Matt Bond, 02/05/09 – 04/05/09
British SuperBike Cup
Saturday – Free Practice
The team did a great job to get me back on track at Oulton and I really wanted to start the weekend well and make all their efforts pay off.
We got out on track with pretty much the settings from Brands, but now we had the added benefit of the 16.5” wheels, which gave us a much better choice and grade of tyres. They did feel a little strange at first, with the profile being very sharp, but having a much better amount of feedback and grip from the very edge of the tyre. It was obvious to get them to work we’d have to push it from the off.
After the first few laps we made some adjustments to help the bike hold the line and sit better on acceleration. It helped a lot, and although I was still learning the circuit, I was feeling more confident with each lap. The track felt very small still and it seemed a lot bumpier than when I’d last been round; almost five years ago on a 125!
Luck was not on our side however and on the eighth lap I hit the deck trying to avoid another rider. It wasn’t a big fall but it was quite fast, and the slide seemed to take ages. I was unhurt but annoyed as we’d been scuppered once again by something that wasn’t our fault. It felt like we were back to stage one once again.
Sunday – Free Practice
After another long night for the team doing yet another rebuild, we got back on track with a clear idea of what we needed to do and what I had to get sorted before we could get on the pace.
Getting used to the wheels and tyres was top of the agenda; this went hand in hand with getting comfortable on what was a very challenging track. Focusing on my riding was at the forefront of my mind, and I concentrated so hard that it actually started to make my eyes water!
We began to get a good base setting with the bike, and despite the changeable track conditions, I was posting my fastest laps of the weekend throughout the session, and began to find new more comfortable lines around the circuit.
I also began to adjust my body position a lot more, weighting the pegs and keeping my body over the front of the bike, to help stop the bike wheeling every time it hit a crest. It all seemed to work, and again helped to improve the lap times.
With the tyres very much past their best I posted my fastest lap, thanks to really focusing on pushing the front into turns hard, and using the extra grip the slicks give. It also made the bike more stable and inspired me with a lot more confidence.
Sunday – Qualifying
Qualifying didn’t go brilliantly, even if we did take two seconds off the best lap we had posted, but we had made a huge step forwards with the bike and my riding. And when it was considered the massive deficit to everyone else on the grid, in terms of track time, we were very much where we needed to be.
Monday – Race 1
Again we were greeted by some changeable and uncertain weather conditions, and the track was very much in between dry and wet. We opted for intermediates for the race, and due to the crash and having only one extra set of wheels, we took a set of wets, thinking the track would not dry up.
I made a good start and instantly thought I’d made the right tyre decision. I got by a group of guys at the Hizzy chicane, and then began to pull up to the back of the next group. I was feeling pretty good, and happy at the pace, then the red flags came out.
Everyone else switched to slicks, something we couldn’t do.
On the restart I pushed as hard as I could but by the end of lap two it was apparent the tyres were overheating and going off very quickly. It became so slippery and really unsafe. I didn’t want to risk another fall, so retired form the race.
Monday – Race 2
Race two was completely dry and thus with slicks fitted, I was feeling good. The start was manic, but I found a way through and settled into a good rhythm. I began to pick up the pace and was lapping again faster than I’d previously done. I was sitting with most of the Cup guys and the bike began to stutter and drop in and out of ignition. It happened more and more often and eventually got to the point where opening the throttle more than 25% and the bike would simply cut out. It was dangerous and thus I had to again retire.
It was a bad end to a weekend that once again, went against us. We have had so much bad luck this season, but I know we also have made some great progress. We are beginning to find out what works in terms of set-up and I am starting to ride the bike like a Superbike, not like a stocker. It’s still going to be a massive mountain to climb, but I’m sure that if we can keep up the morale and keep taking steps forward, we’ll be there soon.