Panigale V2 being prepped for two-up rides with TB
DesmoSport Ducati welcomes the release earlier this month of the final Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) calendar, with racing set to get underway at Winton Motor Raceway on September 19 & 20.
In a year like no other, DesmoSport Ducati is primed and ready to get back on track and finish the 2020 season across the five remaining rounds in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
Team Co-Owner, Troy Bayliss
“Phillip Island feels like a lifetime ago really, but Mike has continued to put in the work off the bike when we were unable to ride, and both he and Ben have found something more from the V4R, so it will be great to go racing again and put it to the test.
“As for me, I actually got to put some laps in on the new Panigale V2, and it was so much fun! I actually had such a good time, that Ducati have agreed to let us build one into a two-up bike for the rest of the year, so should things settle down, keep your eye’s peeled for an opportunity to jump on the back with me, although be warned, I might be a little rusty.”
While subject to constantly changing government rules and regulations, Motorcycling Australia (MA) has been working hard to ensure our championship moves forward. With the dates now cemented in place, DesmoSport Ducati has continued to test and develop the V4R with Mike Jones aboard the bike and is prepared to resume racing to defend the 2019 ASBK title.
Team Co-Owner, Ben Henry
“It’s been a year that no one could predict, that’s for sure, but the break from racing has allowed me to spend some more time with my family and working on my business, Cube Performance Centre, which has been fantastic. If anything, the break has just highlighted how much I love our sport and has me motivated more than ever to perform at the racetrack. Mike has been able to ride the bike, and we’re confident that we’ll be ready come September.”
Cube Racing Set to Return to the Track
And of course over in the other half of the DesmoSport Ducati Team at an ASBK event is the Cube Racing Supersport effort where TB’s teenage son Oli Bayliss has been honing his craft and despite the lull in racing young Oli has been training hard and also testing the Cube Racing YZF-R6 regularly at Morgan Park.
“I don’t think anyone can tell what will happen next with everything that’s going on, but I’m happy that MA have set a calendar for a little later in the year. There’s a good chance that we might be able to race the last five rounds and finish the season. Even though there hasn’t been any racing, I’ve still been able to do a few track days, I’ve been training harder than ever and I feel really good on the bike, so it will be great to get back on the grid and actually race again. I just wanted to thank everyone that’s stood by us as a team, and me as a racer this year. My brother just opened a gym, Apex Performance and Fitness, I see how hard Ben works at Cube Performance Centre, and I know that all our sponsors work just as hard in their businesses, so I really appreciate everything that you all do so we can get on track.”
Team owner, Ben Henry
“We’ve been lucky to get some solid track time for Oli over the last few weeks and he’s continued his progression, despite the lack of racing. He’s physically stronger, and his confidence continues to grow with every outing on the bike. He’s unofficially set the fastest time for a 600 at Morgan Park and he’s set times in race simulations that would see him win in previous years, so I’m just looking forward to getting him back into a race situation to develop his race craft and continue his progression.”
Revised 2020 ASBK Calendar
ROUND 1 – WSBK – Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC: 27 Feb – 1 March
ROUND 2 – Winton Motor Raceway, Benalla VIC: 18 – 20 September
ROUND 3 – Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Cowes VIC: 2 – 4 October
ROUND 4 – Wakefield Park Raceway, Goulburn NSW: 16 – 18 October
ROUND 5 – Morgan Park Raceway, Warwick QLD: 6 – 8 November
ROUND 6 – International MotoFest The Bend, SA: 20 – 22 November
2019 ASBK Champion Mike Jones kicks off title defence
Defending Australian Superbike Champion, Mike Jones, is feeling confident and ready to fire for this weekend’s first round of the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship, presented by Motul, at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
The Queenslander aboard his DesmoSport Ducati V4R, believes he has struck the right combination following a successful test last month at Phillip Island and is ready to defend his championship title.
“After the test I feel really confident heading into the race weekend. We were able to have good pace at the test, and now for me I’m preparing myself mentally to be able to come out on the race weekend and be firing straight away. I know everyone is amped up for the first round and ready to go.”
Mike Jones – TBG Image
It is the overall package of the new Ducati that has Mike excited.
“It feels like a completely different bike, but it’s probably been the most rider friendly bike I’ve ever ridden so that was a real positive, and it’s just been finding the right settings.”
Despite being “very happy” with the pace of the bike at the Official ASBK Test last month, Mike admits to keeping an eye on what Wayne Maxwell – also on the same model machine and who broke the Superbike lap record at the test – is doing.
“He did reel off a few quick laps, but as we saw last year it is not the be all and end all. Race pace is the most important thing and I feel like we got that at the test and something we are quite strong with.”
Mike Jones – TBG Image
Mike feels his biggest competition this year could come from 2018 ASBK Champion, Penrite Honda’s Troy Herfoss, who he battled for the championship win in the last race at Sydney Motosport Park in 2019.
“I believe it is going to be Troy Herfoss again, purely because of who he is as a person, and the drive and motivation that he has got. In my opinion that is what you need to be able to win, he’s going to be the strongest guy through the year again.”
It’s not only Australian superbike riders who want to upset the champ this weekend, but 4-time American Superbike Champion, Josh Hayes, will also be aiming to cause a few upsets when he joins the mi-bike Motorcycle Insurance Australian Superbike Championship at the Island, which Mike thinks is fantastic for the championship.
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
“I think it’s really exciting for ASBK for someone of his calibre wanting to race with us at Phillip island and I think it’s the perfect place for him to come and do it. All the riders are eager and keen to go racing so it should make for a really competitive first round and having Josh in the field will be really cool just to have another gauge of where the ASBK is. “I personally feel it (ASBK) is at a really high level.
“Having the first round of ASBK alongside WorldSBK is important because the motorbikes are based on the same type of production bikes. It’s a real asset for the riders and fans to see the world level and domestic level guys go racing on the same weekend.”
The 2019 ASBK Champion wants a big crowd at the Island this weekend.
“We all share the same passion and it brings everyone together, come down and watch. It will be a weekend of a lifetime with World Superbikes and ASBK on the same weekend with incredible action from both championships. But I know particularly here in Oz, the racing is fierce and it’s going to be close, so come and have some fun and get involved.”
Ben Henry prepping the DesmoSport Ducati for Mike Jones at Phillip Island
It was a Ducati 1-2 at the top of the charts after the two-day ASBK Test at Phillip Island last week. Wayne Maxwell led the way from DesmoSport Ducati’s defending champion Mike Jones. As the test sessions drew to a close we sat down with DesmoSport Ducati Team Owner Ben Henry for an in-depth discussion about ASBK, and his experience with the Ducati Panigale V4 R.
