Interview held between the Hidden Valley and Morgan Park rounds of ASBK 2022
Darwin 2022 could be the place that will define Mike Jones ‘coming of age’ in the ASBK title considering the season so far. The Queenslander has now notched up three round wins in a row, five race wins and two second places in the last seven races, and for an added piece of history, the first ever win for Yamaha at Hidden Valley.
Jones now leads the ASBK title by 40 points with at least six and more likely seven races remaining of season 2022. That question of six or seven should be answered in the next few weeks as the schedule for the support races at the World Superbikes at Phillip Island in November is finalised, but it is the intention of ASBK to stage three races that weekend. Bracksy chatted at length with the championship leader after the Hidden Valley round and the pair and covered a lot of ground, we hope you enjoy it here.
Well done on the Darwin weekend Mike, you and the Yamaha looked very good up there.
“Yeah, we did well. The Yammie went really well. We knew that especially the Dukes would be fast there. It wasn’t even that bad on the straight. In the draft it was fine.”
You are the first Yamaha to win a Superbike race at Hidden Valley.
“Really? That’s cool. I never realised that. That’s exciting.”
“Yeah, the Darwin weekend being a triple race weekend, there were a lot of points up for grabs. It was a chance that it was either going to go one way; that Wayne was going to claw back a bunch of points on me, make the championship a bit closer and a bit more equal but it’s gone the other way and opened that lead. What was it? 23-points when I went in, and now I have 40 points, so it’s gone up by a quite significant amount.”
In terms of rounds, we have passed the halfway mark. In terms of racing I think we have six or seven races to go. We’ve done nine races, so just over halfway. I think obviously if you’re getting into the second half of the season and you’re 40 points up, it’s a pretty good situation to be in. Put it this way Jonesy, only you can beat yourself to the championship now.
“That’s it exactly. It needs to be my own mistake or a mechanical or some sort of issue with the motorbike to be a problem.”
If there are seven races left and a 40-point gap to second, if Wayne was to win every race, you could finish second in every race and still win the championship. Not that you go out there and think ‘I’ll finish second’. I know that doesn’t enter the mindset of you blokes.
“No. The mathematics and the numbers are really good.”
Did you have any issues over the weekend?
“No real issues. In qualifying Wayne was there but for me to be able to go second… Yeah you want to be on pole, but if not you want to be second. At least. We were able to make that happen.
“For the races; That first race, I am pretty sure Wayne had an issue with his bike. I don’t know exactly. I just thought that was the case. I thought I heard something wrong with his bike. Like it was missing or something, so I just assumed he had some issues and that was the reason I was able to get going and get ahead in that first race.
“In race two it was pretty mad! There was a bunch of us all going for it. Arthur [Sissis] is getting his Yamaha sorted and getting faster all the time. I was getting bombarded by Troy Herfoss at every opportunity he had. He just thinks about the one corner that’s in-front of him, and just wants to pass you (with a big laugh) and doesn’t worry about the momentum you lose to the guys in front of you, so that wrecked the rhythm a little, but I managed to recover not too bad in the last few laps and get myself back to second. It was too late as Wayne already had a lap or two to get going. He was on a mission after that bad start. It was a lot of fun that race.
“The last race was very similar to the first race except Wayne made an error, I assumed, trying to keep up or catch back up whatever the case was and had that crash. I was a lot more consistently quicker than those other guys. It’s funny, it wasn’t a huge amount of times, I don’t think, I was faster than them but I was able to do that every single lap and have that consistency and so that’s what built the gap up.
“I didn’t have too many issues over the weekend.
“That second race when we were in a bunch there, ummm I did have a small, little thing happen with the front brake, I had a bit of brake fade so that was part of the reason why I didn’t get going as well as I should have. i just lacked a little bit of confidence, as when the brake lever starts coming in (both start laughing) like when you are riding around all the other fellas there, you don’t want to come up to a turn and run out of brakes and crash into the back of them!”
And Darwin you tend to use the brakes very hard in a couple of places!
“That’s it, yeah. You’re hurtling down that straight at 300 km/h an hour into that first turn, that was the only thing that played on my mind in that race and that is the only reason I would give as a reason on an excuse as why I didn’t win that second race. But apart from that the bike was flawless, and I felt really good.
