Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Brands Hatch GP - Season Finale!

Our races leading up to this weekend have been the proof of our hard work over the initial months of the race season. My team and I working to change so much to get me happy on the bike so I can push it hard for fast lap times, which is exactly what we started seeing!

The weekend's forecast was typically English with rain showers on and off over the whole weekend, so predicting what setups we'd need for which sessions was called just minutes before we were due on track. Something I've grown accustomed to riding around this year! Our practice session was wet, but our qualifying was damp-drying, always the trickiest conditions of all when there's a dry line in some areas of the circuit, but still damp in others. Wet tyres would tear up and not grip at all, dry tyres would have to go on but had very little grip at all in the damp sections - Some seriously calculated riding was required! By the end of the session, there was a narrow dry line nearly the whole way round the track, and we managed to get a decent lap in to get us 26th spot on the grid for race day. The second qualifying session was full wet, which unfortunately meant it didn't count as the laps in the damp-drying session were quicker, but we managed 17th in the rain, which would have been a great spot to start from! On the plus side, it looked like we were in for a wet race and our wet pace was looking good!

We got everything ready for the race and retired to the restaurant for a good team meal, always good having a laugh with all the guys before race day.

Sunday morning was beautiful and sunny, the other side of all the rain clouds... After a good warm up session in the wet, we were ready for the race and took up our 26th position with our wet tyres and setup. The lights went out and after a good launch, I darted for the inside line into turn 1 and again into turn 2, fortunately getting a whole bunch of positions nice and early in the race and we were knocking on the top 20. Ironically, us South Africans tend go well in the wet with our very limited knowledge and experience in wet conditions. More bravery than brains perhaps?? Well I quickly took notice that another nation that seem to know nothing about wet race tracks is the Americans! USA Supersport rider James Rispoli sat on my outside of the turn 2 hairpin and as I flicked the bike over to brake into the notoriously treacherous Graham Hill bend, he just kept it pinned! He hit the brakes and the bike was all over the show, with his feet off the pegs dragging along trying to keep the bike upright, I thought he was going to wipe out the whole pack of riders in front of us, but luckily he slipped neatly through a tiny gap between about 6 bikes and managed to stay on! He rode like this for the opening few laps, punching a hole in the field neatly for me to follow through until he ended up running off at the same corner a few laps later. I kept on at banging out the lap times as fast as I dared in the tricky conditions. Everything was working well so every lap I pushed a little harder and was determined to catch the riders approaching in the distance, amongst which was Isle of Man Legend, John McGuiness! It was one of the most enjoyable races I've had this year and I really had to dig deep to catch them by the end of the race, but we did it and we managed to catch and pass John by the end to secure 17th place and our best race weekend overall! Another lap and we could've had a top 15, but then again if my aunt was a man she'd be my uncle!

I was so pleased with how our race had gone and how our season had ended, I had to give the tyre a good  celebratory burnout before returning to the pits to be greeted by an elated Dad and team. The bike's working great now and I truly am sad the season has ended as I've really started gelling with my bike.

Our team spirit is rare to find and even rarer to match in most paddocks and after all the celebrations, it was a real privilege to thank everyone for everything from the love that goes into the tea, to the passion that goes into my technical setup.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who's supported us and backed us throughout the season - we can't do it without you!
First and foremost, My Mom and Dad, for all the sacrifices they've made for me to chase my dream of the world championship. I couldn't ask for better or more loving and dedicated parents!
Mark Webster and my incredible MWR Kawasaki Team, you guys made me feel so welcome and a real part of the family, even though we've been working together for a season, it feels like many years! I look forward to sharing more success with you guys in the future too! Mark has taken me in and made me feel such a part of his own family, its been great having an 'adopted dad' to share the good times with!
Jason & Donna Davis, my new big brother and sister, and the most loved girls in the paddock - Evie, Holly and Meg! Thank you for always being there when I need a helping hand in every aspect of my British life. I'm very grateful to have a family like you to call my British family!
Uncle Keith and Aunty Kath, thank you for caring for me with the love you have, and always having the open door and welcoming meal at your home!
Evie & Rab, the chairman and woman of my very own fan club! We've had such good times over the last two years and I look forward to many, many more. Thank you for always supporting me with 110% effort on and off the track!
A special thanks must be said to my two main men on the race bike - Dan and Jay. I think we've done a fair job from where we started at the beginning of the season to finishing as strong as we have with so many unknowns thrown at us during the season. It's been an absolute pleasure working with you two!
To everyone who supports us, near and far, thank you so much! You don't know how much it means to me when I receive comments and messages for race weekends!

I'd like to say a special thank you to all of our sponsors from myself and everyone involved with our MWR Kawasaki team.
My Dad, Mike, for making Rocket 88 a part of my career.
Chris Leatt and the whole Leatt team for looking after me and my health! I never ride without the best neck protection in the world - my Leatt Brace!
Jonny and all the guys at Moto Direct for the best kit around - RST race suits, gloves and boots and the best helmets in the business, Arai!
Stuart at Forcefield Body Armour for the quality base layers, chest and back protectors keeping comfortable and safe!
Clayton Francois for the big efforts put in to helping us along the way on this pricey, risky path to the World Championship!
You have all made this season yet another special one to go down in the books!

This is has been the toughest race season of my career with so much thrown at me to deal with on top of the racing and I'm glad I've had all of you helping me in each of your ways to make the most out of it.
Here's to a successful 2014.

I really am disappointed it has all come to and end already, we are carrying so much momentum now with our results becoming competitive and consistent. I can't wait to get riding again!

Cheers for now,