Originally from Western Australia, where he first started racing and preparing motorcycles, the 38-year-old is now a long-time Queensland resident and runs Cube Performance Centre out of the Gold Coast suburb of Burleigh.
Ben hung up his competitive leathers a few years ago while still able to run a top ten pace in Australian Superbike, all the while managing and running his own team and riders. He then turned his focus to concentrating on his Cube Performance workshop along with expanding Cube Racing. He then went on to develop the DesmoSport Ducati Team in conjunction with Troy Bayliss and the team won the Australian Superbike Championship with Mike Jones in 2019.
Always forthcoming with insightful observations, that are for the most part refreshingly non-partisan, Ben was generous with his time and candid with his thoughts.
Ben Henry at work on the DesmoSport Ducati at the front, Troy Bayliss at the rear – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor Hedge: What were the most extreme of the challenges you faced in getting the V4 up to the speed of the 1299 V-Twin that Mike raced to great success last year?
Ben Henry: “The biggest challenge is the chassis, getting it to work as well as we had the twin dialled in, the motor – obviously they aren’t the same, but the power isn’t too far different, it’s just dialling in the chassis and probably electronics, that’s currently our patch.”
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: That’s a time consuming process isn’t it?
BH: “Yes it is, it is time consuming. The electronics aren’t that bad, we’re going pretty fast, and Wayne is going pretty quick on his, and that’s all on standard stuff, so it’s clearly not too bad.”
Trevor: Wayne said his team are waiting on an ECU and a few bits and pieces, are you waiting for anything before the start of the season as well?
BH: “In ASBK they’ve homologated the MoTeC ECU for our bike, so we need to get that and make it work. That’s definitely the road they (Wayne Maxwell and his team), are going to go down, and we probably will. We just need to see if it’s better than what we already run.
“I mean it’s hard to argue with what we’ve got when we are running low 32s on it, and Wayne’s just done a 31.7, I mean that’s the fastest lap ever on a domestic superbike around here.
“So it’s hard to say that putting something else on there will be markedly better. We will wait and see what happens.”
Mike Jones – TBG Image
Trevor: Do you get much help from Ducati Australia at all?
BH: “They are in a funny spot, NF Importers are theoretically finishing up, Ducati AU/NZ, which is essentially Ducati Italy coming into Australia to run the show, but yes they are helping us.
“It’s basically going to be a better situation once they get here, but while they are not here I’m dealing through Italy, everything has to come through Italy and it’s a little bit slower. But once they get here and have stock here, and a warehouse, it will be much better.”
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: How difficult is it to get the budget for the season and what’s the ballpark figure, without giving too much away, to run Mike in Superbikes and Oli in Supersport.
BH: “It’s really difficult, it’s a strange time, with winning the championship last year you would think things would be easier, but it just didn’t pan out that way. Our major sponsor QBE left straight away – the next day – and our support from within the industry isn’t as strong, because they just don’t have the money. They are not trying to bullshit me, it’s just a different time now for the importers, it’s definitely difficult.
“How much… for a cash figure on top of everything else… you wouldn’t get away with anything less than 350k in cash, that you can spend on whatever you need. But then on top of that the tyres, everything else that goes into it is probably another… bike and parts and all that… it must be another couple of hundred, and then with the stuff we are getting given. It would have to be half a million bucks, it really would.”
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: And that’s with you having your own premises, and not really adding up your time…
BH: “Yea, exactly, I mean I’m not making money out of it, obviously people come to my shop, but it’s a trade-off that’s for sure.”
Even winning the championship does not translate to less budgetary worries…. – Mike Jones – 2019 ASBK Superbike Champion – TBG Image
Trevor: You raced and worked on various models of ZX-10R Kawasaki when you yourself were racing, and the riders on your team through those years were Kawasaki riders, including Mike himself when he won the title in 2015, the year the series was at perhaps its lowest ebb. What’s the main difference working with the Italian bike, on the Ducati, compared to the then more street bike focused Kawasaki and other Japanese machines?
BH: “They are much more basic – the Kawasaki – in short I always said this, if you can see a bolt on a Japanese bike, you can undo it. It’s not like that on a Ducati. Just because you can see a bolt does not mean you’ll be able to undo it.
“But the good thing about Ducati is that they are very, very focused on racing, and if you understand the way they build things, they are quite fast to work on. You pull big sections of the bike off in one hit, and things like that once you understand and think a bit more laterally about how you approach them.
“They are probably faster to work on once you get the hang of them. And notice the little bits here and little bits there, and you basically pull the bike apart in sections.”
Mike Jones will defend his #1 plate with Ducati but has switched from V-Twin to V-Four power for season 2020
Trevor: I’ve heard it’s about a 12 hour operation to fit a full exhaust on the V4…?
BH: “If you didn’t know what you’re doing, then yes, and honestly my toolbox has quadrupled since I started working on Ducati motorcycles, and it’s the tricky little tools, and the odd little thing you’ll make to help you. It has got to the point now where through my shop I am putting exhausts on in about five hours, something like that.”
Ducati Panigale V4 R – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: So if a punter turned up at your shop in Queensland, they’d expect to pay five to six hours to get one fitted?
BH: “Yea they would, I always quote eight as that’s what Ducati quote, in case we get into trouble, but generally the punters go home a bit happier.”
Trevor: It’s good you bought up the nuts and bolts, the rear wheel on that Ducati….I see your boys swing off some pretty big bars putting that big wheel nut on, there’s 230 nm of torque or something put on that nut..?
BH: “That’s right, I don’t even tighten it up as much as you’re meant to, as we take it on and off all the time, and it gets too much.”
Ducati Panigale rear wheel nut – TBG Image
Trevor: It’s almost horrifying to watch, how much force gets put through the big bar, to put that nut on.
BH: “I can’t remember what it’s called, there’s a basic engineering thing, but if you have a threaded pipe and put a nut on the top of it, and torque that nut, it strengthens the pipe like ten-fold, and that’s why they do it. I can’t remember, it was so long ago that I learnt it.”
Trevor: So it effects the rigidity of the bike?
BH: “Absolutely, when you look at the axle, it’s so thin, the bit the wheel is hanging off is just so thin, and you would think not strong enough, it’s no special metal, there’s no magic there, but it’s the engineering that goes into it. When you do something like that and torque it that tight, the structural strength it gives the axle is incredible.”
