Johnson to start from 'pole position' Victorian Shannon Johnson (Yamaha) will start from pole position in the final round of the 2004 Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship at Phillip Island tomorrow -- without actually 'earning' the...
Johnson to start from 'pole position'
Victorian Shannon Johnson (Yamaha) will start from pole position in the final round of the 2004 Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship at Phillip Island tomorrow -- without actually 'earning' the honour.
The unprecedented situation arose after nearly 24 hours of heavy rain saw parts of the 4.448km grand prix circuit fully submerged by midday -- invoking memories of the rain-affected world Superbike round in 2001.
Officials were then forced to close the circuit for three hours while the 'saturated' parts -- Turn Three was of particular concern - were tended to. Due to the delay, both scheduled Superbike qualifiers were jettisoned to allow for the official racing program to commence at 3.00pm.
As a result of the unforeseen delay, officials declared that the Superbike practice times from Friday would determine the grid positions for tomorrow's three eight-lap races, with the major benefactor being 24-year-old Johnson (Nikon Yamaha YZF-R1), who joined fellow Victorian Adam Fergusson (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) as the only multiple polesitter in 2004.
The 2002 national Supersport champion uncorked a 1:36.000 in practice to continue his impeccable late-season heroics, ahead of Fergusson (1:36.312), three-time Superbike champion Shawn Giles (Team Suzuki GSX-R1000, 1:36.654) and Kawasaki Motors' pilot Jamie Stauffer (ZX-10R, 1:38.079). Giles' current Superbike lap record is 1:35.248, set in 2003.
"I'm not that perturbed about the rain, because it has worked in my favour," joked Johnson, who didn't receive an extra 1pt for the pole position because it wasn't set in an 'official' qualifying session. "However, there were a few little set-up things I wanted to try out on the R1 today, but now that's not going to happen.
"Still, it's great to get on pole position again -- it's just a pity that I wasn't showing the same form at the start of the year, as we would have been a real show for the title."
As it stands, if Johnson wins tomorrow's opening Superbike race, Fergusson, who clinched the Supersport championship in the penultimate round at Queensland Raceway on August 15, only has to finish sixth or better to claim the exalted double.
That's a task the Melton South (Vic) rider is expected to perform with ease, on the strength of his 13 podium visits in 17 races so far this year -- which includes a quota of seven wins.
Fergusson sits on 316pts after six rounds, with Johnson 66 adrift on 250. With all the Japanese factories represented on the Superbike grid in 2004, 34-year-old Giles is currently third on 242pts, ahead of Daniel Stauffer (Nikon Yamaha YZF-R1, 215), who is convalescing at home this weekend after surgery to repair a long-standing collarbone injury.
Giles returned to the Superbike winner's list at Queensland Raceway for the first time in well over the year, although Suzuki's four-year-old stranglehold on the premier Superbike title will officially end tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Jamie Stauffer (Kawasaki Motors ZX-10R) lies fifth on 175pts, ahead of Damian Cudlin (Team Suzuki GSX-R1000, 140), the still-injured Josh Brookes (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR, 139) and the leading privateer, Queensland Robert Bugden (Star Yamaha YZF-R1, 130).
Cudlin (1:39.101) will line up on the second row of the grid tomorrow after 'qualifying' in sixth position, one spot behind another formidable privateer, Nick Henderson (Geoff's Auto CBR1000RR, 1:38.935).
Twenty-six riders will line-up on the Superbike grid, with a couple of Ducati V-twins up against the might of the Japanese fours.