Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Brands Hatch - Season & Eye Opener

Finally the long awaited first round of the new British Super Bike season was upon us. I collected my dad from Birmingham Airport, gave a him a quick tour of my new home town, Nottingham (Yes, where Robin Hood's from), and we headed down to Kent to the iconic Brands Hatch circuit for my first British Super Stock 1000 race weekend, and as famously the worlds most competitive domestic class of racing, it lived up to it's reputation with 58 bikes in my class!

We left sunshine in the midlands to arrive to a mini snow blizzard to set our campsite up in... A bit out of the ordinary when you're setting up for a race weekend! Luckily it was forecast to pass overnight, which it did and gradually got less cold (by no means, warmed up) all weekend. We got the caravan rigged and got to our pit to greet the team and see the new setup with the bikes.

Mark, our team owner, impressed with the whole team being 100% professionally presented and equipped to get our bikes working as good as they look! A quick briefing for the weekend and we settled for some evening chat before meeting Jason, Donna and the girls, Evie and Rab as the best support team in the world pulled into the camp site! Ev and Donna cracked the wine bottles and Jay and Rab joined me to meet the team in the pit. We called it a night awaiting Friday practice.

Friday was a big day for us as we had no dry base setting for the bike and only one practice session and the first of our two part qualifying session. We made big inroads in setup with Jason and my crew chief, Dan, giving me everything I needed to get the bike closer to the pace. We still had work to do by the time Quali.2 had come around on Saturday but we were only 1 sec off the pole position time. Unfortunately for us, this is one of the most fiercely competitive championships in the world, and this meant we were 29th on the grid!

With the top 30 riders covered by only 1 second, we needed to find every split second we could overnight! The pace is utterly unbelievable with nearly 20 bikes in the same 0,3sec!!! We made a risky decision with setup making big changes which, fortunately, paid off for us.

Sunday morning warm up we managed to better our qualifying time by 0.2sec with old tyres and ended a satisfying 11th from our 29th yesterday! This meant little for the race as we still had to start 29th on the 8th row of the grid. We still needed about 0.4sec to be near the sharp end, which, at this pace is still considerably off. So we made more changes in the same direction for the race.

When the race lights went out on the start line, I expected to jump a few rows and many positions up off the line and into turn 1, but the reality of this championship hit when I only managed to pass about 3 people by turn 2! The bike immediately felt worse, but I didn't know why. I pushed on and after a few near crashes, I decided to back it off and bank a finish and use the data form the race to improve the bike for round 2. I managed to get up to 21st by the finish - not ever where I thought I'd see myself! A bit of a shock to the system, but we wrote the weekend off as testing for us as we had no dry testing before this weekend to set the bike up. We had gone too hard in some of the settings we chose for the race, and ended up going considerably slower than our warm up times.

We have noted all of our changes and between Dan, Jay and myself, we feel much better about what we know about the bike now, we know what to do to improve our settings and have learned so much about what works for me and what doesn't. We will arrive at Thruxton for round 2 much closer to the pace and will hopefully not be seeing any positions like that on my pit board again!

The weekend has been a valuable learning curve for us more than a race weekend, putting us in a good position for the rest of the season now. Mark and the whole MWR Kawasaki team have made me feel right at home as if I'd been there years. Dan is an absolute brain box with the bike and can answer absolutely any question about the bike and what it's doing when I'm riding it, giving me all the info I need to make it my own. It's great being made to feel so wanted and welcome, thanks Mark!

I never like excuses, ever, but hopefully we won't be needing to make many more of them this year. Results are what we're after and are putting absolutely everything we have behind achieving them, and with my mini team of Dan, Jason and Scott behind me, I have no doubt we will be able to tick all the boxes that need ticking to get ourselves on pace.

With our first weekend behind us, a huge thank you must be given to Mark and the whole MWR Kawasaki team, Jon and Paula Jessop, Mick, Evie and Rab for their all round and unwavering support, Donna and the family, and a special thanks to Dan and Jason for the hours spent going through bike data and head scratching to get the bike set up for me. Thanks to my personal sponsors - Leatt, for my life-saving neck brace, Jonny and MotoDirect team for my RST kit and Arai helmets, Forcefield Body Armour for my protectors and of course none of it would happen at all without the my biggest supporters and sponsors - Mom and Dad!

As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in our little caravan in a campsite near Thruxton waiting 'til thursday when we can move in to the track for round 2 this coming weekend. True gypsy style, we are genuinely living out of a caravan once again! Lets hope it all pays off.

Thanks everyone for the support, we're all working hard to bring better news at the rest of the rounds this season!

Cheers for now,