Rising star's twist of fate for breakthrough win
MOTORCYCLING: It's the moment Luke Mitchell has been striving for. A fist pump as he powers past the chequered flag at 210kph. His first Australian Superbike Supersport race win. A quick glance to the pits confirms it.
"When I got to the starting grid markings I couldn't hear any bikes around me," the 19-year-old from James Creek said.
"I thought 'I've got this' and pumped my fist in the air. I looked at the pit wall and mum, dad and my mechanic Marty Dowd were hanging over the wall, arms going everywhere like maniacs."
Early crash fails to derail Luke Mitchell's charge
In a twist of fate, the most memorable weekend of Mitchell's career started with one of the scariest moments of his life, when he crashed head-on into a wall at 100kph during practice on Friday.
"I came out relatively unscathed, a burn on my elbow," Mitchell said.
"It shook me up though. I was trying to set up a fast lap time, got a really good run up the hill and just threw it into the corner and lost the front end. I looked up and saw the wall coming at me.
"It was one of those crashes that you come out of and think 'I was lucky to get out of it'."
His parents drove all the way home from Warwick to pick up the spare bike and drove back for Dowd to rebuild the bike on Saturday morning.
After missing morning practice, Mitchell bounced back in Saturday qualifying to break the circuit record (1:16.493) by just 0.001s.
"That was the icing on the cake."
The ride of his life
After securing the first pole position of his Supersport career he produced the ride of his life in Race One on Sunday.
"I got a dream start. I couldn't have asked for a better one," he said. "I kept my front wheel down all the way to the first turn and absolutely perfect."
Series leader Sam Clarke passed Mitchell at turn one on lap two and the JNL Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 rider proceeded to follow close behind until the final of 15 laps, producing his winning five turns from the finish to win by 0.6s.
"That was the most physical race of the season," Mitchell said.
"On that track, the time you get to rest is two or three seconds down the straight, then it's flat out, straight back into it."
Mitchell battles through physical torment
Mitchell finished fourth in Race Two to finish in first place overall for round five on 43 points, just one point ahead of 17-year-old Yamaha teammate Troy Guenther and three clear of the West Australian Clarke.
"I was exhausted after the second race," Mitchell said.
"I burned my elbow in the crash on Friday and it was starting to play up in the second race. I've never ridden in so much pain."
Steady rise to the top
After top ten finishes overall in the past two years, this season Mitchell has steadily risen in the ranks.
While a race win was always a goal in the back of his mind, it was not until a pair of second placings at Wakefield Park in round two that his self belief truly stepped up a gear.
"When I look back at the start of the year, a race win was an ultimate goal, but it didn't seem like a realistic goal at the time.
"After Wakefield I felt like it was now a matter of time. I had the bike. I just had to put it all together in the race and make it happen."
Third in the overall standings
The weekend results see Mitchell slide up from fourth into third overall in the 2016 Yamaha Motor Finance Australian Superbike Supersport Championship Series with one round remaining at Winton from September 30 to October 2.
While a podium finish would be a dream result, Mitchell has not given up on the overall win. On 180 series points, he is 22 points behind Clarke (202) and 14 behind Guenther (194). With 25 points up for grabs in each race plus one point for pole position, it remains a mathematical possibility.
"I'm still in the hunt for the win and whenever you're in the hunt you've got to keep making it the goal."
ASBK 600c Supersport round 5 results at Morgan Park
1st Luke Mitchell - 43
2nd Troy Guenther - 42
3rd Sam Clarke - 40
4th Lachlan Epis - 34
5th Ted Collins - 31
6th Robbie Menzies - 28
7th Mark Chiodo - 28
8th Ben Blyth - 24 (Yamaha R6)
9th Nic Liminton - 23 (Yamaha R6)
10th Anthony Quinn - 22 (Yamaha R6)
Championship standings after round five
1st Sam Clarke - 202
2nd Troy Guenther - 194
3rd Luke Mitchell - 180
4th Callum Spriggs - 152.5
5th Ben Blyth - 138.5
6th Ted Collins - 114.5
7th Nic Liminton - 112.5
8th Chris Quinn - 110
9th Robbie Menzies - 98
10th Mark Chiodo - 81.5