Saturday, 11 April 2015

New Season, New Bike - 2015 Ducati Panigale R

It's been an incredible off season back in South Africa...

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Top Results, Ups & Downs In a Run of Races - Rd.7-10

5 weeks ago I did my last post and I haven't been lazy, we've just had 4 races on the trot since then! All  of them had their challenges, starting with Oulton Park seeing us a have a difficult race to only take 16th, followed by my least favourite track; Cadwell Park getting 19th.

We then headed to Silverstone, one of my favourite circuits - a real high speed Grand Prix track where we actually featured as a support race to the MotoGP weekend. We tried a setting we've been wanting to try in qualifying conditions to try help me get higher starting spots, but unfortunately our gamble never paid off, and even ended with a chain snapping out of the final hairpin. I had to start 25th but fortunately Dan, my crew chief, gave me an awesome race bike and I managed to get up into 15th and have a go for 12th on the last lap! We had great pace and looked set to eye out another top 10 from so far back on the grid until two riders tailing me made an attempt to pass me inot the final hairpin, sending us all off wide and demoting us to 17th by the flag. It was such a close race and hard riding, it's just a pity we could grasp another top 10.

On to Donington Park we went, which was our most recent race last Sunday, and at the track I took my first British win on in 2012! I was really looking forward to this round as I knew we would have good pace here, but unfortunately my luck from these past couple race followed us here too, seeing another ride crash right in front of me at the start of qualifying, which left me no where to go other than straight into his bike and crash out. I got in one warm up lap which was just enough to get us 26th place, so once again I had my work cut out to try reach the top 12 again, but in this class that is full of good riders, that's a major test! Fortunately the bike was setup well already so we didnt have to change too much for the race. I went out in morning warm up to try the settings on old tyres and we ended 15th, which is where I should've qualified!

I took up my 26th spot and waited for the lights to go out. When they did, I managed to get one of the best opening laps I've ever done, getting straight up into 19th by lap 2, and was in a position to chip away at chasing down the top 15. I kept edging away the gaps and making passes to move up to 15th place with 3 laps to go! I met Canadian, Ben Young; Aussie, Davo Johnson and Englishmen Ashley Beach & Mike Booth.

A race for 14th place with past race winners was on! I worked my way through to the front of the pack as we crossed the line with one lap to go, but then a big crash from Davo Johnson brought out the Red Flag, which ends the race one lap back, which placed me down to 15th - I wasn't happy at that but nonetheless we were back in top 15 and scoring points from a 26th place start!

Top 15 is our minimum goal these days, but top 8 is where we should be finishing, and with two rounds to go, we still have opportunity. We have a 2 week break now, after which we head back to Silverstone GP and will hopefully be in for a more relaxed weekend!

It's been a very hectic past month and a bit so I'd like to say a big thank you to Mark, Dan, Ian and my whole MWR Kawasaki team for everything, and to my sponsors Rocket 88, Leatt Protectives and of course Mom & Dad! Along with our team sponsors Pawson Commercials and Spur Steak & Grill, without all of you it doesn't happen!

I'm going to enjoy a little rest now before we get back to the prep work for the final rounds!

Cheers for now,

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Top 10 Finish Moves Our Goals Posts to Top 5 - Thruxton BSB Rd.6

The next 5 week stint of racing has kicked off, meaning we race every single weekend, bar one on which we will be attending a race. My next free weekend (for the time being) is 14 September - and I wouldn't have it any other way!

After a full day of travel, we arrived at Thruxton Racing Circuit in high spirits, carrying our first top 10 finish from the last race. Setting up the whole rig came much easier knowing we could hit the ground running from the first practice session on Friday, so once we had a full working pit, I could retire to bed in anticipation of getting to ride my bike again!

Hit he ground running is just what we did in Free Practice, as I knew the bike would be close to right, I accelerated at full tilt straight out of pitlane. After trying a few small changes, we sat most of the session in 5th place - the highest we've ever been! A few of the others front runners pipped me at the end, seeing us finish the session in 10th.

The gaps were so close from 7th to 16th, I knew qualifying would be tough to hold onto 10th, but I gave it my all for Q1 that afternoon. The tyres were working extremely hard at this event and we gathered some good data after pushing the bike hard to hold on to 14th place - happy enough but I knew we had more in the bag as the setup wasn't quite where I wanted it.

