Johnson bound for Supermoto glory
Yamaha enforcer Shannon Johnson is the hot favourite to clinch the 2004 Maxxis Australian Supermoto Championship when it concludes with a double-header at Helidon, near Toowoomba (Qld) this weekend.
Johnson, aboard his YZ450F, has cut a swathe through the opposition in the opening two rounds, winning three of the four blue-ribbon S2 races -- and it could have been a perfect score if severe arm pump hadn't been a factor in one of the outings.
Despite that, Johnson still holds a solid 13pt (97 to 84) lead over Stuart Bennett (KTM Australia 450SMR) at the halfway mark in the four-round championship, and could turn that into an impregnable buffer if he again dominates under lights at Greer Park on Saturday night -- part one of the double header.
"I really want to win all the remaining races -- period," said 24-year-old Johnson, who won the 2002 Australian Supersport Championship on a Honda. "Fitness is no longer an issue, and in the last round at Tamworth (NSW) I set my fastest laps in the final few circuits, which was a real positive.
"If I can do the business on Saturday night that will set me up for a big finish on Sunday."
Twenty-three riders will kick off in the S2 heats this weekend, including Mark Avard (Yamaha/Beringer/DID YZ450F, 78pts) and defending S2 champion Mark Willis (All Balls YZ450F, 59). In addition to Bennett, the aforementioned pairing are probably the only riders with a realistic chance of unseating Johnson.
Bennett warmed up for Helidon with an overall victory in the opening round of the NSW Supermoto title last weekend, while Willis, who has five top 15 finishes in the 500cc world motorcycle championship to his credit, returned to something near his best in round two, jumping five positions in one fell swoop.
With a maximum of 100pts still up for grabs in the final two rounds, a number of other riders are still in with a chance to win the championship -- or more realistically push for a podium -- including Chad Turnbull (Motul Husqvarna Racing TC450, 59pts), who sits level with Willis ahead of a logjammed battle for fourth position. Then follows 17-year-old Troy Herfoss (Motul Husqvarna Racing TC450, 58pts) - fresh from two top three placings in the national long track title - Danny Ham (Shift Motul Suzuki DR-Z450, 54) and Glenn Allerton (DR-Z450, 40).
After sitting out the opening round, 23-year-old Allerton was the cause celebre at Tamworth, finishing third overall behind Johnson and Bennett.
Meanwhile, Honda roadracing star Josh Brookes, who won the Phillip Island round of this year's Supersport World Championship, has also signalled his intentions to compete on a CRF450R. The 21-year-old recently returned from a long period of convalescence after breaking his pelvis at Perth in June, but should make an immediate impact.
In S1, a continuation of Josh McFarlane's swashbuckling round two form -- he was unbeaten in the four races on his Motul Husqvarna Racing-supported 630 -- will see him claim the championship, although the consistent Michael Brummell (Tom Claxton Motorcycles VOR) is only 6pts in arrears.
Meanwhile, Yamaha YZ250F-riding duo Rodney Taplin (191pts) and Nick Mawkes (Kirkman Motorcycles, 170) look set to renew their S3 pyrotechnics at Greer Park, with Michael Avard (Kawasaki KX250F, 162) also keen for a slice of the action.
Finally, Cameron Palmer (Honda CRF250R) has been a beacon of brilliance in the Junior class, and it would be incongruous to not see him not hoist the winner's trophy on Sunday afternoon.
Entry for each round is $20 for adults, $10 for children and $50 for a family. Gates will open at 4.00pm on Saturday, with practice until 6.00pm. The evening program will then commence at 7.00pm, before concluding around 9.30pm.
Sunday's program will then revert to the normal 'day' timetable.