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: What are the power and torque figures of the V4 in ASBK race trim, compared to the 1299?
BH: “The 1299 was a little bit stronger…”
Trevor: You’d expect that with a bit more torque..?
BH: “The 1299 was stronger up top, maybe five horsepower up top, just over 220-ish. The V4 is making peak power at 15,800rpm.”
Trevor: Overall, I guess this goes for everyone in Aussie Superbike, that race winners seem to be decided by who can make their back tyre last a race distance. Just how exacting is the suspension set-up required to give your rider the tyre longevity to race for the win in ASBK?
BH: “One mm, a click, half a turn of preload, it’s so so close, but I sometimes think that’s half in the rider’s mind. Put half a turn of preload and is it any different? You’d be doing well to tell. Tyre life is a combination of so many things, if I could put a percentage on it, I think its 70 per cent suspension, 30 per cent electronics, or say 20 per cent electronics, and 10 per cent good tyre management by the rider.
“You could vary those figures sometimes, different riders, some guys just roast the tyre out of it, no matter what you do. Some make tyres last longer, they just have a different technique.”
Pirelli runners were fastest at P.I. – Image TH
Trevor: In what specific ways does the machine setup vary between Mike and TB. I would imagine it would be a big difference between the two?
BH: “Honestly, not really, like when Mike rode our bike for the first time – on Troy’s set up – he was immediately fast on it, and there was just little stuff to tweak. Even this one (V4 R), Troy rode this one first, and did his thing, and pretty much from what Troy had to say from all the notes, is very similar to what Mike had to say.
“They do a few little things differently, like gearing, Troy really lets the bike do a lot of work, letting the bike go down and lug from low, but Mike revs them a lot more. If I could pick one thing that’s markedly different, Jones likes it stiffer in the front. They are actually pretty similar, yet they ride nothing like each other.
“They ride different, Troy can use a tyre, Jones is really good at looking after a tyre, everything is so different, but I really believe if Troy rode Jonesy’s set up, he’d be happy. And Jonesy, even when he’s not completely happy has the same thing to say about the bike as Troy.”
Mike Jones – TBG Image
Trevor: What’s your expectations for Oli in Supersport this year?
BH: “I think he needs to knuckle down and he could win it. He certainly has the resources around him, and he’s a pretty talented fella when everything clicks for him, then he’s unreal. I’ve seen it happen for him a few times and it’s a bit special, which is nice for him. I reckon he could win it for sure, he has some really good people around him now this year, that should see him in the right direction more often, last year he was just learning, and there was nothing wrong with the team from last year, they were perfectly fine, but he is just trying to learn at 15, and have a crack at it.”
Oli Bayliss – TBG Image
Trevor: What ASBK rules would you change if you could?
BH: **Long pause**
“To be honest, I like it just how it is. It’s quite good, and the proof is in the pudding, as there’s a lot of good riders on all different brands going fast. Really any brand can potentially win here.
“What would I change, currently not much. What I can see happening moving forward in ASBK, I can see a change is coming and I think it will be bad for the sport.
“For instance, the way the electronics side of things is moving forward, if they don’t make an effort to reign that in, we are probably two seasons away from privateers not being able to afford to race to win anything. And currently as it stands, it’s already hard enough for them, like I’ve been there but if they (M.A.) are not careful – and they are not careful – because sometimes *pauses*…. they have the right people, just not quite *pauses*…. it’s hard to say without sounding rough, but they perhaps don’t have enough resources, and they maybe don’t have quite the experience on the latest machinery. People like this, someone like me can manipulate very simply, and they don’t understand what I’m doing to them. And I don’t do it, but I know I can for sure.”
Ducati V4 R instrumentation – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: So what would you suggest is the answer, going down the line of a control ECU like BSB use or something along those lines?
BH: “It’s nice for everyone to have a race, and you know you have a race in all aspects, I like the tyre war that maybe is going to happen. It’s going to happen, I don’t know who’s going to be best or what yet. I like all the different things that go down, and it is a race.
“It’s nice to race in all aspects of the term, but for sure if they are not careful, very soon I think they will find some of the manufacturers are not going to be that interested in racing in a race that then they can’t win. It just doesn’t make good sense. It’s not good for their brand, doesn’t make good economic sense and that’s why you see people ending up pissing off to do their own thing, that suits them, and that’s just business.
“So that’s a strange way to answer your question. But as it was last year it was much better but what I see happening rolling into this year will open a can of worms.”
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
Trevor: What is different this year?
BH: *long pause*
“Sort of the progress the electronics are making, in short, and I would say there will be a change as new models roll out, if M.A. aren’t careful, then I think they’ll find people will struggle to continue to compete fairly. At least not throughout a whole year.
“A privateer is not going to be able to turn up and win. Looking at Jonesy at the beginning of last year, as a privateer busting their ass like usual, and he turned up and banged the thing on the box and did the fastest lap here. That’s good, it’s great to see that. We already knew what he was capable of, but that gave us another opportunity to see it again, and then for him to ride our bike. If things move forward the way they eventually will, then you won’t see that again. It’ll be more like a handful of guys, always the same…. that’s what I think.”
Mike Jones – Image by Rob Mott
The 2020 Mi-Bike ASBK Championship season gets underway in conjunction with the WorldSBK season opener at Phillip Island over the March 1 weekend.
DesmoSport Ducati Confirms Mike Jones to Race V4 R in 2020
After taking four pole positions and four race wins, along with nine podiums, on his way to winning the 2019 Australian Superbike Championship on the big booming 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, DesmoSport Ducati have now confirmed that Mike Jones will contest ASBK 2020 on the Panigale V4 R.
While it was initially unclear if Mike Jones, now a two-time ASBK Champion, would continue to pursue his racing career overseas as originally planned for 2019, the young Queenslander has removed any doubt about his intentions for the 2020 season.
“While I, like most racers, strive to race in the world championship, the racing in Australia just keeps getting stronger and stronger, and the credibility of the series continues to grow in the eyes of teams around the world. I love riding the Ducati for Ben (Henry) and Troy (Bayliss), and we have a really strong team. All of us agreed that it made sense for me to stay here, to ride the V4R, and defend our title, and by doing that, will only support my long-term goals of racing in the World Championship. I’ve been out and ridden the V4R that Troy’s been developing with Ben, and I’m pretty excited to race it to be honest. It’s not quite like anything I’ve ridden before, with the rpm, power delivery and of course, the wings.”
