A year in review…

After a successful inaugural year racing in the European SuperStock 600 class in 2006 MIST Suzuki Racing began preparations for 2007 early. Having agreed terms with two riders back in August it was just a formality of signing the contracts in time for the November deadline and looking for sponsorship.

With contracts signed on time and commitment from Suzuki and Ohlins to deliver us the new for 2007 GSXR1000K7 before they were available to the public along with Ohlins making sure we would have the first 25mm fork internal kits and TTX36 rear shocks we were all set. Or so we thought…

With delays getting the GSXR1000K7 ready due to parts availability plus the World SuperBike organisers opting to add an additional date at Donington Park it meant things would be ready later than we planned and the first round would be much earlier than we planned. The GSXR600K7 had been available for a while but things were delayed waiting for the rider to pay the first installment of the money they owed the team before testing could begin.

The GSXR1000K7 arrived about six weeks before the first round but it was several weeks before the suspension arrived and could be fitted. With no bodywork available we had to heavily modify a fairing from an earlier model bike and adapt a seat unit from our 600 from last season. With less than two weeks remaining before the first round we went testing albeit with the stock exhausts and our temporary fairing.

By some bizarre coincidence our 600 rider was there riding an R6. Curiouser and curiouser. After confronting his Dad we were assured that they had no other plans and that they had been having meetings with sponsors and had one more planned in order to get everything sorted. It was a surprise then to see the same rider appear in the press announcement for the R6 Cup the following day. Mmmm, ten days to go before the first round and no rider. Yikes!

Arrow and the UK importer, B & C Express, did a sterling job of making us an exhaust and shipping it over in time for the first round. Well, it arrived on the Tuesday and we were due to be at the circuit on Thursday morning. The only bodywork we could get was from Sharkskinz in the US and that arrived on Wednesday.

We arrived at Donington Park, unpacked the bike and headed off to pick up the race awnings we had ordered. We managed to get the bike prepared sufficiently to pass scrutineering later that afternoon and then burnt the midnight oil to finish everything else off in preparation for first practice on Friday morning! The GPR Steering Damper was the very first in the country and arrived fresh off the plane on Friday lunchtime.

Hard to believe that it was only 2005 that Matt won the MRO MiniTwins Championship riding a Suzuki SV650 with 72 horse power. 2006 was his first year on a 600 and now we were moving on to a 1000 with 170 plus horse power. Matt has followed the same pattern ever since stepping on to the SV650. Three crashes right at the start of the season while he found his feet followed by a rapid improvement throughout the rest of the season. It happened on the SV650, the GSXR600 and, sure enough, the GSXR1000.

From the first test session through the first two rounds Matt racked up the usual three crashes, including writing off both stock exhausts, a rear wheel and, somehow, the rear shock! Not to mention breaking some small bones in his wrist at Valencia yet still managing to race and finish 23rd despite the pain!

Meanwhile the search for a replacement 600 rider was eventually solved with the signing of South African Chris Leeson. Chris was riding for the official Suzuki team at home and so despite a few rounds where he was required to race for them he was ours for the rest of the season. At the time of writing Chris just needs to finish in the points at the last round in order to win the South African SuperSport 600 Championship! For the rounds where Chris couldn’t make it due to riding in South Africa we gave young Scottish rider Alex Gault the opportunity to ride on the World stage.

Chris joined in time for the Assen round although the bike was still brand new and in the crate on Wednesday morning having just been delivered fresh from Suzuki. It was unpacked, had the road gear removed and the race exhaust system fitted, was run in on the dyno and had the suspension fitted by the end of the day. We arrived at Assen on Thursday lunch time and proceeded to finish building the bike that afternoon. Chris finished in 26th place around 48 hours later!

This may sound like everything was last minute and very disorganised but that is far from the truth. Everything was meticulously planned despite the lack of sponsorship and the large hole in the already miniscule budget left by the withdrawal of the original 600 rider. We really have to thank our sponsors for making the difference between putting together a competitive team and not going racing at all. Without Steve Jordan Motorcycles, S & B Commercials, Teng Tools, B & C Express and numerous other companies there is no way we would have been ready to compete yet alone be as competitive as we have proved to be.

With the team manager making up the shortfall in the budget out of his own pocket it is worth pointing out that MIST Suzuki Racing operated on around one tenth of the budget of the top teams in the SuperStock 1000 championship! The

The key lesson for the year is that not buying or budgeting for certain things is a false economy. For example:

  • We had an engine drop a valve at Brno shortly after we had spent three days testing there whilst Matt was sitting in 12th place during first qualifying. Without a spare Matt was forced to sit out the race and the team was forced to purchase a completely new bike just to make sure we had another engine for the next round two weeks later.
  • With a brand new bike everyone struggled with suspension set up over the first few rounds and our belated investment in bringing the Andreani Group on board for track side suspension support proved invaluable in speeding up our ability to find a good base setting.
  • Not being able to test during some of the longer breaks during the season really hurt us in terms as getting back up to speed at the next round. It would take the first day for the riders to get back in the swing of things which meant other riders were already ahead when we knew they weren’t as good as Matt or didn’t have as good a package behind them.
Matt Bond
Chris Leeson
Alex Gault
Donington Park
Misano Adriatico
Brands Hatch
Magny Cours

* Cancelled race from Silverstone held at the Brands Hatch meeting to the benefit of stand in rider Alex Gault.

Now that the season is over and we can look back the consensus of opinion is that we did remarkably well given the problems we had. Matt moving from a 120 horse power bike to a 175 horse power bike was always going to be a big jump and the difficulties at being let down by our other rider really hurt us in both focus and budget.

We also suffered a great deal of bad luck including the engine blow up, electrical problems and a couple of tyres that proved to be very different to others of the same weekend which cost us a lot of development and set up time. I am confident that without some of these incidents Matt would have been a regular points scorer towards the end of the season but that’s racing.

The ups and downs of racing were demonstrated perfectly at the last round at Magny Cours. Chris was inside the top ten by the first corner and was then forced off the track and in to last place by the second turn. He then fought back putting in the same lap times as the podium finishers to finish in 15th place by the end of the race. Thoughts of what might have been are all very well but but our aim is to bring on young riders and watching Chris and Matt improve over the season has made it all worth while.

Perhaps more importantly, both FG Sport (the organisers behind the World SuperBike Championship) and other teams and riders were impressed with our professionalism, machine performance and overall impact as the largest British team in the whole paddock.

This bodes well for 2008 where we have had enquiries from riders capable of being championship contenders who believe we have what it takes to help them win races plus bike and manufacturers of performance parts who are looking to get involved with the team. We are also looking to focus on the SuperStock 1000 class which would allow us to run a larger team with the resources available to us.

An official announcement of our 2008 plans will be coming shortly. Watch this space…

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