Round 1 - 2017 Shannon's Nationals - A watery tale.

So in case you missed it, it’s been a little wet in Melbourne lately. Come to think of it Tassie and Sydney also saw a drop or two.  It’s all good, I love the rain as much as anyone.. but this was on a different level.

Lets be honest, it wasn’t an overly hot summer, at least in Melbourne anyway. Although I remember thinking it was bloody hot at the F1, I think that was more do to the fact that I kept on missing the photographers bus, forcing me to walk most of the weekend with all my gear and the media centre not being airconditioned. Well, they had air conditioning and it was making noise for sure… probably pretending, you know, like that guy that walks around the office all day with a blank piece of paper in their hand or better yet, a clip board.  They don’t do anything but man, do they look busy!

Anyway, after the F1 my family and I headed up to Queensland for some time on the beach, during a cyclone.  So that was good. So it was good to get back to Melbourne for the nice weather!

Then came last Sunday. I was scheduled to cover Round 1 of the Shannon’s Nationals for Alamy Live News and saw that the forecast was for rain but for some unknown reason to me, I decided that my intuition knew better and didn’t believe it. It rained the day before… it would have cleared by Sunday… and even so, it was forecast to rain late in the day anyway.  I am commonly known as an idiot and for good reason. It rained. It rained in the morning, late morning too. It rained all day. And when I say rain, I mean the air turned into water. Damn, I don’t remember it raining so hard for so long… It was almost like I'd suddenly turned absorbent, yellow and porous and was looking around for my purple Star Fish best mate. I digress.

So all I took to stay dry was a jacket.  And I got wet.. really wet.  So did my cameras.  They may as well have been submerged in a bucket of water… there’s no way they would have got any wetter. All I can say is that Canon do an amazing job of weather sealing their pro bodies and lenses. I really thought that something would go wrong with them but they performed flawlessly.  I still recommend using a waterproof camera cover.. or even a plastic bag in case it rains, there’s no point in risking it, camera’s cost an arm and a leg. But if you get caught, as I did, and you own a pro level Canon body and lens, then you should be OK.

The racing was awesome on Sunday, the rain made for great images and some great driving along with plenty of slides and crashes. Not a good thing for the teams but there’s nothing like a bit of action on the track.

It was also great to see a couple of debuts for Shannon’s Nationals – The Australian Prototype Series and the KTM GT4 – what an awesome looking machine! Click through the links to read more about them...

Here’s some of the pics from the day – enjoy! For the rest of the images, head over to my Facebook Page – davehewisonphotography or check out the gallery.

WorldSBK round one preview...Two champions in very different build-ups

Media release                                                                                         23 February 2017

 

Two champions in very different build-ups

When the 2017 Superbike World Championship kicks off at Phillip Island tomorrow, it will be the culmination of two completely different build-ups for world champion Jonathan Rea and Aussie star Josh Brookes.

Josh Brookes at Phillip Island with the wildcard Yamaha he'll run this we (3)

Josh Brookes at Phillip Island with the wildcard Yamaha he'll run this we (3)

Both are massively gifted riders, but with Rea currently at the peak of his powers – he's shooting to be the first rider to win a hat-trick of WorldSBK titles – he's enjoyed another brilliant pre-season on his factory Kawasaki, which has included upstaging a bunch of MotoGP riders in a combined MotoGP/WorldSBK test at Jerez last November, and then setting the fastest time in the final shakedown test at Phillip Island earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Brookes' build-up has been all hustle and bustle as he and a small band of tireless helpers have been scrambling to prepare for his wildcard appearance at Phillip Island on the Yamaha he rode to victory in the 2015 British superbike title.

It's been a hard slog, even at testing this week, but Brookes who hails from the outer Sydney suburb on Bringelly has enjoyed the hands-on experience – even though it's been on a shoestring.

Jonathan Rea  fastest in testing this week

Jonathan Rea  fastest in testing this week

"I love racing so much that I have poured my own money into this campaign," said Brookes at today's WorldSBK season launch. "It has been a huge undertaking, but the excitement of racing was very much a drawcard. I hope we can leave Phillip Island with a smile on our faces."

It's a big change of scenery for Brookes, who this time last year was preparing for a return to WorldSBK full-time on a BMW. However, it wasn't a happy collaboration with the German hardware and the New South Welshman is now heading back to British superbike – but not before he attempts to give the factory riders a scare at Phillip Island this weekend.

"Our No. 1 engine blew on Tuesday and this engine does not have the same top-end power as the other one, but it still drives off the corners really well so that's a bonus," Brookes said. "When practice starts tomorrow, my main focus will be on fine-tuning the engine braking as it's a little loose under brakes at the moment.

"The Yamaha likes to be ridden like 'Jorge Lorenzo' – fast and flowing. When it's all over the shop it may look good on television, but it doesn't suit the Yamaha's chassis."

