Matt Bond, 23/06/06 – 24/06/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Friday – Free Practice
Out on track for the first time and just to summarise the course in a few words would be; fast, technical and slippery, oh and far from easy too, just like every other track in Europe really.
I can remember going down the back straight for the first time and thinking to myself “Chuff, this is going to be damn fast” and guess what, I wasn’t far wrong at all! By the end of the session I was taking the final turn completely flat out in fifth with my knee still on the deck, and my face just inched from the floor, or what fun! Just learning the track was proving to be tough and with very few markers and reference points around the place it was going to be a lot harder than any of the other circuits we had visited previously.
By the end of the session I’d begun to find a decent rhythm and had settled into setting some better lap times, despite still languishing near the bottom of the timing boards. I ended the session well down, in about 29th place, while the Italians filled ten of the top 11 places, showing just how local knowledge plays into the advantage of the home talent.
Friday – 1st Qualifying
The plan for qualifying was simple, go out on track, build the pace up gradually and then get a tow form one of the quicker guys to set a decent time towards the end of the session.
I completed a few laps at an increasing pace and then entered the pits to try and sort the problem of a rather loose rear end. I just couldn’t stop the thing backing into the turns and it just didn’t feel stable on the brakes at all. A few quick changes on the suspension seemed to help, but not cure the problem, but it made the bike a lot more stable and easier to ride, so I just got my head down and tried to set a decent time.
By the end of the session I remember getting towed round by one of the many Yamahas out on track but it really didn’t improve the time too much as I struggled to stay with them, no matter what I tried. Once they had broke a gap on me I just decided to try some new lines and get some more reference markers set ready for the next day. It was usually when everyone goes quicker anyway! SO I wasn’t to overly fussed with being so low down at this early stage of the weekend.
Saturday – 2nd Qualifying
After a fairly poor showing, judging by the way this year had been going, in the opening qualifying I was determined to hoist my backside higher up the grid for the race. The plan was pretty much the same as the first session, only to get up to faster speeds sooner and ultimately go a heck of a lot faster.
The squirming rear end really wasn’t helping at all and every time a quick guy came past I followed them, hit the brakes where they did, only for me to go flying sideways and wide, while they got in and through the turn with no trouble at all. It was frustrating and although I went quicker, I didn’t improve on place at all. This really hacked me off to be honest. In the last few minutes I got a tow off Daniel Beretta and stayed with him for a few laps before he just simply got further and further away, but if I was having a bad day Chris must have been worse as I saw him lying in the gravel, bike upside down and in a slightly less than first class state. It was good to know he was ok afterwards though.
The thing that let me down was my bike set up and I can only blame myself for it, I should just stop thinking about making so many adjustments and just ride the thing, and that was what I’d have to do to even salvage a decent result, and riding the wheels off the thing was all I had on my mind come the race.
Saturday – Race
The first thing I thought when I rolled onto the grid was “Chuff it’s hot here!” and that was swiftly followed by “From here it’s win it or bin it!”. The time spent on the grid for the media seemed to take forever and I just began to focus in and take in a few final sips of fluid.
The lights went out and I launched it off the line, again catching a glimpse of Chris out of the corner of my eye as he made his usual ballistic start, but at the first corner I just thought “Stuff it I’m going for it” and threw the bike into the corner as hard as possible and rode right round the outside of half the field. I barged my way through and into a gap at the next turn and then opened the gas onto the back straight. But all the hard work came to no avail as entering the second flat out kink WHACK. I got hit from the inside by Gregg Black and that was it, I was shooting off the track and over the grass at some ridiculous speed, and the ten-foot concrete wall was looking ominously close. I somehow kept the thing upright and rejoined but was miles behind.
I was so angry with myself and Mr Black that I just charged as hard as I could, but after 6 laps I knew I just couldn’t catch the next group in front and just rolled it off, and with the heat taking most of my attention, the lap times just faded away and it was a simple ride round just for track time, in what was the loneliest time I’ve had all year.
Well we all have a bad race once a year and hopefully that was mine. Time to focus in ready for Brno and get some testing done in the meantime to try and make it easier to learn circuits quickly, in the hope that we can go fast straight from the off! Fingers crossed I suppose! And one thing I am never going to do again is leave half an inch gap on a fast turn on the opening lap!