ASBK Grand Finale: Miller Stars While Maxwell Wins!
It was an exhilarating weekend for Aussie racing fans as the ASBK Descended upon The Bend Motorsport park for the 2021 Grand Finale which saw Wayne Maxwell win the championship and Miller jump on the podium! Words: Stu McGraw Photos: Optikal/ASBK.
After a hearty breakfast I zipped over to the track to check out how the inclusion of a MotoGP rider affected crowd numbers at the ASBK Grand Finale. The fact that it took 35 minutes to get into the gates should tell the story – reports indicate that this might be the best attendance in ASBK history.
The entire facility and organisation of the event was absolutely top shelf. Kudos to the track owners and event organisers, considering the disjointed and limited nature of the 2021 ASBK season this weekend should provide a beacon of light for years to come.
I witnessed Miller spending time with almost all of the Oceania Junior Cup kids, chatting about various aspects of life as a racer…
On to the action, and early practice saw the usual suspects at the top of the leader board – Maxwell, Falzon, Bayliss – with outright lap records tumbling further and further as the session progressed. Lucky too, as they were pushed hard by the ring-in. And that really goes to the heart of what we are seeing here this weekend – a transfer of knowledge. To see Jack Miller riding in competition with the ASBK guys is to witness everyone having their skills elevated. Jack was adamant he was going to make this round to finish his year off with a home race, because he knows how much the local fans have missed out these last two years.
Whether he realises it or not it actually means more than that. The value to the up and coming riders is immeasurable. The lack of the MotoGP media contingent has provided a freedom I am sure that Miller has missed, one that has allowed him to wander the paddock alone and unfettered. I witnessed Miller spending time with almost all of the Oceania Junior Cup kids, chatting about various aspects of life as a racer. For these heroes of tomorrow with stars in their eyes that alone is an opportunity I am sure they would never have dreamed of.
For these heroes of tomorrow with stars in their eyes that alone is an opportunity I am sure they would never have dreamed of…
Back on the track, Miller had a minor off at turn 1 while he was exploring the limits of his Michelin tyres. Anthony West continued to have troubles with his YZF-R1 and Oli Bayliss made it a Ducati 1-2-3 at the top of the timesheets with all three bikes clocking almost 10km/h faster than 4th placed Falzon.
Running a MotoGP-style double qualification format, the top three of West (Yamaha), Wagner (Yamaha), and a still-wounded Troy Herfoss (Honda) progressed through Q1 to ride for pole. The Q2 session ended prematurely for Westy as his R1 called it a day at the back of the track. Miller almost repeated his earlier mistake but managed to stand the bike up and get away with a wide exit out of T1. Falzon briefly headed the table Maxwell lit the blue touch paper and absolutely operated the 1:50.9 lap record he had set early in the morning – ultimately finishing top with 1:50.5!
The Q2 session ended prematurely for Westy as his R1 called it a day at the back of the track
Arthur Sissis and Falzon both impressed with their incredible efforts all day, and their teams should both be proud of the bikes they have delivered this weekend. But in the end, it was Ducati power that stole the day once again, with Maxwell and Miller delivering when it counted. The front row is completed by Falzon who just held into 3rd after Bayliss could not quite string together a complete lap to kick the Yamaha out of the spot.
A great day’s action at a great venue with a fantastic crowd to provide an awesome atmosphere – what else could a race junkie ask for?! The only blight on the day was the announcement that Adelaide had been declared a COVID hotspot by the Queensland government, meaning this little maniac had to run out for an emergency PCR test to ensure I will be allowed back home…
A great day’s action at a great venue with a fantastic crowd to provide an awesome atmosphere – what else could a race junkie ask for?
After all the Saturday action, a quiet race day was never on the cards – and true to form we were all on the edge of our seats from the off. Before Race 1 even began the drama started off track with one International rider being picked up by police, after quarantine rules were changed overnight meaning he had not served enough time in isolation!
Race 1 started in warm conditions with Miller going backwards off the line after he struggled to master the traction control and clutch of his Panigale V4R. All the hard work to get onto the front row was undone by turn 1, with Miller slipping back to 7th place. Up front Maxwell, Sissis, Allerton, Falzon, and Bayliss made the early running until Falzon crashed out and Bayliss made a small error that allowed a recovering Miller to slip by into 3rd. Oli’s day didn’t get any better as a mechanical issue forced him to retire soon after.
