Gareth Jones, 01/08/08 – 03/08/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Friday – First Practice
Round 7 of the championship saw us at Brands Hatch in England. After getting in a few laps on the scooter on Thursday afternoon, I realized the circuit had lived up to what I had heard. It is a pretty wild circuit with many ups and downs with a few blind corners thrown in for good measure.
As usual the Superstock class kicks off proceedings at 9am Friday morning. The lap time around the fairly fast Brands circuit is only a minute and a half, so I managed to get quite a few laps in during the 30 minute practice. However it was straight into the pits after the session to decide on the changes we were going to make for the afternoon qualifying session.
The settings we had used at Brno were less than ideal for the British track. We were a little behind this weekend as our suspension technician was not available, so it was a matter of using the small amount of time on track to change what we could to improve the handling of the bike.
The afternoon qualifying was not very productive and I ended up in a disappointing position, somewhat further south of the leader than I was hoping. However I was positive that Saturday morning practice would prove to be a little more promising, and I hoped we would have a better idea of where to head with the setup of my bike.
Nevertheless dramas continued to plague us, and the weekend seemed to be heading in the total opposite direction to that of the last round at Brno, where we appeared to be moving forward.
Even though we managed to improve by 1.2 seconds in the second qualifying session, the problems with the set up of the bike were still very apparent, and I was certainly struggling, obvious by my hugely disappointing qualifying position of 29th.
My spirits were down, but the one thing that did work in our favor was the fact that the weather was looking really ordinary for the Sunday morning race. I was desperate for a stroke of luck which could perhaps come in the form of some rain! In Sunday morning’s 10 minute warm up, it was raining quite heavily and I was 14th quickest, so I had my fingers crossed that the weather would set in.
An hour and a half later and we’re off and racing. The rain had stopped, and in parts the track was drying quickly, but it was looking very bleak. It was going to be a tough call as to what tyres to run for the race. We left it as long as possible before making a decision, but at the time we needed to make that choice, it was definitely not going to be full wets.
We had some last minute dramas in the pits, and I ended up on the grid with full wets. It was my intention to join the grid with a wet front and an intermediate rear, and then my choice would have been to change the wet front to an intermediate also. Because of lack of time, we only managed to get a cold intermediate rear on my bike, whilst on the grid, and with no time left to change the front, I was left with a wet front for racing.
I knew my only chance to get up into the points was to go as hard as I could off the start. I got off the line well, and aimed straight for the inside going into turn 1. I managed some good passes and crossed the line after lap 1 in 16th. I continued to push in the early laps, before the wet front started to overheat and that made things difficult. I got up into 10th position, but about 6 laps into the 14 lap race, the track had a completely dry line.
I had some good battles but towards the end of the race the tyres felt like marshmallow and even holding a line in some of the slower corners was proving to be very difficult. However, all things aside, I managed to finish the race in 11th and take home some valuable points. It was a hard few days but points are points at the end of the day and I was satisfied to have come from 29th on the grid to finish in 11th place.
Thanks to family and friends who were able to come to support me at Brands.