After a good meal out with the team, we called it a night and I could climb into bed to carry on running laps in my mind, looking for time wherever I could find it!

We approached Q2, our final qualifying, knowing roughly what lap time we were capable of, and I felt more than capable of getting it for us. Unfortunately the wetaher had different ideas, seeing a flash down pour of rain about an hour before we were due out. It was so bad it actually flooded parts of the track! This delayed everything by nearly 2hrs, meaning we would have our qualifying moved to 6pm! It turned out better in the end as the track had dried up completely for us!

I set out in the front pack early on, and tagged on to a rider who normally runs top 10, knowing he would be fast and who I could use for a slipstream on my fast lap. We both got on the pace early and I pushed hard to stay with him, then we both started our fast lap. The bike felt great, and completely in control, seeing me quickly catch and pass him before the end of the lap - meaning I should have got a really good top 10 lap time! I checked my dashboard and even though the time was faster than I went in Q1, it wasn't as fast as I expected, but I was convinced it was top 10 as it was still faster than the rider I was following.

I returned to the pits to see 18th! I was highly irritated as I had already used the best of my tyre and it was now starting to wear out. Nevertheless I got back out by myself and put my head down to try and better the position. The bike was still working great, and after a bunch of fast laps, and the bike wheelspinning all over the show, I managed to get us 15th on the grid.

I wasn't happy with 15th as I knew we were capable of a faster time, but I just didn't get it. Albeit, it was still our best qualifying yet! Another night full of laughs and good food helped cheer me up a bit, so I could rest for a hot and sunny race day.

Race day was upon us! After a good morning warm up, it was time to start heading to the grid for the main race. All through the weekend I drink a LOT of water and energy supplements, and consequently need to time my trips to the loo before the race. This time, for some reason, I was 5mins off, and didnt have time to have my final loo stop before getting on the bike! So I ended up having to take a trip to the side of the pit wall on the starting grid - not ideal but hey, the crowd thought it was funny! I returned to my bike, ready to go, and started eyeing out my line into turn 1.

The lights went out, and we got a decent start into 13th from our 15th place on the grid. I was on the back of the top running pack and just where I wanted to be! After a few laps, the front 6 were covered by about 1sec all going for the lead, then a small gap, and I was in the battle for 7th behind them. 5 of us were locked in each corner trying to make passes stick, yet maintaining a lightning fast pace compared to our qualifying times!

I pushed as hard as I could to stay involved with the pack, and saw that we had the pace to hold onto them, but I just didn't have enough left in the bag to make a pass stick on them. I lunged on the brakes a few times, only to run wide on the exit and lose the position. I felt we were now comfortably onto this group of riders who regularly score top 10s, but I needed to find a little bit extra to get through them, which I found out on the final 2 laps when I had another go at passing a few, only to end up making mistakes and being forced to settle for 10th over the finish line.

"being forced to settle for 10th" is something I didn't think I'd be saying 2 races ago! We have scored our second consecutive top 10 and are firmly associated with them now. The main positive we take away from this race is that we were only 0.9sec off Danny Buchan's fastest time! He seemed absolutely unbeatable at the beginning of the season, now we are finishing within sight of him - solid progress.

Once again, I returned to a joyous pit crew, knowing we all did a great job! The hugs and high fives carried on all the way back to our truck where we reflected on the race, where I could improve, and what goals we could set for the next one - a really satisfying feeling after all our hard work!

After the crowds cleared, truck was packed and good-byes said, we hit the road back to Manchester. A drive which saw the hours fly by as we wore big smiles and high spirits all the way;  another successful and thoroughly enjoyable weekend with our special crew.

A big thank you to Mark, Dan, Ian and all of our MWR Kawasaki team, including our new team member Em, for the effort over the weekend. To Rocket88, Leatt, Mom & Dad, and our team sponsors Spur Steak & Grill and Pawson Commercials - without you we couldn't be doing it!

Next up is Oulton Park, this coming weekend. As I mentioned, we have a string of 4 races over the next 5 weeks, which means I have Monday and Tuesday at home to train, then Wednesday til Sunday is race weekend - 4 times in 5 weeks!
I can't wait:)

Cheers for now!