glenn Allerton , Phillip Island