Uncharted Territory for Penultimate Round.
Hi-Tec Oils Australian FX Superbike Championship – Round 3 Preview.
This weekend, the Hi-Tec Oils Australian FX-Superbike Championship visits Queensland’s iconic Lakeside Park for the very first time.
This event signals the return of national level motorcycle racing to the venue, for the first time in nearly two decades, and that’s been made possible thanks to the completion of significant upgrades to the 2.41km circuit earlier this year.
Round 3 of the championship is the penultimate round of the 2018 season, which resumes on the back of a five-month mid-season break, and this third round will be the second and last event to be staged in Queensland this year.
While Lakeside isn’t, by any means, a new circuit, it is for this championship, but that doesn’t mean the playing field is even coming into this round.
Series competitors based in Queensland have already had the chance to go racing at Lakeside – back in June, when the venue played host to Round 2 of the Queensland Dunlop Super Series, so they already have an edge on their New South Wales opponents, who will, no doubt, use Friday’s vitally important practice sessions to their advantage, in order to learn the circuit, and work out their bike setup in readiness for the racing that will follow.
The 2.41km Lakeside Park first opened back in 1960. Since then, the venue has been home to the Australian Grand Prix, many rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship, plus the Super Tourers, Australian Superbikes, and much, much more.
The BikeHaggle.com.au Superbikes will be the headline act at this event, supported by the Matris Dampers Supersport, RACERS.WORLD Formula Oz, FX Pro Twins as well as the ever-popular Shock Treatment 400 Supersport division, that always throws up close, thrilling racing.
In the Superbike series, Brendan McIntyre enters round three as the current points leader, after winning the opening round at Sydney Motorsport Park, back in March, and banking a good haul of points in the second round, at Queensland Raceway, seven weeks later.
The Queensland Raceway round was dominated by Robbie Bugden, who was filling in for Sam Lambert, who was out injured. Andrew Thompson and Chris Quinn rounded out the round podium.
After two rounds, the top four riders are separated by just 23 points, so with four riders in championship contention, the pressure is on, and every race holds importance from this point forward – consistency is the key, and they can’t afford a retirement at this stage of the season.
In the Matris Dampers Supersport and Am-Sport 600 series, Callum Barker holds a comfortable 42-point lead, over Hayden Spinks, coming into this round. Barker won the opening round of the series in March, before finishing second, behind Max Croker, in the previous round.
Croker would be in championship contention had he not missed the opening round at Sydney Motorsport Park. He stormed to a clean-sweep at Queensland Raceway, back in April, claiming pole position, and six race wins. He sits 102 points behind Barker, who could finish second, to Croker, in all remaining races, of which there are twelve, and still claim the title.
Barker’s nearest opponent is Hayden Spinks, who has two race wins, and a pole position to his name so far in 2018, but retirement in Race Five of the last round cost him valuable championship points.
Grant Davis, Ryan Sellen and Stephanie Redman round out the top five at present – Redman was hugely impressive in the previous round, where she took the fight to Hayden Spinks, and won the battle for third in five of the six races, only to be pipped by Ryan Sellen in Race Five – the race Spinks retired from.
In the Am-Sport 600 series, Garth Graves dominated the last round at QR, winning seven of the eight races. Points leader Brian Bolster won the opening race of the round, before finishing second in six of the remaining seven races - he failed to finish Race 6.
Bolster holds a 120-point lead over Noel Mahon, with Graves a further 25 points back, after missing the opening round of the season.
Pro-Twins and Naked Bikes will also feature on the program this weekend. Last time out, in Pro-Twins, it was Ryan Yanko that dominated proceedings at the front of the field. After clean-sweeping the second round of the season, he now eleven race wins to his name in 2018, and holds a 75 -point lead in the championship, ahead of Nick Marsh, with Aaron Breese a further 21 points back. Breese was second, on points, in Round 2, ahead of Marsh, who failed to finish the fourth race of the weekend.
The Naked Bikes points battle is being led by Brendan Watson, ahead of Adrian Pierpoint, but it was Pierpoint who emerged victorious in Round 2, at Queensland Raceway, after a hard-fought weekend of racing. Watson holds a 130-point advantage, by virtue of the fact that he is the only Naked Bike competitor to have participated in both rounds thus far.
In Formula OZ, three riders claimed outright race wins in the second round of the season. Joel Rhodes, Michael Witchard and Dean Hasler all tasted success, but it was Hasler who dominated the outright fight, claiming victory in four of the six races.
Unfortunately for Michael Witchard, a nasty crash at turn three, in race four, ended his weekend, and put a serious dent in his title aspirations.
Hasler won the round in Formula Oz B-Grade, while Joel Rhodes claimed C-Grade honours, and Roger Burman was victorious in D-Grade.
After claiming the opening round at Sydney Motorsport Park, and second in round two, it’s Brett Harpur who leads the B-Grade title fight – 50 points clear of Somphot Rosener, with Mark Woolford a further 40 points back.
Remarkably, despite missing the entire opening round, Dean Hasler sits fourth – 103 points off Harpur.
The margin is much tighter in C-Grade, where Joel Rhodes leads Lee Appleby by only 2.5 points.
In D-Grade, Burman is 90 points clear of Mike Fairley, while Aaron Smith is a distant third.
The Shock Treatment 400 Supersport class not only boasts the biggest field of the weekend, but promises to steal the show with close racing, thrilling battles and nail-biting finishes.
At Queensland Raceway, the battle for outright victory, between Keo Watson and Jarred Brook was nearly overshadowed by an incredible scrap between the likes of Kyle O’Connell, Mitch Kuhne, Andrew Edser, Grant Jordan and Dan Thomas, for the minor placings.
After Brook crashed out, while leading, in the final race of the weekend, Watson claimed top honours, and also class honours in the Over 351cc division, in which he holds a commanding 122-point lead with only two rounds to go.
Watson can mathematically secure the Over 351cc Supersport Championship this weekend.
Dan Thomas was the best of the 301-350cc bikes – a standout performance, to beat Kuhne.
Thomas was the best of the QLD State competitors, while Kuhne claimed national honours.
In the Under 300cc, Jason Whitehead claimed round 2 honours, ahead of Andrew Edser, who was tied with Brendan Watson.
After two rounds, Edser holds a 9-point lead over Whitehead, with Watson a further 14 points back.
The C & D (Grade) Stars of Tomorrow will also be back in action this weekend. At each round, these riders have two stand-alone races, one each on Saturday and Sunday.
At present, Tim Griffith has won three of the four races, and holds a 21-point lead in the championship, ahead of Hamish McMurray and Lee Appleby.
Last time out, Joel Rhodes was victorious in Race 1, ahead of Griffith and Rawiri Mahuika, while Griffith claimed race 2, ahead of John Stamnas and Hamish McMurray.
It might be the penultimate round of the Hi-Tec Oils Australian FX-Superbike Championship, but for the Dunlop Super Series, this is Grand Final weekend.
The Dunlop Super Series is the Hi-Tec Oils Australian FX-Superbike Championship’s Queensland feeder series.
The four-round championship holds two stand-alone meetings, and runs in conjunction with the national series when it visits Queensland.
This has the ingredients for a sensational weekend of racing – titles on the line in Queensland, and the rest of the contingent looking to bank a good haul of points, before the championships are decided, when the final round of the year takes place, at Sydney Motorsport Park, from November 23-25.