Assen, Netherlands – Race

Gareth Jones, 25/04/08 – 27/04/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Round 2

Two short weeks went by after Round One at Valencia and we headed off to the Assen TT Circuit in the Netherlands. Every circuit in the championship this year will be new to me, and every country is another one to add to my list. I was looking forward to Assen, and planning on starting with a clean slate after a very frustrating and disappointing time at Valencia.

We got on a plane Wednesday morning in England and less than an hour later we touched down at Amsterdam airport. I’m finding it a bit surreal that just an hour’s flight away and I’m not only in a different country but a different language and culture. On arriving at the track we assisted with some of the set up and organization of the pits, so we would be ready for scrutineering and rider’s brief on Thursday. The scene over here is very different to Australia, but I’m learning my way around pretty quickly. Here you need pit scooters to get about the area its so big.

I was very keen to get into practice and learn the track. I was also feeling a bit anxious as the last thing I wanted was the problems we had at Valencia, so we started with fairly neutral suspension settings on the bike. Unfortunately I joined the Mist Suzuki team at the 11th hour, so my track time has been very limited and have not had an opportunity to get onto a track between meetings. Anyway UK tracks over the past month have been covered in either snow or rain. I did however get a few flying laps Thursday afternoon on Brendan Roberts rocket ship scooter, and we had turns in cutting laps with some of the other guys!

Friday – First Practice

The first practice at 9 a.m. Friday morning was not much more than a ‘learn the track session’ but at the same time I was trying to find a good feeling with the bike for the first qualifier in the afternoon. I stayed on the track for most of the session and came in only to make a few adjustments.

Friday – First Qualifying

After the session we made some larger geometry changes and hoping that we wouldn’t continue with the suspension problems. We made a little bit of headway with the changes for qualifying, so I stayed out on my old tyres for as long as possible, using the time to adjust to the settings and learn the lengthy track before putting in a new set at the end. I only got a few laps in on fresh rubber so my qualifying position of 31st was not at all desirable, leaving me concerned, as there was a chance of rain for Saturday so this qualifier may have well been where I was going to start the race.

Saturday – Second Practice

After having a good think about the bike Friday night, I needed to get onto the track again and get as much time as I could. Unfortunately this session turned out to be extremely limited. As the bike was being wheeled off the stand, we noticed a fuel leak. This put a big dent in the first part of the short session and just as I jumped on the bike and went to ride off it started raining. By the time we got the wets in and headed onto track, I only had 6 minutes of the 30 minute session left.

Saturday – Second Qualifying

For the qualifier in the afternoon, the circuit was dry, so I was anxious to work with the team to get the most out of the available time on track. I was in and out a fair bit during the session and was able to find a bit of time, by improving the basic setup. In effect, the qualifier was being used as a test session still, so I was trying to think about getting the bike sorted as well as trying to put a lap together. I ended up 28th out of a full 40 rider field. Times are so critical at this level, just a few hundredths’ of a second means numerous positions on the grid.

Sunday – Race

The time had come to get into it and put difficulties aside and push hard for 13 laps of the 4.55km Assen TT circuit. However before that we had one more large suspension change to try to the rear end before the race. Warm up was a less than ideal place to be trying that, but I wanted to attempt to improve things further, hoping we could find time in the race, luckily it helped me so I was keen to run with it.

Shortly after warm up was our race. The crowds were pretty big by then and the atmosphere exciting. I got a great start and quite a few riders parked it in turn 1 so I was lucky to be able to ride around these and move up about 10 positions on the first lap. I tried to make room where I could and push my way through and gain a few more positions on the brakes but I found running high corner speed a problem, which was really hindering us in practice and qualifying so I did what I could and tried to pick off as many people as I could.

I found myself in 16th fairly quickly. One certainty with this class, if you run wide or find yourself out of the seat, you can guarantee that more than one rider will slot their way back past. On one occasion about mid race I had a rather large out of seat moment in turn 2, and slipped back 4 spots!

I tried to ride consistently knowing where I was having difficulty and managed a 14th place finish. I tried hard as always and despite the setup trouble I’ve had with the Suzuki I feel I’m getting there, obviously the fact that everything over here is new to me makes it harder, but at least we are moving in the right direction. So upwards and onwards from here ! And I hope to achieve my realistic goals in the coming rounds and building confidence as we go.

Although I won’t be able to get to Monza before the next race meeting like many others have been able to do, we do have some testing planned shortly after that, so I expect to get on top of things then.

Before I finish up I’d just like to mention how good it’s been to have a heap of Aussies in the pits. The camaraderie between us is just like being back in Oz, probably even more so now as we’re all so far away from home.

A special thanks to Garry Crilly, John Chiodo and Justine from Monza Imports who have made arrangements for me to get a new AGV helmet delivered to the track within days so I had a European compliant helmet, it’s great to that that type of support from home.

About Gareth

D.O.B: 24/02/87 Height: 187m (6'1") Weight: 74kg (11.9 stone) Gareth Jones embarked on his official racing career in 2003 aged 16. Despite being the youngest rider in the class, he placed 2nd in the Australian 250cc Production Championship. Gareth finished runner up in the 2004 National Superstock Cup in Australia. In 2005, at the age of 18, Gareth was awarded the inaugural Reece Bancell Scholarship and became the first superstock rider to place in the Top 10 of the Australian Supersport Championship in his first year. Gareth completed three successful seasons as a privateer in the Australian Supersport Championship culminating in 7th place overall in 2007, in a field dominated by factory teams. In January 2008 Gareth earned his first works sponsored ride with the Brian Bernard Yamaha Team in the New Zealand Superbike Championship. Gareth placed 3rd overall in the five race New Zealand Superbike series and in addition won the “King of the Streets” title, winning all three Superbike races at the Paeroa street circuit, setting a new lap record in the process. In addition he finished 2nd at the famous Wanganui Cemetery Circuit (the southern hemisphere’s Isle of Man). This was particularly remarkable because Gareth was riding a 600cc Supersport bike against his opponents 1000cc Superbikes. Gareth arrives in Europe off the back of a successful winter’s racing in New Zealand and looks forward to the challenge of mastering the major European tracks, on his MIST Suzuki GSXR1000, in the FIM European Superstock Championships, as part of the World Superbike tour.
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