World motorcycle racing at Phillip Island

It has officially been confirmed that Goulburn’s Tom Toparis will race as a wildcard rider in the opening round of the FIM World Supersport Championship at the Yamaha Finance round of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.

At the end of the 2017 Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK), Toparis and his Queensland based team, Cube Racing, were going pretty fast around the 4.445km seaside circuit down south, which saw Toparis recording his fastest lap time in race two by positing a 1min36.108 on lap three.

“After the team and I did the Moto3 wildcard last year in October, we thought we would give the World Supersport wildcard ago,” Toparis told the Goulburn Post.  

“World Supersport is of course a lot different to Moto3. World Supersport is much so closer in terms of Australian Supersport compared to Moto3 or Moto2, so we should have a better understanding on how everything works.”

It will be a case of double duties for Toparis, who will also be racing in the opening round of the Australian Supersport Championship, which runs in conjunction with the curtain raiser Superbike World Championship.

The Kawasaki ZX6 machine which Toparis will pilot in the World Supersport will be his wet bike from last year, which has been upgraded significantly to try and make the bike as fast as possible to enable Toparis the best shot of a solid result on the last weekend of February.

Toparis explained that the chassis will be exactly the same as the Australian Supersport bike. The only difference will be is the World Supersport bike will have about 10-15 more horsepower over the Australian machine.

As mentioned, it will be double duties for Toparis, who has never had to juggle doing a wildcard and competing in the domestic championship. Last year, when he rode at the Japanese and Australian round of the World Moto3 Championship as a wildcard rider, he was 100% committed to that particular task only without having to worry about any other classes to compete in.  

However, Toparis believes the advantage of riding the same chassis in both championships next month will help with the overall development with the bike setup.

“The setup gained from one bike in theory can be used on the other bike,” explained Toparis.

“Technically speaking, the practices will all be put together to develop the same chassis.”

As Toparis hasn’t ridden the World championship bike yet, he doesn’t know how much faster it will be compared to the Australian Supersport machine.

“I’m hoping when I get to the Island there will be a noticeable boost with the engine package straight away. That will just be so good. If I go straight away and the engine is just that little bit faster, then the Pirelli tyres and a few other bits here and there which all factor into making the lap time faster.”

Toparis’s quickest Supersport lap at Phillip Island is a 1min35.648, which he set in Free Practice 2 at the final round of the Australian Supersport Championship last year. So, theoretically he is aiming to go straight there and replicate that lap time.

However, Toparis does realize that he can’t really say or put himself in a position and say where he would like to finish, as the World Supersport field is so strong with an army of very experienced riders.  

“Just being on track with the world guys, who are all circulating faster is going to be great for me as a whole. Hopefully I can gain some experience and learn from them and be able to apply that experience in the Australian championship in the 2018 season.”

Toparis is however setting a goal of being in the 1min34’s, which is his target is for the weekend.

“I hope we can get as much as we can out of the bike. To do 34’s is a big ask, but I believe the team and I can do it.”

Toparis admitted that ahead of his World Moto3 Wildcard debut that he was quite nervous about the whole prospect. Thanks to his Moto3 wildcard rides, he explained that it has definitely helped him a lot in terms of his nerves.

“I’m not feeling the pressure as much as last year. In saying that, there is pressure as it’s a wildcard ride in the world championship, but it’s not as bad as Moto3,” Toparis described.

“I’m just so grateful for this fantastic opportunity. I can’t thank Ben [Henry], Riki Lanyon from Leda Nutrition, my Father (Richard) and all of our team sponsors for making this project go ahead. I just hope I can do everyone proud.”

Toparis’s World Supersport bike hasn’t been completed as yet, but 17-year-old hopes to ride it at a Phillip Island Ride Day on the 22nd of this month, then at the ASBK official test, which takes place at the island on 30-31 January.

“At the ASBK test I won’t do the whole test aboard the world championship ZX6, as I’ll have to focus on the Australian bike as well.  We’ll have to sort the Aussie bike out and do a good time on it. Then depending on the weather we’ll use the last couple of sessions on the world championship bike.”

Toparis first time on track with the World Championship riders will be on February 19-20 at the official World Supersport pre-season test at Phillip Island ahead of the opening round which takes place from 23-25 February.

For information regarding tickets for this year’s Yamaha Finance round of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, head to www.worldsbk.com.au or contact the Phillip Island circuit on (03) 5952 2710.

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