Gareth Jones, 09/05/08 – 11/05/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Friday – First Practice
Two weeks after Round Two at Assen we headed off to Monza in Italy, yet another new country to visit and of course a new race track. I’d heard that Monza was a great fast track so I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike. The Suzuki has proven to be able to well and truly hold its own in a straight line, so if there was any circuit going to wind a bike out, Monza it was.
We arrived at the track Thursday morning to finish getting setup as usual and the bikes ready to go. As soon as that was seen too, on the scooter I was to check out the track. I did a few laps with my good mate Chris Seaton who had raced there recently and could give me a bit of a run down of the circuit.
On a side note, being able to look around the circuit was also a real history lesson. Monza is like a big park, the race track runs through the middle of an enormous forest, which is also home to the old Autodrome which Monza became famous for. It was really interesting to see the old track and the huge banking that appears in parts of the park.
I was keen to be on the track for as long as possible to do as many laps as I could to get familiar with the high speed circuit. For those of you who don’t know the basic layout, Monza consists of very high speed straights and very tight chicanes, with a just a few fast flowing corners. Braking hard and getting on the gas hard was of the essence, and there was so much time to be gained or lost in these sections.
Friday – First Qualifying
The second session on Friday afternoon is a 45 minute qualifier, so we have a chance to make quite a few adjustments mid session, while still learning the track, before putting in a new set of tyres near the end, to try and put down a time. I pitted several times making changes, chasing the setup. As I’ve said in previous reports, I have had quite a lot of difficulty getting things right on the Suzuki, so the team has been working hard with me to get this sorted. I finished the qualifier in 19th position.
Saturday – Second Practice and Qualifying
Saturday, as usual consists of morning practice and a final 25 minute qualifier in the afternoon. We had made some substantial changes to the forks for the morning and I found it to be a benefit in a lot of places on the track. Therefore I felt that I would be able to improve on my position in the afternoon. We also felt that we could improve those changes we had made by making some more adjustments for the afternoon session. This required another set of forks to be built, and they were not going to be ready in time for the qualifier.
Disappointingly, we had to keep the same internal settings that were to be altered for the qualifier in the afternoon. We changed the spring rate hoping to have a similar effect. The change wasn’t as eventful as I had hoped and to make matters worse, on my out lap I had a serious technical fault that only allowed me to complete 1 flying lap. I pitted several times in the hope to locate the problem but time ran out and I ended the session having dropped several places to a very disappointing 25th.
Sunday – Warm Up
Having had trouble in qualifying, and not having had the forks to try in that session, meant that I would have to use morning warm up as a test session, which obviously is quite a gamble. The forks went in and I found them to be a better choice.
Sunday – Race
Only an hour and a half later I took my grid position for the race. I will mention here, that turn 1 at Monza is extremely tight for even a few riders, without bottle necking 40 bikes in there, straight off the start. Those of you who saw the footage would know what happened. As one British newspaper quoted, “40 into 1 won’t go”. As the whole field ran into the first chicane flat-out, one rider hit another, triggering a massive incident.
As these two tumbled, more bikes were collected, including some that were in front of the accident, when the bikes spewed forward at speed, and to add insult to injury, another rider taking to the grass to avoid the carnage, couldn’t wash off enough speed and took out another two with him. 11 riders in all went down. This is certainly not something you’d like to witness too frequently. Luckily I just managed to avoid it. The rider that first went down was just off to my right, so it was a matter of getting through without getting taken out.
My start was good and I had already made up quite a few positions, so I didn’t hesitate in getting into it flat out, as soon as I got through the crash. As I came around after the opening lap onto the straight my board showed I was in 12th position. By mid race I had moved up into 9th and had a decent gap behind me. There was a pack of riders a few seconds ahead of me and I was pushing to get onto the back of them. It’s so hard to chase down a group when they are towing each other along. There were plenty of times where I used the entire track and then some, but try as I might, I had to settle for 9th. A top 10 result is definitely a step in the right direction and the time from the leader was 10 seconds better than Assen, which was the most pleasing thing for me.
Racing in this class is ultra competitive but we are moving forward one step at a time. The next round is at Germany’s Nurburgring in just over a month’s time. However we head back to Italy in a couple weeks for a test at Misano. Hopefully the extra track time will put us in a good position to be more competitive for round 4 and with any luck, bring home a better result once again. Standing on podium is hopefully getting closer with every ride!