Matt Bond, 21/04/06 – 22/04/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Well, that was certainly an eye-opener of a weekend to say the least! Everything was so much more than I could have ever expected or imagined. I came away with so much from the opening round that it can only get better from here on and hopefully build on the two points I bought home.
Friday â€“ Free Practice
Thanks to the previous weekendâ€™s race school it didnâ€™t really take much to get back into the swing of things on track and after a few laps I began to find my rhythm and it all came flooding back into memory. After tagging onto the back of Barry Burrell for a few laps I bought the bike into the pits just to check up on the times and see where we stood compared to everyone else. Unsurprisingly I was in the lower half of the field, but had bettered my previous best lap round the circuit. Returning to the track I put in a few more laps on my lonesome and tried a few different lines to the ones I had been using and found them fairly effective. At the end of the session I placed 26th which wasnâ€™t too disheartening, when I knew I could easily have gone quicker. Back in the pits we altered the bike slightly just to make it turn in quicker and hold the line better in the turns.
Friday â€“ 1st Qualifying
With first qualifying being held in the late afternoon we opted to use the second set of our appointed new sets of tyres (the first being used in the morningâ€™s session) with the theory being that we could set a better lap time in the cooler conditions than would be possible in the following days session, which was to be held at lunchtime in the peak of the Spanish heat. I gave the tyres a couple of laps to â€˜scrub-inâ€™ and then set about pushing to improve my lap times. For the first ten minutes I just got my head down and caught onto the back of one of the Honda Italia bikes and got a decent enough tow to put in some vastly improved laps and when I popped into the pits after fifteen minutes of the session complete I was pleasantly pleased to see myself in 14th place on the provisional grid! All of which lasted about three minutes as some of the other guys began to pick up the pace again. Back on track for the final ten minutes and although I didnâ€™t improve my time I matched it, but this time by riding on my own with no tow or slipstream to tuck into, so it was a definite confidence boost to know that I was getting close to the top guys in the field. The session ended with me going over a second faster than I managed in free practice and put me in a respectable and quite satisfying provisional 20th place on the grid for Saturday eveningâ€™s race, and the times were so close that a half a second faster would have seen me into the top 10! A few more small adjustments to the bike were made ready fro Saturday morningâ€™s 2nd qualifying session and I slept with a smile on my face knowing it was all heading in the right direction, maybe I shouldnâ€™t have felt so confident in hindsight!
Saturday â€“ 2nd Qualifying
We opted to save our final new set of tyres for the race, so started the session on the tyres used during the Friday morning outing. Everything was feeling really good and five minutes in the times began to speed up and the bike began to work superbly well. Spotting a group just in front of me I got my head down and put in my fastest lap of the weekend but then it all went wrong. On entering turn four all I remember is entering slightly off line and down I went. Iâ€™d lost the front end and the bike and I were sent swiftly into the exceptionally deep gravel trap. Bugger! The front of the bike took a bit of a beating, but luckily suffered only cosmetic damage, a smashed set of dials and front sub-frame. Returning to the pits I knew the team were less than happy with me so I went and watched the timing screens as I saw myself slip further and further down the grid. I was eventually left languishing down in 26th place on the grid knowing that I should have just used my head a little more and probably backed it off and settled for a safe time rather than go for it all at once. Lesson learnt the hard way!
Saturday â€“ Race
Despite nearly missing the sighting lap we made it to the grid in good time and found my grid slot with relative ease.Sitting on the grid with a rapidly repaired race bike I had never felt so nervous. All the TV cameras and photographers about the place really bought home just what the championship is about. It was a somewhat surreal experience to be honest. Once all the mechanics and team personnel left the grid I felt alone and had to take a few deep breaths just to relax myself and focus in on the job at hand. Leaving for the warm up lap and all the thoughts and worries left me, and I returned to feeling normal, well as normal as any rider can feel before the start of any race. Back to the grid and something must have worked right as when the lights went out a made a good start! It never happens, but for some reason I got off the line better than any of the guys around me and found myself passing people on the way into the first turn. Entering turn two was more of an avoidance practice as four bikes slid across the track and everyone else stood up suddenly in the middle of the melee. Somehow I found a way straight through without too much trouble and blasted off onto the rest of the lap. Someone had told me these guys in Europe back it off for the opening lapsâ€¦â€¦where did they get that idea? Everyone was going like a bullet out of a gun! It was manic! End of lap one and by some minor miracle Iâ€™d fought my way up to 16th place! From here I became involved in a battle for 13th with Andrzej Chmielewski, Daniel Beretta and Eddi Lamarra. This lasted throughout the race, with our quartet having great fun swapping paint and positions on almost every turn. It was one of the greatest battles I have had in a long time! By lap nine Iâ€™d begun to drop back and with the front tyre beginning to overheat and losing grip at a rapid rate, I decided to sit back and settle for a result rather than push and risk a second fall, which nearly happened round the ultra fast turn three when my knee was the only thing that held my bike upright! Final lap and with no chance of catching Beretta in front of me and with a decent gap behind me I rolled the speed back a tad, and ended up gaining two places as Lamarra exited the track after running wide at turn 8 and Andrea Antonelli fell whilst in third place, although he remounted to take 15th place! I crossed the line in 14th place and was ecstatic and had the biggest grin on my face and all the worries and nerves left me and the thoughts of the crash became nothing more than a distant memory. It was the best feeling returning back to the paddock and seeing the team as happy as me. It was a cracking result for us all and far surpassed my own and the teams expectations. It was a cracking way to start the season!
Thanks to â€“
- MIST Suzuki Racing
- T&J Commercial Repairs
- Steve Jordan Motorcycles
- Mike Edwards
- Steve Jordan
- Graham Cook
- Alan Brown
- All the teams sponsors and supporters
- Jerry @ Racedays
- Jeremy McWilliams
- All my friends and family who watched back home on the internet!
- Mum and Dad, sorry I smashed the bike up but thanks for everything
BRING ON MONZA IN TWO WEEKS!