Mounted on his Yamaha YZF- R1M, Team Yamaha Racing’s Mike Jones, now holds a commanding 40-point lead in the Australian Superbike Championship after a dominant performance at round four of the series in Darwin.The Hidden Valley Circuit hosted the Top End Triple Challenge featuring Supercars, Superbikes and Drag Racing in a huge weekend of motorsport where the Superbike riders put on the best racing of the weekend in front of a huge viewing audience and a passionate Northern Territory crowd.
Jones entered the round with a 23-point lead in the championship but aware that the points can evaporate quickly in Darwin with three, sixteen lap races on the schedule and on a track many thought other riders might shine. But Jones was having none of that and was right at the pointy end from the moment the bikes hit the track on Friday morning.
After qualifying in second place behind championship rival, Wayne Maxwell, Jones felt had had what it takes to be a major player over the weekend. Race one saw him inside the top four on the opening lap and amidst plenty of riders jostling for position in a chaotic start to the race.
As things settled, Jones made his move. He made a couple of clinical passes and hit the front before the halfway stage. He was able to stretch his lead to a two second gap which he was able to monitor all the way to the end, where he crossed the finish line as the race winner.
If race one was hectic, race two was insane with eight riders pumping out sprint lap upon sprint lap and all wheel to wheel as they completed each lap. In the frenzy, Jones was shuffled back to fourth and with Maxwell in the lead, he needed to get a move on. He pounced on Herfoss and then on the last lap, squeezed by Staring and made a last-minute lunge at Maxwell only to come up .249 short.
Race three and Jones stamped his authority. He got to the lead early, fought off some spirited challenges before breaking free and riding off to a six second win. His 1-2-1 results gave him the round victory and increased his lead in the championship to 40-points.
“What an amazing weekend,” Jones offers at days’ end. “I set myself for this round as I knew the opposition would be good here and with three races, the points swing can be pretty big if things go right or wrong.
“We were able to get on the pace quickly on Friday and found a setting in the bike that worked for us, and it set the scene for the weekend. I never envisaged going 1-2-1 and having a weekend so successful. It’s a credit to the Yamaha Racing Team who have worked hard since the Wakefield Park round. Thank you to all the team for their help and guidance over the weekend.
“Also thank you to the Darwin public for turning out and supporting the event. The crowd was very appreciative of the Superbike riders and its awesome to race in front of so many people,” he ends.
Teammate Cru Halliday posted a very consistent weekend with 6-5-6 results and spent every lap of every race locked in combat. He finished the round in fifth place and now sits equal fourth in the championship with three rounds remaining.
Halliday improved every time he was on the track and in fact, was over a second faster per lap than he was the last time he contested the Hidden Valley event. Starts and track position in the early part of the race proved to be his biggest obstacle over the weekend, but he continued to battle for each and every position.
Race three proved to be his best with five riders looking for the final podium positions. Halliday was in fifth for the majority of the race and just bike lengths away from making the podium as he dived deep into turn one. Unfortunately, he ran wide as his momentum forced him off-line and he lost a position.
“My goal is to be on the podium every time I hit the track and that didn’t happen this weekend, so that’s disappointing but there were a lot of positives to take away from the it. My times were way better this year and I was able to get a bit quicker with each session and I was also able to figure out a better way to get off the line in races two and three.
“I made up some points in the championship through consistency so that was also a plus but with three rounds to go, I need to start racking up some race wins to really peg some points back.
“The weekend has been busy, but the atmosphere was great so thank you to the organisers for making it happen. Again, everyone at YRT worked hard and the warm weather was draining on all of us, so thanks to them,” Halliday said.
After a long drive home back to their base in Brisbane, YRT now set their sights on round five of the ASBK championship to be held on the Morgan Park track, in Warwick, QLD.