Yamaha Racing Team’s Mike Jones has made it back-to-back round victories at the Australian Superbike Championship after taking top spot on the podium after an enthralling round of action at Wakefield Park over the weekend.Media Information: 26 April 2022
It proved to be a memorable weekend for the rejuvenated Yamaha Racing Team as not only did Jones take the round win and increase his lead in the championship, teammate Cru Halliday claimed third for the round to claw his way back up the championship table and the duo made for a rare 1-2 formation in qualifying show-casing the speed and performance of the Yamaha R1M.
To view a some of the action from the weekend: https://youtu.be/ODodcKTABs8
The pair set the tone early and were on the pace right from the get-go on Friday’s practice sessions with fast and consistent lap times and an improvement in each session on the track. After qualifying first and second, the first time since 2016 that the YRT has been able to achieve that, there was a feeling of positivity around the team come race day.
Jones was determined to prove he is more than just a hometown hero after winning the previous round at Queensland Raceway. History shows Goulburn’s Wakefield Park hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for Jones but that was about to change.
He lined up on P1 for the first of the two, twenty lap races under cool, dry conditions. He mis-timed his start and was dropped to second place as Wayne Maxwell made the most of his start from P3. For the next eighteen laps, Jones shadowed the reigning champion, and the pair were never more than a couple of bike lengths apart. Jones also had his review mirror full of teammate Cru Halliday who was also desperate to make his way to the front.
On lap 18, Jones used one of his strengths on the difficult to pass Wakefield Circuit and slipped by Maxwell on the exit of turn two. He was able to get a small gap for some breathing room on the final lap and charged to victory with a 1.1 second gap over Maxwell, who just held off a late charge from Halliday just .4 behind in third.
Race two and Jones wanted a better start. And that’s what he got as he led the 20-rider field around on the first lap. Maxwell slotted tight in behind him and the race was back on. This time the reigning champion piled the pressure on Jones and at the completion of lap 12, pulled down the inside of the Yamaha rider to make the pass. Jones then stuck to him like glue but was unable to find away passed with the finishing order reversed from race one with Maxwell taking the win and Jones in second.
With the pair sharing a first and a second each, Jones one point for pole position broke the tie and Jones was declared the winner. After three rounds of the championship, the Queenslander now has a 23-point lead in the series but is more than aware of the work that lies ahead of him.
“Another great day for myself and the team, with a round win and Cru in third,” Jones begins. “That’s the second time in three rounds so it’s a great reward for everyone at YRT and the hard work we are all putting in.
“For me, I just wanted to keep the momentum going from the last round and keep improving and we were able to do that this weekend. The bike was in the ballpark from the first lap of practice, and we just fine tuned a few things and got down to a fast race pace pretty quickly.
“The racing here was intense and you can’t afford to lose your focus for one second or it proves costly. I felt I put in my best 20 laps each time on the track for the first race, that was good enough to win, the second Wayne was able to beat me.
“Looking at it from a championship point of view, we were able to win the round, gain some points in the championship lead and for me, to make progress at a track that I have struggled at in the past. So, all up a very positive day and thank you to the Yamaha Racing Team again for a massive effort,” Jones expressed.
Also wanting to come out swing was Cru Halliday who come off a tough weekend at Queensland Raceway and was out for redemption on a track he knows and rides well. Halliday quickly showed he meant business and his qualifying time of 56.7 was the fastest he had ever gone around Wakefield Park. Sunday was also a special moment for him as race two marked his 200th ASBK start in his career, all on Yamaha.
Halliday quickly slotted into third place in race one and was looking to break away with the lead pair of Jones and Maxwell. He miscued his braking into the sweeping left hander and missed his line which cost him valuable tenths of a second. He dug deep and inched his way back to the lead pair as he broke away from the chasing pack behind him.
With less than a handful of laps to go, he was back within striking distance and looking for any opportunity to make a pass. He lunged at Maxwell on the final lap but was unable to make a pass stick and settled for third place in the opening race.
The second race saw lots of bar-banging on the opening lap. Halliday made an aggressive move in the first few turns and charged into second place, only to tangle bars later in the lap and drop two spots. He settled into fourth as the race wore on, but knew he needed to move forward. He was able to get passed Bryan Staring for third but the lead pair were four seconds up the track.
As the laps ran down, Halliday fought off a charge from Troy Herfoss to finish the race in third again, making it a 3-3 for the day to take third for the round and move back to fifth in the championship and not far from the podium positions.
“Always good to be back on the podium with the level of competition and gain a few positions back in the championship after the DNF in Queensland. Looking back at it, the first couple of laps of each race probably proved the difference between where I finished and possibly a better result.
“Race one I run through turn seven and then in race two I got tangled up and lost a couple of positions. I just needed some clean laps to get myself well placed as it’s an easy track to lose time, but a hard track to make it back up as everyone is so close.
“But I leave here feeling positive and with plenty of fight. There are lots more races and rounds to come and we have the bike working well. The team did an awesome job all week and it was good to get a decent result in front of my friends and family who came out to watch today.
“Darwin is next up and I’m confident we can keep the good results coming up there,” Halliday ends,
There is now a seven week break in the ASBK championship before the bikes head north to Darwin to compete at round four of the series and in conjunction with the Supercars Championship.