Access Plus Racing crowned 2023 Pro and Expert Class Champions at thrilling PSBK finale
The 2023 Philippine Superbike Championship (PSBK) has truly been a rollercoaster ride for Access Plus Racing. The title fight came down to the wire at the Clark International Speedway (CIS) where they held onto a slim 3 point advantage ahead of the race weekend. But after the dust had settled, Timothy Joseph “TJ” Alberto was able to claim his 3rd consecutive Rider of the Year championship, while teammate Lawrence Macalinao was crowned Expert Class champion capping off a successful season for the team.
Coming off a mixed weekend at BRC, Access Plus Racing knew that they had some work to do ahead of the final round of the year. They spent weeks in testing to squeeze every bit of performance out of their Ducati Panigale V4 R and V4 S in preparation for the title showdown. The team also entered a 3rd entry with Troy Alberto joining in the thick of the action.
Their bike development translated well on track with the older Alberto setting a new lap record during Qualifying with a 1:48.431 run. This was enough to put him on pole and was more than half a second quicker than his championship rival Marvin Mangulabnan. Troy Alberto would then start from P3 on the grid with his 1:49.799 best, which was impressive considering he only arrived on track on Thursday and has not raced in PSBK since 2021. Macalinao was not too far behind in P5 and was the highest placed rider in the Expert division. He also set a new personal best with a 1:53.747 time, improving his own chances at taking the class title.
However, TJ Alberto saw his title hopes fade away after a jumpstart in Race 1. As it would certainly earn him a 10 secs penalty, he pushed hard to salvage as much points as possible and minimize the damage done. But in his haste, he made an uncharacteristic error and lowsided his #77 Ducati mid-race. Although he managed to rejoin, TJ Alberto crossed the finish line in a lowly 5th place with his points lead lost. His younger brother Troy, on the hand, continued the fight at the front and challenged Mangulabnan for the lead. He later crossed the finish line in 2nd on his first PSBK race in 2 years. Behind him was Macalinao who enjoyed a trouble-free run to claim 1st in the Expert Class and further extended his points lead.
It was all or nothing for TJ Alberto in Race 2 as Mangulabnan only had to finish 3rd or higher to claim the championship. Starting from down in P5 on the grid, he immediately went on full attack mode and was right on Mangulabnan’s rear tire after only a handful of laps. Clearly the faster of the 2, TJ Alberto saw an opportunity open up and made his move on T16. But as soon as he got ahead, Mangulabnan turned in and made contact losing control of his bike in the process. It was fortunate that the older Alberto was able to remain upright and soldiered on. He eventually caught up to his younger brother Troy who went on to win the race, while the older Alberto was officially classified in 2nd. This was enough for TJ Alberto to conclude the 2023 season with a 1.5 point advantage and be crowned PSBK champion for the 3rd consecutive year.
TJ Alberto, #77:
“After dropping the ball in Race 1, the goal was to simply finish 1st in Race 2 and see what happens and by God’s blessing we won the championship by 1.5 points. It was really an incredible fairytale ending to the season and really happy to win my 3rd PSBK title in a row. Kudos also to my teammate Lawrence for taking the Expert Class championship. Really proud of him as I saw how much work he put into this and how much it meant to him. Also nice to be racing alongside my brother Troy after 2 years.”