It has been constant change for SMT Honda in the British Superbike Championship this year and it continues at Croft this weekend as they debut rider Jason O’Halloran, current Australian Supersport Champion.
Following their main rider Adam Jenkinson being forced out due to injury at the start of the season, the team have since run numerous riders including Sean Emmett and Marshall Neill. Eventually, they settled for regular replacement Tom Grant whose season prematurely ended following a crash at Knockhill making the seat available again.
Reviewing his 2008 season O’Halloran said: “My Australian championship has been a perfect season, the first race was at Eastern Creek circuit which is one of my worst, but I finished second. From then on I was on a winning streak, I was riding well and everything went well.
“I was at home and then I got a call from Robin Croft [SMT] about the space and looking at riders from the Australian championship was the better option because it doesn’t clash with any of the British. I am very excited and nervous about this opportunity, but I like BSB and am looking to find a ride. Either in Superbikes or Supersport, I would prefer Superbikes, but it depends on options and I aim to get some good results in the next three rounds and we will see what happens.”
The weekend hasn’t run completely smooth for the Lancashire team including losing a bolt in the third practice causing the session to be red-flagged after oil leaked onto the track. In qualifying the tyre spun on the rim in the second knock out session affecting their final result.
Most of the this weekend’s track time has been spent on setting up the bike for him as a rider, which was proven to be a challenge with regards to how light O’Halloran weighs compared to previous riders. However perseverance paid off and O’Halloran knocked two seconds off his Friday practice time come qualifying afternoon putting him 15th overall.
He said: “I am a little disappointed after the first qualifying we were ninth, but we had the problem with the tyre. It’s the first time with this style of qualifying and we have now found a good setting with the bike. It’s exciting because each time it restarts and you’ve got to put a lap together in each stage. You can’t just do one good lap, it’s harder as not much time to fix things if you have problems and everybody has got to be on the pace each time.”
“Croft as a circuit took a little bit to get up to speed on, especially at sector two, you have to do it a few times to work out your lines and then I felt more confident to go faster. I have improved my time from Friday and I think we are in a good position for the race.”
When asked why BSB is the next step for him he said: “Australia is a bit far away, the riding at home is strong, but here it is very good and competitive with better options to get to World. That is my main goal to get to the World level. The bikes over here are also much closer to World Superbikes and the competitiveness is higher. I would like a couple of years at BSB before moving to World.”
To show his commitment and determination O’Halloran will be flying back and forth between Australia and the UK to uphold his commitments to both championships. Already the confidence and pace of O’Halloran has been noticed. He comes to the last three rounds not knowing any of tracks and without having any testing on the Honda CBR1000RR. Looking at this weekend so far he is definite one to watch come race days.