Defending ASBK champion, Mike Jones sits in third position, 60-points off series leader, Troy Herfoss with 102 points up for grabs over the next four races, so he does have a mathematical chance – albeit a very slim one – of claiming a fourth title.
At the opening round of the chase alongside the World Superbikes at Phillip Island back in February he kicked off the year with a fourth place in the opening leg and then a brace of third placings in the next two races.
Heading to Sydney he was second on equal points with Herfoss, already 23 points behind the rampaging Josh Waters who continued his domination of the Island with a pole position, three race wins and breaking his own lap record.
Sydney was a turning point that Jones has been fighting to recover from. After qualifying second fastest behind team-mate Cru Halliday in the opening leg he dropped to sixth on the opening lap before fighting his way back to third but on the 10th lap the normally reliable Yamaha R1M lunched itself on Pit Straight, catching on fire as he came to a halt on the exit of turn one.
The race was red flagged and as such he was excluded from the result, dropping 18 points. Number one bike was out of action so he had to revert to his spare bike and the historic race under lights was affected by rain as after three laps the race was red-flagged due to the downpour, however in the restart he could manage only 10th which bagged him 11 points. That tumbled him down the points table to eighth spot, 62 points off the lead.
In the most recent three rounds – from Queensland Raceway to Hidden Valley in the Top End and Morgan Park in Queensland – “Mad Mike” has claimed six second placed and a fourth place as he tries to fight back from that shocker of second round at Sydney Motorsport Park.
In preparation for this weekend’s rounds, Jones, along with a multitude of ASBK regulars took part in the Victorian Road Racing Championships at the Island in September as a shakedown test in race conditions.
Jones, Herfoss, Glenn Allerton and the ever-improving Max Stauffer produced some extremely entertaining racing at the front in perfect spring conditions. Jones claimed a third and a second with a crash in the second leg entering Siberia while leading.
The adage that the only certainty in racing is the uncertainty will again play a part this weekend and this will be oneJones will be hoping runs in his favour.
Mark Bracks: How are you shaping up for Phillip Island? Have you been doing much “on-bike” activity?
Mike Jones: “Yeah, I have been doing a bunch I am pretty fortunate that I have a training bike in the R1 and also an R3 to go to a go kart track. It’s been good, being able to keep the eye in. We’ve done a few rides at the Island as well.
“I was there for two days before the Vic Champs, then the Vic champs and then a one day test a few weeks ago.
“Not as much as Herfoss! He’s been living down there! But we’ve had a pretty good lead-up, so I am confident with that.”
Bracksy: How beneficial is the Vic Champs in race conditions compared to a ride day?
Jones: “When you do a ride day or even a test day the intensity isn’t the same as when you are doing a race. We were fortunate that Herfoss, Allerton, Westy, Max Stauffer and a few of the guys were there so you get that race intensity.
“Although it was only short, getting six or seven laps so you get to push the bike to that sort of level and get a bit better idea of what you need whether the things you’re changing are working or not.
“Doing the Vic Champs was good for that. And then of course at a test day the benefit of that is that you have less pressure and more time you can spend trying things. Just that time if you only do a handful of laps and if the change wasn’t any good you can change it again and get another chance to have a run with it. Where as the race weekend you don’t get that opportunity.”
Bracksy: Being 60 points off, there is a mathematical chance that you can win the championship, but it is a very long shot isn’t it.
Jones: “Absolutely. The points gap is quite a lot to Troy especially and even to Josh. Sitting third at the moment. You always say anything can happen and when you are behind by a lot of points that’s the mentality you have to have.
“The reality is that those two guys – Troy and Josh – are really strong and have been beating us this year. That’s why we are in the position we are in and while you’re looking ahead at these positions because that is where you want to be, my main battle at the moment is with Glenn Allerton. I am sitting third and only a few points ahead of Glenn! *With a laugh* He’s quite strong at the Island and he had a pretty good run at the Bend last year as well, so it’s going to be a challenge. IMy focus has to be to perform the best I possibly can so I can score as many points as possible to hang onto third place.”
Bracksy: That engine blow-up in Sydney was something you definitely didn’t need.
Jones: “Yeah, having a DNF in a race like that cost me. I was running third so theoretically I would’ve finished third and scored 18 points. 18 points closer is certainly better.
“The way that weekend went, the second after having that mechanical meant I was down one bike, and the next race was in patchy conditions. The only time all year we needed two bikes for a race, and we were stuck with one and it made things so difficult. I had a terrible finish. I finished a long way back as well, so it cost me a bunch of points as well.
“That’s racing. That’s the way it goes but at the end of the day, yeah it would’ve put me closer, but the bottom line is that Troy Herfoss has been beating me in the last seven races. He’s won ‘em all and I’ve been coming second. At the end of the day, he’s been the better rider and would be ahead of me anyway.
“Yeah, it would be nice to have those extra points and be a little bit closer and be a bit more solid in the position I am in or even maybe closer to Josh for second place but yeah, it was a very unusual and uncharacteristic what happened there but that’s the way it goes hey.”
Bracksy: It does. The Ying and the Yang and all the rest of it.
Jones: “That’s it. I think about last year. We had the dream year last year. Everything just went perfect and as good it possibly could. I had the best luck ever. Everything just gelled and clicked. It just all worked. And this year theoretically it will all be the same but then something like that happens and sometimes it’s your time and sometimes it’s just not.
“From my point of view your determination and focus stays at the same level regardless of any sort of set-back because you are just trying your hardest all the time.”
Bracksy: Where are your strengths at the island?
Jones: “The first three-quarters of the track when you look at sector times, I am either at the top or in the mix. It’s been the last sector that has been the killer for me but this last lot of riding I have been doing there we’ve been working heavily on that.
“In terms of strength, Turn One is a corner I really enjoy, the braking and the run into the first turn I have been able to make plenty of passes there and I feel quite strong there and like you mentioned through the Hayshed. If I can get a good run on the exit of Siberia, I can make that pass on the change of direction into the right hander of the hayshed and get through there alright. They are my two strongest parts of the track I reckon.”
Bracksy: Let’s go back 50 metres before. What happened there at race two in the Vic Champs?
Jones: “I’ve been trying to understand that crash and to be sure what happened. When Westy had that oil spill. I believe that happened after I crashed so it means the crash I had was up to myself and I just think I was carrying the momentum in the entry speed, trying to carry more entry speed, and it got to the point where I rode over the limit going into Siberia. More than anything it was rider error trying to find the limit and I found it! I can’t really blame anyone else but myself really.”
Bracksy: Well at least you have that sorted for this week! Thanks Jonesy. As always great to chat with you.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.