Ben Henry – DesmoSport Ducati Team Manager
“We’ve always had a strong relationship with Mike, and after winning the title this year, it was more a matter of aligning our partnerships for 2020 and ensuring the teams goals worked with Mikes own before we could move forward. A lot of people, including me if I’m honest, would have been surprised if we didn’t come to an agreement, so I’m really happy to be able to confirm that Mike Jones will race the DesmoSport Ducati V4R in the 2020 ASBK Championship. Mike is not only an incredible racer, but also has a great work ethic, and is willing to put in lap after lap, and give us good feedback to allow us as a team to deliver a better motorcycle come race day, and this is incredibly important in a championship like the ASBK where data from the bike itself is at a minimum. As a team, we still have some work to do, and are looking to finalise some new key partnerships as we get closer to 2020, but we’re excited to not only go racing, but also see what initiatives we can do to ”
“I’m really happy to come to an agreement with Mike for 2020. I know he has aspirations to race in the world championship, and to be honest, I think he’s capable of great results if the right package is around him, so to retain him just goes to show how strong our championship here is becoming, and how good the DesmoSport Ducati team as a package has become. I’m really proud of what DesmoSport has achieved in such a short time, with a tight-knit crew, and I can’t wait to see Mike at full throttle on the V4R.”
2019 ASBK Round Three – The Bend Saturday Report One
Daniel Falzon showed his one-lap pace that set the Friday benchmark was no one-lap wonder when he went marginally quicker this morning in warm-up, a 1m52.648. Clearly the YRT rider is now more comfortable with his YZF-R1M, and is enjoying The Bend circuit, along with the home support from the local South Australian crowd.
Under a new qualifying format for ASBK this season the Friday afternoon session is dubbed ‘Timed Practice’, and it is the times from this session that decided the nine riders that automatically qualified for the Q2 session just before midday on Saturday. The riders from tenth back in the Timed Practice session having to fight it out in a Q1 session, with the top three then being promoted into Q2, making for a final 12-rider tussle over the first four rows of the grid.
Prior to the Superbikes heading out for their qualifying sessions, the massive YMI Supersport 300 field took to the track to battle for their grid positions ahead of their opening stanza which is scheduled to take place over seven-laps at 1510 this afternoon.
Olly Simpson again topped proceedings amongst the 300 Supersport competitors but the big surprise was the pace of Brandon Demmery who slotted himself up to second place and very nearly stole pole from Simpson late in the session while Hunter Ford rounds out the front row after pushing Senna Agius down to the second row.
Seth Crump had clearly woke up with a new spring in his throttle tube this morning as he found a massive amount of time compared to yesterday, the KTM rider qualifying fifth while Locky Taylor also went much quicker today and rounds out the second row.
The Supersport 600 grid will not be decided until later this afternoon though, with their Q2 session scheduled for 1435 this afternoon. Tom Toparis is on provisional pole from his stunning lap yesterday afternoon, a 1m55.964, almost a full-second quicker than second placed Broc Pearson.
It was again somewhat of a tyre preservation session when Superbike qualifying got underway, with most riders just going out for one quick lap, then spending the remaining of the 15-minute session in the pits. Arthur Sissis put in a 1m53.789 early on which proved good enough to secure his place in the Q2 session while Matt Walters left things a little bit later to secure his slot through to Q2, as did Alex Phillis. Ted Collins though then rejoined the track and managed to knock Phillis out of third spot and steal back his promotion through to the Q2 session.
Mike Jones was very quick out of the blocks to lay down a 1m52.665 early benchmark in Q2, he backed that straight up with a 1m52.392. Halfway through the 15-minute session the only other rider in the 1m52s was Wayne Maxwell, on a 1m52.958.
Mark Chiodo then went third quickest, a 1m53.014 a big improvement for the young Victorian.
Daniel Falzon then got wound up with five minutes remaining and lit up the timing screens straight away, -0.172 at first split and he doubled that gap through all the remaining splits to record the first ever 1m51s lap of The Bend International Circuit, a stunning 1m51.592s. His competitors had four-minutes to come up with an answer to the South Australian’s speed.
His team-mate was the first to try and return serve, Cru Halliday dropping in a 1m52.243 and then improved his marker down to 1m51.953.
With two-minutes remaining Wayne Maxwell was on a hot one, under at the first split, and the third split but the final turns just lost him a fraction and he just missed out on besting Falzon, a 1m51.675s though declaring his speed ahead of the three 10-lap races. He was going quicker again on the next lap, under at the first two splits but again lost time on Falzon through the final sequence of curves and Falzon’s pole looked safe…
Mike Jones though then went out again and was a full half-a-second in front at the third split, he carried that speed to the line to set a new outright benchmark of 1m51.220!
Thus Falzon was demoted to second while Wayne Maxwell rounds out the front row.
Cru Halliday was the only other rider in the 1m51s and heads row two ahead of Josh Waters and Bryan Staring.
Mark Chiodo heads the third row on the back of an impressive performance today to qualify in front of Glenn Allerton and Troy Herfoss. The defending champion to start from ninth on the grid.
Matt Walters rounded out the top ten ahead of Arthur Sissis and Ted Collins.
For reference, the race lap record set on a green track here last April was a 1m52.939 recorded by Herfoss, but the pole record and circuit best lap last year went to Wayne Maxwell with a 1m52.175. Thus Jones’ new benchmark almost a full-second quicker than what we saw here last year.
The opening 10-lap ASBK Superbike race is scheduled to take place at 1540 this afternoon, with the remaining two races in this triple-header round slated for 1020 and 1505 on Sunday.
Mike Jones to challenge for the 2019 ASBK Championship
After a strong result at Wakefield Park for the second round of the Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK), 25-year-old Queenslander Mike Jones has earned himself a full-time ride with DesmoSport Ducati.
With a strong existing relationship, obvious talent and commitment, and living in close proximity to the team, Mike Jones is a logical choice for the DesmoSport Ducati team, owned by Ben Henry and Troy Bayliss, in order to keep their championship hopes alive. Jones has moved to third in the ASBK championship standing, just 13-points behind current series leader Cru Halliday after two of seven rounds.
“In some ways it was difficult, and in others, it was a very simple decision to make for Troy and me. We race at the highest level, and it’s our aim to win the 2019 Australian Superbike Championship. With Troy missing two rounds against so many racers capable of winning, our best chance to achieve our goal is to continue working with Mike. The work he did with us in testing and at round two made the bike even better to ride, and so, after some long conversations, Mike has been offered Troy’s race bike for the rest of the season. Troy, once he’s able to ride again, will now focus on setting up the V4R with us, while Mike gives the ASBK championship his full attention.”