For 'adopted Aussie' Rea – he's married to a Phillip Island girl – he's just itching to hit the race track and let the real business begin.

"I am excited and happy to be back at Phillip Island," he said. "I spend a lot of the off-season here and it means a lot to me.

"This year I reckon about five riders can win races week-in week-out, so the racing is going to be intense."

Rea won both WorldSBK races at Phillip Island last year, but with the likes of his teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and Chaz Davies (Ducati) yet to win races around the 4.445km grand prix circuit, the action is set to be intense in the two 22-lap races.

Returning riders Marco Melandri (Ducati) and Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) are also desperate to return to WorldSBK on a strong footing, while Leon Camier (MV Agusta), Alex Lowes (Yamaha) and fast privateer Xavi Fores (Ducati) will also be contenders.

Practice and qualifying for WorldSBK starts tomorrow, followed by Superpole and race one on Saturday at 3:00pm. Race two is on Sunday at the same time.

This weekend's action will also include world supersport and a full card of national support races.

 

WorldSBK 2017 Officially Launched

Media Release

The 2017 World Superbike season officially launched at sunny Phillip Island 

Anticipation swirled around the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit as the season was officially launched in front of the world’s media and circuit officials. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), Josh Brookes (ERMotorsport-EliteRoads.com.au) were present for WorldSBK; whilst Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), Aiden Wagner (Germar Team Lorini) and Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing) attended from the WorldSSP paddock. The gripping 2017 season will commence on Friday 24th February, and an unpredictable year awaits with so many teams and riders running at the highest level the season has seen in years.  

Reigning world champion and honorary local Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) was the first rider to take to the mic, explaining his feelings ahead of the weekend. Following an impressive performance in the Official Two day test at the beginning of the week, the Northern Irishman topped the overall timing sheets and he looks to take his third consecutive world title.  “I am very excited to be here in Phillip Island, it’s a circuit I really enjoy. My wife was born in the local town and I spend a lot of my off season here, so it’s a track that means a lot to me. Winter testing has been going quite well, I just hope we can keep working smoothly. I think the beauty of this season is that there are many riders who could win week in week out, so it’s important to do my best every single race and I’m looking forward to starting this weekend.”

One of Rea’s main title rivals for 2017 will no doubt be Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing –Ducati), as the British rider had a near perfect end to his 2016 season. Hoping to bring this pace forward into the new year; Davies has undergone a relentless testing program and feels optimistic:  “I think we’re taking the momentum we had at the end of last season into this one, and the level in WorldSBK is very very high. I think all teams are pushing extremely hard to get their bikes up the front, and no one is slacking off. It’s up to us to keep that form going, and to keep the long game in mind.”

Newcomer to the WorldSBK paddock Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) is looking forward to a new racing experience. In a paddock of which he has spent many seasons following, the German faces a new challenge: “A couple of things are pretty new for me, not only the manufacturer and the team but also the events, with having two races in a weekend.  We will try our best to be competitive; of course there is a lot of work in-front of us but we have always known this would be the case. Of course we didn’t expect to be perfect, and we will keep pushing as hard as we can. I’m looking forward to the weekend here and it is a great race track, especially to experience the summer here for the first time!”

British hopeful Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) is feeling confident following his pre-season testing, with some big changes taken on board for the YZF-R1. Working strongly with his team, Lowes looks ahead to what is set to be an interesting WorldSBK season: “The pre-season testing has gone quite well for us. We are on the same bike and with the same team as last year and they’ve done a fantastic job. I feel quite happy and relaxed going into this season compared to this time last year so I’m looking forward to it. I think we can do a good job and I can’t wait to get stated.”

Fergus Cameron, Managing Director, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit welcomed everyone to the stunning event which the circuit are thrilled to host year on year: “It’s wonderful to see how over a period of time this event has grown, I can say I have been here for every one of those Superbike event s and it has given me the opportunity to see the professionalism that the event delivers. We had amazing amounts of motorcycling activity here in February, and it really gives us the profile to becoming one of the best motorcycle circuits in the world, and I would just like to wish luck to all the riders.”

Daniel Carrera, Executive Director for Dorna Group explains: “First of all I would like to thank our partners in Australia, Phillip Island Circuit, the Australian government, Yamaha Finance and motorcycling in Australia for their support and co-operation. I think there is no better place to start the championship other than Phillip Island in the Australian summer. We always find a very welcoming atmosphere, and it is a pleasure for our championship to start the season here. I think we have a very interesting and exciting championship in front of us. We have new faces on our grid, and the combination between teams and manufactures is very powerful which will provide much excitement over the season. I would like to wish good luck to all our riders and teams.”

WorldSBK kicks off at 9.45am LT (+11 GMT) with WorldSBK free practice one, as the season prepares for a thriving 2017.