Chris Northover, 21/04/06 – 22/04/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Getting excited now!
Sorted all paperwork out and attended riders briefing about new (and very exciting!?) rules. Met up with some of the people I talked to death last year and got an early night ready for the mornings practice session.
First practice session was tough, Valenciaâ€™s unpredictable nature meant the circuit had become much less grippy than the previous week (rain had washed the rubber off). This, coupled with the high temperatures causing the tyres to overheat, made the first session a little hairy! I managed a slightly quicker lap time than I had in the previous weekâ€™s practice.
Friday afternoonâ€™s qualifying session was both a blessing and a curse! I rode the bike like the devil was riding pillion, unfortunately this didnâ€™t result in the faster lap times I wanted. I tried too hard and, although pushed the bike hard, my lines became very sloppy and inconsistent, as all I was focussing on was pushing the bike to (and past!) its limit. It is a very humbling experience to discover that pushing a bike so hard that you are leaving black lines and losing the front is not enough to do well at this level. Exhausted, frustrated and confused, I went to The Boss (Mike â€œF.â€ Edwards, team manager) for words of wisdom. Like a wise old Kung Fu master, he managed to put one phrase in my head which summed up everything that had been lacking from my riding on Friday, before disappearing in a cloud of smoke, leaving me alone in the temple to follow the path to enlightenment (ok maybe that last bit is a little beyond the truth, but itâ€™s a good metaphor!). With a calmed mental attitude, and Mikeâ€™s wisdom I headed for â€œMount CGâ€ another time.
The final qualifying saw a new found calmness in my riding and, rather than attacking every corner like a wild bezerker on a raging wildebeest, I thought about my riding, joining the (imaginary) dots on the track to follow the correct lines. As I eased up the pace, I managed to go a couple of tenths faster than I ever had before on this track, but, most importantly, I did it consistently and with ease. Although my final qualifying time was a low 1:47, my ideal time (made up of all my best split times for the session) was a 1:46.1! Starting from near the back of the grid, I was confident that with a good start I could be straight back in the fight and doing what I had come here to do.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the fickle finger of fate struck on the sighting lap. As I left the line, the clutch gave in on my bike. We desperately tried to repair it on the grid but there was nothing we could do. I decided to start the race anyway, hoping for a miracle to fix my clutch on the warm up lap! Unfortunately, Mikeâ€™s Kung Fu miracle powers had been exhausted repairing Mattâ€™s bike after his minor excursion during qualifying. As the lights went out I gave the bike its last chance and gunned it off the line. Although I managed to overtake a handful of riders off the line without a working clutch I was going no further and was out of the race before the first turn.
So the first round was a rollercoaster of emotions, but despite being gutted that I was robbed of a chance in the race, I feel I have really developed a new maturity and skill in my riding that should serve me very well in Monza and for the rest of the season.
There concludes the longest race/test day report in history, in my usual, erâ€¦ interesting, style! A massive thanks to everyone, but notably the following people:
- Mike â€œFâ€ Edwards for his help in sorting out my mental approach
- Steve â€œspannersâ€ Jordan for doing a great job of setting up my bike and for working so hard to fix the bikes whenever they need it
- Sarah â€œleathers stealingâ€ Jordan for sorting out all our gear
- Gerry at Racedays.Net for sorting the track time
- Jeremy McWilliams for his tutoring and telling me to break the law (well kind ofâ€¦)
- Roger for tolerating me and sponsoring me and tolerating me some more!!
- Nan and Grandad for driving the Truck to Monza, cooking (Nan) and tolerating me
- Kenny Pryde for letting me talk him to death and for the â€œOreosâ€ biscuits
- The Bonds for the use of the truck
- Mark Bentley for photos
- And anyone else who has helped out, you know who you are!