“Three weeks ago, Ben asked if I could help set up Troy’s bike during testing while he was injured, which led to me racing for the team at round two. At the airport on Monday, while travelling home from the event, Ben and Troy offered me to race the rest of the season for them! Although I was planning to compete in the Spanish Superbike Championship this season, I’m very excited about this last-minute opportunity to be on-board with DesmoSport Ducati against one of the toughest fields of superbike racers in years. The team is the strongest it’s ever been, and the bike is significantly different to the Ducatis I raced in 2016 and 2017, which gives me the strong belief we can win races, and challenge for the championship. I’m highly motivated and really looking forward to putting in the maximum effort with the team to achieve these goals.”
Does this mean Troy Bayliss will not be back racing this season?
“It’s an interesting position for me to be in right now. I want to win, and those who know me, know that I will do whatever it takes to ensure I can win. As a team owner, that means putting the best person on the bike for the season, and right now that’s Mike. I know that I can win races in the ASBK this year, but I don’t believe I can win the title after missing two rounds against such a strong field of racers. That’s not to say you won’t see me line up on the grid again this year, but Mike is our title contender. I’m 100% behind him and believe that we have the team and equipment to win.”
The first enthralling round of the 2019 Australian Superbike Championship is but a memory – a vivid one at that – and now the second round at Wakefield Park is nigh. Bracksy looks back and peers into the future of what is shaping up as a momentous weekend at the Wakefield Park circuit near Goulburn in NSW, March 22-24.
If Alvaro Bautista was akin to a cyclone engulfing the WSBK paddock at the opening round of that Championship, in the ASBK class, Aiden Wagner was an air-to-ground, below radar low level attack dropping a couple of 500lb HE incendiaries on the ASBK field at Phillip Island.
A few weeks previously, the 25-year-old Queenslander, on his privateer Landsbridge Transport Yamaha R1 used the official ASBK test to strafe the field with armour piercing shells to let everyone know, he is back, fully fit, ravenous for success, and he doesn’t give a rat’s arse about reputations.
He certainly ruffled a few feathers at the test. By the end of race two of the ASBK Superbike season on Saturday Feb 23 they were singed beyond recognition with his scorched earth, take no prisoners policy.
With his round one victory with Pole, two wins and a second, the snatching strap of tension has been ratcheted up a notch. Or, five.
The quality and intensity of the on-track competition easily eclipsed the demonstration put on by the lads of the World Superbike field and showed the parity between the different motorcycles in our domestic championship is very even.
The ASBK season was shaping up as a landmark year, even before Wagner bounced back in the paddock. Now he is here, look out. The anticipation going into round two is even more palpable than the season opener.
2019 is shaping up as the most competitive in many a year, as each season seems to increase in intensity and level of competition.
Round 1 Recap
So let’s have a recap of the opening round then a peer into the looking glass to see what this weekend has in store.
There was plenty of anticipation as the meeting got under way and Bayliss led the first session to continue his testing form, but his weekend was to soon unravel. In the afternoon qualifying session he had a monumental get off heading into turn four when he was distracted by a rider stricken on the edge of the track. The bike was basically obliterated in the cartwheeling that was reminiscent of his crash on a Ducati during the Australian Grand Prix of 2003.
Thankfully, this time he walked away to be able to relate soon after that he had cracked a finger on his left hand and the bike “was sent to heaven”.
In qualifying the prodigal son, Wagner grabbed the number one slot, one-thousandth of a second under Bayliss’s lap record, set at the final round last year. More importantly, he scored an extra championship point that goes with it to lead a Yamaha block out of the front row.
This year the extra championship point for Pole Position at each round could be more critical than ever in deciding the champion. Remember when since Shawn Giles was pipped in a countback with Josh Brookes in 2005…
The privateer gave a bloody nose to the Yamaha Racing Team duo of Superbike returnee, Cru Halliday, and his team mate in the official Yamaha team Daniel Falzon who made up the front row.
Wagner has some very astute people in his corner with Sam Costanzo, the principal of Landbrige Transport and Landbridge Racing. Sam has a fine reputation for preparing race machines while Adrian Monti is a very astute and analytical operator who knows how to set up a race bike, and probably more importantly, the understanding to translate what a rider is talking about to bike set-up.
Before the opening race of the year, many people were asking the annual question of how far into the opening race we’d get before some carnage would erupt. In the past couple of years the season has only reached Turn Four on the opening lap before the cauldron has boiled over. Last year it was Glenn Allerton who hightailed it out of the race as he launched himself high over the bars, nearly bringing rain and almost dragging Wayne Maxwell off his bike as he flew past him.
It is understandable as it’s over four months since the last race of 2018 and we all know the eagerness riders display and the red mist visor is also a deeper tinge than normal for the opening laps of the year. In recent years there has been a bit of drama at Turn Four.
Race 1 – Phillip Island
This year we had to wait a few laps for the first real jaw dropping moment but the opening laps of race one were absolutely manic. What we had been anticipating had been confirmed. This year will be a seven-round, street brawl.
Falzon jumped to the front off the line to lead for the opening corners but Bayliss took over heading into turn 10 and led the frantic first lap across the line from Maxwell and Falzon. After a very mediocre start, Wagner was back in seventh, just shading Waters, the octuplet separated by less than a second. It was on as they all spread across the track careering to the apex on their 200+hp machines like the charge of the Light Horse, fighting for track position.
Wagner was excellent in testing. Now we were witnessing what he could do in a race mixed up with the pack of gangsters in front of him as Wagner commenced his carving exhibition. He showed from the outset that he is not here for a free lunch and it wasn’t even lunchtime Sunday!
He was up to second by the end of the third lap managing to pop out in front while everyone else was having a dip at the passing game, particularly Bryan Staring on the Kawasaki BC Performance ZX-10RR as he scythed his way through on the Dunlop shod machine to be among the leading pack climbing from 10th on the grid.
Wagner took the lead on the fourth lap and held it until the final few corners as he and Bayliss, Maxwell, Halliday, Waters, and Staring keeping well in touch
The first jaw dropping moment of the year came at the start of the sixth lap. Wagner led the charge from Maxwell and Bayliss, the others not far adrift as they tipped into Doohan Corner at a head shaking, meteoric rate. Wagner had a couple of bike lengths over Maxwell with Bayliss taking a deeper, more outer line into turn one but his entry speed was a little quicker, or maybe Maxwell slowed a tad but it was j-u-s-t enough for the brake lever of TB#32 machine to touch the rear of Maxwell’s machine.