“In the first race I won, but Herfoss he was up there so that obviously took the shine off it – which is fair enough – after he had that big crash there last year and he’s on his recovery and he got the praise for that one.
“I didn’t win the second race, but I came in a close second.
“Then that last one I won by six-seconds or something. That was very surprising.“
When you came out of Turn One, when you looked behind, did you actually put your hand to your visor as if to say ‘Where are you all?’ ?
“Yeah, I was being a bit of a smart-arse. I did do that (laughs). Well, it caught me off guard. I came out of turn one and had a bit of a look back to see where the other guys were and saw out of the corner of my eye, they were just coming down into the first turn and I thought ‘geez I had a fair old gap on those guys. They’re a fair way behind!’ I don’t know, something clicked in that split second in my head, and I did that funny gesture. I just thought it was funny being a bit of a smart arse.“
We need a bit of that every now and then anyway. Keep it up! Ok, now with the Yamaha, you have jumped off the Ducati, when you were following that at times did you notice, you were steering the bike easier particularly from turn seven up to that really fast section through to 10 and 11?
“Yeah the bike was handling well. That middle sector, I am pretty sure we fastest in nearly every session in that sector. The bike’s ability to just turn while on the brake and turn while on the throttle. It just holds a line really well. It was something I really noticed, particularly in the first race when I was behind Bryan for something like five laps and the amount of speed I could carry or gain on him coming into some of those turns. It was a crazy amount of metres I could make up on the entry to the turns, particularly at five and seven. I was really surprised. I seemed to have a lot more speed on a tighter line. He had to be going at a slower speed to hold the same lines. It’s just a characteristic of this bike. It’s just a good handling motorcycle.“
Whatever you have done with the set-up with Kev (Marshall) and the team, it is certainly working.
“Yeah, it’s an interesting situation there; in the workshop, obviously Kev been there forever, they have developed the motorbike over the years but Dyllan [Elliott] is my crew chief and the one I deal with so he’s the one that is ultimately working on the set-up. He does liase with Kev and they come up with a bit of a plan together. I think it might go a little unnoticed that he is actually pretty switched on when it comes to the set-up of the bike, the suspension and whatnot. He’s the brains. I know he works ideas through with Kev but he’s still the one doing it. So big credit. Not just to Kev, but Dyllan as well.”
You’ve won two championship and you may just be the first one to win ASBK three times on three different motorcycles. With 2015 – I don’t want to be derogatory to you or anyone else – do you classify that right up there when everything was turning to shit back then?
“It’s a hard one. The bottom line is that it was an ASBK championship. It was an official championship and I competed in it and I won it. You know what I mean. It’s written down. Officially.
“I know that the majority of our competitors were racing in the Formula Xtreme and that’s where all the competition was, and it was the unofficial Australian championship. I also competed in those races too and I was competitive against those guys. We did go and race at Phillip Island at the end of the year, all of us together and I won the weekend there. Yeah, I know in terms of a championship, probably not but I was still competitive against everyone as well.
“Look at Glenn Allerton for example. When he won his third title (2014) there was only a couple of rounds, but he is still in the books as winning ASBK that year. Even, for example, with Wayne during the last two seasons with the Covid situation. Yeah, he won the championships, but after how many races? Not really even half a season, but everyone says he’s won three championships. In my opinion that’s the championship. You turn up and you win it. If no one else turns up and you win it, it’s because you turned up and you did it. It’s just the way it is. It’s done and dusted so I am going to claim it.”
Ok let’s go to 2019 when you won on the Ducati it was on the 1299… what I am trying to get to Jonesy is that if you win it this year, would this be the most satisfying of the three of them?
“Yeah. Yeah For sure. Absolutely. Obviously the first year not all the competitors were there. The second championship that I won I was on the 1299cc twin-cylinder Ducati. The bike itself was a missile and yeah, you’ve got to be able to ride it, but it certainly had a power advantage that year.
“This season you couldn’t deny that it would be an absolutely true championship win, if it was to go that way, because the bike is equal in comparison to the other bikes and everybody is there racing.
