Magny Cours, France – Race

Matt Bond, 05/10/07 – 07/10/07
FIM European Superstock 1000 Cup
Round 11

Friday – First Practice

After Vallelunga we were pretty confident that we had ourselves prepared and ready to improve on the result from Vallelunga the week previous. We had a few suspension adjustments made by Andreani, apart from that the bike was pretty much how we’d led it after Italy.

The track seemed very different on the big bike compared to the previous year on the 600, everything just seemed a lot more technical and more difficult than before, but it also made the track that much more fun, its something I’d found had happened throughout the year!

We got a fairly decent set-up through the opening session, spending most of it just following the faster guys seeing what lines they were taking, and what they were using for braking and turn in markers. I was struggling a bit to get the bike through the middle section, mainly due to the 180 turn, which was just a pain to get out of at any speed. At least the bike was fairly rapid down the back straight!

Friday – First Qualifying

I was really going to have to push, as with the weather being very unpredictable, we were unsure as to whether or not we’d get another dry qualifying session this weekend. The plan was to do some laps on my own before tagging onto the back of one of the fast guys for as long as possible and see what happened.

The first few laps went well, and the times were a big improvement on what I’d done in the morning session, due to improve track conditions and a better set-up. I came into the pits about 15 minutes into the session just to check the lap times and make sure the tyres were at the right pressure and make a couple of adjustments to the front of the bike as it was a little unstable on the brakes.

Back on track for a few more laps and the bike was much more settled and was a lot easier to stop and turn when trail braking into some of the tighter turns on the course. It helped extensively at the hairpins, of which there are many at Magny Cours, along with numerous tightening turns. I was struggling for rear end grip so entered the pits to fit the new rear tyre.

With the new tyre fitted I had about ten minutes to put in a good lap and after half a circuit, and with the tyre scrubbed in, I latched onto the back of fellow Brit Adam Jenkinson and used him to tow me. All was looking great as I set my best sector times in the final two sections behind him but then as I started a new fast lap it all went bang, literally.

The bike suddenly began to slow and then totally locked up as I entered the first turn. I quickly grabbed the clutch and free-wheeled to the side of the track and lent the bike up against the tyre wall as I joined the marshals on their post. I trudged back to the pits, fairly pissed off to say the least, but I was cool enough to accept that it wasn’t the teams or my own fault and that we couldn’t have stopped the problem anyway.

Saturday – Second Practice

With the replacement engine fitted and re-mapped, we were ready to try n make some improvements and get further up the field on the second day of competition.

The engine wasn’t as strong as the previous one, making it a bit more difficult to get out of the turns as hard as I’d have liked, and it gave people the chance to get away from me, but it just helped me improve corner entry and mid turn speed and also enabled me to get on the throttle sooner, although twisting it harder took a while to adjust to. If I’d have dome it before it would have gotten me a few more air miles I’m sure!

We managed to get some decent lap times in towards the end of the session, and made a few more adjustments to help keep the bike settled on the early acceleration, and to help keep the spin minimal as I was powering on while the bike was still on its side.

Saturday – Second Qualifying

I really needed to get my head down for this session; it was going to be the last chance I got to improve my grid slot. The plan was simple, two or three laps on the old tyres before sticking in our final new set and really going for it.

I felt comfortable after my first few laps out and the bike seemed really smooth and controllable, and fast, which was key. I entered back into the pits right away and got the new tyre fitted to the rear of the bike.

I went for it from the opening lap on the new tyre and I just pushed that little bit harder at every turn, let the bike slide and skip when it wanted to, and basically just go for the, “it’s either pole or coming back in a van” mentality. I managed to go faster by a fair chunk, but lady luck didn’t help much and I didn’t improve on my grid slot. Bugger.

Sunday – Race

Once again I was starting from a slot on the grid which really didn’t make my job any easier, hey, why should I change things this far into the season? Ha-ha. Either way I had a plan, simply put, I AM going forwards!

From the start I was pushing and barging my way through the field and by the time we’d got onto the back straight I’d already leap-frogged most of the guys form the two rows in front of me! The slipstreaming down the back straight when your behind some 30-plus bikes is a totally extreme experience, and the extra speed you carry is amazing. Hitting the brakes it was a case of miss everyone around you and hope they attempt to do the same. Unlike last season, I didn’t have a Yamaha come flying past me totally locked up, and we all made it round the hairpin without and real problems. That was my biggest and only real worry!

From then on I got onto the tail of the group just ahead of me and we enjoyed some really close moments and exchanging of positions lap after lap. I managed to keep with the group until getting stuck behind a very unpredictable and sideways wildcard rider. It was impressive to watch him backing it in everywhere, but he was overtake, and once I was through I just tried to gap him, which I did.

After a few laps on my own I could feel him closing in, and with no-one close enough in front of me, I just aimed on being consistent and not allowing the guys behind me to get through.

With a few laps to go I noticed that I was beginning to rapidly catch the bike ahead of me, that being Dan Sutter. I desperately wanted to catch and pass Dan, but despite closing in by a massive amount of time each lap, I couldn’t quite get close enough to mount an attack, but fortunately, I didn’t get passed either, and was happy to come home safe and with a decent result.

After a few celebratory wheelies, and no burnouts (for a change), that was it, season over for 2007. It was a great year for myself and the MIST team and I really enjoyed the challenges I faced throughout the season, and the places I got to race and the people I got to race against, it was an mind-blowing year for me.

A huge thanks go to everyone involved with the team throughout the year:

  • MIST Suzuki Racing – Mike Edwards for being inspirational and a cracking manager for the second year running (not even financial ruin can stop us now boss!)
  • GPR Stabilizer – Jeff Norman & Co, for the best dampers and moral support
  • Steve Jordan Motorcycles – Steve & Sarah for everything you done this year, suspension and race kit was fantastic
  • – Simon & Laura for the photos and laughs
  • Louise Cain & Frank Duggan for being great friends and supporters
  • Alan & Ron for always being there
  • Graham for looking after “Shrimpy Racing” while we were away
  • All my friends and supporters who came throughout the year
  • Chloe for putting up with all my antics throughout the season
  • And a huge thanks to Mum, Dad, Lewis & Samantha, you guys really are the backbone of my racing, I couldn’t do it without you and can’t thank you enough for what you all done and gave up for me

Cheers guys, and see you all in 2008!

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