The European summer continues to sparkle for Kiwi road-race champion Gareth Jones.
The 22-year-old Yamaha star rocketed to a dramatic, record-breaking win at the “Thrilla past the villa” at the weekend.
Set in the Dutch countryside at Hengelo, the course is a ‘street circuit’, or actually a country lane circuit event, and it was also round four of the ONK Dutch national superbike championships.
Jones, who is actually from Queensland, in Australia, now leads the Dutch series by 21 points over fellow Yamaha rider Raymond Schouten.
Like the Manx TT, the Irish North-West 200, or the renowned Cemetery Circuit in New Zealand, each of these countries has its own closed road-racing competition and the race at Hangelo was just as challenging as the “Battle Of The Streets” series races that Jones won in New Zealand, at Wanganui last December and at Paeroa in February.
Jones, who was unbeatable on his Brian Bernard 600cc Yamaha R6 on the street circuits in New Zealand last summer, proved his wins there were no fluke as he also skilfully took apart the competition in The Netherlands at the weekend.
The standard was set in qualifying with Jones and Schouten renewing their rivalry on the 2008 and 2009-model Yamahas respectively. They swapped the lead in rotation throughout the 11 laps before Schouten secured pole by just 0.08sec on his 12th and final lap.
Jones once again opted for race tyres in qualifying to simulate race conditions and went under the existing track record by 0.2 seconds, taking second place on pole in 1.47.86 only 0.08 sec behind Schouten and ahead of Sepp Vermonden, Allard Kerkhoven and Gino Rea who made up the front two rows of the grid.
Fore the race itself, Jones and Schouten both leapt to the front and together they pulled out a lead of five seconds over the chasing bunch before Jones turned up the wick, smashing the lap record by 1.1 seconds, to establish a clear lead over the field.
At this point, Jones was firmly in control however a red flag for an incident back down the field was to bring them all back to the start line to do it all over again.
The second part of the race, now staged over just five laps started with Schouten and Rea taking a lead into turn one, before Jones pounced, out-braking Rea and snatching second spot.
Jones then swept past Schouten to take a twice-earned chequered flag.
“We know Gareth is a great rider and that he as had experience of winning on street circuits before, but you never know until you have raced a particular circuit how the rider will cope with the problems it sets,” said team manager Rob Vennegoor.
“A win and a new lap record shows that Gareth settled to the task here well.”
Jones was magnanimous in victory.
“I want to thank Raymond Schouten for pushing me hard and driving us both onto an exiting and dramatic result,” said Jones.
“I want to thank the team for dealing with every challenge this track set us. It is always difficult on a street circuit and the ‘Varssel-ring’ is no different … it is fast and unforgiving.”
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com