MotoGP star Jack Miller was back in action at The Bend in his native Australia, finishing eighth on day one despite a crash.
Josh Hook hit the top of the sheets when he completed the first flying lap of the day as 30 Superbikes made their way out on track.
The Thriller Motorsport trio of Hook, Shrötter and Miller were very keen to bank as many laps as possible on their untested machines.
It was soon business as usual; Maxwell, Herfoss and very-keen-to-perform-at-home Arthur Sissis the top three early.
Other early fast guys included West, Allerton, Jones and Waters. Jack Miller was into the top ten, a very good sign that his Thriller Motorsport bike was good out of the crate and an ominous sign for the regulars.
Fellow Thriller Motorsport rider Josh Hook and Marcel Shrötter were not unreasonably down in the mid-teens for the session, along with Moto3 regular Joel Kelso who was having his first hit out on a Superbike.
Troy Herfoss was fastest for the session with a late fast lap of 1:51.737, narrowing the gap to the lap record of 1:50.972 and pole record of 1:50.520. It was very solid for a first practice.
At the very start of FP2, Josh Hook crashed on his out lap at turn 12 due to an electronics issue that resulted in a high side. He was icing his wrist in the paddock ahead of FP3, but indicated he would not join that session and see how he pulled up Saturday morning to decide if he would participate in the rest of the round.
While Hook was picking himself up, Maxwell went back up to the top with Arthur Sissis again second. Cru Halliday sorted out earlier issues to push into third with FP1 fast man Herfoss close.
Jack Miller spent some time at the top of the timesheets before Cru Halliday delivered for the regular ASBK competitors and took P1 ahead of Arthur Sissis and Troy Herfoss.
Earlier in the morning, Sissis had bemoaned the number of times he had been P2 during practice sessions at The Bend over the years and it had happened again…
Jack Miller was an outstanding fourth with Wayne Maxwell fifth.
Championship leader Mike Jones was down in eighth, but ahead of second-in-the-championship Bryan Staring who was 12th and Jones was close enough to third placed Wayne Maxwell to be justifiably unconcerned.
Higher track temperatures appeared to take some of the pace out of the field early in Free Practice Two, but they apparently worked it out and Halliday’s 1:51.518 was 2/10ths quicker than Herfoss’ time from the morning, still working towards the lap record of Maxwell from 2021 of 1:50.972.
In FP3, Herfoss was again up top early. Mike Jones responded brilliantly to all the pressure and other things from this weekend to go to the top with 15 minutes to go. Arthur Sissis – as he had done in every other session- was in the top three with Cru Halliday and Wayne Maxwell fourth and fifth respectively.
Jack Miller was down in tenth with 12 minutes to go and was a second slower than his best FP2 time. We all waited for him to let loose something special.
At ten minutes to go, Cru Halliday put his Yamaha first for a YRT 1-2 with he and Jones at the top of the standings.
Bryan Staring’s tough practice day got worse with crash at turn six, but the timing screens indicated “rider up” to the relief of all.
With six minutes left for the day it was Halliday, Jones and Herfoss on top. Maxwell (4th) was followed by two of SA’s finest in Sissis and Falzon in that order.
DesmoSport Ducati’s day got even worse when Broc Pearson went down at Turn 12 and again we were pleased to see “rider up” but it was shaping as a rough evening for the factory Ducati squad with two bikes off in ten minutes.
The red flag came out with 4:57 left, perhaps effectively ending the session as a useful exercise. While they recovered the Pearson Ducati, riders went back to their garages to reset and that’s when we found out Miller had crashed as well; somewhere late in the lap and had ridden back to the pits. He was unharmed and the damage to his bike didn’t look severe, but it was also not minor. Screen gone, left winglet gone and some work to do to get the Thriller Racing Caterpillar machine back to race-ready.
When the session restarted, everyone was there at the end of pitlane ready to go. It was like a race start with riders desperate to get a few flyers in ahead of the chequered flag.
Sissis put in his fastest lap of the session to go to P2, then Jones, Herfoss and Allerton were up in sector one as the chequered flag came out.
At the end of the session it was again Halliday from Sissis with Mike Jones third.
Maxwell was fourth with Herfoss in fifth.
The overall for-the-day result saw Halliday top dog and the only rider in the 1:50s with Arthur Sissis in P2, Mike Jones third and Maxwell and Herfoss completing the top five.