More Positive Results for MIST Suzuki Racing at Oulton Park
After missing nearly two thirds of the British SuperBike season due to the last minute loss of vital pre-season sponsors MIST Suzuki opted to return to the championship for the final round.
For the triple header at Oulton Park the team drafted in Australian Chris Seaton as early season regular Dave Anthony was had other commitments.
Facing the complex Cheshire circuit for the first time was daunting enough but it became clear after the first track session that something was amiss with the bike. After several long conversations with the Ohlins suspension experts some significant suspension changes were tried but Chris bravely struggled on with a major handling problem all the way through practice and qualifying.
After being left in 9th place in the Evo class after qualifying there was little time to try more settings with under two hours before the first race. Chris continued to improve as his circuit knowledge improved and he managed a lonely ride to 7th place in the class despite the problems.
With no other options the team worked with Ohlins to investigate the high quality gas forks only to find the problem, a distinct lack of gas. To compound the problem a damaged oil seal was also discovered in one fork preventing the suspension from giving the necessary support to allow the bike to hold a line or turn accurately.
Team Manager Mike Edwards: “Chris and the team worked extremely hard to resolve the handling issues that plagued the first couple of days. Once we found the problem it was obvious that when Dave had slid off the bike in practice at Cadwell Park at the last round in April he must have damaged the suspension but without anyone else riding the bike there was no way to know. As this was his first time Chris wasn’t able to pin point the issue so we were all extremely relieved when the guys at Ohlins eventually found the problem.”.
The warm up on Sunday morning was a much more confident affair but eight minutes before the first race of the day didn’t give enough time to get a good direction on the suspension settings for the race. The fact that the forks were now working well meant that all the set up data from the first two days was wasted so Chris took a gamble and took his place on the grid.
A great start saw Chris battle through the pack until he was comfortably in fourth place. As the laps went on he was soon chasing down the third place rider and everyone was hopeful of a podium finish. Championship leader Tommy Hill was having a disastrous race that ended with his bike depositing oil on the track causing the next four Evo racers, including Chris, to crash in the unexpected slippery conditions. A great team effort saw the bike repaired in time for the restart but this time Chris has to settle for fourth place.
The opportunity to change the suspension based on some good feedback from Chris and the data logging system improved the bike once again and, coupled with an excellent start, soon saw Chris up in third place in the second race of the day. Soon settling in to a strong rhythm Chris was able to lap at the same speed as the race leaders and once eventual race winner Hudson Kennaugh gapped champion elect Steve Brogan Chris was soon closing on second place.
A small error let James Hillier past only for Chris to wisely tail him for a lap to work out the best place to pass. On the last lap Chris made his move around the outside at Island Bends only for Hillier to sit his bike up hitting Seaton and pushing him right to the edge of the track and on to the rumble strip. This allowed Gary Johnson to also come through relegating poor Chris from third to fifth position.
Mike Edwards said: “We all felt so sorry for Chris not to get on the podium when he had two strong chances to do so. He improved every time he got on the bike and once the fork problem was fixed he was able to demonstrate just how good a rider he is. I am sure had we identified the problem on the first day that Chris would have been challenging for the lead in the races.”.
He added: “Despite all the set backs and financial issues we have had a great season in the Evo class. We’ve completed races on three different circuits, still hold two lap records, secured two race wins and had other podium finishes along the way. I like to think that we could have won the championship had we been able to secure the funding to contest the whole series and are already working hard to secure the necessary sponsorship for the 2011 season”.
The team would like to thank Chris for working so hard over the weekend and always putting on a brave face despite some of the issues we faced. Thanks must also go to our main mechanic, Graham Ledger, plus all the other people that have helped us along the way. Thanks also to Tim Seed for the help and advice on the electronics at each round.
Also thanks to those sponsors that did stick by us all season, including GPR for their steering dampers, Silkolene for the oil, HEL Performance for the brake and oil lines, Stomp for the tank grips and Moto GB for their help with the Leo Vince exhausts.
Roll on 2011.