Matt Bond, 04/08/06 – 06/08/06
European SuperStock 600 Championship
Friday – Free Practice
After two disappointing rounds in a row I was well fired up and ready for Brands, pretty much my home round of sorts and thanks to a superb track day, which was to prove invaluable, I was totally focused on getting a decent result, not only for myself but the entire team.
I started practice at a decent pace and gradually built it up and up, getting used to which lines were working and how the bike felt. I also done a little bit of line experimentation by running in purposefully too deep and wide or too tight, just to get an idea of how to get round the turn well, if I make a mistake and not lose too much time.
After tagging onto the back of Davide Guigliano and finding his pace not too hard to keep I set about slamming in some good lap times. It seemed to work really well and the bike felt absolutely superb, with hardly a wheel out of place round the entire circuit, it just felt so smooth and flowing.
I decided to just finish the session early as I wanted to save the tyres for first qualifying and also to stop any of the other guys following my lines too closely. I was chuffed to pieces when I rolled into the pit lane and Steve signalled to me that I was fifth fastest. I was kind of in shock and didn’t really believe him until I checked for myself, and then a smile came across my face. Just knowing that we were at the top of the time sheets was an awesome feeling.
Friday – First Qualifying
After the first session on track I was more than ready to get myself the best qualifying of the season and it all started poorly! I spent the first fifteen minutes of the session just fooling about and was giving people a tow round the track, which I really shouldn’t have been doing at all. Fortunately a red flag came out and having returned to the pits boss man Mike gave me a useful word or two in my ear and it worked a treat.
Back on track and it began to work better than before and the times started to come together, with little improvements in every sector lap after lap. I just focused on pushing into, through and out of every turn a little more each lap and by the end of the session I was really working hard just to keep the bike on the right line as I began to push the tyres to their limit.
As the session began to end the bike began sliding everywhere as the rear tyre struggled to grip, after a severe amount of power being put through it for the last 25 minutes was beginning to take its toll. Fortunately it stayed together just enough for me to set my best time with a lap to spare, and I was pleased to end the session 6th fastest, with only Simeon getting in front of me, after him missing the entire first session with an oil leak. It was good to be up with the fast guys for a change, rather than languishing down the bottom end of the table as had been the norm for the last rounds.
Saturday – Second Qualifying
I was determined to improve on Fridays time and I so wanted to get onto the front row for the following days race, but it just wasn’t to be. I spent the entire session riding like a lemon to sum it up. I just couldn’t find my rhythm I didn’t focus on getting a tow from one of the guys in front of me and even when I did try I ended up either tailing them from too far behind or on a lap where they messed up or even on one of their in laps. Then when I tried pushing the times on my own my concentration just wasn’t there and I made mistakes everywhere and began to over ride the bike.
After returning to the pits to try and sort my head out there were only four minutes left and a rather stern word or two in my ear from Mike just flicked the switch and instantly I stuck in my fastest lap and then caught a tow from Simeon. I managed to stay with him for the entire lap and was on for fifth and then I completely muffed up Stirling’s, lost the rear on the brakes and only just managed to make the turn, but kept it pinned and crossed the line setting an even better time but the slide cost me dearly.
I slipped into ninth and the third row and was well gutted and I could see the disappointment in the teams eyes, I felt so bad not only for myself but for them mainly, even with the joy of the years best qualifying it still seemed like a poor result. I needed another lap really, and I’d have been sorted!
Mike and myself sat down afterwards and analysed the sector times and it all made sense as to what I could have done if I hadn’t made that mistake and it certainly cleared my mind and made me feel a lot more settled and confident for the race. I just began to think about a plan for the race and visualise it all.
Sunday – Race
After a fairly sleepless night just trying to plan for the race and trying to think about lines and where to pass if I got the chance, I was ready. Rolling out onto the sighting lap and looking around the circuit as I toured towards the grid I could just notice how many of the 120,000 plus people had stayed, and it was kind of frightening!
On the grid was superb, I could actually see the starting lights for the first time all season! And the added bonus of Frank’s wonderful grid girl made it even better, cheers to him and www.superbike-news.co.uk for sorting that one! I owe you fella! Sitting on the grid the media frenzy was somewhat overwhelming and just looking to the side and seeing more people than I could ever count made it all seem surreal, but at the same time made me realise that I had a big task at hand as well. Mike calmed me down and told me to focus in and visualise, whilst ignoring everything else around me (seemed a blooming hard thing to do at the time) and dad just said be smooth. It all worked and I just blanked it all out.
Once the grid was cleared I can honestly say that I was more nervous than for any other race I had been in and I’m sure that a tear of joy was in my eye as we were flagged away for the warm up lap. I just got the tyres scrubbed right to the edge and nice and hot and as I rolled into my grid slot I just re told myself the plan for the first turn. Next thing I know the lights are out and I made the start I wanted and made it into the first turn in about fifth place. The first laps a pretty much a blur and all I remember is getting my head down until entering Druids, Guigliano decided to use me as his brakes and literally smacked my arms off the bars! I just managed to save it but it shook me up, despite trying to get my own back he began to disappear, especially on the straights, damn that bike was fast, but maybe he was just getting out of the turn harder, I’ll never know.
The next lap Michal Savary passed me under yellows and I was well and truly pissed off by it as he didn’t pull over to let me back past. I got stuck behind him for what seemed like ages and I just couldn’t out-brake him due to the gaps he was getting on the straights, and that was definitely to do with his blooming fast bike! Once I finally got close enough I divided past at Paddock and set about catching Dan Sutter, which I quickly done but just couldn’t find the right line to pass him. It was a great little battle and he finally left me a gap at Druids and it was too good an opportunity, and I just ran in so hot, and how I stopped I really don’t know, but it worked! Next few laps I spent really charging and trying to catch Ondre Jezek and by the last lap I was closing in to striking distance, despite trying to keep Sutter behind! Exiting Stirlings I was close, but not close enough and had to let it go, there was no chance I could have made the pass safely, and thought that points would be better than a battered body and broken bike. So I settled for the place and crossed the line in seventh with Sutter right beside me in eighth and Jezek just in front in sixth.
I was so delighted to get a decent finish I just punched the sir with joy all the way up the hill to Druids, and then dully stopped to do a monster burnout! Which I duly copied for all the groups of fans all the way round the track! Some also got an additional wheelie down the back straight as an added bonus!
It felt awesome to return to a smiling, happy team and the improvement in places just made all the weekends work worth it. Seeing Chris come home in the points too bought a smile to my face. But for me being the first Brit home and with my first top ten of the year I was never gonna stop grinning like a Cheshire cat. It was the best day of my career thus far and has really inspired me to do it at every round form now on. No more excuses, just results, and with a great team around me I know its gonna be possible! Watch this space!
Lastly I’d just like to thank all the following people for making the weekend one of the most memorable and enjoyable one to date:
- MIST Suzuki Race Team
- T&J Commercial Repairs
- Steve Jordan Motorcycles
- S&B Commercials
- Nick & Matt @ Feridax
- Frank Duggan and Mike Hill @ www.superbike-news.co.uk
- Louise Cain @ www.petrol-heads.co.uk
- Simon Bradley @ www.motorbikestoday.com
- Mike Edwards for his inspirational words and management skills
- Steve Jordan for suspension set up the gods couldn’t better
- Everyone for their congrats and kind words
- All the fans at the track for the support
- All the fans at home cheering me on and texting me throughout the weekend
- And the biggest thanks to Mum & Dad, whose tireless help, support and hard work has got me to where I am. I owe you so much I’m glad that we finally got where we deserved to be.
Cheers guys and see you at Assen in a few weeks!