Racers Edge Performance, North Coast V-Twins and Craig McMartin Racing have once again shown the pace to challenge the front runners in the strongest ASBK field for many years with a strong showing in a weekend full of wild weather changes and hot racing at Wakefield Park over the weekend of 17-19 March.
Fridays practice for the second round of the 2017 ASBK Championship got underway in drying conditions giving the Racers Edge Performance North Coast V-Twins team their first opportunity to test the Bridgestone Battlax slick tyres on a cold, and in places damp, Wakefield Park circuit.
Team Manager Greg Maher and bike builder Craig McMartin spent the time before Friday’s practice sessions working with rider Beau Beaton on the different options with the suspension package on the Panigale 1199R to optimise the performance on the Battlax slick tyres on a circuit that provides no rest for the rider, packing ten corners into only 2.2km of bitumen. Times in the session were about four seconds off the pace of a fully dry circuit but Beau Beaton was able to put in consistent laps and improve his confidence as the track got dryer over the thirty-minute session to secure seventh position.
For the second practice session the track was fully dry and track temperature had increased giving more grip and confidence. Beau managed to slash over 3 second off his time from P1 with thirteen flying laps, less than one second separated his fastest and slowest lap, to finish the session in fifth, only .7 off the fastest lap.
Fridays final practice session saw Beau improve again by another .2 of a second and once again cement a position in the top ten in the star studded field in seventh position, less than a second from the fastest time of the day to finish as top Ducati and top Bridgestone runner.
Saturday morning saw consistent rain make the track treacherous and extremely slippery as the Superbikes made their way out for the first of two qualifying sessions. The conditions gave Beau and the team their first chance to sample the grip of the Bridgestone wet weather tyres. Beau was able to get out and do a few laps and then return to the pits twice to make adjustments to the suspension before recording his best lap of the session, once again less than a second from provisional pole position in eighth.
The second qualifying session took on a whole new level of importance as the rain had stopped and the track dried somewhat to mirror the conditions of the previous day. Beau was right in the mix, holding provisional pole position twice in the session before the pace got red hot in the dying stages and the order changed constantly. Completing the most laps of any session Beau was also able to set his fastest time of the weekend with a 58.7, securing a second row grid position in the process. Less than .7 of a second covered the top eight bikes on the grid.
Unfortunately rain once again was in the air as the team arrived at the circuit on Sunday. With the first of two twenty lap races scheduled to get underway after midday the team were hopeful that the clouds would break and allow the race to be held on a dry track. They got their wish, but fractionally late.
The rain had stopped for the sighting lap and Beau and the team decided that a wet front and slick rear was the best option with the ever present chance of rain in the air. After the media grid formalities had finished and riders set off on the warm up lap conditions had changed considerably, due mainly to the strong easterly wind, the track had dried quickly and some riders had made a last minute change to slicks front and rear on the grid.
As the lights went out for race one Beau fired the Racers Edge Performance Panigale 1199R off the second row strongly and into a prominent position near the front of the pack, completing lap one in fifth position. Another strong lap on the second tour saw Beau get the better of dual ASBK champion Josh Waters as well as Cru Halliday, however reigning champion Troy Herfoss, who had started from the back of the grid on full slicks pushed his way past as well. The action was edge-of-the-seat stuff as the riders jockeyed for position and the bikes started to move around on wet tyres and softer suspension setups. By lap four Herfoss had pulled ahead, Beau had surged past Wayne Maxwell and into second position on the road and was clearly wrestling the Panigale to remarkable lap times with the wet front. Beau held onto second until lap seven when Robbie Bugden and Josh Hook, both with full slicks, went past. From lap seven to ten Beau help down fourth place, and the first rider not on full slicks, on lap eleven former MotoGP rider Bryan Staring, also on slicks went past to relegate Beau to fifth. As some riders entered the pits to change bikes Beau pushed on, manhandling the Racers Edge Performance Panigale as more riders who had gambled on slicks came past. At the flag Beau finished a strong seventh and the first rider home that was not on slick tyres front and rear, a remarkable performance.
There was no worry about what tyres to use for race two as the track was dry and rain was not immediately threatening. Another strong start by Beau saw him remain in his starting position for the first four laps, in another great spectacle of nose-to-tail superbike action. Lap five saw Beau loose a position to a hard charging local Troy Herfoss, buoyed by the support of the partisan crowd. Beau was then involved in another great dual with old foe Robbie Bugden with Bugden managing to get past on lap eight with Beau glued to his tail for another lap but unable to find a way to get the position back on a track that is notoriously hard to pass on. Holding position in eighth for another five laps Beau was pushed back two more places on lap fourteen when Matt Walters and Kyle Buckley forced their way past. Beau was right on their tales and planning a strategy to get the positions back when a red flag brought the race to a premature end due to Cru Halliday’s crashed bike close to the track edge. With Cru excluded from the race results Beau secured another strong ninth place to finish equal seventh on points with Team Suzuki rider Josh Waters for the round.
Another strong and consistent round sees Beau climb to sixth, an improvement of three places, in the ASBK Championship with the next round to be held at Winton where the combination of the Racers Edge Performance Panigale and Beau Beaton have shown pace before.
“For the second round in a row, I am really happy with the way the weekend has turned out” said Beau Beaton. “Qualifying on the second row showed the pace we have and actually exceeded my expectations. Greg and Craig also did a great job changing tyres and set-ups all weekend with the constantly changing conditions. Whatever tyres we chose for race one was going to be a gamble, we went with the wet front and slick rear and finished first of all the non-full slick runners. A few drops of rain in that race and it could have been a completely different story. I was also really happy with the performance of the Bridgestone wets this weekend too, especially on a track as slippery as Wakefield. As always, a big thanks to Greg and Julie from Racers Edge, Craig McMartin for building the Panigale R’s, North Coast V-Twins for their continued support”.
“More than happy with the way the weekend turned out for us a Wakefield Park” commented Team Manager Greg Maher “Everything ran smoothly, and considering how many times we had to change tyres and set-up over the three days it just shows how well the team is working, it was great to have Craig here helping this weekend too, he knows those bikes inside out. The only thing that didn’t run smoothly was the weather, but we can’t control that and it is the same for everyone. The only thing that was slightly disappointing was that we were running in second for a majority of that first race but in the end the pace of the guys that had gambled on full slicks was too much, Beau did a fantastic job to run the pace he did, and to finish as the first non-full slick runners was great. We’ll let the dust settle now and begin our preparation for the next round at Winton”.