“Albeit you could say that Herfoss is definitely not at his prime, not at least for the full season, so you could say something about that but apart from that everybody is there, everybody’s racing. All the teams and all the competitors so yeah absolutely this year it would be a genuine championship win that would definitely be the most satisfying.
“The other ones everybody can have an excuse for, but this one if it happens you’ve got nothing to say, It would be being beaten fair and square.“
Has the Darwin weekend changed your attitude and method of attack for the rest of the year?
“No. it can’t change, it has to stay the same. We have to go to the next round and work in the same process. That’s what’s working for us, that’s allowing us to be in a position to challenge for the win in every race. You can’t guarantee that you will win every race, but you need to be able to guarantee that you’ll be a contender for the race win, so the way we are working at the moment, the process we are in, it’s getting us to be a real race win contender, every race.
“For me, the mindset is the same when I go to this next round. Yes, I have a lot of confidence, maybe even a little bit less pressure because of the points situation, but really my goal every time I turn up, I want to win. It’s just the way it is. I want to go there, and I want to win and I’ll do my best and I believe that ultimately in the race I believe I have a good feeling and sensation with the motorbike. I know where the limit is, so if I feel that I am on the edge and close to stepping over it well then, you’ve gotta be consistent. You’ve gotta finish. There’s no point overstepping it. If you are in a position where you are feeling good and you can get the win, then you do it. I am in a position now where I can really, not have to overstep that limit and just finish with the best result and get the consistency, if it has to be that way.”
Looking at the scorecard, the last seven races, for five wins and two seconds you must look at that and go, ‘well this is going alright.’
“It’s gone really well.”
“Absolutely! I don’t think I have ever won three rounds in a row, especially after changing bikes, my first season on the Yamaha, the R1, like you would expect. I expected some sort of time to learn to adapt with the bike and the team. That has happened way faster than I ever expected.”
Phillip Island was the learning curve and it all happened from there!
“Yeah that’s it. I suppose for us Phillip Island was the learning curve. I am actually really excited to go back and race Phillip Island again as that will be another good test for us, to see how we have progressed and what the difference is as far as a result.
“After doing that first round at Phillip Island we have had some really good solid test days, where between myself, Dylan and Kev, we have been really able to understand and for those guys to understand what I like from the motorbike, but also for me to really get comfortable and understand the motorbike, the way it likes to be ridden and basically it really just suits the way I like to ride. I am not trying to adjust my riding style, or anything to suit the bike. It’s like this is the way I want to ride, and the bike actually wants to do that too. It’s just the perfect combination.”
Has this season rekindled any thoughts about heading overseas; to get this one under the belt and open up opportunities, whether its BSB, AMA or World Superbikes? Are you working on any of that at the moment?
“No, not working on that at the moment. My goal and dream was always to be a world champion. I think that’s every kid’s dream when they start out their career, but I think at the moment, the way this year has panned out and progressed, it’s a funny situation. You kinda think about overseas, you aspire to race in the world championship, but I have done a few seasons over there and it’s not actually that easy. It’s quite a challenge.
“I am in my late 20s now and thinking about my future, I really see this now as a really fantastic opportunity for me to be able to consolidate myself here in Australia and string a few together.
“Look at how old Glenn and Wayne are. What are they now? In their late thirties or early forties or something like that, so I’ve got another 10 years of racing in me. If I can string another good solid five years together, I could do really well racing here in Australia. That to me would be a better decision than going overseas just for the sake of going over there and racing. It’s just really difficult and financially as well. Obviously, this is a job for me. Going overseas and racing you have to end up finding sponsors to pay or contribute to going racing. You are not actually making money. Thinking along those lines it makes a lot more sense to stay here and race and try and be winning here because I can make a living from it.”
No other day job?
“No. No. Just racing at the moment. Just focused on that. That’s my goal.“
Well Jonesy you have certainly come a long way since that pimply-faced kid I met at Oran Park, all those years ago with the MRRDA!
“Yep, that was a bloody long time ago.”
Good to know you, and good to see you doing what you are doing.
“Cheers Bracksy. Much appreciated. See you at Morgan Park.”
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