Brands Hatch, UK – Race

Matt Bond, 03/08/07 – 05/08/07
FIM European Superstock 1000 Cup
Round 8

Friday – First Practice

Despite not having tested either the new engine or at the Brands Hatch I was still confident that we’d have a good weekend, at a track that pretty much represented my home round.

First practice went well and I felt comfortable on the bike straight away, even with the engine still feeling tight and laggy, but still top end wasn’t too bad, having not rode for what seemed like months, it felt like a ballistic missile with handle bars! I think I’d forgotten just how fast these bikes really are!

The track was completely different to the previous year on the 600. Everything felt much faster, bumpier, more cambered and generally just a little bit crazy to tell you the truth! I loved every second of it and would seriously describe the place as a small piece of heaven on earth! I’m sure some people would have been whinging about the bumps, but it just made things a little bit more exhilarating in my view.

Lap times were good and once again I found myself inside the top 20, in a respectable 18th place, even though I wanted to be higher up I was pleased with the positives in the session, and knew there was more to come form me and the bike.

Friday – First Qualifying

Relaxing and focusing on just make lots of small improvements in each section of the track were the aims for the session. It was simple really, and after only what seemed a short few minutes I was into the pits to change tyres, only they weren’t sticker, and therefore we couldn’t go out on them. No-one could find them and therefore I had to finish the session on very used rubber.

It wasn’t ideal but I clocked my fastest time on the last lap, which was good but I was right near the tail end of the field and less than happy.

The stickers had decided to fall down the back of the tool box, which no-one even thought of looking in, but it wasn’t that bad, at least I’d get new tyres for every other session over the weekend. And my ideal best time would have lifted me up about 6 places on the grid. So the pace was there, just not all together.

Saturday – Second Practice

New tyres equipped and engine ignition and fuelling remapped, the bike seemed completely different. Much more competitive, more responsive and yet easier to ride. It felt more confident with the bike, and the lap times improved, again boosting my confidence.

A few small adjustments to the suspension to help maintain mid corner grip and front end feel on corner entry were made making the bike feel slightly better, but there was still a definite lack of rear end grip, which a lot of people seemed to be suffering with. Andreani suspension advised more preload on the front of the bike, which we tried, but I didn’t gain enough confidence or feedback from the bike like that so we decided to undo those changes.

Saturday – Second Qualifying

All I had to do was string a good lap together and push everywhere in the process, I needed a good grid slot if I was to have any chance of a top 15 finish and therefore score some points.

I got my head down straight away and instantly bettered my best lap from the previous session, not hard really, but with more to come I still kept pushing further and further and was pleased with the forwards progress.

The bike again got slightly better and the engine was feeling much stronger than previously throughout the weekend, and despite lacking punch out of some of the lower revving and slower pace corners, I was able to stick with a larger majority of the people in front of me, time wise.

I didn’t get a decent tow from anyone, but the small tows I did get seemed to make all the difference and I learnt a lot after just a few laps behind some of the front runners. A few adjustments to the lines I was using made a world of difference, and again my lap time improved, even if the position didn’t improve as much as I’d have liked.

30th on the grid was really not where I wanted to be, but I was still assured by the team it was okay, I’d made a huge improvement form the opening session in terms of lap time, and having not ridden since the opening qualifying at Brno, I was well on the pace with even more to come. I was still ahead of one of the Brit wildcards still though, with Jon Boy Lee struggling somewhat, just behind myself.

Sunday – Race

Warm up in the morning had gone really well, and I was straight back onto the pace I’d been sat at over the previous sessions. The bike was running really good and thanks to some small suspension adjustments from Steve “The Guru” Jordan, I was really happy with the set up we had for the race.

The crowd was huge even if we were the first race of the day and the atmosphere around the place was really intense. It was starting to make me nervous but I just listened to Mike and the team and relaxed. Having my girlfriend Chloe beside me as my grid girl helped calm me down as well. Before I knew it we were starting the warm up lap, and all the worries of the journalists, fans, my friends and family, all seemed to disappear from my mind, and all that I could think about was getting around the first lap safely, but moving forwards too. I got a great start and ran around the outside of loads of the guys who’d started in front of me on the grid. I got squeezed out at Druids however and Graham Hill wasn’t much better, by the end of the lap I’d only passed two people from the start line. I could still see a large group in front of me and I just focused on picking people off one by one.

I’d close on people follow them for a few turns and then dive up the inside on the brakes, or use the drive from the previous turn to slip past. It was going well and I became involved in a battle with Marko Rotthlan, which included some paint swapping moments, but it was all safe and a good laugh to tell you the truth. I made my way through to 21st and then started to catch the MGM Yamahas of Dario Gisupetti and Timo Giesler with just two laps left.

I followed Dario through Paddock Hill bend and he slid slightly wide at Druids so I took the opportunity to go through and the move stuck, and with Giesler within striking distance I made a push to get onto his back wheel.

The last lap and I’d got onto him, and I tried numerous moves before thinking I’d leave it till the last turn and make a move there. I missed a gear however and he got away entering the final straight and beat me to the flag and 19th by a measly 0.019secs.

But I’d got my best result of the year, passed 10 people in total and overall, made a massive jump lap time wise, and had missed out on points by only 5 seconds over a 14 lap race. It was good.

The team was happy and so was I. Despite all the problems from Brno and over the start of the weekend, we’d been able to get right on the pace of the guys in the points, shown up all the wildcard riders who were highly rated back in the UK, and proved we belong at this level. It was good for the team to finally see there tireless work pay off, and the results are starting to come. If we can carry this speed over the end of the year I’m sure we’ll be on for points at each of the final three rounds.

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