Johnson's stinging finale
Yamaha's Shannon Johnson (YZ450F) now has a new claim to fame -- that of Australia's pre-eminent Supermoto rider.
That was after the 24-year-old clinched the 2004 Maxxis Australian Supermoto Championship at the double-header finale in Helidon, near Toowoomba (Qld) last weekend, continuing the searing form which he had displayed throughout the four-round campaign.
Johnson, the 2002 Australian Supersport champion, finished on 197pts out of a possible 200 after the eight premier-class S2 races, 27pts in advance of KTM Australia's Stuart Bennett (450SMR).
"This has been a great championship for me, and to finish off the way I did in Queensland was excellent," said Johnson. "It was a ridiculously hot though, with the ambient temperature 32 degrees by 9.00am on Sunday morning -- I was always fighting to re-hydrate myself, and it felt like I had a hangover the whole time!
"To make matters worse, I even got stung by a bee before the first race on Sunday, but it was soon forgotten about with all the heat.
"I set out to prove a few people wrong on Saturday night. Some people had been saying that I couldn't pass, and that I was only winning because my bike was so fast. With that in mind, I sat behind Bennett for a little while in race two before making my way to the front. After that, I peeled off about five lap record-breaking laps in a row before I eased off again."
In a championship where nearly half of the 30-odd competitors had Australia titles in their CVs, Johnson and Bennett were the only two riders to score over 40pts at each round, leaving the likes of Mark Avard (Yamaha/Beringer/DID YZ450F), Chad Turnbull (Motul Husqvarna TC450) and defending S2 champion Mark Willis (All Balls YZ450F) to wage their own in-house battle for third overall at Helidon's rain-soaked Greer Park.
Avard, 35, eventually held off Turnbull to score that honour -- but it was an extremely close call. After holding a 19pt lead over Turnbull at the halfway mark in the championship, Avard's first outing -- under lights on Saturday night -- went pear-shaped in the heats when he collided with Willis, bringing both of them down.
That left the duo with lowly starting positions in the two point-scoring S2 races, and it was no surprise that Avard finished equal seventh, and Willis 11th. Meanwhile, Turnbull, relishing the tarmac-only circuit (heavy rain forced the dirt section to be closed for business), garnered his best result of the year.
That left the Queenslander only 3pts behind Avard heading into the final round (with the dirt section now being used), which he subsequently trimmed by a further two -- not quite enough. Avard finished on 140pts, ahead of Turnbull (139), Willis (112), Troy Herfoss (Motul Husqvarna TC450, 99) and Daniel McKenzie (YZ450F, 84), who jumped two spots in Helidon.
Besides Johnson, Avard was the only other rider to greet the S2 chequered flag in 2004 when he prevailed in round one's race two.
Meanwhile, the other two championship classes, S1 and S3, were a little more egalitarian, and saw three riders win races. In S1, sans defending champion Bennett, Josh McFarlane's 11 wins out of 16 races on his Motul Husqvarna Racing machine was just too much for his opposition, with his final winning margin over Michael Brummell (Tom Claxton Motorcycles VOR) 16pts (339 to 323). Brock Wilson (A1 Motorcycles Husqvarna, 283pts) was way back in third.
In S3, Rodney Taplin conspired with his livewire Yamaha YZ250F to win 13 of the 16 races, and he finished only 12pts shorts of a series whitewash. Taplin's 388pts saw him well ahead of Nick Mawkes (Kirkman Motorcycles YZ250F, 347), with Michael Avard (Kawasaki KX250F, 312) third.
Finally, the support classes were won by Cameron Palmer (Honda CRF250R -- Juniors); Phil Lovett (KTM -- Veterans); Andrew Junghans (Yamaha -- Clubmen); and Paul Worth (Honda -- Quads).