Phillip Island’s penultimate round of the 2019 Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) saw Kawasaki-supported privateer Matt Walters experience the best weekend of his career with a front row start and top five result on Sunday.
Walters starred at the world-famous 4.445-kilometre grand prix circuit, qualifying in third position with a scorching 1m32.545s lap-time set in Q2. The New South Welshman rode strongly in the pair of 12-lap encounters today, challenging for the podium early on in race one before finishing seventh, while in race two he crossed the line in P5 for fifth overall.
“It’s one of the best weekends that I’ve had in years, without a doubt,” said Walters. “The bike was working great from the moment we got here, we had a great qualifying session and obviously the front-row start really helped in the race. “The first race wasn’t too bad - I got pushed around in the first few laps and wasn’t able to get going, but in the second one I got a good start and got away good. Towards the end of the race the tyre started to give way a little, so I thought it was best to stay on it and not wreck it. I really would’ve liked to be on the podium, but I’ll take what I can get at this point of the season!”
It was a more challenging weekend for Kawasaki BCperformance. After qualifying in ninth place, Bryan Staring was eager to make amends in the opening encounter and the Western Australian managed to finish in eighth position. Making a number of changes between races that provided promising developments, Staring endeavoured to increase his championship chances with a spirited ride, although it unravelled with a high-speed crash in the closing stages, forcing him to register a DNF for 14th overall.
“Race one was a small disaster and we’re still looking into the reasons for that,” he reflected. “The second race was slightly better to begin with. I was really riding at my limit to try get some decent points, but I think the combination of the wind pushing us through Lukey Heights and the fact that I was pushing the envelope, I overstepped the mark and crashed. Fortunately, I’m going to be fine and got a major cork in my left quad, so it will take some rest this week.”
Superbike teammate Kyle Buckley, who suffered a broken collarbone in an incident at Winton one month ago, attempted to race this weekend, however a lack of strength and crash during Friday practice prompted him to withdraw from the remainder of the weekend.
“I was having some trouble on Friday morning,” said Buckley. “I went out in the first session and wasn’t able to hold myself back on the brakes, so I kept sliding forward. Second practice we changed a few things on the bike to make things a bit easier, but I rolled into the Hayshed, lost the front and had a huge crash. I didn’t re-break my collarbone, but I hurt it enough to sit out the weekend. It’s unfortunate, but I’ll try be ready for Sydney Motorsport Park.”
Kawasaki BCperformance team manager Kelvin Reilly acknowledged it was a frustrating weekend for the squad, however credited Staring for his relentless desire to keep his championship hopes alive aboard the ultra-competitive Ninja ZX-10RR. “This weekend was more difficult than we expected,” Reilly admitted. “We’ve had a lot of success here in the past, so there’s no answer for why we weren’t as quick as we can be around here - we tried everything but it just didn’t work for us this weekend.
“Kyle tried to ride earlier in the weekend and he obviously couldn’t. Bryan’s first race was frustrating because we could see from the TV footage that he was having issues out there. The second race, we had a better run and all credit to Bryan because he was giving it 110 per cent, but this is sometimes the risk you take. We’ll regroup for Sydney Motorsport Park, our home track, and look to finish the season with a strong result.”
Kawasaki BCperformance Junior Team rider Ben Burke wound up 13th overall in the Supersport 300 category, while Kawasaki Ninja 400-equipped riders Senna Agius, Luke Jhonston and Yannis Shaw swept the podium in an incredible strong weekend for the Kawasaki trio.
The next stop on the ASBK calendar is scheduled for 1-3 November at Sydney Motorsport Park, marking the season-finale. Visit www.kawasaki.com.au for further information on Kawasaki Motors Australia.