Gareth Jones is the new Dutch Superbike Champion.
The young Australian who so endeared himself to Kiwi race fans when he raced away with the New Zealand 600cc sports production crown last summer, is now a national champion in two countries that are not his own.
The 22-year-old Yamaha ace from Canungra, in Queensland, took the Dutch title after holding a 27-point lead with a race to spare, despite coming to grief at the penultimate round of the 2009 series at Assen on Sunday.
With two national titles to his credit, as well as a stunning 12th place in the IDM German Superbike Championship, in which he scored 62 points from only three rounds completed, and a top 10 finish in the FIM Superstock 1000 round at Assen, and being named Dutch superbikes “Rookie of the Year”, it has been a remarkable year for Jones.
And Jones achieved all of this on a three-year-old model Yamaha R1.
Sunday’s 11th round of the Dutch series at Assen was billed as the “Race of Champions” and it proved to be a compelling weekend.
In Saturday’s qualifying it was hectic as, at various stages, Ghisbert van Ginhoven, Peter Politiek and Jones all took their turns as provisional pole sitter.
Jones took the opportunity to get reacquainted with his race set-up on the Yamaha, after he had raced a BMW motorcycle the previous weekend in Germany.
Jones eventually qualified a creditable third on the grid.
Jones then converted that qualifying position into first place at turn one, establishing a lead only to be overtaken soon afterwards by Politiek.
Then disaster struck. As he entered turn five, Jones’ rear tyre unexpectedly lost grip and the race was over for Jones. His Yamaha bounced and spectacularly burst into flames.
Fortunately the race result didn’t matter because the championship was already secured, but a frustrated Jones said afterwards “I wanted to finish the championship with a win in this race but it wasn’t to be”.
“I still don’t know what happened, Peter (Politiek) passed me and I remember thinking ‘take it easy there is plenty of time to get it back’, then the rear wheel let go and I was flying through the air with the burning wreckage of the bike. It wasn’t exactly the fireworks display and BBQ that I had in mind.
“I could understand it if I was pushing really hard and I lost it, but this was unusual, it happened so quickly and was unrecoverable, we will have to review it later.”
And so the Dutch adventure came to an end with one last race in an unforgettable 2009 season and then he will be moving on to target the German IDM championship for next season.
“I have had a great year and want to thank my team and the sponsors for looking after me for the past six months, giving me the chance to deliver performances to win races, to earn points and to win this championship.
“It was important to put aside the distractions of the IDM and win the Dutch Championship because no matter what happens in the future the RT Motorsports team will always be the 2009 Dutch Superbike Champions and they deserve it because they have been through every twist and turn of this championship with me. It has been like being part of a family.
“Even today when the crash happened the team and supporters were more concerned for my safety than the fact that we had lost a race. Even if I did get some jokes about BBQ-ing the bike, I can now look forward to one last race in Assen in two weeks and then getting back to Australia and New Zealand and training for next year in Europe.”
Have a look at the video clip below and you’ll see Jones’ highside from the bike, followed by the machine catching fire. Very spectacular!
Final 2009 Dutch Superbike Championships standings:
van Kerkhoven 89
Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com