Mike Jones to ride Motegi MotoGP on Avintia Ducati
By Mark Bracks
There will be two Australians on the MotoGP grid at Motegl this weekend with the addition of ex-Australian Superbike Champion, Mike Jones.
The young Queenslander received a last minute call-up to ride the Avintia Ducati alongside Loris Baz at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The ride came about as factory Ducati rider, Andrea Iannone is still unfit to ride following his accident during practice at the San Marino GP where he broke a vertebrae. He was replaced by factory test rider Michele Pirro, at Misano and Aragon, but he is unavailable to ride the Motegi round as he is testing next year’s Desmosedici this week at Valencia, Spain.
Two-times world champion, and Ducati test rider, Casey Stoner was offered the ride but turned it down and as such regular Avintia rider, Hector Barbara has been drafted into the factory Ducati team for the weekend, opening up the spot in the Avintia Ducati squad for Jones.
Jones received the call in the early hours of Thursday morning, while he was at Phillip Island for a two-day test with his Desmo Sport Ducati Team in preparation for next weekend’s Superbike support races at the Michelin Australian Grand Prix.
It was a mad rush as Mike’s father, Chris drove the 22-year-old to Melbourne airport before dawn on Thursday to catch a flight to Japan, however, Mike had to take a detour flight to Brisbane so he could pick up his passport on the way, delivered to the airport by his girlfriend, Carly.
The ride is proving that dreams can come true in the most unusual of ways, but it will be a massive learning curve for Jones as he has never been to Motegi, never raced a MotoGP bike, never used carbon fibre brakes or used the GP-spec Michelin tyres, add to that the fact he will be riding one of the fastest bikes on the grid, although it is the older Ducati GP14 model.
The invitation also opens up the possibility that Jones may well be offered a ride in next weekend’s Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix if Iannone is still ruled unfit to ride. Iannone has nothing to prove on the Ducati, as his services are no longer required at the Ducati team. The Italian may well take the time to return to full fitness before taking his place with the Suzuki team after the final race of the year at Valencia in early November.
Whether Stoner is again invited to race the bike at Phillip Island, a track he dominated at for six straight years remains to be seen, but if he knocked back a ride at Japan it would appears the odds would be slimmer for Stoner to accept the offer of a ride at Phillip island, as public expectations would surely be intense.
The Motegi MotoGP will not be Jones’ first taste of World Championship competition, the youngster competed as a wild Card at this year’s opening round of the Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island on the Desmo Sport Ducati. In the opening leg he finished 14th, but in the second leg crashed out while in a top 15 spot.
Meanwhile at a perfect Phillip Island today, there were a number of riders testing for the Grand Prix support races with two of Jones’ team mates in the Cube racing outfit taking to the track. Regular Supersport rider, Queenslander Callum Spriggs, who finished fourth in this years ASBK Supersport Championship, was there along with 16-year-old, Tom Toparis from Goulburn, who finished second in the Up to 300cc Production class at the ASBK. Toparis is making his race debut on the 600cc machine next weekend and rode the Victorian track for the first time.
Spriggs was quickly on the pace recording times in the 1:37 bracket while Toparis proved he is a very fast learner and at the end of day dne was into the 1:39’s. A remarkable effort for the teenager and proving the faith that recently crowned Australian Superbike Champion and fellow Goulburn resident Troy Herfoss has shown in him.
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