For pretty much the 1st time ever too I was actually alone all the way up until Sunday afternoon as Reg my driver/right hand man was away on holiday and my wife’s so pregnant now that we could literally be becoming parents for the 2nd time any minute now so she stayed home to rest. It felt really strange being at a circuit alone, certainly made me realise what goes into the whole weekend!!!
The 1st session was a strange one indeed, we started with the bike as we’d finished the test the week before and within a lap and a half I’d both gone pretty fast and also been off the bike nearly 4 times including a big run on at the bottom of the mountain, I pitted pretty much straight away convinced there was something wrong with my front tyre as I’d never nearly lost the front so many times in one weekend as I did in that lap and a half!!!! I exited again with a new front tyre and settled in a little bit slower this time working through a few bits and pieces throughout the session.
Hi mum!!! ;-)
For the afternoon session we were due to test our new swing arm, well, mother nature had other ideas, half way through the day it absolutely lashed down, I’m not talking about a spot of rain I mean proper rain so obviously any dry time on the track was all but impossible, when the afternoon session started we sat it out for all but about 5 minutes from the end, to be honest the majority of the track was dry or at least had a dry line but the last two corners, well, I would’ve been faster around them on a jet ski!! Despite the fact we had an intermediate front and a used slick rear I got a bit of a feel for the new swing arm and that was about it, that said I did up P1 after about 3 or 4 flying laps so it wasn’t all bad!!!
Rubbing my hands at the prospect of the trick swing arm!!
That evening I went round to see Gary Mason for a bit and Rat Boy (Stuart Easton) came around, it was real good sat talking to them, listening to some of the shit that Rat Boy’s had to go through was unreal, the way he told his stories had me in stitches, funny now obviously but far from it back when he got hurt….
Our final free practice session was dry and gave me a bit more of a chance to evaluate things chassis wise, the session went ok but whilst I was sure there were some good points to the new swing arm there were also a couple of slightly weaker areas too, we spent the session working through a few changes to the bike in order to help out but it became as I said at the head of the Blog obvious that this weekend was going to become the test that we never got to carry out the week before!!!
Bit of air over the mountain!!!
For the afternoons qualifying sessions it was time for a bit more chassis work, we knew we’d easily be cool for the first session to get through to the 2nd session and that we’d also probably be cool for the top 8 too so we treated all sessions in exactly the same way, somewhat disappointingly for me I could only manage 6th place in the final session for a couple of reasons, one because the new swing arm didn’t complement the softer tyre and two because the final soft rear didn’t seem quite as good as the other two I’d used previously.
After the superpole sessions we didn’t have long to get ready for the 1st race, we worked through the data from qualifying etc to come up with something to help with rear grip and decided to give it a go in the race.
Who you looking at!!!????
If you watched the race you will of seen that I got an absolutely dire start, it was kind of my fault but also a technical problem too, basically to make a start I have a sequence of lights that need to be lit to assure me perfect rpm, well, I was trying to get them lit but no amount of throttle seemed to light them to the point where I already knew I was well past where I normally am throttle position wise, whilst concentrating on the dash and trying to sort everything everybody just went, I wasn’t even looking at the start lights at the time!!!! Needless to say I got a dreadful start and settled in around 8th I think, I managed topick of a few immediately and got myself on the back of the battle for the podium being led at a pretty slow pace by Michael Rutter, Josh Brookes was immediately in front of me but every time I looked at passing him he was looking at passing Rutter which was making things particularly tricky!!! I kept seeing Josh look at Michael into Hall bends but Michael was pretty strong into there, Josh looked on four or five laps before getting a particularly good launch over the mountain and looking like he fully meant it this time, I was right on the back of the two of them and to be honest my immediate thought was result, that’s at least a podium for me, it’s not that I wanted them to go down I could just see they were going to tangle and the chances were one if not both of them would run off track as whilst Josh had a good run and more momentum than Michael I think he just didn’t quite get alongside enough for Michael to see his wheel and either a) let him through or b) try to defend hence the reason there was such a big collision, I think Michael never actually knew he was there, anyway, to cut a long story short not long after the race got red flagged whilst I was lining up Josh so I ended up 4th, however, later that evening I learnt that Josh had been excluded so I ended up with 3rd.
We made yet another plan going forward for the 1st race on Monday after testing a couple of bits and pieces in the morning warm up session and all I really wanted was a good start, this time I got it and ran well, I made a pass at the end of the straight to get into third and was highly relieved when the two Yamahas didn’t disappear off into the distance, I managed to pass Michael Laverty and was sitting 2nd watching Tommy’s every move tryingto suss out a) where we were stronger and b) what else we could do to improve our bike, Michael eventually passed me back but I finished literally a couple of seconds off of the win so I was relatively happy. One of my biggest problems was corner entry instability and after studying more data Chris decided on a completely different plan of attack which involved a completely different spec of rear shock which had helped us in the past and different fork springs, the final race was once again going to be interesting!!!
For the final race I started P2 due to the lap times from the earlier race and I felt much better sat on the front row, I got a fairly good start although not perfect so held my position up through the first couple of turns, M Lav had grabbed the holeshot but I managed to slip past him and lead for the first lap and a half, to be honest I already knew early on that we’d gone the wrong way rear shock wise but I figured if I just kept consistent and tried to make no mistakes we should be on for at least another podium, I thought that just as I back shifted 2nd to 1st into the tight chicane after Mansfield corner and the next thing I knew the bike went quiet and I realised I’d hot a neutral, I’ll not swear now but a word beginning with B and roughly sounding similar to trollocks went through my mind immediately!!! I rejoined the track in 4th and unfortunately that’s where I ended up, a pretty unhappy 4th, not even a podium!!
In the lead albeit very briefly!!!!
Looking on the Brightside we were in an extremely fortunate position to be able to test so much stuff over the course of the weekend, Chris and I have spent loads of time in debrief as well as a load of time on the phone to each other to try to push things forward as quick as possible with the swing arm and I believe the team have already come to a conclusion and spoken with the manufacturer who agrees totally with them regarding what modifications are required in order to push forward and improve the bike, I’m really happy that we got to run so many different settings through the swing arm and got a good chunk of the development done before heading into the Showdown part of the championship. One thing I am pretty pissed about though is that despite the fact I’ve lead the Championship all year I actually go into the Showdown 7 points I think behind Tommy, that said I guess the pressure’s on him now so if we can continue working on the HM Plant Honda and luck goes our way then things could pan out pretty good, I’m certainly feeling fit and up for the challenge so bring on the next round, the gloves are off now!!!!!