The front wheel locked, a puff of blue smoke and in a nano second, Bayliss was sliding on his arse at over 200 kays and another steed of the Desmo Sport Ducati stable went looking for directions to the Pearly Gates to join its sibling.
The crash looked innocuous enough considering the speed of his trajectory into the kitty litter. Coming to a tumbling halt after a less than elegant face plant, he sat there, legs spread and punched the ground in exasperation, jumped to his feet and wandered back to the pits.
Bayliss may have exited stage left but that didn’t halt the swashbuckling as Staring joined the fray in fifth behind Wagner, Maxwell, Halliday and Waters. Half race distance and it was on.
The sword clashing continued at every corner and while Wagner led across the line there was plenty of pushing and shoving scything, slicing and magnificent dicing many times a lap.
Less than a second separated the quintet as they commenced the final lap but back markers were looming. The snarling pack negotiated the first couple ok but Wagner was baulked by one over Lukey Heights into T10. Maxwell was his typical blue heeler self as he nipped the heels of the Queenslander.
Out of T11 Wagner jumped on the gas, the pack broke away slightly losing drive which allowed Maxwell the opportunity to storm past into the lead and take the win from Wagner, with Staring filling the last step on the podium after another determined ride from the 2010 ASBK champion to prove that he will be in the mix all year.
Wagner demonstrated in the opening stanza he has the goods to push for not only the privateer championship but the outright. He also has his own definitive style in riding a 1000cc machine at Phillip Island, riding more Supersport lines to carry corner speed. This was most evident at Turn 4 as he hung out very wide and swept across the track for a very late apex.
High corner approach had the others seemingly second guessing as if they tried to take an inside line there was a good chance that a collision may occur. In fact, it did happen with Halliday and Wagner touching with feet off the pegs, both lucky to stay aboard such was the hit.
His antics reminded us in the commentary booth of a philosophy of racing that 2002 Australian Supersport Champion, Shannon Johnson, uttered to explain some of his determined moves, “A front wheel has a three-and-a-half inch rim. If there is three and a half inches of track then there is enough room for me.”
What a scene setter for the year. The first World Superbike race soon after the opening leg was somewhat of an anti-climax compared to the cut and thrust of ASBK.
Maxwell had taken first blood, and was somewhat emotional in parc ferme as the 36-year-old had not expected to take the win. After recent years on Yamaha machinery, he was still not feeling fully comfortable on the GSX-R, saying the bike did not yet feel like his. Be interesting to see just how fast he goes when he does get back to that stage with familiarity on the Suzuki!
Bayliss injuries surface
We didn’t have to wait long for part two later the same afternoon. If the opening race was a scene setter, race two will be in the background for the rest of the season as well. The action was a carbon copy of the opening leg with a few more exclamation marks for good measure – albeit with one disappointing turn of events.
After his whoopsie of the first race Bayliss seemed fine and in his usual laconic way was circumspect with the turn of events of his two massive crashes in less than 24 hours, but ready to come out swinging.
Bayliss headed out on a hastily prepared machine, but on the sighting lap as he applied the front brake for the first time he realised that he could close the ring finger of his right hand, but couldn’t extend it. A torn tendon forced his exit from the rest of proceedings and the loss of plenty of potential points.
Race 2 – Phillip Island
Race two soon turned into a Maxwell vs Wagner vs Waters vs Halliday vs Falzon affair, with the others not far off. Falzon crashed at turn 10 losing the front which baulked those following, allowing the top four a gap over the likes of Staring, Mike Jones (K&R Hydraulics ZX-10R) and Troy Herfoss on the Penrite Honda who was struggling to stay in touch.
Wagner had complete faith in his front end in his desire to poke a wheel up the inside of the opposition and managed to hold his line. After a few laps the rear was starting to walk on him but he didn’t give a toss about what the rear was doing. He was right in the mix.
It all came down to the final lap dogfight. Again.
Hundredths of a second covered the top four and so typical of Phillip Island it all came down to the final four corners: setting up over Lukey Heights, a possible dive up the inside into MG Corner, then the drag through 11 and 12 to the line.
The last five hundred metres of the second Superbike race is now etched in history, but its repercussions may reverberate throughout the year. Maxwell had managed to get in front in the final set of corners and led Wagner, Waters and Halliday as they tipped into Turn 12.
Maxwell hung it up a little higher than usual leaving a bit of vacant bitumen. Wagner saw that lonely bit of bitumen as an invitation and reacted accordingly driving through – hugging the ripple strip, with Halliday and Waters line astern.
Kaa-boom! A clash as Wagner and Maxwell collided in the rush with Maxwell falling off the inside of the bike, cartwheeling into the track-side beach, spraying the gravel high.
Wagner kept it pinned as the carnage unfolded to take the flag from Halliday second and Waters third and a crater of destruction and controversy hot on their heels. Thankfully, Maxwell was soon on his feet and taking the long walk back to the pits from the outside of the track. Fuming.
At race’s end, I descended down the stairs from the three-storey eyrie that is the commentary box in the control tower to head to park ferme to conduct the usual post race interviews. I had just emerged from the tower to pass a rapidly advancing and extremely arced-up, Phil Tainton from Team Ecstar Suzuki, who was charging up to race control to explain his point of view.
I hadn’t seen Phil like that in a long time. Hoo-ee, this has just taken the championship to another level.
There were plenty of words said from both sides and also the view of onlookers. Wagner claimed there was a gap. Maxwell claimed there wasn’t any room. Wagner was contrite and apologised to Maxwell for the incident but at the time it fell on deaf ears. Everyone else had their own opinion. Was there a gap or not?
Officials deemed it as a racing incident and no action was taken, much to the chagrin of some. Riders had different opinions with one telling me, “Tell them to stop sooking. It’s a racing incident. I’d rather be fighting for the lead and crashing than being back here where we are.” Touche!
Personally, I think it is fantastic for the intrigue and interest. It brought more international attention to the ASBK and many in the WSBK paddock were talking about it, including Jamie Whitham who thought it was fantastic. It made the opening WSBK race seem like a procession!
Whoever was right, or wrong, it brought back a statement that the great Ayton Senna said at the 1990 Australian F1 Grand Prix, “By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it’s possible. Sometimes you get it wrong. Sure, it’s impossible to get it right all the time. But I race designed to win, as long as I feel I’m doing it right.”
But that philosophy didn’t work out all that well for the Brazilian legend in the end did it…
Race 3 – Phillip Island
With the third and final race of the opening round held on Sunday morning, at least we could get our collective breath back over night. Lucky because race three left us all breathless. It was the race of the weekend.
