Superbike fireworks for Eastern Creek Round two of the 2005 YMF Loan Australian Superbike Championship will be held at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway this weekend, with 180 riders set for hostilities across 10 separate classes. With the...
Superbike fireworks for Eastern Creek
Round two of the 2005 YMF Loan Australian Superbike Championship will be held at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway this weekend, with 180 riders set for hostilities across 10 separate classes.
With the championship's opening round at Phillip Island on April 2-3 the sole domain of the 'S' brigade -- Superbike, Supersport and Superstock -- Eastern Creek will mark the first time that all the 2005 campaigners have formed a 'united' front, with 22 races to be held over the two days.
Moreover, round two will also mark Yamaha's official debut, via its YMF Loan moniker, as the Australian Superbike Championship's new naming right's sponsor after an 18-year association with Shell came to an end in 2004.
As usual, the major focus at Eastern Creek will be on the top-tier YMF Loan-backed Superbike and Supersport classes, where birthday boy Josh Brookes (Joe Rocket Honda) -- he's 22 today -- currently reigns supreme in both after a sublime Phillip Island performance.
Brookes, from Bringelly (NSW), won four of the five Superbike and Supersport races at Phillip Island on his CBR1000RR and CBR600RR Hondas, and takes two and 10pt leads respectively into Eastern Creek -- a venue where he has traditionally been a colossus. The 2001 Australian Supersport champion not only holds the lap record in both classes around the 3.93km circuit, but he was in swashbuckling form at the corresponding round in 2004.
In Superbike, Brookes currently holds sway over Team Suzuki's Shawn Giles (GSX-R1000) by 2pts (45 to 43), followed in third position by Yamaha Racing Team's Daniel Stauffer (YZF-R1, 36). Both of Brookes' pursuers have plenty of motivation heading into Eastern Creek -- Giles to go all out for a maiden Australian win on the all-new K5 model GSX-R1000, while Stauffer is another rider who seemingly produces his most prolific work at the western Sydney layout.
The aircraft engineer, 28, won two out of the three Superbike outings at Easter Creek last year after starting from pole position, but his charge for an overall victory dissipated in race three when his foot peg came loose.
"Phillip Island seems so long ago now, but it was a pretty successful start for us," said Stauffer, who finished fourth in last year's championship. "I feel the revised suspension and other modifications we have recently introduced will see us improve even more this weekend.
"Eastern Creek was good to me last year... so I'm hoping I can repeat the performance."
Meanwhile, 34-year-old Giles, who won three Superbike championships from 2000-02, has finished second in four of the last five races at Eastern Creek, and will undoubtedly up the ante in round two on the strength of ongoing development to his new Suzuki.
Thirty-three riders will report for duty in the two Superbike qualifying sessions on Saturday, including two other national Superbike champions: reigning title holder Adam Fergusson (Joe Rocket Honda CBR1000RR) and 1994 master Anthony Gobert (Redwing Honda CBR1000RR). Fergusson, 30, is currently seventh in the standings on 25pts after tyre problems saw him limp over the line in race one at Phillip Island, before the best possible riposte in the second instalment -- his first win of the season.
In front of Fergusson, Jamie Stauffer (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R, 34pts), privateer Scott Charlton (Active Electrical Distributors GSX-R1000, 32) and Shannon Johnson (Yamaha Racing Team YZF-R1, 30) are currently domiciled in positions 4-6, with Stauffer, in particular, on the cusp of producing some real fireworks this weekend.
After breaking Giles' Phillip Island lap record in round one -- albeit by one thousandth of a second! -- Stauffer followed up with a successful test session at Winton (Vic), which has left him in a bullish mood.
"At Winton, we concentrated on two aspects of the ZX-10R's handling: its balance and geometry, and we've also done some work on the engine management system.
"Everything worked well and the bike's now got much better traction and a heap more mid-corner grip."
Jamie, who finished third in the 2001-02 Superbike titles, is chasing Kawasaki's first win in the premier class since Andrew Pitt prevailed in 1999.
Meanwhile Johnson, the reigning number two, is not far away from returning to the top of his game, which saw him win races in the final two rounds last year.
Also watch out for Glenn Allerton (Team Suzuki GSX-R1000) and former 250 GP champion Russell Holland (CBR1000RR) to show some real grunt at Eastern Creek, after making their Superbike debuts at Phillip Island.
In a departure from previous years, only two Superbike races, instead of three, will be held in 2005 -- albeit longer affairs. At Eastern Creek, that will correspond to two 13-lap races, which is the same workload slated for the Supersport riders. Meanwhile, all the other classes will continue battle it out over three races.
In Supersport, the Honda troika of Brookes, defending champion Fergusson (Joe Rocket CBR600RR) and teenage wiz Jason O'Halloran (Rocket Racing CBR600RR) were the pacesetters at Phillip Island, with Queenslander Robbie Baird (Yamaha Racing Team YZF-R6) the only other rider to sneak onto the podium.
As it stands, Brookes holds a 10pt (76 to 66) lead over Fergusson, followed by O'Halloran (54), Josh Waters (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-6RR, 45) and Jordan Coote (YZF-R6, 43).
Brookes, on the strength of his round one heroics, not to mention his subjugation of last year's Eastern Creek field, places him as the obvious favourite this weekend, although nothing is ever a given in the cut-throat world of Supersport racing.
As for Fergusson, he is attempting to join Kevin Curtain as the only other multiple Supersport champion in 2005, as well as winning Honda's sixth title.
"I always enjoy racing with Josh in Supersport and our lap times are very comparable so if I can get away well, I'm sure I can get the better of him," Fergusson said. "The big class is probably a little more of an unknown. There are some very competitive guys in the top 10 so it is a harder game, physically and mentally."
Elsewhere on the round two program, Craig McMartin (Ducati Sydney-Shell Advance Ducati 999S) and Queenslander Benn Archibald (Aluma-Lite Racing Aprilia RSVR Tuono) will begin their defence of the FX Pro-Twins and Yamalube NakedBike Championships respectively, while Honda RS125-riding trio Paul Campbell (Redback Motorcycles), Brett Simmonds and Peter Galvin appear the best bets to fight it out for AMCN 125 GP honours in the absence of last year's top three: Bryan Staring (now in Supersport), Mick Kelly (Superbike) and Mathew Kuhne (overseas).
In the Aircom Systems-supported Sidecar F1, a major infusion of talent has come in the form of 2002 world champions Steve Abbott and passenger Jamie Biggs (Aircom Castrol Team LCR Suzuki). It would be incredulous not to see the duo at the pointy end of the 15-outfit field, and the 14-year-old lap record of Andre Bosman-Dave Kellett (1:40.37) may finally be eclipsed.
Another former star returning to the Sidecar F1 fold is Shane Soutar (Techsim Kawasaki), who was the 1993-94 national champion.
Finally, a new GYTR Superstock title holder will be crowned in 2005, with Darren Edwards (YZF-R6) the current leader on 70pts ahead of Daniel Figueiredo (GSX-R600, 56), Dale Broadfoot (CBR600RR, 55) and Danny Higgins (YZF-R6, 53).
Qualifying for round two begins at 9.00am on Saturday, with the first of the races for all classes -- except Superbike and Supersport -- to be held after the lunch break. Sixteen races will be held on Sunday from 10.00am.
For more information on the 2005 YMF Loan Australian Superbike Championship, visit www.aus-superbikes.com.au, or tel (02) 4984 2488.