Magny Cours, France – Race

Chris Northover, 06/10/06 – 07/10/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Round 10

Last year I had my best race all season at Magny Cours, finishing 19th despite a ridiculously large crash in qualifying, on one of the fastest corners on the track, so I was really keen to do well at this round. Mike and I did a few laps on the pit scooter to pick lines and spot crucial areas on the track.

Matt was still on his way to the track, so unfortunately I had to ride on the back of the paddock scooter with Mike as he did his usual trick of “testing” the kerbs. Whilst a formidable machine for a 16 year old, hassling the local industrial estates (I’ve progressed to bigger toys now!!), the Suzuki Katana 50 will only take so much abuse. He broke it. There was a point, as we stood almost at the furthest point from the pits, trying to get the scooter going, when I almost doubted the wisdom of our lord and leader Mike…

Luckily, the scooter coughed back into life and we were able to carry on checking out the track. After going round a few times, I was itching to get out and ride the next morning.

Once again, I had managed to shotgun (for those not in the know, that’s the new cooler version of bagsy!) a bed in a caravan with the family. I was however less pleased with myself when we actually got to the caravan. Think lots of spiders and Friday 13th woods with a lake and you’re getting close. It was all made better by the blankets supplied by the campsite having BMX bikes on them, shame about the fleas trying to ride them though…

If only Mum and Kirsty were as enthusiastic about the blankets as I was, they might not have laid awake all night, freezing and trying not to think about the spiders.

Friday – Free Practice

I got into the swing of things nice and early on and the lap times just kept dropping right down to a 1’53.336. It was all very smooth and uneventful really, with no drama, no problems and no crashes in front of me, almost takes the fun out! I ended the session 26th and was dumbfounded to discover Matt had somehow pulled a 1’52.408 out of nowhere leaving him 17th, fair play. Git!

Friday – First Qualifying

Once again a quick tweak of the suspension for the afternoons qualifying session was all the bike needed. The go-faster polish was deployed and it was back out again to qualify. The second session was really frustrating and I struggled to match my lap time from the morning, let alone improve it. Praise be to the lap timer though, as seeing the string of 1’54’s made me pull my finger out on the very last lap and get a 1’53.023 bumping me up to 25th on the grid. Yes, 25th. Not 30th, you listening Rich!!?? To be fair to myself however (excuses…?!) even some of the top riders failed to match their pace from the morning session.

The biggest thing that was holding me back was getting the bike out of the slower corners. This was being caused by two things, one in my head and one on the bike! I was entering the tighter corners with too much corner speed, whereas I needed to stop the bike mid corner, turn it and fire it out. I was also making too much of a corner out of the first part of the final chicane, where I needed to concentrate on getting out the left quickly and not worry at all about corner speed. The other problem was with the rear sprocket, which had bizarrely worn into an oval shape causing the chain to appear to have a tight spot, making things a touch interesting for the rear suspension, causing it to impersonate a rocking horse when feeding on the gas.

Saturday – Second Qualifying

Saturday morning was wet and murky leaving us with a slightly damp track in the afternoon for our second qualifying session. This meant that the grid positions from yesterday would stand for the race, as nobody was likely to improve their time in the damp, unless they were crazy. Or British. Or crazy and British. Although I didn’t manage to beat my dry lap time, I got within a tenth of a second of it! Not only that, but I was actually significantly faster in sectors 1 and 3 than I had been in perfectly dry conditions! Such a blatant display of disrespect for the laws of Physics and an apparent disregard for my own safety made me 7th fastest in that session and the fastest Brit, result!

So before the race had even begun we were celebrating on my best qualifying session all year, even if it made no difference to the final grid positions. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing my rain dance for the race, but to no avail. The skies cleared, the sun shone and I was left dancing about like a baboon with ants in his pants.

Saturday – Race

Lining up for the last time this season it was almost worth shedding a tear for the end of the first full season I have ever competed, and the best season ever! A knowing nod to my bro watching beside the start line said it all – we gonna ‘ave it! Well, it was either that or the good luck kiss from Kirst, but one of them did the trick as I left the line on my way to the best race finish of my entire racing career.

After the first lap mayhem, only one crash in front of me this time, I started hunting and soon found myself all over the back wheel of Bostian Pintar. Annoyingly, for three laps I was stuck there; every time I went to overtake, I was greeted with yellow flags; I reckon he must’ve slipped the marshals a few bottles of special Bribery Bordeaux! When I eventually managed to force my way past, I had a hell of a gap to make up to the next group of riders. I got my head down and went for it, reeling them in lap by lap and setting a scorching (if I may say so myself!) lap time of 1’50.5 in the process. Alas Mr Bond and the fellows around him were saved from a CG Armageddon by the chequered flag, good job really, it was going to get messy and I was not about to be beaten!! I was delighted to find out I finished 11th place, setting the 9th fastest lap of the race. YEEEEEHAA!!!

So that’s it. Done. Complete. Bit sad really, next mission is to train like crazy to make myself super fit (and keep me sane in the absence of bike racing over the winter!) and, more importantly, to get enough money in from working and hopefully sponsorship to race again next year. Any help would be very much appreciated, even if it’s only a little, without it I may have to run round the tracks next year!!

Thankyou so much to everyone who has helped out this season, I could never have done this without you:

  • Everyone with a name ending in Northover! You guys are the best family ever!
  • Beckie and The Cornish Contingent of CG racing!
  • Kirsty for looking after me and for keeping me relaxed at the races!
  • Bruv for The Nod
  • Mum, Dad, Roger, Nanny and Grandad for getting me here and fighting off the bank!!
  • Mike for putting up with this wowdy wabble for the whole season.
  • Steve and Sarah Jordan for invaluable advice and help with bikes, bits and highside practice
  • Rage Against The Machine for giving me a soundtrack to my races!
  • The Pirelli guys for looking out for us all season
  • Peter from Sportbike Tyre warmers
  • Matt Bond for target practice
  • Superbike Magazine for the coverage and Gixxer Cup Ride
  • Bike Sport News for the coverage
  • Auntie Angela and Unc. Andre for the website
  • Uncle Rich for sacrificing so much to run round after me at every race
  • Martin and Bretta for the leathers
  • Ros and Pete for their continued support
  • SuperBike News for coverage and friendly (I hope!!) banter at the races
  • Everyone in the paddock who has been so friendly and helpful to me over the year
  • If I’ve forgotten anyone, I’m sorry, so thanks to you guys as well!

Watch this space ‘cos we’re on a mission for 2007!!

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