The expanded Rover Coaches Kawasaki Motor Finance Kawasaki Connection Team were back to winning ways at Sydney Motorsport Park during round three of the Swann Series held at Sydney Motorsport Park over the weekend 26-28 June, with Supersport rider Rick Olsen taking the round victory and Superbike rider Matt Walters dicing for the lead.
Following on from its debut round two, upgrades to the front suspension on the teams ZX-6R Supersport machine along with the re-valving of the standard rear shock had the team hopeful of being able to allow Supersport rider Rick Olsen to display his impressive talent. Superbike rider Matt Walters was also coming off strong results at Mallala and returning to his favourite circuit.
Friday practice got underway with both riders not really able to show the speed they were capable of due to the cold and slightly damp track conditions. However, improving conditions throughout the day allowed glimpses of what was to come for the remainder of the weekend, Walters was able to post competitive times in the final Superbike practice session of the day as was Olsen on the Supersport machine, whilst still suffering persistent problems with the quick shifter.
Friday’s qualifying sessions for the Saturday racing program went smoothly for Matt Walters and his blisteringly fast Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, securing a second row grid position along with the second fastest top speed of the session. Rick Olsen on the Supersport bike was unable to match his lap time from the earlier practice session and would be forced to start from the fourth row of the grid. Following this session the decision was made to disconnect quick shifter and try and sort the issues prior to the next round.
First race for the team on Saturday was Superbike Race one, Walters launched the Kawasaki Motor Finance supported Ninja ZX-10R off the line well and completed the first lap in a tightly bunched pack in sixth place, a position he held for two laps before moving into fifth. On the eighth lap Matt moved back to sixth on the road following some frantic action. Matt lost another place to Team Honda factory rider Jamie Stauffer in the dying laps but following the application of jump start penalties was awarded sixth place. Matt also took maximum points in the Pro Am Cup for non-factory riders.
The second superbike race was another close fought affair; Matt and the Rover Coaches Kawasaki Motor Finance Kawasaki Connection ZX-10R were once again in the thick of the action completing the first lap in second position. The lead pack of seven riders was covered by less than .8 of a second as they completed lap two. On the third lap Matt pushed the Ninja ZX-10R into the lead for two laps. With a hungry pack behind there was no time to rest and Matt was unable to hold the position as rear grip fell away later in the race. Matt eventually secured seventh place and enough points for seventh overall and third in the Pro Am class.
Supersport rider Rick Olsen had to battle hard following his fourth row starting position in the first Supersport race, eventually working his way forward to secure fifth place and a second row grid position for race two. Following more fine tuning of the suspension by Glenn Willing Rick was feeling increasingly comfortable, but no one was aware of the dramatic turn of events that was about to follow.
Race two saw Rick blast the Rover Coaches Kawasaki Connection Ninja ZX-6R off the line well and in brilliant sunshine surge his way into the lead of the race on lap two. Rick was able to lead the race at the completion of every lap to take his first victory of the year and his first ever on board a Kawasaki.
Starting from pole position for race three Rick got off the line well and was in the lead group before moving into the lead on lap four. Rick once again showed the class that has seen him finish champion in the class twice previously by withstanding the pressure being applied by young hot shots Brayden Elliott and Callum Spriggs to take his second victory of the day. Rick also took the round victory and despite missing the first round sits seventh overall for the AFX-SBK Supersport Championship.
Sunday was once again perfect conditions for motorcycle racing and the sun was once again shining on the Rover Coaches Kawasaki Motor Finance Kawasaki Connection Team riders Matt Walters and Rick Olsen.
Walters secured a position in the lead group with another strong start in Superbike race one, positions seemingly changing at every corner. By Lap seven the lead group consisted of eight bikes with Matt right in the middle of the fight. Lap times were on an impressive pace with everyone in the lead group lapping in the 1:31 second bracket consistently. By lap eight Matt started to lose a little grip from his rear tyre that had already done six laps of Fridays qualifying session, this compromised his drive off the corners and he lost touch with the brawling pack. Matt eventually crossed the line eighth and third in the Pro Am Class.
