Matt Bond, 26/05/06 – 28/05/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Friday – Free Practice
Having never ridden on the international configuration of the circuit meant I was at somewhat of a disadvantage to some of the riders who competed on the circuit the previous year, but I was still hopeful of another decent finish.
Straight away though it was raining, “oh bugger”, was my first thought after the first time out on the bike in the wet at Monza where it all went a little wrong to say the least. But with Mike assuring me it would all be fine if I just took my time, used my head and built up the pace I began to feel more settled. I got out onto the circuit and used the first few laps to find my way round and feel how the bike was. The engine seemed to be running a lot better than in previous rounds thanks to Steve Jordan Motorcycles paying for and fitting a new kit head gasket, cheers Steve, made a huge improvement mate and a dyno run just to check the engine map, cheers to the Mark and the guys at DynaPro for that one! After a few laps I pulled in just to relay the info about the bike to the team and had a few adjustments made to the bike due to front end being fairly unstable mid-corner. I got back onto the circuit and everything felt , much more comfortable and after tailing onto the back of Frank Millet I began to string together some much improved lap times, eventually ending up 23rd, which was about the norm we have experienced so far this year. The worst thing to happen during the session came just after I past Chris and had a huge slide and got thrown out of the seat, how I managed to hang on, I don’t know, but Chris reassured me he had a good laugh to himself over my misfortune. Arse!
Friday – 1st Qualifying
At least it was dry for the opening qualifying stint, and I was feeling confident on improving position towards at least the top 20. After nearly forgetting to attach the tyre stickers before going on track I flew on circuit with a few minutes of the session gone. I done a few laps then entered the pits and had Steve make some small adjustments to the forks, which made all the difference. The bike was just so much better everywhere! It held the line a lot better, was more stable mid turn and was easier to ride overall.
Towards the end of the session I just decided to go for it, and miraculously the lap times dropped by nearly two seconds! Guess Mike’s little talks are starting to pay off! It just felt like someone had flicked a switch in the back of my head and I was amazed at how much easier it was to go quick than I had previously thought.
The rest of the session is pretty much a blur and all I can remember is just having some really good slides into and out of the turns at almost every turn and changing the steering damper settings due to some major tank-slappers down the back straight.
It was nice to return to the pits and see Mike smiling and happy with what I’d done and when he told me id just sneaked into the top 20 I was stoked, only to then get bump back to 23rd as the final few riders crossed the line and put their fastest laps in during the final seconds of the session. Gits! At least I knew we had a good setting for Saturdayâ€™s second qualifying and knew I could go just that little bit faster.
Saturday – 2nd Qualifying
Well, the weather wasn’t on our side and it literally chucked it down just before and then during the second qualifying session and I just didn’t feel confident or at all safe onboard the bike throughout the 30 minutes I was on track.
I’m guessing we just need to work on the set up of the bike for wet conditions as I just had no confidence at all in the front end of the machine and just couldn’t get it to settle during the turns. In all the session was made more difficult by the amount of laying water on track, I could have probably gone quicker of someone would have given me an outboard motor! It was so deep in places Iâ€™m surprised we were allowed on track at all! Anyways, we still got faster and faster and used the time as best we could and we started to get the bike feeling much better, but we still seem to be lacking something. We are heading in the right direction though, so thatâ€™s a major positive.
I ended the session 27th, but fortunately no one went any quicker than in the dry, well would b sill y if they did, so grid stayed the same as it was set on Friday, so another 6th row start for me, I’m getting used to being 30 metres behind the front guys before the race has even started!
Sunday – Race
Sitting on the grid, tyre warmers on the bike and microphone right in my face, welcome to your home round at WSBK! That’s the impression I got from everything. We had planned to get a good start, get as far forward as possible and follow the leading bunch; there was just the small matter of 30 other guys having exactly the same idea.
I must admit I was a little sneaky on the grid, having watched the other races get off the line I had figured the red lights were on for roughly four seconds before they went out, so I just estimated it and dropped the clutch! I got off the line pretty well and entered the first turn a few places higher and thenâ€¦..smack. Will Gruy decided I was good target practice and clipped my rear end, luckily he was the only one who went down and I exited the corner pretty much unscathed only to run out wide and nearly into the side of Chris! If it wasnâ€™t for the fact he was my team mate id have just kept running out, but I thought itâ€™d be better that time to force the bike down lower and ride round him! The first lap was manic with people and bikes three or four a breast everywhere. And Chris was still right there behind me, how? Heâ€™s never usually that close and then when he divided past at Abbey, I thought, to myself â€œyou still there?â€ and had a small chuckle as I got back round him on the exit. We began to chase down Daniel Beretta and Bjorn Pintar and it was the four of us nose to tail for a good four laps and after Beretta got ahead and began to gap us I decided I had to break through as well but by the time I got past Pintar, Beretta was well in the distance. I put my head down and began to close on him and was up to 14th until the red flags came out, gutted. As we had only completed half the race we had to run a two part race over another six laps, something Iâ€™d never done before.
I got another good start and was once again ahead of where I had started and by the end of the opening lap was up to 11th and could still see the leading pack, with Barry Burrell just ahead of me I was spurred on to go even harder. I put in the best laps I had done all weekend but got stuffed up through Becketts and slipped down to 13th and this was where I stayed to the flag, beating Beretta on track, but dropping behind him on aggregate timing, meaning I ended up 14th, just getting two points once again! Best bit for me though was finding that I can ride with the guys up in the top 10, I just need to get myself with them right from the start of the weekend. Also seeing Chris finish right behind me and score his first points was also quite cool.
Overall it was an awesome weekend once again and I cant thank Steve Jordan enough for the help he gave us on suspension set up, he’s now given me a bike I’m really comfortable and confident on. If I can get my qualifying sorted I’m sure I can run up with the top boys and challenge for top tens, I just need to go quick from the opening lap of free practice. Bring on Misano!