Up front Maxwell was still breaking lap records in a display of dominance. No-one could get near the rear wheel of his Ducati…
Up front Maxwell was still breaking lap records in a display of dominance. No-one could get near the rear wheel of his Ducati and he was able to focus on riding the amazing Bend track layout. With Miller having made his way back up to 2nd ahead of Sissis and Allerton the race seemed to settle down until local rider Evan Byles went down in a dangerous area and needed medical attention (we hope you are OK Evan). This forced a red flag and the excitement once again grew.
As the riders made their way back around to re-form the grid we were informed by race control that the restart would be a 3 lap sprint, effectively undoing all Maxwell’s hard work. The 2nd race start of the day again saw Miller struggle with a launch but he manage to stay with the leaders. He then showed why he is a world class rider by outbraking everyone into turn 1 – classy stuff but short-lived as Maxwell grabbed the place back almost immediately along with Allerton.
Epis also managed to slide by Miller as he saw the leaders pulling away. As Jack struggled with rear grip Wagner saw an opportunity but overcooked his corner entry up the inside of Miller. The result was a very inelegant dismount that took out the MotoGP star and made Wagner the most unpopular guy of the weekend.
Back at the front Maxwell had again cleared out, with Allerton in hot pursuit. Epis and Halliday engaged in battle, with Halliday coming out on top to secure the final podium spot. The victory was enough for Maxwell to secure the title, his victory lap saw the now traditional gold helmet presented by his team.
ASBK Grand Finale Race One Podium (Full Results Here)
1 Wayne Maxwell – Boost Mobile Racing with KTech / McMartin Racing Ducati
2 Glenn Allerton – Maxima Racing Oils BMW (+0.906)
3 Cru Halliday – Yamaha Racing Team (+1.562)
Race 1 earlier in the day had exposed some serious tyre degradation issues for many riders. By the time race 2 came around tarmac temps were even hotter at over 50°C, meaning everyone expected most riders to struggle with rear grip.
The race start saw Miller struggle yet again as he just could not get to grips with the Ducati launch control. But that turned out not to matter as a series of incidents at turns 1 and 3 again brought out the red flag. The first involved Honda rider Hook and Yamaha’s Sissis, with both riders getting up immediately but bike debris littering the track. The 2nd incident was rather more severe however, with Falzon sustaining serious injuries to his back and pelvis, and breaking his femur, and privateer Cooper knocking his head and having no memory of the incident plus his bike caught fire.
The 4th race start of the day was soon upon us. In another familiar sight, Miller bunny-hopped his Ducati off the line in pursuit of Maxwell, Allerton, and Bayliss. Bayliss showed his skill by passing Maxwell to take the lead, but then ran wide to allow him and Allerton back through.
Oli’s day got worse as he fell victim to Miller and slipped back to 4th. Allerton managed to challenge Maxwell somewhat until the new champion lit the blue touch paper and dropped his Ducati down into the 1:50’s – a time previously unthinkable on a race tyre that showed why he is the best in Australia.
As the pace started to settle it was clear that Miller was struggling on his tyres. Halliday saw the opportunity and picked up the pace to get within a few tenths of the MotoGP star. It was not quite enough however, with Miller retaining the bottom spot on the podium behind Allerton and Maxwell.
The post-race celebrations saw stand up wheels and burnouts aplenty, with both Miller and Maxwell lighting it up in Parc Ferme. Everyone was on a high as they were finally able to see the guy they had travelled to the middle of nowhere to get a glimpse of. Jack was gracious with his time and open with the crowd. Wayne Maxwell remained cagey about his future and would not be baited on whether he would have another tilt at the title in 2022.
As the post-race interviews wrapped up Jack was asked if he would be back for another cameo. His reply? “Let’s have a summer series so I can compete right around the country!” Hell yes!
ASBK Grand Finale Race Two Podium (Full Results Here)
1 Wayne Maxwell – Boost Mobile Racing with KTech / McMartin Racing Ducati
2 Glenn Allerton – Maxima Racing Oils BMW (+3.823)
3 Jack Miller – Ducati / Ducati Corse / Dainese / AVG / Red Bull / Caterpillar / Rival Ink (+5.887)
ASBK 2021 Season Standings (Full Standings Here)
1 Wayne Maxwell – Boost Mobile Racing with KTech / McMartin Racing Ducati Panigale V4R
2 Glenn Allerton – Maxima Racing Oils BMW
3 Cru Halliday – Yamaha Racing Team
For the full results and reports on all classes of the weekend, click here…