Brands Hatch, UK – Race

Matt Bond, 01/08/08 – 03/08/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Round 7

Friday – First Practice

I was feeling good to be back in the UK and racing on pretty much home soil. After a few laps I settled in nicely, and was just working on reference points and techniques learnt a few weeks previous on the California Superbike School.

I didn’t feel particularly fast, but I did feel smooth and consistent and it showed in the lap times. I was having some rear end grip issues but we made some small adjustments to the suspension and it helped improve the traction on exiting the turns.

Friday – First Qualifying

I had to push throughout this session; it was really hard to be honest. The times weren’t coming as quickly as I’d like, and I struggled to really get the bike to fire off the turns, especially on the medium to fast sections.

I made a few changes in the pits, to try n get the bike to squat and grip on the exit of the turns. It helped, but I was still struggling more than I usually do, and it made me push to hard and over-ride the bike. It wasn’t good, but by the end of the session we were heading in the right direction.

Saturday – Second Practice

Thanks to some help with Richard from Ohlins UK and Steve Jordan, we found some more positives with the suspension. The bike was more stable on the brakes and better on acceleration still, although was still quite slide when transitioning from the edge of the tyre to the shoulder.

Saturday – Second Qualifying

I got my head down from lap one, and how I could feel it! The bike was all over the place! I was pushing so hard and smoking the rear tyre out of druids and through Sheene Curve every lap! The bike was making shapes it really shouldn’t but to be honest, it was quite fast and enjoyable! At least it was doing it consistently, so I knew it wasn’t going to bite me too hard.

In the pits we made a couple of tweaks to the rebound settings to try n calm the bike down and the new rear tyre certainly helped things, but it was still laying down some big black lines!

I was gutted at the end of the session not to be higher up, especially after I rode my guts out trying to get around. I did feel good however when Superbike ride Jason Pridmore said “You got some balls, man. That thing was all over the place! You were really pushing that thing”, I think he was impressed! We had a discussion again with Richard and made some big changes ready for the morning.

Sunday – Race

On the grid we were really thrown between what tyres to go for. It was made worse by the fact that the trolley with all the spare tyres hadn’t been allowed onto the grid! It was going to be a gamble whatever we went with, and with the track still in between and the race declared wet I opted for intermediates. It was the only choice I could have made at the time. One small problem, the tyres were stone cold.

Off the start I had to just tip toe round the first few turns with next to no grip while all around me people were flying past, with hot tyres and grip I just had to be patient and wait for the tyres to heat up. It took about three laps before I started to feel anything, and then I got my head down.

I just took my time, picking off one rider at a time, finding the drying conditions working to my advantage as the guys on wets went backwards with tyre degradation. I was getting more comfortable and moving through the groups in front of me until I got to a point where I was ahead of those I’d been battling with, but too far behind the next group. All I could do was focus on being smooth and consistent and try to keep the pace.

By the halfway point I could feel my tyre going off, spinning and sliding out of most of the turns, which was losing me drive and I could feel the duo behind begin to close in on me. I then made a mistake and nearly lost the front entering Stirling’s and they both got past. I was determined not to let them get away.

The next few laps I had to work so hard to keep on their tails, the bike was going in every direction except forwards! I could feel the bike drift out of Druids, smoking the rear tyre, and then back into Graham Hill every lap, due to the excessive heat in the carcass of the rear tyre! It was a real struggle. At times I thought that I was off, I kept hitting the steering lock! I managed to stay on the guys in front, but couldn’t find a way to get by, and before I knew it the chequered flag was out.

I was happy just to finish, but was really gutted about the result. I was hoping and trying so hard, I really wanted to be in the points, I knew I would have been able to if the tyres had let me go hard from the start! It was no-ones fault it was just very unfortunate what happened.

A big positive though was that I kept my concentration and pushed all the way to the flag, I didn’t let everything pull me down and gave it 100% to the flag. It was probably the best I’d ridden all season, it’s just a shame the result didn’t reflect this.

Donington Park soon, time to make amends!

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