Gareth Jones, 13/06/08 – 15/06/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Friday – First Practice
Off to Germany, another new country to visit and the best part was yet another new race track. We arrived at the Nurburgring very late Wednesday night, ready for Thursday’s pit setup and scrutineering. It was also a bonus to me that my Dad was back again, to assist me and the team for two rounds, along with my good mate Lloyd who will be spannering for me for the rest of the year.
I was itching to get on track on Friday morning, I had only managed 2 laps on the scooter on Thursday afternoon in the pouring rain with Brendan Roberts, so I knew there was a lot of learning to be done. Initially, the circuit was dry for first practice but with only 3 laps down it started to drizzle, so most of the field pulled in.
After sitting out for 10 minutes I headed back out again to spend as much time as I could on track. The drizzle was settling by then and seconds were coming off my time each lap. The Nurburgring is 5.1 kms long and over 2 minutes a lap. I finished first practice in 18th. As usual, places were separated by hundredths of a second.
Friday – First Qualifying
We had a new shock which we were hoping to try before the Nurburgring meeting, but limited time meant we didn’t have a chance to test that before we arrived in Germany. For first qualifying Friday afternoon we opted to try the new internal shock configuration. This was much better than the shock we had been using, and I found quite a lot of time with it on track. However I could only manage 21st by the time the chequered flag was out at the end of the 25 minute session. The track proved to be quite technical and it was very clear how much time could be made or lost around the circuit. I was confident that by chipping away at the bigger problems we had, I could manage a quicker lap.
Saturday – Second Practice
Second practice on Saturday morning was dry and the way the tyre allocation works, it means that most riders are out on used tyres, which gives a good chance to use the track time to test settings on worn tyres. I have always had trouble with the steering on the Suzuki, so we tried a lighter set of forks springs which certainly helped through the tighter sections of the track. I came in several times to make changes and try to improve on the progress we had made.
Saturday – Second Qualifying
Second qualifying that afternoon was sure to be the decider for grid positions if it stayed dry, with a lot of the field dropping their times with each session. For this session we had made the decision to go with a firmer rear setting to help keep a tighter line. This second qualifying session is only 25 minutes, as opposed to the 45 minute first qualifying session so time is a lot tighter to find a good lap.
The weather was looking rather dull and we knew that we may only have a few laps before the rain hit. In fact, as I rode out of pit lane I didn’t even get to the first corner and is was pouring, so I pulled straight back into the pits and got my wets went on. Everything was ready to go on pit lane so I was quickly back on track. It wasn’t long before the rain stopped again but by now most of the track was soaked and the session would only allow for a good wet test session.
I got stuck into it and felt comfortable early, and I was surprised how grippy the surface was. I managed to put in numerous quick laps before the session ended.. When I came in I was thrilled to be told that I was the fastest rider on track by a margin of 3.2 seconds, much to the delight of the team! Needless to say I was quite happy with this and was really hoping for a wet track on race day!
Sunday – Warm Up
Race day came around all too quickly, and like all other meetings so far, just a few practice sessions too early! The weather was dull and overcast, so it was a matter of getting into the swing of things in morning warm up and using every last minute on the track to get the most from the bike we could. I was 16th in warm up and found another sizeable chunk of time but obviously it’s the race that counts.
Sunday – Race
An hour and a half later the field was gridded up and ready for a start. I got away well but once again there was a crash in turn 1 and I lost a few places avoiding it. However at the end of the lap 1 I was on the back of a large pack. I tried to move forward picking off a few riders as quickly as I could and found myself in 12th by mid race with Chris Seaton just ahead in 11th. With the final three laps to go, I started having problems. My brakes were pulling all the way into the bar and I was leaving myself quite open to getting out braked. I had to brake very early, pumping the brakes hoping to pull up in time to tip in.
Around the same time my quick shifter decided to start miss shifting, not allowing me to select some gears. I pushed on as best as I could, but unfortunately even though I was trying to ride very defensively, I lost a few positions and fell to 14th by the flag. All in all I was happy to have again been moving forward with the bike. It’s a hard game but I’m determined.
A special thanks must go to www.theaussieshop.co.uk who have very kindly sponsored me with two of their top of the range swags, so Mum and I can camp in the pits at the tracks which alleviates the dramas of getting to the tracks in the mornings and the added expense of accommodation. This is a terrific help, thanks very much.
Talk to you all after San Marino next weekend.