Maxwell was battered and bruised after his 200 km/h+ get off the day before but his determination wasn’t lessened by any stretch. The anticipation was palpable.
Arthur Sissis stormed from 15th on the grid to grab the holeshot but was soon swamped as Waters led the first lap from Wagner and Falzon – the trio covered by 0.624 sec. Jones joined the fray on the next lap and created history by not only breaking the lap record but being the first rider to dip into a sub 1:32 with a corker of a lap to record 1:31.881!
The leading freight train was adding extra carriages as the laps went by. It became a quintet the next lap when Haliday chimed in, 0.753 sec adrift.
The passing moves had been stepped up especially at the frighteningly fast Hayshed where Jones was making it his corner, just like Jamie Stauffer did in the past, to dive up the inside accelerating through the apex.
Another couple of laps and there were seven carriages but none of them remained in the same place. It was mental the amount of positional changes and at two thirds race distance, seven bikes were covered by less than a second with Wagner and Jones taking turns to lead the end of consecutive laps.
Wagner made it two victories after getting the best of Jones by 0.317 sec (the largest gap over the three races), with Halliday in third, the trio separated by just 0.394 sec. A blink of the eye behind was Falzon, Waters and a very gallant Maxwell 0.933 away in sixth.
Over the three races you wouldn’t see as much carving in a dozen pubs for a Sunday roast! Enthralling. The total winning margin for the three races was an astronomical: 0.765!
Round 2 – Wakefield Park
What lies ahead this weekend? There are no similarities between Phillip Island and this weekend’s round at the tight twisty bumpy and extremely demanding Wakefield Park, except they are racetracks.
This weekend extreme tension is a given. How far before the tension is too much and something snaps is anyone’s guess but I reckon something will happen in qualifying in the fist fight for the extra championship point.
Herfoss will no doubt start as a favourite such is his affinity with the track and he will have an added incentive of making up for what was, in his and the team’s eyes, an extremely disappointing weekend at Phillip Island – a place that has never been too kind to him.
Maxwell has done well at the the track in recent years and the pair have split wins pretty evenly. Then there is Cru Halliday. He has had some memorable moments at the track and now he is back on a Superbike after his domination of last year’s Supersport title.
Don’t be surprised if he takes a victory as he is a true dark horse for this year’s title, as is his team mate, Falzon. The South Australian, who now works as a fully qualified paramedic, has a hunger for race wins and he may well bring a take-no-prisoners approach into the meeting as well
Unfortunately, Bayliss will be a non starter but that allows Mike Jones to be reunited with the Desmo Sport Ducati team as he has been drafted in to fly the flag in the absence of Troy.
Staring showed that he and the Kawasaki BC Perfomance ZX10 is not too far off the pace. The big question mark for him is whether the Dunlop tyres are up to the rigours of the 2.2km track? Could they even have a weather dependent advantage this weekend..? Saturday and Sunday are looking warm.
Then there are the riders with three Australian Superbike Championships in Glenn Allerton and Josh Waters. Allerton and the Next Gen Motosrports BMW team have had a challenging start to the year. Still awaiting delivery of the new HP4, they had a setback with going to Dunlops then returning to Pirelli. At the Island they were well off the mark but anyone who discounts Allerton does so at their peril.
The same must be said for Waters. After the disappointment of last year, the Gixxer and Waters look to be back to their rampaging best. Plus he now has a team mate that is out to claim another title, and we all know what they say about team mates.
Then there is Wagner. What he brings to the table has given the championship that bit of extra mongrel and disregard for reputations that the series has been aching for.
After his first round blitzkrieg the opposition will be more prepared to deal with what ever firepower Wagner throws their way. The arsenal of the opposition will be well stocked to defend the attacks.
An interesting bit of trivia. In the past three years good mates, Maxwell and Herfoss have been the best performers at Wakefield, sharing the wins at three apiece. Herfoss has two second places to Maxwell’s one, with Herfoss’ worst result a fourth, while Maxwell has not fared quite as well overall, with an eighth and a DNF. Herfoss has also taken the last three pole positions. Herfoss’ points haul is 135 points compared to Maxwell on 108.
With Troy Bayliss opting to take some rest-time to aid his recovery from his recent surgery from injuries sustained at the first ASBK round at Phillip Island, the in-form MotoGP Wildcard Mike Jones, who has yet to confirm a ride overseas for 2019, is in the perfect position to re-join the team that he rode for in their inaugural season in the ASBK back in 2016.
Jones recently joined ASBK regulars for testing at Morgan Park, and is of course is no stranger to Ducati machinery, and took little time get back in the groove. The team elected to not run a transponder, thus no times were registered on the circuit timing system, but talk around the paddock suggested that Jones might have actually undercut Maxwell by two-tenths-of-a-second to end the day fastest, unofficially at least…
Ben Henry – DesmoSport Team Manager
“We’re obviously disappointed that Troy can’t line up on the grid next weekend, but we’re fortunate to be able to call on Mike (Jones) to step in. Mike is in great form right now, setting the fastest Australian Superbike lap at Phillip Island during round one, and it was great to have him back on the bike in testing last week. We really couldn’t ask for more credentialed rider to ride the Panigale FE, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mike can do for us at round two.”
“While it’s unfortunate Troy can’t ride, I’m grateful for the opportunity to join DesmoSport Ducati. I initially tested the bike at Wakefield Park a week ago to help work on the set-up in preparation for Troy to race, and I was really happy with both the bike and the progress we made. The extra laps are certainly going to benefit for the race weekend, and I’m really looking forward to racing round two on the Panigale FE.”
“The surgery on my finger was successful, but after trying to ride the bike this week, it just hasn’t had enough time to heal, making it impossible for me to ride at speed. It’s tough watching another racer on your bike, but Mike is a part of the DesmoSport family. He’s riding really well, looked really comfortable on the bike in testing and has given the team some great feedback to keep improving already, so although it’s not an ideal situation, I’m happy to have someone of Mike’s calibre be able to step in for me.”
2019 ASBK Official Test
Wakefield Park – March 4-5, 2019
By Trevor Hedge – Images by TDJ Media
While Wayne Maxwell showed some stellar speed at the Phillip Island season opener, including surprising himself with victory in race one, when I spoke to him during the weekend he said the Suzuki still didn’t feel like ‘his’ bike, and that he was still far from fully comfortable.
This week, alongside many of the ASBK regulars present for an official two-day test at Wakefield Park, Maxwell got to turn plenty of laps on the Team Suzuki machine to further familiarise himself with the GSX-R1000R.
