Valencia, Spain – Test

Gareth Jones, 21/03/08 – 24/03/08

After arriving in the UK 2 weeks ago, I was eager to get on a bike and get some testing in before Round 1 at Valencia in Spain. Up until only a few days before we left Australia, it was our intention to come to the UK and ride in the R1 Cup, running in conjunction with the British Superbike Series.

However, we became aware of the Mist Suzuki team and shortly after speaking with them, we were keen to race the FIM European Superstock Cup aboard Mist Suzuki’s GSXR 1000 K8. We met with Mike, the team boss, shortly after landing and discussed testing with the team at Valencia. All went well and we booked our flights to Valencia the next day. I was looking forward to the opportunity to ride this series as it was fast tracking my goal, which was to look at this series for 2009.

We arrived at Valencia for the test and met my team mate Matt Bond. I was quite excited about getting onto the track and hopefully start getting the bike sorted for Round 1, only a week and a half later. I had no doubts that this was definitely going to be a hard task as I’ve never ridden a Suzuki and never ridden a European track before. So there were a lot of things to get right and not a lot of time to do so. Mike and Matt made me feel very welcome in the team and we were all eager to get the bikes sorted.

I got the basics in position and headed onto the track, keeping in mind we had 4 days to get it working, so a slow and steady approach would be the way to go. I spent quite a few laps getting a feel for everything and coming in to make changes every few laps, just to get the best possible feel for the bike and reaction to changes. Day 1 went quite well and on the last lap of the day I had brought my time down to a 1:41.7. I was happy as I knew we had a long way to go with the bike and with myself getting comfortable on it.

The following day we started out with a fresh set of tires and continued to change some geometry in the first session, however only a few laps into the second session as I came into turn 1, which is pretty fast, I changed my line to avoid some traffic, and I moved out onto some cracker dust that had been put down the day before after some oil was dropped. This resulted in a fast crash. The front just folded like I was on a wet track when I was almost straight up and down on the brakes. I end up deep into the gravel of turn 1 and surprisingly I didn’t really injure myself apart from a hyper extended wrist. The crash caught me totally by surprise so I was really annoyed and frustrated to see the new bike looking pretty messy. It was not great, but fixable at the track. Dad later informed me I did a 1.40.1 on that lap.

I didn’t feel good about this at all, especially as it was my first test with the team, but these things happen in racing and Mike and my Dad got straight onto getting the bike back together. Unfortunately my luck didn’t get much better and I wasn’t able to get back on track that day. The next day we put a fresh set of tires in to start the day, however when I went out we had a really bad vibration coming from the rear of the bike, especially around right hand corners. Finding this very strange, it took some time to eliminate a lot of possibilities, and we eventually found the tire to be out of round! How’s the luck. I understand this isn’t uncommon, although I have never come across it before. Out the window went that set of tires and in went an old set. I had one more new set left and one more full day so I didn’t do too many more laps in order to save tires until we had the bike feeling better. I had a lot of trouble getting a comfortable setup, my major problem being an almost complete lack of front end feel. We didn’t have the facilities to make an internal change so Mike and I persisted with what we had for this test knowing that we could make the necessary changes for the race round a week later.

Next day came and we didn’t get on track until around lunch time as the track temp was cold and wind was quite strong. We tried another geometry change in the afternoon and finally threw in out last set of tires when there was next to nothing left on what we had, this was a good exercise to get a feel for the Suzuki on worn tires.

Once again I headed out and found the vibration was back again. I came straight in and didn’t think it was possible to get 2 tires out of round. This time, not nearly as pronounced, but still there. Nevertheless I went back on track, put 2 more laps in and to my surprise broke into the 39’s. All in all, it was a very trying time, and with all things considered it certainly was not one of the best tests I’ve done. Mike was very helpful and did his best to get everything the way I’d like it. So I’m sure it will be onwards and upwards from here, and I’m very eager to get on the track and amongst it at Round 1. I’m confident of getting the Suzuki sorted to suit my riding style, and I’m looking forward to working closer with the Mist Suzuki team.

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