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Grid talk with MIKE JONES | Columns | Gassit Garage | MotoGP | Sport | WSBK

2016 was a bumper year for Mike Jones, scoring Championship points in wild card performances for both WSBK and MotoGP. We talk directly with the chosen one

Congratulations on a fabulous 2016 season Mike. Can you sum up your ASBK season?

The 2016 season has been a fantastic season, that’s for sure. Signing for the Desmosport Ducati team with Troy Bayliss and Ben Henry has proven to be a good learning year with the Ducati Panigale 1299s, which I have very much enjoyed. Obviously it was fantastic as we also got to do the wildcard ride in the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island which was unreal. Then to be able to get two second place overall finishes, one race win and a pole position in the ASBK series just made the year even better. I’m just ever so grateful for the opportunity Ben and Troy gave me in 2016.

You had two guest appearances with the Avintia Racing Ducati team at the Japanese and Australian round of the MotoGP. How did that all fall into place for you?

Well obviously with Andrea Iannone out injured, Héctor Barberá was drafted aside to replace him at the Ducati Team for those two rounds. So Troy helped out with some negotiations with Ducati about having me race at Motegi and Phillip Island. That’s basically how it all came about. The World Superbikes and final round of the British Superbikes was also on the same weekend as the Japanese MotoGP round, so there were a lot of Ducati riders who were busy with their racing commitments. So that gave me an opportunity to fill the seat at the Avintia Racing Ducati team.

How much pressure did you feel at those two MotoGP rounds?

To be honest I didn’t feel a lot of pressure, as I was just so focused on the job that I had to do and at the same time was just enjoying the experience. It wasn’t like I was racing for a championship or anything, I was simply out there just trying the best I could for the team and for myself. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it or get myself worked up over anything. It was quite simple and pressure free really.

Only a handful of riders in this world are lucky enough to ride a MotoGP machine. How does a MotoGP bike compare to the Ducati Panigale 1299s that you campaigned in the ASBK series?

It goes without saying it’s a completely different world riding the Panigale 1299s compared to the Desmosedici GP14.2. The Avintia Racing Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2 is far more sophisticated. However the most difficult thing really was the chassis, carbon brakes and the electronics. Apart from that it’s still a motorcycle and you still ride it the same way. Also the amount horsepower it had was something bizarre. It’s something you’ll never really understand until you actually ride a MotoGP bike.

You have signed a deal to race for the Racing – Ducati Junior team to race in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup this season. How did the deal come about?

With my wildcard ride in the World Superbikes and two rides in the MotoGP, the team owner, Daniele Casolari from Racing Ducati took notice of my riding. Once again Troy made contact to Ducati and it really just panned out through Troy’s contact with Ducati and putting me in touch with Daniele. From there we coordinated it and organized the deal.

What are your goals and expectations for 2017? You’re going up against the best in the business in Europe but you’re with a well established team who has a good track record.

I expect that I’ll be able to do a good job, as the Racing – Ducati team is a very professional team. They will be able to give me the tools that I need to be able to do the best job that I can possibly do. My goal is to ride to the best of my ability. I’m sure with good information we’ll be able to achieve some good results. With some of knowledge of the European tracks from 2013 I’m sure we’ll be able to be up the pointy end of the field. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead this year.

Words and images by RUSSELL COLVIN