Yes it’s massively late but Nathan Jones had both his worst and best year as a racer in 2019. How can the same rider have their worst and best performance in the same year? Here is how.
Nath was way off his best at the beginning of the year and even through the middle. Towards the end he re-captured some of the form that saw him win 3 VRRC Superbike titles previously but he still wasn’t at his true best or fully himself.
Despite being massively out of form Nathan still took out title number 4 in 2019. And here lies the tale of a true champion.
Nathan had so many excuses at his disposal, so many. A young family, work and life pressure, minimal budget, and we mean minimal. Plus a new bike that wasn’t working for him at all, Nathan is a mentally fast rider and he has always done it without a budget that matches his talent.
So what happened in 2019?
There is no lying or denying, since Nathan upgraded to a Gen-5 ZX-10R we at Race Center have never been able to give him the well-balanced package he needed to deliver his normal level of results. Furthermore, we couldn’t even give him a package that yielded a better lap time than his previous gen-4 ZX-10R.
On top of all this a conversation Nathan and I had early in the year signalled warning signs for me as a team boss and semi mentor. While I will never be as fast as Nath and it’s actually a real privilege for me to be involved with such a great rider, I still have a job to do. There were signs that Nathan’s heart wasn’t quite in it as it used to be
There were a number of reasons for the dip in form…reasons not excuses….. The 2 biggest were:
· The gen-5 ZX-10R. It might have great top horsepower and Jonny Rea might win every race he enters but it has been a hard bike for us to get out head around to the point we can give Nathan what he needs. (side note, we are hopeful our gains in 3D power maps over the break will resolve this but until we race we won’t know). We could put a marketing spin on it but that’s the actual truth, the bike wasn’t good enough.
· 2nd Nathan’s expanding life and family. Nathan is a loving dad with a young family. Anyone that knows him knows how much he loves his wife and family. For someone that cares so much for his family and has the pressure of keeping a roof over his families heads it can be extremely hard to push beyond what a bike is capable of. This is something that many racers face at one point or another. Questioning if the fire still burns to ride at the limit.
So what did he do with the Lack of budget, life pressure and a bike that wasn’t working? Whinge, piss n’ moan, make excuses, sack his team (us)? The answer is no he did none of that. He sat down with us, talked about it all and decided to chip away, step by step.
He even found the nuts to ask for less setup changes and more consistency in his bike so he could try figure out the best way to get a lap time out of what he had.
Fast forward to the last round at Broadford. Nath was looking so much more like his old self, yet the bike was still hard to handle. He had reconnected with his mojo lapping in the low 57s even though he was still struggling with the bike.
This is a real champion
With the only motivation to help him rap up title #4 we made a big mistake when it mattered! After a small rear shock change, when re-fitting the fuel tank we accidentally kinked the fuel line, big error. This meant that Nathan was hamstrung for Race 1 of the final round. The kinked fuel line couldn’t deliver the full amount of fuel at high rpm or high throttle loads. Nathan was missing a lot of horsepower. Yet somehow he still delivered a 4th place and mega point haul.
On his return did he chuck the toys out of the pram, blame people or carry on as if his ego was bigger than Mt Everest? Not a chance, absolutely none, he just said something is wrong, I don’t have full power?
Did he hit social media, bag the team? Again none of that.
Instead his focus was simply on the job at hand, can we find the problem? can we fix it? How can he test it is fixed before race 2? Is there anything he can do to help with the work?
We apologised and he didn’t even bat an eyelid. We hated making that mistake and he knew that, he didn’t make us feel worse to make himself look better. 100% kept the emotion out of it.
Why??? Sure he is a ripper bloke but also how would any of that rubbish help win him a 4th championship? It wouldn’t
And there is the true difference. A champion rider is more interested in performing better when the chips are down rather than finding excuses. A champion looks for ways to improve, not a way to find the excuse.
Riding talent is one thing. When you combine it with determination, work ethic, focus and a team attitude you have a champion. Nobody wins 4 VRRC Superbike championships by accident.
Congratulations on an amazing year Nathan.
We’d like to thank DNA High Performance Filters and Kenma Australia for their assistance with this award. All the 3J Racing fans and of course Nathan’s family. It’s been absolutely amazing to share so many years of racing with them all.