Johnson brilliant in Supermoto opener
Yamaha-backed road racing star Shannon Johnson is the rider to beat in this year' Maxxis Australian Supermoto Championship -- that's the upshot after round one was held at Stanthorpe (Qld) on November 7.
The South Morang (Vic) practitioner, who finished second in the 2004 Australian Superbike Championship, simply shifted his end-of-year belligerence on the bitumen to the hybrid road/dirt Supermoto layout, completing the two 12-lap S2 (250cc two-stroke versus 450cc four-stroke) races on his YZ450F with a first and second -- good enough for a class-leading haul of 47pts.
Johnson, who frightened the international armada with a brilliant cameo in the final round of the Supermoto World Championship at Broadford (Vic) in 2002, leads fellow Yamaha punter Mark Avard (Yamaha Australia/Beringer YZ450F) by 2pts after round one, with 2003 Aussie champion Stuart Bennett (KTM Australia 450SMR) next on 42.
"I was consistently lapping half a second faster than the other riders all day, so I was really happy with how it all went," said Johnson, who also won the 2002 national Supersport title. "However, arm pump really got to me in that second race as the dirt part got rougher and rougher -- there were a lot of square-edged bumps.
"At the end I was that fatigued I couldn't operate the clutch. I just had to sit back and watch Avard sail past.
"Despite that, it was a very successful outing, considering that I've spent limited time on the bike in recent months. However, one bike I will be spending time on before the next round in Newcastle (on November 21) is a motocrosser -- I need to get some race fitness!"
In a brilliant day's competition -- nearly half of the S2 competitors hold national championships in one discipline or another -- the troika of Johnson, Avard and Bennett were the standouts, and stood on the podium in both motos -- Avard kicking off with a third in the opener, while Bennett went 2-3 on the only purpose-built Supermoto machine in the Honda (CRF450R) and Yamaha-dominated field.
With 20 riders competing in the two main S2 races -- trimmed down from 31 after heats, semi-finals and a last-chance qualifier - enduro exponent Ryan Bouquet (Motorcycle Accessories Warehouse CRF450R) finished fourth overall on 33pts from road racer Chad Turnbull (Motul Husqvarna TC450, 30). Meanwhile, dual Australian dirt track champion Troy Herfoss, on the second Motul Husqvarna, finished equal on points (27) with motocrosser Danny Ham (Shift Motul Suzuki DR-Z450) and defending S2 champion Mark Willis (All Balls YZ450F), the latter finding his first hitout with new master Yamaha a tough one.
However, Willis' tumult was nothing compared to that of another leading light, Graham Cheney (Husaberg FC450), who crashed and broke his collarbone --extinguishing a planned trip to America.
In the second of the four officially sanctioned classes, S1 (over 450cc two-stroke versus 450-700cc four-stroke), newcomer Matthew Mace (Action Motorcycles Husaberg) emerged with the early lead -- despite not winning one of the four races. Mace went 2-2-3-3, which was still good enough for a 4pt (84 to 80) lead over VOR-mounted Michael Brummell (3-3-4-2). Josh McFarlane (Husqvarna), who failed to finish the opener, went 1-2-1 in the balance of the races to finish on 72pts.
In S3 (125cc two-stroke versus 250cc four-stroke), Rodney Taplin (Yamaha YZ250F) is the early pacesetter, as is Cameron Palmer (Kawasaki KX250F) in the juniors.