Features 5 Jul 2016

Profiled: Luke Mitchell

A detailed look at the Australian Supersport front-runner.

Nineteen-year-old Luke Mitchell says he is stoked with how his 2016 Australian Supersport Championship campaign has gone thus far. Heading into round one of the ASBK series at Victoria’s Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit at the end of February, Mitchell, who hails from Clarence Valley in New South Wales, was still on his FX-spec JNL Racing Yamaha, not committed to one series or the other.

“To start the season with a third place overall at Phillip Island on a bike which was stock standard was simply unreal really,” explained Mitchell. “We were like, alright we’re competitive, let’s see how we can go in ASBK this year then.”

Round two at Wakefield Park was the same deal for Mitchell, who was still racing on a stock-standard bike. The team had only bolted their new YEC harness and ECU one day before the actual round.

“We put the YEC gear on the bike on the Tuesday, then drove to Sydney on Wednesday and dropped the bike off at Road & Circuit at 9:00pm on Wednesday night which was worked on all night by. Marty [Dowd], my mechanic, picked it up Thursday morning at 10:00am and drove to Wakefield Park and I rode it the next day.”

Image: Emma Carlon.

Image: Emma Carlon.

Mitchell managed to walk away with a solid 2-2 result to score second place overall, which he regards as the highlight round so far. Why you ask? Wakefield Park is a circuit that Mitchell has never got along with, period!

“I haven’t not liked Wakefield Park, I have just been slow there and not on the pace,” explained Mitchell. “We went there this year and literally nothing had changed on the bike apart from the harness and the ECU, but we only had a day with it to get used to. Something just clicked for us.”

Mitchell had never topped the time sheets, however he changed that when he went on to top the times in practice three on the Friday, when he went on to post a 1m00.923s, 0.257s faster than fellow Yamaha and YRD-supported rider Cambridge Olivier.

Another box this likeable character managed to do was lead his first-ever Supersport race, when he took command of the second race by leading the field on lap three, 13 and 14 out of the 16-lap journey.

For the past two years Mitchell has of course been racing in the Australasian Supersport Championship. 2016 sees him in the ASBK series, so the question is, which series does Mitchell enjoys most, in regards to the race format?

“I like the ASBK format a lot better,” he continued. “It’s not the fact that the longer races suit me, but for example at Barbagallo I got a good start in the second race but struggled mid-race, but was able to come back towards the end of the race and was only half a second off the race win. So I do enjoy the longer races and the longer practice sessions, which also allows us to do back-to-back bikes and try different set-ups, which is handy.”

Looking towards the future, two more rounds remain in this year’s ASBK series – Morgan Park at the beginning of August and Winton Motor Raceway at the start of October. Heading into round five, Mitchell sits in fourth place in the title-fight, 25 points behind the championship leader Sam Clarke.

Image: Emma Carlon.

Image: Emma Carlon.

“In the scope of things, if I want to win the championship, I pretty much have to win the remaining four races of the season,” Mitchell admitted. “In reality it’s going to be tight. To be battling against Sam, Troy [Guenther], Callum [Spriggs] and even Chris [Quinn], it’s going to be a battle right to the very end and not easy at all. In saying that, I’ll be going for it as much as I can.”

Morgan Park is also a track that Mitchell regards as his ‘home circuit’ as it’s the closest track to him, five hours away from his home: “It’s the track that I have done the most laps at, even though I have done the laps aboard a 70cc and 80cc junior bikes. It does help but to know which way the track goes, so I’m looking forward to round five that’s for sure.”

In regards to what Mitchell will do for 2017, it seems as if he will go around again in the Supersport class. He has had a three-year plan – his first year in 2014 was all about learning how to ride the Yamaha YZF-R6 machine, before he started chasing performance and tenths of seconds and simply get him up to speed riding a bike this fast.

The second year, 2015, was all about where they started upgrading the bike throughout the year and bringing up the spec of the bike. However at the second round of the Swann Series at Mallala, Mitchell crashed and broke two vertebrae in his neck, which wrecked his year.

So Mitchell and his team are treating 2017 as their second year, which is why he is so stoked in regards to how he has done thus far: “This year was supposed to be my ‘second year’ in that plan, so next year we will have the fully done up bike and we’ll go to win!”