- Mike Jones (centre) wins the 2019 Motul Pirelli Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK). It's his second ASBK championship victory, having been drafted back to the team as an injury replacement for Troy Bayliss. (Image: ASBK/tbg sport)

Jones and Ducati 2019 Australian Superbike Champions

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Mike Jones and Desmosport Ducati have been crowned 2019 Motul Pirelli Australian Superbike Champions in a thrilling conclusion to the season at Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) on Sunday.

Jones, who sensationally joined the Aussie Ducati factory squad as an injury replacement for superbike legend Troy Bayliss after competing in the first round at Phillip Island on a privateer Kawasaki, fought tooth and nail with the second-placed Penrite Honda of defending champ Troy Herfoss to seal the victory in the final sector of the final lap of the season.

“Desmosport Ducati have worked so hard for this” Jones told TV after the race. “Obviously as a rider I get all the praise because I’m riding the bike but honestly, those guys, without the team you just can’t do it.”

“(The pressure to win) was incredible. When we didn’t get that pole position that hurt a lot, I didn’t ride very well and I’ll blame myself a lot for that. Going into those races I knew I was starting from behind, and there was a lot of pressure to be able to come away with both race wins, but at the end of the day I rode the best I possibly could, the team gave me the best they possibly could, and on the day we were the best team.”

Jones (Ducati, 46) leads from Herfoss (Honda, 1) and Wayne Maxwell (Suzuki, 47) on the way to clinching the 2019 title. Going into the final race only half a point separated Jones and Herfoss for the championship lead. (Image: ASBK/tbg sport)

Second-placed Herfoss was circumspect, having missed out on defending his 2018 ASBK title by a meagre five and a half points.

“I learnt pretty young that going to the racetrack saying you want to win every time sets you up for failure a lot” he said. “Always you go out there to win, but if I feel that I’ve left everything out there, which I did, without losing any mates today, then I’ve done everything possible.

“(Jones) rode a very smart race, he used his package to his advantage and I used mine to my advantage, and he was just a bit better than me.

“A big congratulations to everyone in the team, (Desmosport Ducati team owner) Ben Henry happens to be one of my best mates so it’s hard to be disappointed for one of your good mates. We really want to win, but what a championship, it was such a big fight."

Race Report: Race 1

Polesitter Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team, Yamaha YZF-R1) got the jump off the start but it was Wayne Maxwell (Team Suzuki ECSTAR Australia, Suzuki GSX-R) who stamped his mark on the race early, leading into Turn 1 as he looked to steal the championship off Jones (Desmosport Ducati Ducati Panigale FE) and Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing Honda CBR SP) . Falzon would sit next in the queue, providing somewhat of an an unexpected hurdle for Jones and Herfoss in third and forth as they continued their own championship fight. Falzon then decided that he might like to lead for a bit, sweeping past Maxwell as they began lap two ahead of Jones and championship leader Herfoss. Close behind was Bryan Staring’s BCperformance Kawasaki ZX10-RR ahead of Cru Halliday (Yamaha Racing Team, Yamaha YZF-R1), both still mathematically a chance for the championship and looking to pick up any scraps should the leaders falter.

On lap 4 Maxwell powered past Falzon’s Yamaha to take back the lead, while Herfoss and Jones had decided to stop fighting between each other and set off after the leaders. Jones make the most of his track position into Turn 4 to get past Falzon with Herfoss also making a move on Falzon a couple of corners later.

Maxwell still led, but his gap to his championship challengers had all but evaporated as the lead group of three formed up for an all-out top three championship fight. Jones made his move for the lead into Turn 9 while Falzon hit the deck in the background- a disappointing DNF for the South Australian, starting from pole for the first time in 2019.

Jones built up three tenths over Maxwell and Herfoss but still couldn’t break clear as the field passed half distance, Staring and Halliday also maintained their gap to the leaders. Staring was setting impressive laptimes in his quest to close the gap to the top three, dropping Halliday slightly with five laps to go. Herfoss was knocking on the door of Maxwell for second spot, but thought better of it with so much on the line.

Herfoss finally made the move on Maxwell at Turn 6 with three laps to go, sensing that time was running out to prevent Jones from claiming the championship lead. Herfoss was sideways through Turn 1 in pursuit of Jones, trying to make up the last couple of tenths of a second. Maxwell though was losing rear grip, falling back into the clutches of Staring and Halliday as the two red machines battled at the front, Jones’s Ducati still ahead of Herfoss’ Honda.

With one lap to go Herfoss had made up almost half a second’s worth of gap to close onto the Ducati. Despite huge amounts of corner speed rom the Honda, it still wasn’t enough to negate the pure grunt of the Duc, as Jones held the lead through the final turns to cross the line 0.3sec ahead of Herfoss, with Maxwell half a wheel ahead of Bryan Staring in third and fourth.

Race Report: Race 2

Maxwell got the jump off the line once again from Row 2, but this time Herfoss and Jones didn’t waste any time behind Falzon, squeezing past on the run to Turn 2 sending the Yamaha back to fourth to join stablemate Halliday in fifth. At the end of Lap 1 it was Maxwell leading ahead of Herfoss side-by-side with Jones. At Turn 2 the order was flipped, Jones leaping to the front ahead of Herfoss and Maxwell, before Herfoss took the lead again through Turn 6. This was going to be a cracking final race of the season!

As Lap 3 started Jones used the power of the Ducati to run past Herfoss’s Honda down the main straight, and the field at quarter distance was Jones, Herfoss, Maxwell, Halliday, Falzon, Waters and Staring.

Herfoss and Jones would usually look to break away at this point, but Herfoss still needed Maxwell to stay in touch to try and prevent Jones from amassing enough points to seal the championship. But Jones was drawing Herfoss away from the rest of the pack- and riding closer to ASBK championship glory. Lap 7 saw Jones and Herfoss battling at the front, then Maxwell under pressure from Halliday more than a second behind. Falzon and Staring were next, with Waters having dropped to ninth.

Herfoss matched lap for lap with Jones, but still couldn’t find a way past. As they started lap nine Herfoss was millimetre-precise with his braking to dive past Jones into Turn 1 in a breataking move- now his job was to try and contain Jones enough to back him back into the pursuing runners. Jones was having none of it though, a determined move into Turn 2 had Jones past briefly, but he overcooked it and let Herfoss back through. Yellow flags prevented Jones having another go at Turn 6, Daniel Falzon had crashed for the second time in two races, an ignominious end to a promising weekend.

All eyes were now fixed on the leaders as they swapped positions again, Jones making the move at Turn 2 with two laps to go, before losing it again at Turn 1, then back in front at Turn 2, then Herfoss in front at Turn 3. What action! Jones took the lead again at Turn 1 on the final lap- could Herfoss respond one final time? Side by side through Turn 7, Jones through, Herfoss through into 11 but couldn’t get it stopped, ran wide and that was all she wrote. Mike Jones cruised to the line and became your 2019 ASBK champion ahead of Herfoss, Halliday, Maxwell who had slipped to fourth, returning ASBK legend Jamie Stauffer (McMartin Racing Ducati V4R) in fifth, and Herfoss’ Penrite Honda teammate Mark Chiodo (Honda CBR SP) in sixth.

Full results of both races available via Computime

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