Features 3 May 2016

Catching Up: Mike Jones

DesmoSport Ducati rider's ASBK mid-season reflection.

As the reigning Australian Superbike Champion, DesmoSport Ducati’s Mike Jones has been in the headlines plenty since clinching last year’s crown. Now part of the newly-formed factory Ducati team owned by triple World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss and renowned ASBK team owner/manager Ben Henry, Jones has quickly displayed the potential of his 1299 Panigale S in domestic Superbike trim. Hear from Jones – currently fourth in the standings with two podiums so far – at the halfway point of the year to see how his season’s progressing.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Three rounds of six are completed in the 2016 ASBK series. How do you feel it’s going for you so far with the DesmoSport Ducati team?

I’m progressing really well with the DesmoSport Ducati team. Obviously riding the Ducati 1299 Panigale S is new to me and it’s a new bike to the team, so we have been doing a lot of learning along the way. I think we started off on the right foot and we are still making good progress with myself and the bike, so overall we are really happy.

It seems like in general the pace has been there. Obviously Wakefield Park was a really tough weekend, however across the three rounds your speed has been strong and you made the podium at Phillip Island and Sydney. That’s a real positive…

Yeah, exactly. It’s quite surprising how close we are up to the front of the field in these first few rounds. I was kind of maybe expecting to have a bit more development time and be quicker at the end of the year, but we’re already up the front of the field. So with a bit more time as the season goes on, in these next few rounds we are only going to get stronger.

You won the championship last year, within the same team, but now there is obviously factory support from Ducati and Troy Bayliss is on board as team co-owner as well. Has life changed much on race weekends as a factory rider?

I think things have certainly changed. For me as a rider I can focus my attention on riding the bike and giving the best feedback to the team that I possibly can, so we can improve the bike. Last year as a more of a privateer outfit my attention was spent on other areas with running the bikes. This has been a good step for me to be able to be a part of a factory supported team. While we haven’t shown our full potential yet, we certainly are working towards that.

What’s your favourite aspect of the 1299 Panigale S?

My favourite aspect is the engine characteristics. It’s far different to anything that I have ridden before. Whilst I’m still learning how to ride it fully, the power delivery is very smooth and it has a lot of torque. It’s quite an incredible feeling to open the throttle and you have so much power there early on in the rev-range. It’s quite something on the 1299 Panigale S.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Image: Russell Colvin.

With Troy [Bayliss] being a three-time World Superbike Champion, he has been at the circuit on the race weekends and working closely with the team. Just how closely do you work with him and how much has he helped you to adapt to the Ducati?

It’s been really good having Troy involved with the team and I’ve been able to work with him quite closely on the race weekends. He’s been getting quite involved with the development of the of the bike. He has also been taking to various vantage points of the circuit and viewing me on track, then we are discussing the things that are going on out there. Having his involvement has been really good, because he of course has a lot of experience with the Ducati. I can relate to him with some of the things that I’m working with on the bike. It definitely is helping us to move forward.

Looking forward towards the second half of the season. Barbagallo is coming up next, then Morgan Park, which is a track that you really dominated at last year on your way to the title, before the year finishes up in ASBK’s return to Winton. Is that part of the calendar that you are looking forward to?

Definitely. I think these next few rounds are going to be good events for us. I really like Barbagallo and I enjoy the layout there of the track. Obviously going to my home circuit at Morgan Park will be fantastic as I’ve done so many laps around there and I have a good knowledge of the circuit. As I said, the more time we spend working with the bike, the faster we will go, so I’m really looking forward to this last part of the season.