Matt Bond, 03/04/08 – 06/04/08
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Friday – First Practice
After the testing we had done a couple of weeks ago, I think both Gareth and I were in the same mind set of being able to go straight out and be on the pace. We’d both been happy with the set-up we had and couldn’t wait to get out and get stuck in to things with the entire field.
As soon as I got on track the bike felt completely different. The bike just seemed to be running with everywhere and the front felt very light, with little in the way of feedback. It was an odd feeling so we tried a few clicks here and there to get it settled, but nothing really seemed to do the trick.
We made a couple more changes to get the front to bite into the turns, and we found some decent front end feeling, but we were well off the pace we had done during testing and the bike still wasn’t right.
Friday – First Qualifying
With a few words of advice and changes to the set-up thanks to Andreani the suspensions gurus, I was determined to get back up to the pace I knew I could run. We’d planned how to use the tyres in advance, so that wasn’t a worry, just how long the tyres would last however, that was a different matter all together, one we’d suffer through the weekend.
After a few decent laps I pitted to change the tyres, in then hope of using them during the last fifteen minutes to pull me higher up the grid. The track was feeling different to the morning session, lots more mid turn grip, but a lot less on the exit, making it very hard to get out and on the gas hard. Something we needed due to the front end problems we were encountering.
I managed to string some good times together and put in a much improved time, but I was still having some problems getting into the initial part of the turn, with the bike feeling like it was rising up and going loose. We used the last part of the session to improve bike set up as after six laps, the rear tyre was well and truly past it best state!
Saturday – Second Practice.
A change of springs was the biggest difference to the bike from the previous day, along with a small geometry change on the front end, done by lifting the entire front up, dropping the forks back through the top yoke by 4mm.
It made the bike more stable and more agile, and improved the turn in as well as the rear end grip, but the bike was still running on when entering turns, although to a lesser extent. I tucked in behind Rene Mahr on the KTM for a few laps and it helped me improve my lines in the mid section of the track, especially through the fast flip flop chicane towards the end of the lap. I was now turning later and harder.
Saturday – Second Qualifying.
It was all or nothing for last qualifying. Whatever the problems, whatever the obstacles, I had to just bite the bullet and get the thing out and round the track as fast and as hard as I could. This was the last chance I was going to get to move up the grid.
A few laps just to bed myself into things and then I entered the pits and put the new rubber into the bike. A few quick adjustments by Andreani just to hold the front end down and then it was back out on circuit. One out lap, three hard laps and then in, that was the plan.
The out lap was good with the bike feeling almost spot on, the first flying lap was good and then I decided to really push it on the start of the second fast lap. Turn one was fantastic, perfect line and faster than before, with a bit of a slide that kept going till I braked for turn two, which I got spot on, and then I was met by a wall of riders going really slow and debris everywhere as Matej Smrz had just obliterated his Honda. It stuffed that lap up so I rode into the pits.
I took a quick breather thought about where I had to push it and went back out, but after three quarters of a lap the tyre once again the went off and I had to battle to improve my time. I did but by a tiny margin and I found myself 31st on the grid. Not where I wanted to be. A second would have put me 20th.
Sunday – Race
I had only one plan for the race, to go forward and go forward as fast as I could and get with faster groups higher up the grid. Dive up the inside at turns one, two and three and then just see what happens when we get through from there.
I made a mediocre start, managing to get squeezed a bit too tight and boxed out but gained some places at turns two and three, and then settled in behind a couple of guys down the back straight. I made another place on the brakes at the back hairpin and then settled in an old rival of mine, Marko Rothlaan, with whom I’d had some excellent battles through 2007.
At turn three I slipped past Rothlaan and then fended him off at turns four and five as he tried to retaliate, and then tagged onto the rear of Jonathan Gallina on the ZX10 Kawasaki. I followed him and the group ahead for the rest of the lap, and was right behind Gareth when he decided to take the scenic route at the final turn, taking to the gravel at quite a fair rate of knots!
The next few laps were a bit of a blur with Gallina and myself swapping positions and paint at most of the turns on the track, while we battled to close in on the few riders ahead. I managed to get a small gap, but by the ninth lap my rear tyre was spinning everywhere, and I had to be cautious getting on the gas everywhere, allowing Gallina to close in once again.
The final lap was great fun, swapping positions at every corner with Gallina, getting up close and personal on more than one occasion! I managed to pass him at turn four, only to lose the front and have to hold it up on my knee, allowing him back through, at which point I thought it was all over. But I kept on him through the rest of the lap and just thought id try out-dragging him to the finish. My plan worked perfect, as I managed to get just enough of a tow a whipped past, taking 22nd place in the process.
A climb of 9 places from my starting position, and I was fairly happy, after what was a really difficult weekend for us. We made some great progress however, and the teams looking forward to Assen, which should suit our bikes a lot better! I cant wait for it either!