Matt Bond, 03/10/08 – 05/10/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Friday – First Practice
To be honest with it raining, yet again, I didn’t feel overly confident, but knew that I just had to get on with it, and be smooth, precise and consistent. We had a fairly good base setting for the bike, and made only a few changes to accommodate the features of the circuit.
I began the session pretty much tip-toeing around, just getting some small amount of confidence back in the bike and my riding. It was still hard to get rid of the vagueness of Donington out of my system. After a few laps I settled in well, and put together better times lap after lap, pitting every three laps to make some adjustments to keep the bike feeling how I wanted.
By the end of the session all was fairly good, and I was just outside the theoretical qualifying time. It was a matter of 0.1secs, which I had easily obtained with my ideal best time.
Friday – First Qualifying
I opted for some softer spring’s front and rear in the bike, only half a kilo at both the front and rear, to help the bike squat and get some feeling mid turn and on the exit. It felt much better and took only a few laps before I’d bettered the time I done in the morning session, despite worsening conditions.
The rain was coming down hard so I pitted and made a few more tweaks to the bike, with the idea of getting more grip from the front of the bike, thus enabling higher corner speed and less need for hard acceleration mid turn.
It initially felt like a negative change, but after I changed how I was riding it felt a lot more positive and progressive and I just stayed out on track putting in laps, and making myself push small amounts everywhere. Mainly entering turns I was making myself release the brake earlier and on the exit, being more positive and aggressive with the throttle, but maintaining a smooth roll on.
It was about three minutes to go when I pitted for the final time as the rear tyre had pretty much given up and was sliding more than I was comfortable with, and not wanting to risk a fall I called it a day. I was pleased to have knocked a further four seconds off my time from the morning and had qualified, all be it in 32nd, but I was still on the grid if it was worse the following day!
Saturday – Second Practice
It looked like being a dry session, but then the heavens opened for a short time and we went back to the wet settings from the previous day, with the only change being a softer rear spring.
It took me a few laps just to get settled and I put in one flying lap before realising how quick the circuit had begun to dry. From then on we used the practice as a test session, doing one lap before pitting and making more changes.
We found a good set up by reducing some compression on the front and adding a touch of rebound, all in which helped with holding the line, especially on the faster parts.
Saturday – Second Qualifying
Finally we got some dry weather, and it was going to mean having to go hard from the start, something I had previously had problems with, but I just got my head into the zone straight away and focused on doing a couple of laps to sort reference points and from there out it was push everywhere.
I didn’t get into a good group on the first few laps so did a ride through the pits, just to get some space. I got in one clear lap before pitting and making changes to the rear of the bike and also change the rear tyre. I also made a change to the preload on the front of the bike to help with stability on the brakes.
The changes helped, making much easier to keep on line and also helped keep the spin controlled on the exits. It all meant I could get on the throttle a lot earlier. I strung together two good laps and then slowed to get a tow off Foray. I managed to stick with him through the first section really well, and only lost a bit in the second section but I made a big mistake entering the fast Nurburgring chicane, running wide and losing a good second. I had tried to brake where Foray did, and I simply couldn’t halt the bike in time.
It screwed up what was on target to be my best lap, but I was glad to know I could have gone much faster, and I was still 26th on the grid, so I was in the mix of things, and only slightly slower than when we tested earlier in the season.
We had a good idea of what changes we needed for the race, and if the weather stays good I know we are on for a great race.
Sunday – Race
Thankfully it was dry and I knew that the small changes we made to the bike would make a big difference, making it hold the line better and also more stable on turn in. It felt a lot better in morning warm up.
I got an okay start, taking the outside line at both turns one and two and also at Adelaide hairpin, at which point I just hoped, like everyone else, no-one made a kamikaze manoeuvre! Fortunately everyone made it round, unlike last year!
I settled into a good rhythm fairly early on, but by lap three was being held up by Ten Napel, and I was desperate to get by as I could see the group ahead getting away. I finally got through entering the last turns. Once through I got my head down, and was closely followed by Peter Hickman, who was doing his very best to get by, at almost every turn.
At the middle of the race I’d began to close down the group ahead, and could feel myself getting closer to them, then Hicky decided that he wanted to do the chasing, and we spent the next two laps swapping places and paintwork!
After the halfway distance our battle had allowed the group ahead to get away and Pauli Pekkannen to close in and make our dice a three way affair. It was great fun and we each took turns to lead, be middle man and tail of the group, with us being three abreast at points.
The last lap was manic, and tries as hard as I could, I simply couldn’t slot by the pair of them and make a move stick. I was gutted, but also chuffed at having a great race just on the edge of the top 20. I also started to feel back to being confident on the bike and have a really good bike set up ready for Portimao!