Chris Northover, 23/06/06 – 24/06/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Italian run championship, Italian Track and lots of Italian Riders, this’ll be fun!
After the highs of Silverstone, Misano was one hell of a struggle. It was hot. Really hot. Like, oh dear my feet are burning from the heat of the tarmac through the soles of my shoes hot. As every good Brit should, we moaned that it was too hot, then moaned when we returned to England because it was raining! The heat didn’t even have the common decency to go away at night, making it impossible to sleep in the tent before 11:00 at night, and staying in bed past about 9:00 was akin to about gas mark 6.
We arrived in Italy early Thursday morning and crammed into the worlds smallest hire car with Tricky (Walker the Stalker Fan Club Man) and headed for the track. Despite the Sat Nav playing a couple of little pranks on us, we made it to the circuit. Now I’m telling you, these Italians have it sussed;
“Heey, eeet very hot weather, we put swimming pool in paddock for racer to play in, yes?”
What a great idea! Mind you, I couldn’t imagine taking off my leathers after a race at Snetterton and jumping into an outdoor swimming pool, not without at least two wetsuits on!
Once we’d sorted the usual bits and pieces, it was 7 o’clock in the evening and as the paddock restaurant shuts at 6:30, I headed down to the nearest town with the guys from Pirelli for dinner. The Pirelli guys spent the whole time making threats to my hair, with the final deal being that every position I finished outside of the points, would cost me one inch of hair! Unfortunately, we didn’t get back until 10:00, by which time it was too late to walk the track with Mike’s guidance as I had intended. Although I had already walked the track on my own once, this cost me dearly the next day; lesson learnt!
Friday – Free Practice
First practice was spent learning reference points on the track and getting used to the, well, interesting surface. Whilst about a third of the track has been resurfaced in the last century, the rest of it appears to have been commissioned by a certain Mr Caesar, some time ago! Misano is not a forgiving track and wandering off your line not only knocks your lap time right up, but you shortly find yourself hitting nasty bits of tarmac that seem intent on matchmaking between you and terra firma. Having survived the first session, finishing 33rd on a lap time of 1’49.417, it was straight into the cold showers to get back to usual operating temperature!
Friday – 1st Qualifying
After much head scratching and going out to watch at the first bend (a corner where I had been struggling) I headed out to the track for the first qualifying session. Despite posting a lap time a second faster, I ended the session in 36th place, more commonly known as last. Disaster.
After the highs of Silverstone, this was a kick in the teeth with a big Doc Martin, to say the least. Friday night we walked the track with Mike, in search of the Holy Grail, well the right lines. The walk revealed several areas where improvements could be made, but as always, it is easy to talk a fast lap, but actually pulling it off is another matter!
Saturday – 2nd Qualifying
After a shaky start to the second qualifying session, also held back by having to bed in new brake pads, I pulled into the pits for some much needed Mike guidance. Once back on track I began progressively chipping away at my lap times managing a 1’47.331, over a second faster than the first session. Unfortunately my charge was ended by a slight discrepancy between the speed I intended to take one of the slow hairpins, and the amount of grip available Nonetheless, I managed to qualify 35th, so at least I wasn’t last.
With no injuries it was all hands on deck, even Kirsty (acting brolly girl) was roped in to paint the seat unit, doing a fantastic job! After much hard work from everyone, especially Uncle “Spanners” Clive and Uncle “Pure Englishman” Richard (you should’ve seen his white socks!) the bike was ready to race.
Saturday – Race
Lining up on the grid, there was a mass rush to get all the mechanics and brolly girls off the track, resulting in an overexcited Italian marshal breaking his umbrella and it landing on my team as they left! Anyone would think that the people on the grids were out to get us! On Mike’s instructions I made a steady start and after the usual first lap mayhem (ahem Matt!) I went for it. “It” in this case being a half respectable finishing position and getting the lap times down further.
I had a fantastic race in a three bike battle which I came out on top of when the race was stopped and declared a result with 2 laps to go. My final position was 28th, which was disappointing but I managed to go faster still with a lap time of 1’46.049. I also was pleased to learn that the bike I had been trading paint with was one of the PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse Junior team bike, have that ya flash sod in your big fancy team!!
Not very gentlemanly I know, but I can’t help laughing when Matt or Myself manage to stick it to a team that have four times the budget of us!
Overall it was a very difficult weekend, with the heat, tough track and endless lemon slushies (ok, perhaps not the toughest part!) and to finish 28th was, in all fairness, a bit poop [eng. Slang. /~ Not frightfully good, less than adequate]. Despite that, the race itself was a corker. Even if I left an inch of track unguarded, before you could say “Don’t stick it up the inside”, two bikes would stick it up the inside and it’d be time for a bit more overtaking practice! I may have resorted to riding round the outside of them once, possibly twice (apparently I’m not supposed to do that too often, something about a SV650 and Druids at Brands last season).
All I can say is roll on Brno and lets see if we can get back into the points where we belong!
Over and Out
Ten – Four