Features 29 Nov 2022

Debrief: 2022 ASBK Rd7 The Bend

Champions Jones and Lytras recall seventh round in South Australia.

When push came to shove, Mike Jones got the job done and delivered Yamaha Racing Team its first premier class Mi-Bike Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) in 15 years, as John Lytras (Yamaha) secured the 2022 Australian Supersport title at The Bend. CycleOnline caught up with both riders after the races for this Debrief feature. 


Image: Foremost Media.

Congratulations on winning your third Australian Superbike Championship. Talk us through race one, after seeing Bryan Staring go down, did it feel like one of the longest races you’ve done? Then, what were the emotions like when you crossed the line and clinched the title? 

The first start that we had, I was actually having a bit of a go at the start of the lap, start of the race but we only got a couple of laps into it and we had the red flag, so Bryan was involved in a crash. Once we had the restart, knowing that Bryan had been involved in that crash, my mindset changed and I just knew that I needed to finish that race and that was going to give me the championship. So, it was kind of hard at the start of the restart, the other guys were obviously super hungry because they were racing for the win. As they were coming past, I just didn’t seem to have any fight in me to challenge them, and I was just really wanting to stay out of trouble and just finish the race cleanly. Especially the last two laps, I was riding the bike, and while I was riding the bike I wasn’t even thinking about riding, I was just enjoying being on the motorbike, enjoying riding at The Bend – it’s such a fantastic circuit. On the final lap, I started to realise that I was actually going to become the 2022 Australian Superbike champion, and I suppose all of the memories from throughout the year, all of the hard battles and challenges throughout the year, they all started coming to mind. So then I got a little bit emotional [laughs] during the last lap, but it was fantastic to finally finish the race.

Being your third championship in the premier class, how do you rate this one compared to the others and the success you have achieved to date in your career? 

This championship certainly means the most to me. It’s my third championship and my third championship with a different manufacturer. On top of that is a bit of history, because Yamaha hadn’t won in 15 years, like it has been a really long time for them.  It’s very special, and I feel very proud to be able to get this championship for Yamaha, and be the one to be able to do it. For me personally, I’ve done it on the Kawasaki, done it on the Ducati, now done it on a Yamaha, and that to me is kind of special. On top of that, this championship, its very worthy. There’s no excuses, this year you can’t say anything, I was very deserving to be able to win this championship – our competition was strong, all of the competitors were fantastic, all season long. It was just a very rewarding championship this one.

Looking at race two, that really underlined your championship win in a sense. Everyone was there, you had the pressure of the title off your back. There was a bit of noise entering the weekend, for yourself having the pressure of the championship then what others were saying in relation to that. But in the end, you did what you set out to do, pole, you won race two, you got the overall and the title. What was your mindset in race two, and what does it mean to come out on top in that encounter?

Ultimately the results do the talking, but what it really means is that we all went head-to-head in that final race and I came out on top. For me, whilst I was consistent to be able to put a championship together over a whole season, I also showed in one last race where everybody wanted to win that race, I can do it. I put all of the talk and everything from leading into the weekend, I put all of that to bed and really proved that I was a deserving champion this year. There’s no doubting it at all with a result like that, very dominant, very solid performance. During the race, once I got to the lead, in my mind, in the last few laps I was just like, let’s go, let’s show everybody really what I can do, and that’s where I was on lap record pace and put a gap into everybody, put the pressure on the guys behind to say ‘hey come along, let’s see if you can do it’, and, you know, there was a few crashes, and at the end I was two seconds up the road. A very dominant race that one and it felt really good to get the win.

What are your intentions for next year, after the success you have achieved in 2022 with the Yamaha Racing Team? What does an ideal 2023 look like for you?

Ultimately for me, I want to be the 2023 Australian Superbike champion. I want that already. Ultimately I want to be on a competitive motorcycle and in an environment where I can challenge for the championship.  In my mind, there are probably only a few seats that can offer that, but the Yamaha Racing Team have given me something fantastic for this season and I would really like to build on that further for next season.


Image: Foremost Media.

Firstly, congratulations, great achievement to be crowned Australian Supersport champion. I suppose it probably hasn’t had the chance to sink in yet, but what’s the initial feeling, it must be pretty good? 

Yeah, it feels awesome man. I’ve worked for it for a long time, and it has finally happened. I’ve got very close to winning 300 championships before, even by like one point, and I never won one, I got second two years in a row in four classes. It feels good to get an Australian championship in road racing, feels awesome. It just feels great to be honest.

Talk us through your weekend. From the outside looking in, it didn’t look all smooth sailing, but you got the job done. What was it like mentally, going through that, having the points lead entering the round? Was it pretty taxing having to carry that or was it more so taking it one race at a time and getting there in the end? 

From the start of the weekend, I believed I could get there. In practice I felt like I was riding alright, but once I got to qualifying, I thought I could get a better time but I actually destroyed my tyre before I even put a time down. That kind of sucked, we made a tyre choice that wasn’t the right compound for the conditions, so that was a little disappointing but it didn’t matter too much. We got to P8 and it was okay, and yeah, we raced forward enough. The first race we raced forward to seventh, and the second race I was in seventh and the boys behind me looked pretty eager, and I wasn’t going to really worry about them too much and just let them through when they went through. It was all good in the end, and felt pretty good.

A number of races this season, obviously today is a big highlight, but was there a particular race that stood out to you as the one in which you performed best?

Probably Morgan Park, after the bike stopped in the first race, then we won by six seconds [in race two]. That was probably the best race of the year, and Wakefield wasn’t too bad when we won both races there. It was a pretty good year, to be honest.

Finally, thoughts on next year? Would you look to step up to a superbike, is that on the cards or are you thinking you will stay in Supersport and defend the title? 

Honestly not too sure. I currently can’t afford to go to a superbike at the moment. If someone offers to let me ride one, I will and I’ll have a go. There’s nothing that is happening at the moment, probably 600s will be where we are at next year I think.