Chris Northover, 08/09/06 – 09/09/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Arriving in Germany after a hectic day and a half back at work (tough life I know!) I was determined to put all memories of last year well behind me. Last year’s visit saw me leaving on crutches and with a pepperoni shaped cut on my bum cheek!
I spent Thursday touching up the last bits of the bike after the Dutch Ditch Diving incident. The poor bike looked like it had been used as a doormat at Glastonbury after the crash and the team had worked flat out to get it repaired before it was packed off to Germany.
We gave the track a good walking Thursday night and identified areas on which to focus in the early sessions. Matt and Mike were on the pit scooter and gave the kerbs a trial run, much to Matt’s dismay, as he was repeatedly violated by the grab rail of a Suzuki moped! After torturing me by making me pedal flat out for two straight laps against a ridiculous wind, we headed for the Mist Suzuki camp and got our heads down for a good nights sleep.
Sleep. Ah yes. Now, that’s the funny thing that I was doing in between being woken up by crazy Germans revving their bikes for hours and the rain hammering the roof of my tent! Guess I’ll be surviving Friday on PG Tips finest, expertly prepared by Nan!
Friday – Free Practice
A slight oversight after Assen left me in some discomfort for the first session…
Y’see, landing in such a big puddle, kinda filled my boots and lid with nasty muddy ycuk (see what I did there!!). Due to the rush to fix the bike, my gear got chucked in a bag and left there until I grabbed it to get ready on Friday. Put simply, if I wanted to wear my gloves, I’d have to shave them first…
Not only that, but my thick cheekpads in my lid (the only ones I have…) also stank worse than the portaloos in the campsite Saturday night, apparently!
Once out on track, I found it hard to get going initially, but soon picked up the pace and used my new secret weapon to my advantage. Mike had lent me a laptimer so I’d be able to see when I was chasing my tail and pull my socks up. Whaddya know, it works! About halfway through the session I saw that I had gone to sleep and done three 1:55’s in a row. It works as a great reality check, as I could’ve sworn I was getting faster when, in fact, I was just getting more ragged. After this I managed to get down into the 1:54’s and end the session 30th.
Friday – 1st Qualifying
Friday afternoon was not so smooth running. Entering the chicane on the first lap, my right handlebar decided that it needed a different direction in life, so spun forward and introduced itself to the front of the at anything else! After running off at the end of the back straight and having countless close calls I eventually got the wake up call and sorted myself out. This childish behavior cost me dearly as it had wasted most of the session. I put in a 1:53.8 right at the end, leaving me 31st fastest.
Saturday – 2nd Qualifying
The final qualifying session went so much better, but the same story as Assen; despite making the biggest improvement of the entire field (2.3 seconds faster than Friday), I still only managed to secure 30th on the grid. The session was really good fun, with both Matt and myself chasing Davide ‘Gigglyjuggly’ Giugliano. There was some mid-session disruption when someone spread their bike and half the gravel trap across turn 3, which in turn caused some mid-session disruption in Matt’s leathers as he went skipping across the track over the debris right in front of me!
When I’d finished laughing at, er, consoling Matt, we pulled into the pits in anticipation of the session being stopped. This wasn’t to happen and the organisers clearly decided that we all had brushes stashed away in our leathers. The session went on and all the riders had to pick their way through turn 3 which was doing a good impression of Brighton beach. I didn’t manage to get another tow but pulled out some respectable lap times by myself. Despite the improvement, I merely managed 30th on the grid. Getting a bit too common that position, but rest assured, I have my sights firmly set on the grid places ahead, even if I have to mug another rider to get one!
Saturday – Race
My usual race plan of overtaking everyone I can off the start before riding round the outside of some more at turn one, wasn’t going to be pulled out this weekend. The reason being, I tried this last year at Lausitz and ended up on crutches! The first corner does not lend itself to liberty takers, and there was no way I’d risk another DNF like that. The revised plan worked well, with a good start and a steady eddie first corner allowing me to ride round the bike sliding across the track. I believe it was The Hives who hit the nail on the head here, “Hate to say I told you so, alright!” Smugness dealt with, it was back to the action and chasing down those that stood between me and points.
Points are like cocaine, one hit and you’d sell your soul and your cat’s soul on eBay just to get more! I was charging hard and went faster than I had all weekend within a lap. I was taking lumps out of the guys in front on all the right handers, but exiting the two left handers that lead onto the front and back straights I was being eaten alive!
Perhaps a few weeks lapping roundabouts the wrong way on a moped would help this, I shall look into it before Imola. What occurred next can only be described as a mix up between my intentions and physics, whereby an attempt to brake slightly (read ridiculously) late for the corner at the end of the back straight went slightly wrong. I realised this right about the point where, about 20 yards before the corner.
Luckily, I managed to remain on the black stuff, now somewhat less hot on the tails of the bikes I was chasing. Annoyed by this and not wishing to be left behind, I did as every good racer should and made exactly the same mistake just two laps later. This, I believe, is what is termed “a school boy error” and must not be taken lightly. As punishment to myself I nailed some fast laps and even slipped in a 1:49 lap time. I finished a fairly respectable 21st position, happy to have made the flag, delighted with the 1:49 but deep down kicking myself for the aforementioned slip-up.
Another race, another lesson learned and another notch in my 2006 European Superstock bedpost. Right, Imola is gonna see some better qualifying, building on the improvements so far, and some more points. Yes, points, lovely, nice, succulent points.
Must… …have… …more… points.
A Massive Merci To:
- Mr Edwards for the laptimer and tolerating me for the weekend
- Mr Richard Northover for sorting the novelty handlebar at lightening pace
- Nanny for looking after her little soldier all weekend (Nans words, not mine alright?)
- Grandad for expertly piloting the race vehicle round Europe again
- Mark and Coop for suitable ribbing over the 30th place qualifying again
- Mads Odin Hodt for managing to block my view of the dancers in the beer tent Saturday night, thus preserving my fragile, innocent mind.
That’s All Folks