Today Maxwell got familiar enough to top the two-day test with a best of 57.659. That was today’s official benchmark by a slender margin over Troy Herfoss’ 57.728.
More importantly the test gave Maxwell enough time to experiment with different settings on the machine, and to learn more about what affect those changes had on the bike. This will arm him with more knowledge to give better feedback to the team throughout each session from hereon in, as the season progresses.
Max Croker air-lifted to hospital
Unfortunately though another Suzuki rider was made very uncomfortable today. Young Max Croker crashed heavily and was air-lifted to hospital. There it was confirmed that he has broken the same collarbone that he broke last year, from which he only had the plate removed from about four months ago. The more worrysome injury is to his hand, where early indications suggest that multiple breaks have been sustained that will leave him on the sidelines for some time.
He is currently waiting to see a hand specialist before any treatment plan and prognosis can be made. Team owner Mat Mladin rang in to tell us that they will support Max the best they can on his road to recovery, and when he is ready to go again, his Mladin Racing Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 and all the team support will be waiting for him.
Aiden Wagner put in a 58.067 to end the second day third quickest on the time-sheets ahead of Josh Waters.
Alex Phillis stopped the clocks at 58.896 ahead of Lachlan Epis who with a 59.964 was the final rider to lap under the minute mark.
Was Mike Jones actually quickest today….?
One rider missing the test, while recovering from surgery after being injured at round one, was none other than Troy Bayliss.With TB laid up after surgery and wanting to rest up in order to have a fighting chance of some good results when ASBK returns to Wakefield Park to race in a few weeks time, DesmoSport Ducati recruited Mike Jones for testing duties aboard the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition.
The recently turned 25-year-old turned up on a K&R Hydraulics backed ZX-10RR for the season opener at Phillip Island where he scored a best of second place, and a fourth overall for the round.That’s a pretty good scorecard by anyone’s standards.
Jones of course is no stranger to Ducati machinery and took little time get back in the groove. The team elected to not run a transponder, thus no times were registered on the circuit timing system, but talk around the paddock suggested that Jones might have actually undercut Maxwell by two-tenths-of-a-second to end the day fastest, unofficially at least…
DesmoSport Ducati were not originally planning to attend this test and actually have the track booked for next Wednesday. But after Troy’s injury they decided to attend anyway and put Mike on the bike. They will test again next week and have now opened up an opportunity for other interested parties to join them on track at that test.
Mike Jones will ride the bike again next week and unless Troy’s hand gets a hurry-on in its strength and dexterity, Jones might actually ride the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition at the race here at Wakefield Park later this month.
What is YRT’s form like heading to Wakefield Park…?
The Yamaha Racing Team also tested at Wakefield Park recently but their pace is an unknown. Likewise, how will the Kawasaki and the Dunlop challenge via Bryan Staring fare around the tricky Wakefield Park layout?
We will have to wait until the weekend of March 24 when the second round plays out around the 2.2-kilometre Wakefield Park circuit, situated on the outskirts of Goulburn between Sydney and Canberra. See you there!
Mike Jones, 2015 Australian Superbike Champion, has been a familiar face at previous pre-season tests in the past few years before venturing overseas.
This year he was again in attendance at the recent ASBK Test session at Phillip Island, onboard a Kawasaki ZX-10R on loan from Matt Harding.
Jones has committed to doing the opening round of the ASBK at Phillip Island but, unlike the last three years, has no immediate plans beyond that in regards to where he will be racing for season 2019.
We caught up with him over the weekend for a brief chat.
Mike Jones Interview
Phillip Island, Official ASBK Test 2019
MCNews: First up what were you doing here?
Mike Jones: I’m having a ride around, I’m doing the ASBK test here in preparation for Round 1 of the ASBK. That’s the plan at the moment.
MCNews: So what happens after Round 1 in two weeks time?
Mike Jones: Not too sure, haven’t got anything solid yet, I’m still looking at options overseas as I don’t currently have anything right now. So that’s the position I’m in.
MCNews: You’ve been pretty up and down since you won the championship in 2015.
Mike Jones: I won the Australian Championship 2015 then raced for Desmosport Ducati 2016, and that was a tough year. The Ducati was new to the whole team so we had, I spose you’d say, teething problems. That made things quite tough, but we showed some potential there on the Ducati and Troy helped me get a ride with the Aruba.it Ducati team in the European Superstock 1000 Championship in 2017, I had a reasonable year there. For a year racing in Europe, I was fifth overall in the Championship, which was a pretty solid overall effort.
“Then with the Superstock 1000 championship being discontinued it meant I was looking for a ride elsewhere, so then I changed completely to a different manufacturer, different tyre, different team, different tracks, so everything was brand new again, and I still finished fourth overall in the Spanish Championship. So while it may seem up and down, it’s still been progressing upwards in my opinion, and I feel like I’ve been showing some strong results over there, on the podium in Europe and Spain, that for me has been pretty good.
“Right at the moment I’ve come to a point where, it seems like a lot of the teams are really struggling for budget and asking the riders for budget, so trying to get the budget together is the most difficult thing right now. Especially because I’ve been in the position where I haven’t really had to bring budget to a team, so I’m not really prepared for that.”
MCNews: So the first question they ask is how much money have you got?
Mike Jones: “And my answer is I have nothing, as I’ve been paid enough to live, but not enough to go racing with your team.”
MCNews: Is it looking more and more that you’re going to be doing ASBK?
Mike Jones: “Yeah, it seems that way right at the moment. Racing in the Australian Superbike Championship, but I’m still looking and trying to race overseas.”
MCNews: Where’s the strongest option at the moment?
Mike Jones: “Probably Asia at the moment, I’m looking in Asia and it might be possible, there’s possibly something there.
McNews: And what about the two days here?
Mike Jones: “I had a good weekend, we’re riding KNR Hydraulics Kawasaki, one of Matt Harding’s bikes, so it’s a first time for me today on that bike, and we tried a bunch of different stuff for geomoetry and suspension, a few small electronic changes, but we made progress all day. I started to get comfortable on the bike, so it’s been a really good first day and I feel like if we continue on this path, with the progress we’re making, there shouldn’t be any reason I can’t be competitive at the first round here.”
MCNews: All the best in whatever you do mate, it would be good to see you mixing it up down here.
MJ: “You never know!”
The first round of the Australian Superbike Championship will be held alongside the opening round of the Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island 22-24 February.
Kawasaki Superbike – Phillip Island Test – Merged classification