Yamaha Racing Team’s Cru Halliday made a welcome return to the podium taking a second place finish at round six of the Australian Superbike Championship, held at Phillip Island over the weekend.Under glorious blue skies and perfect conditions, The Yamaha duo of Halliday and Mike Jones ran at the front of the pack all weekend and showcased the performance of the mighty Yamaha YZF-R1M at the iconic island circuit.
To view the YRT bLU cRU round review: https://youtu.be/g6ZNZPq0qCg
Halliday has had a tough few rounds through the middle part of the ASBK season, but the long break between rounds five and six allowed him to reset and refocus for a big push at the final two rounds. Once an unhappy venue for Halliday, his fortunes have changed in recent times, and he has become a major race winning threat every time he rides out onto the circuit.
Halliday started a little behind the eight ball as he adjusted to the race intensity and unexpected track conditions. The circuit was cleaned extensively after the MotoGP held the previous week and as a result, conditions were slipperier than usual.
But as the sessions wore on, Halliday began to find his grove and despite qualifying in fourth, he felt he was in with a good opportunity as the field was so tight on lap times.
As the field charged off into turn one for race one, Halliday moved into third, but by the end of the opening lap, he was shuffled back to fifth and in damage control. Things were hectic at the front of the pack and riders were fighting hard for every position.
As the race settled down, Halliday began to move forward. He passed his way through the pack until he and teammate, Mike Jones, were running 1-2 on track and in a battle for the race win. The pair pulled a small gap over third and were going back and forth as the race passed the halfway point.
Halliday pounced on a mistake by Jones and took control of the race. He maintained focus and despite several attacks from Josh Waters, he held onto the lead and took his first race win in Superbikes since 2017.
Race two and the same energy and focus was required to snare another victory and make it a perfect day for the number 65. Again, his start wasn’t great, but in a mirror image of the opening race, he started to charge forward. Waters led, Jones was all over him while Halliday closed in quickly.
Halliday found his way past his teammate and then shadowed Waters. The trio were never further apart then one second as they reeled off laps. Then with a lap to go, it came down to a winner take all shootout. Whoever won the race, won the round and it was on.
Halliday poked and prodded on multiple occasions but could never get his Yamaha ahead of Waters. All three flashed across the finish line with Waters, ahead of Halliday and Jones and only .5 of a second separating them at the end.
The 2-1 result gave Halliday second for the day and lifted him to third in the championship.
“It’s been the best round of the year so far for me and to finally get a race win was a huge relief,” Halliday explains. “It has been far too long between race wins so it was good to get one done and give the team some job satisfaction after the last few rounds I have had.
“Phillip Island has been good to me lately and I was desperate to get the round win. I gave it everything in the final race, but Josh had a couple of good spots on the track where he would gap me a little, then I had to keep winding him back in. I thought I had a chance in one section of the track, but just couldn’t get close enough to make it happen.
“But all up a great weekend and some much-needed confidence heading into the final round at The Bend in a few weeks’ time,” he ends.
For Jones, it was a weekend of frustration where he just couldn’t turn his improved turn of speed at Phillip Island into a podium for the round. Jones was quick from the moment he hit the track and was in the top three of every practice session.
Lining up in P3 for race one, Jones navigated the opening lap chaos before setting sail for the front. He made quick and assertive passes and hit the race lead before the halfway point and looking to break clear.
Then as he entered turn four, his front wheel went from under him and slid off his bike and into the track side grass. His race was done.
He returned to the grid for race two after the team whipped his bike back into shape and he was out for redemption. As mentioned, the top three riders locked into battle for the final five laps and looked for any opportunity to make a pass. Each had areas of the track that they were strong in and although no passes were made, the racing was fast and intense and went all the way to the end.
Jones finished with DNF – 3 results for 11th overall and now holds down fifth in the championship, only six points separated third to fifth with one round remaining.
“I’m not overly happy with the results and felt I should have done much better given the speed I was able to ride it. Simply put, I should have turned that into a podium for the round at the very least or even a round win.
“I feel I let the team down as they gave me a bike good enough to win. The crash in race one was on me, I just pushed a bit too deep and went a bit heavy on the front brake and the front disappeared before I could react.
“The second race, I caught Josh pretty easy and made a decision to sit behind him and make a charge at the end. But then when I went to get on it, I just didn’t have the grip. I could see the other guys were the same, but maybe they just handled it better than me.
“The positives to take from the weekend was that it was the best I have raced here and the closest I have been to the front. I feel I improved around the track and next time we race here, I will be better again,” Jones said.
The final round of the ASBK championship is set for December 3-4 at The Bend in South Australia.