Daniel Falzon (DF): The transition is massive! Although there isn’t a big difference in lap times, maybe two seconds at most tracks around Australia, the extra amount of physical effort that I need to put in each lap makes race distance very hard. Even though we have electronic aids, such as anti-wheelie, traction control, slide control etc., the bikes have 200hp, compared to our supersport 600s which have 120hp. A lapse in concentration or ‘throttle happy moment’ can often end in a violent experience. So on top of the physical effort, there’s a greater mental capacity required to ride the litre bikes as they aren’t as forgiving as a 600cc machine.
DF: It’s hard to say, to break a lap record is quite a big deal and it doesn’t come easy at all. When the ASBK was last at Mallala in 2009, the superbikes had motors with 230Hp+. So any deficit in straight line speed means I need to make up in the corner. It’s extremely difficult to break lap records at Mallala considering very experienced riders, on factory bikes, set the current lap record. In saying that, last year at the 3-hour during qualifying we managed to set a PB of 1:06.3, even after getting held up in the final corner by a slower rider. So I don’t think 5s are out of question, it’s a matter of whether the stars align for one lap. We need a hot track, minimal wind, no traffic and a wide open throttle through ‘the kink’ and it may be possible!
DF: Liam and I are obviously very close mates, we have always entered endurance races together whether it is the national 6-hour at Phillip Island, the Adelaide 3-hour or the Mac Park 6-hour scooter race! Liam knows what it takes to win an endurance race, he rarely crashes and can consistently put down fast times. We both train together too and have a mutual understanding in knowing that Mallala is one of the hardest circuits physically, so we need to be in good shape to win this race again.
DF: 1) We need to not get ahead of ourselves too early in the race. If we have a substantial lead like last year, it is important to keep a level head and push out consistent fast lap times as anything can happen! 2) We need to get our pit stops right. It’s important for the team to have good communication with the rider to ensure no mistakes with pit stops occur. There’s so much time to be made or lost there, so it’s a real team effort. We have our team engineer and data technician, Jon, formulating pit stop strategies to minimise time and maximise laps on track this week. 3) We need to be careful at the start. Lots of inexperienced riders may be fast for a few laps and try to stay with us. In 2012, we fell victim to a lapped riders ‘ambition outweighing his talent’ (Casey Stoner) – believing he could overtake us in to T3. It resulted in me hitting the ground hard and breaking my thumb/wrist! Poor Liam had to complete 2 hours and 20 minutes solo hahaha.
DF: Yes! There is a lot more planning in an endurance race, the teams mean a lot more than a typical sprint race. It’s important to have a close team who understand their respective roles. Physically, you need to pace yourself. No one can lap at their PB’s for the whole stint, it’s about being consistent and not having moments where you’re running wide or off the track because you’re physically exhausted!
DF: The braking, definitely. I know from experience that come to laps 20 to 25 when pushing hard it’s very difficult to maintain hard braking as the shoulders want to let go!
DF: Well last year we didn’t have Jon in our team to help with the technical side of the bikes, because he was competing himself! When we ran in to an electrical fault with my bike, we soon realised that he was invaluable to our team. We also learnt that weekend that Jon’s a pathetic rider, so he’s banned from competing himself and now is contracted to our team, WeR1.
DF: It’s a very long race! If you have a problem with the bike, run off the track or even crash, don’t fret, as every team will have their fair share of problems. It’s easy in endurance races to write yourself off after a bad start, but consistent laps with minimal mistakes on the track and in the pits will give you a good final result!