Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Great Holiday At Home, Back In The UK, Spanish Testing and Hectic Living!

After a testing 2013, ending successfully, I could head home confident in my bike and team to have a great holiday back with my family and friends over the English winter, but South African summer months. It really was so good being home and keeping just as or busier than mid race season, except with things such as fun races, parties, motocross, mountain biking, skatboarding and going to the beach, ending days with a sunny afternoon braai (barbeque) next to the pool over some beers with my mates - a tough life in Africa! But most of all, I was overjoyed with the honour of receiving my national colours - The Protea Blazer!

I enjoyed myself but never slacked off too much, with the help of my long time trainer, Malcolm McCann, keeping me working hard over the months, and putting in the work with me right at the end to make sure I returned fitter than ever, and I can confidently say I feel the healthiest and fittest I ever have as I write this.
Another major issue of my time back home was finding funding for the season as we burned out our Egan family fund in 2012 to get my into the series, and we now rely on sponsors to make the seasons happen.
After many conversations, meetings and letters taking me far down the road, but still without a concrete agreement with anyone other than my ever supportive personal sponsors of Rocket 88 and Leatt, helping me along my way.

I am now back in the UK in the beautiful city of Chester, where I will be living with family for the year. As I landed it's been non stop for me, with late nights and early starts to get my bike built with the team as the 2014 Kawasaki ZX10R deliveries were delayed by so much, but we eventually got it running and ready to ride. On top of that, we were moving house and needed my van to move things, so I was playing delivery driver and removals service ontop of having to train to keep fit for our first test ride abroad. Some days saw me clock up 8hrs of driving time, sometimes on consecutive days, so I was relieved at the fact that we would be flying to Spain for the first test.

All came together in time and we set off for a sunny Cartagena Circuit in the south of Spain. This started out great with beautiful weather and ideal riding conditions, and after a day of setting things up. We were ready for our upcoming 3 day test. Fortunately we managed to get out for the final 30min session of the test day before ours, so I could have extra time to find my way round the new circuit, this was super important as I would not see all my due track time over the next few days...

The bike felt great straight away with the settings we finished last year on, which we all worked very hard to find for me. I made some changes throughout our first full day, learning the track nicely and enjoying the new bike. Our lap times came surprisingly quickly and I was really enjoying riding it, so we made the decision to put new tyres on for my final session of the day to push for the fastest time I could, as we would be changing suspension for day 2 and needed a lap time to compare with.

With the new tyres fitted, I treated the session as I would qualifying, taking a lap to get into it, then start pushing harder and harder. The setup we had was getting better the harder I pushed and I felt the bike like I've never felt it before, the feeling I was looking for all of last year, which gave me the confidence I've wanted to push the bike comfortably. We reached the lap time we had hoped to achieve by the end of the 3 days on about lap 5 of the session, and I wasn't push too hard. I built up more and we went even faster and consistently stayed fast as I was happy with the bike. We eventually got over 0.5s faster than our goal time when I went a tiny bit too hard on the brakes into one of the corners (coming off the infamous fast right hand sweeper round the back of the track) and the front tucked on me. I went down smoothly and the bike and I just slid along up to the gravel trap, but that's where the smoothly part ended...
The gravel was very deep and soft, which is good for cars, but terrible for bikes as my bike slid onto the traps it dug in and flung up into the air coming down, tumbling end over end to come to a rest on the other side of the barriers, in the access roads on outside of the track! I did the same backwards somersaults as I hit the gravel trap, thankfully my Leatt brace took a lot of the force when I tumbled onto my head. What started as a small front end crash, spelled the end of my 3 day test.

Although a crash is never a good things, especially one this excessively damaging to the bike, we took a lot of very valuable information away from the laps before, which is setup data that will directly help us go faster in races. So a disappointment to miss out on the last 2 days of riding, but a day and a bit saw us not just reach, but exceed our goal laptime which is the major achievement!

The work never stopped when we got back to the UK as we had to source parts and spares from wherever we could to keep the crash budget as low as possible for me, the seriously under funded South African! This meant hours and hours of phone calling and string pulling by Mark, our team boss, for which I'm extremely grateful! The bikes landed back a week later, so Mark and myself  fetched them and headed back to Northern Ireland to get mine rebuilt. The bike is busy being built back up at the moment and our next outing on it will be our 2 day test at Snetterton Circuit on 8/9 April.

I'd like to say a massive thank you to Mark, Dan, Ian, Rob, Taka and all the team who helped me out in Spain and a special thanks again to Mark for all he's done to make it as affordable as possible for me to rebuild, as well as Mark Linton who is rebuilding the bike for us!
I have a couple £X,000s which I need to finance the rebuild and am working hard to come up with, via sponsors, donations, and any means possible. I will be looking for sponsors to get spots on my helmet starting from R5,000 or £300 which will go towards funding my race season to make sure we have a successful 2014! I will post the final details on that soon. Until then, that's pretty much what I've been up to in the racing world.

I can't wait to get back out on the bike after Spain, but a few more weeks of training will come first.
Cheers for now!