Jones confirmed for 2022 Supercars seat amid progress

Macauley Jones. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Macauley Jones has officially confirmed his place on the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship grid, where he’ll look to carry over some significant signs of progress.

While the spotlight across the Sydney Motorsport Park quadruple-header predominantly shone on the usual suspects, there were plenty of subtle storylines to take note of.

Among them was Jones.

The third-year main game driver is the first to admit his overall progress has been slower than desired, but his one-lap performances have been markedly better all year.

He added another three front-half-of-the-grid starting slots at SMP, taking his 2021 tally to eight. To put that into perspective, well regarded Brad Jones Racing team-mate Todd Hazelwood didn’t qualify better than 15th until Race 16 of the season.

The criticism had remained that even when Jones did qualify well, he’d be shuffled back in a hurry in race trim. Indeed, excluding occasions when he qualified 24th or worse, Jones had this year failed to finish a race higher than he’d started prior to the mid-season break.

That’s something he set about changing when the championship resumed at the end of last month.

Not counting Race 29 last Saturday when he suffered an engine failure, Jones improved on his starting position in seven of nine SMP races, and held position in another.

The turnaround has him optimistic about what the future holds, with the 27-year-old declaring to Speedcafe.com he’s “100 percent” locked in at BJR for season 2022.

That assurance rounds out BJR’s driver line-up for next year, with incumbents Jones and Jack Smith – whose father Peter has verbally confirmed it will be status quo with their Racing Entitlements Contract – joined by recruits Andre Heimgartner and Bryce Fullwood.

Jones is excited to see what he can achieve, having departed SMP with a spring in his step.

“We had some up-and-downs with our qualifying results… but I think the key takeaway for me was at least moving forward in all of the races, regardless of wherever we qualified, so that was really good,” he told Speedcafe.com.

“Our tyre management was really good, and it was a big focus in that three-month break to build on moving forward in the races and that was definitely a strength of ours.”

The #96 Coca-Cola ZB Commodore. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Asked to elaborate on how the break was used to such effect, Jones added: “I guess it was a bit of a mindset shift.

“I have been working with a sports psych a bit more as the year went on and it was just a good opportunity to be able to reset and watch back a couple of the races that we had and seeing what I was needing to improve on.

“Sometimes when you do get fully into the season, it’s hard to watch all of the many hours of footage back, so it was kind of a good chance to be able to reset and restructure with my engineer [Tom Wettenhall] as well.”

And the more Jones is finding himself away from the tail of the field, the more he feels he belongs at the top-tier.

“I don’t want to be at the back. I work bloody hard behind the scenes trying to move forward,” he said.

“It has probably taken me a little bit longer than what I definitely wanted it to – I mean, I’m at the workshop every day here and working pretty closely with the team and with the business and learning a lot about the behind the scenes.

“I want to be up the front. I have just got to keep going along the process of getting better and building the skills up.

“I feel like we are definitely getting closer to that and the consistency is definitely getting a little bit better.

“I guess I sort of treat it, these last four rounds, as just learn as much as we can, try to build on what we’ve got, and reset for next year.

“I’ve had too many DNFs this year for championship points to be at the top of my mind – after the weekend in Townsville, and I’ve had three DNFs from engine dramas as well, so that’s never going to help the points.”

Seven DNFs all up have resigned Jones to 23rd in the championship with just one event left to run: next month’s Repco Bathurst 1000, where he’ll team up with Chris Pither.

With Jones locked in, just one 2022 Supercars Championship seat remains up for grabs – the Grove Racing vacancy that Kiwi teen Matthew Payne has been pencilled in for, pending a Superlicence dispensation.

CLICK HERE to view Speedcafe.com’s Supercars silly season guide.

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