Race two was almost a carbon copy of race one with Matt in the thick of the action. Matt held down fifth position on the opening laps as the lead group broke away from the rest of the Superbike field. By lap four Matt had moved into fourth position, but one lap later was back to fifth. By lap eight the lead group of five was covered by less than a second, and over two second ahead of the pursuing group. Once again Matt pushed as hard as he could in the final stages as the pace continued in the 1:31’s, with two laps to go Matt made a few little mistakes pushing hard and eventually settled for a strong fifth place finish for seventh overall for the round and an impressive second in the Pro Am Cup.
The three Supersport races on Sunday’s program were all about Rick Olsen and his Rover Coaches Kawasaki Connection ZX-6R. Starting from third on the grid Rick was at the front of the pack in all three races and showed not only impressive consistency on a bike that is still not anywhere near full Supersport specification, but also the ability to withstand immense and constant pressure.
In race one Rick not only took the victory and set the fastest lap but he also lead the race for the final four laps after working his way forward over the initial tours.
Race two was a shortened encounter after a red flag stoppage, Rick credited with the win and half points awarded after four hectic laps.
Race three was another scintillating affair, Rick, along with young guns Brayden Elliott and Troy Guenther, putting on a fantastic display of close hard racing. Rick eventually took another victory, his fifth in six races, by a scant .127 of a second over fellow Kawasaki pilot Guenther.
Three race wins and round victory was stern notice to the rest of the Supersport field that Rick Olsen is back and he means business.
The Rover Coaches Kawasaki Motor Finance Team would like to acknowledge the continued support of Rover Coaches, Kawasaki Australia, Kawasaki Motor Finance, Glen Willing, Murray Sayle and Monza Imports.
“We really got a lot of momentum out of this weekend and it was good to be back racing at the front” commented Matt Walters. “Following my recent surgery to cure the arm pump issue I have had for the last eighteen months I feel better every time I get on the bike. It was good to be able to lead races again over the weekend and get my head around racing with the guys at the front. We are once again ready to start racing for wins and that’s what we will be looking to do at the next round in Queensland. With a few practice days and more training on the KX450 motocross bike I’ll be in good shape for a strong round. As always, I must say a huge thank you to my sponsors Monza Imports, Kawasaki Australia, Kawasaki Motor Finance, Aaron Lewis from Rover Coaches and of course, as always, mum, dad, Glenn (Willing) and Murray (Sayle) for all the hard work they put in”.
“ It’s great to be back and racing at the front” said Supersport round victor Rick Olsen. “In the practice sessions on Friday we had a few issues with the steering damper so I didn’t really expect to have the results that we got. I was also lacking a little confidence in the faster corners getting the bike to turn and also being able to pick up the throttle. Glenn Willing helped sort those issues and we spent Saturday constantly making changes and getting the new steering damper settings sorted. On Sunday we were pretty happy with the settings so just left it and I got stuck into riding as hard as I could, there are still a lot of things we can do to the bike to make it even better, it still has the standard rear shock in it, and the quick shifter just did not want to work so we ended up disconnecting it all together. Massive thanks to Carl, Cherie and Matt from Kawasaki Connection for the bike and all the work they did to make the ride happen and it’s great to pay them back with the round win. Also thanks to Bell Helmets and RST Leathers for the quality riding gear”.
“What a great weekend, it was a nice feeling to be back at the front with both riders” said Team Manager Carl Walters. “In the Superbike class Matt was back at the front where we know he can be. We were able to lap consistently and all we need to do is find half a second over the last three or so laps and we can be in contention for race wins. He is getting confidence back after his arm surgery and the next round is at Queensland where he has had good results before. What can I say about Rick, I cannot believe that anyone in the paddock didn’t know that was going to happen sooner or later. He really showed his class over the weekend and the way he has worked with Glenn Willing to move the bike so far forward is impressive, there is still more to come yet too. We hope to get both riders up to Queensland Raceway for a test before the round as well so I am confident that round four could be a real strong one for us. I must acknowledge the help and assistance of Glen Willing this weekend, as with every weekend, the guy works tirelessly and part of the reason both bikes went so well is because of his work behind the scenes.