Chris Northover, 21/07/06 – 22/07/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
This was the furthest round to get to and in a country where I couldn’t tell the difference between a person speaking Czech and a person choking and, indeed, the sound of Mark’s Skoda hire car trying to go up a hill! After indulging in the spirit of hire cars in foreign countries, we had a good bit of hunt the hotel which took us on a magical mystery tour round the back of who knows where! After an impromptu night in the hotel we made our way to the track Thursday morning. Even Thursday the track was buzzing with activity and the race fans seemed to be everywhere already.
As soon as we were all settled in, Kirsty and I went for a walk of the track. Bloody hell it’s wide! The track is absolutely amazing! The elevation changes are breath-taking; the camera really doesn’t do it justice! With a track so long and so wide, I knew it was going to be a mission to learn it. Rather cunningly, I feel, Kirsty had brought her digital camcorder so we set off on the pit scooter for several laps, which I was able to watch until the track layout was firmly carved into my brain. The hardest thing about the track was its width. Brno is so wide, you could comfortably race jumbo jets round and still have room to overtake!
Friday – Free Practice
The track is great fun to ride and is good for reference points, especially compared to Misano. I was soon getting frustrated with myself at the massive amount of room on the outside of me exiting corners; the width was taking some getting used to.
Friday – First Qualifying
Determined to get quicker, I went out in the first qualifying with one major goal: get all my reference points sussed and work at hitting them every lap. As I have learnt from previous rounds, once I can hit the reference points consistently, the speed comes fairly easily, but without reference points you just end up riding harder and harder but not getting any faster. It was a lesson well learned in Misano and learned the hard way. I managed to establish my reference points pretty well in the second session, so although I wasn’t as far up the grid as I needed to be; at least I wasn’t riding round like a proverbial, decapitated farmyard animal…
Friday evening, we did a track walk with Mike to compare lines and thoughts, most of which centred around the need to make optimum use of the width of the track, not only when exiting corners, but using the width to overtake or find different lines when overtaken. This would prove most helpful when the gentlemanly (ahem) racing begins!
Saturday – Second Qualifying
Second qualifying and a last chance to put myself at the sharp end of the grid. Although I managed to go faster, it wasn’t enough still and I ended up qualifying at the distinctly blunt end of the grid. I was so far back it felt like the front row was in a different country when the race came. Frustrated with myself, I disappeared for some soul searching. I knew what I needed to do and I knew how to do it, I just didn’t seem to put it into practice straight away, it always seemed to take me half a session before I got my act together.
During an afternoon nap, I was the victim of a cruel practical joke, played by my nan of all people! Fed up with me wearing baggy shorts that, in her opinion, didn’t fit me, nan decided to sew them up so they did fit, but without telling me. Amusingly, I wore them all the rest of the weekend without noticing and it was only on Monday when Kirsty asked if I had put on weight to stop my shorts falling down (she was in on the prank to) that I realised that I had been clothing violated!
Saturday – Race
Before the race I tried some of the magic hydration potion that Matt had been chugging away at since Misano, hoping it would combat the endless thirst caused by a ridiculously hot country. It didn’t. What it did do, however, was give me a killer headache and make me feel sick (although falling asleep in the sun probably didn’t help…). Despite nearly throwing up as the lights came on and forgetting to shut my visor until halfway round the first corner (hmm, bit windy…!) I managed to get a good start and haul my sorry backside up into a decent position before the race was red flagged
Getting a bit popular this red flag, still at least it gave me a chance to do the start in a slightly better state – nothing like a bit of adrenaline to clear the mind/settle the stomach! With the luck going my way at last (pass the violin!!) I made the most of the second start. From 35th on the grid, I hooked my thumbs in my belt loops and head-banged and high-sided my way through, sorry, past any poor sod who was unfortunate enough to get between me and a decent position…
With only a couple of laps to go, up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering bike. Luckily, I escaped from the next line of the song and went for one more victim. Despite getting right onto the back of him, the last five corners where I wanted to overtake were all on yellow flags, grr! The last bend held forth a green flag and a last attempt to overtake. The bike in question, was having gear change issues, but, rather cunningly, as he knew he could not be passed under yellows, he slowed to get the right gear before the green flag to stop me getting past him. It worked!
With my hands swollen and blistered (there were a lot of near high-sides, I was trying bloody hard!) I pulled into parc ferme, happy with the race but prepared to be disappointed when told my position. Turns out, I finished 19th which means I passed 16 people, which is a hell of a lot when you think about it. Result! My best lap was a good 2 seconds faster than the best I managed in qualifying, again! There is however, a lesson to be learned, why not get up to speed earlier in the weekend and then start further up the grid – less people to overtake then! This is something that I know I need to work on, getting the focus from the very first practice session.
So that’s the plan, just gotta put it into practice when I get to Brands Hatch and on a track I sort of know, bring it on!
- The hamster from creature comforts – Played by Richard
- Penelope Pitstop – Played by Kirsty Hodges
- Grandpa Simpson – Played by Grandpa Northover
- Yoda – Mike Edwards
- Mrs Doubtfire – Nanny Northover
- Road Runner – Mark
- Dick Dastardly – The mean person who penalised team mate Matt for a jump start in the first race (which was cancelled) with a ride through penalty in the second, costing him a chance in the race.