Donington Park, UK – Race

Matt Bond, 05/09/08 – 07/09/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Round 8

Friday – First Practice

Just like last season the opening practice was soaking wet, although this year it was slightly warmer, even if the puddles on circuit were slightly larger! The track felt like it had a lot more grip than last year also.

My opening laps were pretty good, smooth and consistently improving lap after lap, as I tried to find the best line and sort out my reference markers for braking and turn in. It was very similar to all the points id use in the dry, just with a lot less aggression.

I pitted just to make a few adjustments to the rear of the bike to help it grip on acceleration and it seemed fairly positive after we made the change. I didn’t get much chance to try it however as a few turns later and I was sliding down the track on my backside.

I’d high-sided out of Redgate and although I tried to save it I couldn’t and ended up facing the oncoming traffic. I picked the bike up but it was too bent to carry on and I’d slightly tweaked my shoulder again which began to hurt a few minutes after. Luckily the bike wasn’t as bad as first thought and the team got it back together in no time at all.

Friday – First Qualifying

The rain hadn’t gone away, and neither had the winds, which were now stronger than the opening session, especially down the lower end of the circuit by the old hairpin and Schwantz curve.

I started well, feeling confident in the bike and in my lines, with the bike giving good feedback thanks to a softer spring in the rear of the bike. It gave more traction and when accompanied with the new engine map, provided more drive. It was noticeable out of the Melbourne loop section, where the bike would now pick up and carry the front wheel.

I made a few more changes to the bike in the pits after completing three laps, just to get the front end to give more grip and a better feel, done by softening up the compression and taking a couple of turns of preload off.

It felt a lot more positive on the out lap and through the first sector on my flying lap I posted the ninth fastest sector time, only to fall for the second time of the weekend on the entry to MacLean’s turn. I’m not sure exactly what happened but again after picking the bike up it was apparent it had rolled over and thus I couldn’t ride it back to the pits. I hadn’t qualified at this point because of the crash.

Saturday – Second Practice

I was feeling a little bit beaten up after the previous day, and I just wanted to get round for the session, for all our sakes!

It didn’t start well, with the tyres stone cold I just couldn’t get any feeling, and it soon became apparent my confidence had taken a bigger knock than I first thought. I just focused on trying to be smooth and progressive and not do anything silly, unlike the last two sessions! The bike began to feel good and better than before, but with my relative lack of pace I was still struggling, and it seemed that no matter what I tried, I didn’t go that much faster.

It was a frustrating session, but I stayed on and got some good feedback for the team, ready for second qualifying in the afternoon.

Saturday – Second Qualifying

I was going to have to dig deep to get through the session and get in a decent time to get on the grid. The track was drying, but still wet enough to command full rain tyres, so it was just a case again of being smooth and building it up.

My first run made me feel a lot better. I’d gone a lot quicker than all previous sessions and was settling into a nice rhythm. I pitted just to make a few small changes to the bike to help on turn in stability.

I got back on track and just told myself to keep calm, relax and just ride. Next thing I know, I’m sliding down the back straight on my arse after another high-side. I remember swearing at myself and just saying “That’s it”, knowing it wasn’t going to be enough for me to qualify.

I was in tears when I got back to the truck, knowing what had just happened, and was mentally beating myself about, it wasn’t good, but I felt like I’d let the whole team and myself down. Fortunately the guys understood how much I’d struggle and just put it down as a bad day at the office.

Sunday – Race

It was only the second time I’d ever been forced to watch my race from the sidelines, and once again I was gutted not to be out there, but without a good enough time to qualify and realistically no bike to ride, it was just one of those things.

After a good night sleep and watching the race I’d calmed down and forgotten about the troubles. It’s the first time I’d ever had that bad a weekend, and for once, I just let it all go. I’m just looking forward to Magny-Cours and Portugal over the next couple of months. Fingers crossed it stays better and I get back up to where I know I can run in the field.

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