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Chaz Checks In...Brno

After the German GP, it was nice to have a three week break. Last year we had five weeks off which was a bit too long for me but three weeks was about right as I was ready to ride again after a couple of weeks!

I spent the short holiday at home. During the first week my sisters boyfriend Michael Laverty & his brother Eugene came over from Ireland to stay for a few days. Mike rides in the British 600 class & Eugene rides in the British 125cc class & I have known them for quite a few years. We had some fun riding mini-super motards, go-karts & the new Metrakit mini race-replica bikes which my dad has just bought to start a training school for youngsters at our karting circuit.

For the final two weeks I spent a fair bit of time in the woods training on my mountain bike & I also went to a British Enduro Championship event which was about an hour from my house deep in the "Welsh" hills. Me & dad took our KTM motorcross bikes but not to race, only for a taster to see what enduros were all about. I've got to say it was a bit of an eye opener. The course was about 48 miles long. Half the course was in the woods where there were 2ft ruts, up & down hills which I would have to think about before I tried it on a trials bike let alone a motocross bike! I had a go & thankfully there were no disasters but a few close ones! The 2nd half of the course was nice open moor land where you didn't have to worry about riding into a tree stump, just the occasional mud bog! it was hard work but brilliant fun.

We flew into Prague on the Wednesday before the race & again made sure there would be no flight complications by ringing on the Tuesday. When we arrived we asked about a hire car and because it was the middle of summer all the hire-car companies wanted at least £45 or more per day. As the car would be parked up all weekend (we stay with Casey Stoner in their motorhome in the paddock) dad thought this was a waste of money so after a couple of bus journeys we arrived in Prague & it only cost us about £20!

On Thursday I jogged the track with my team-mate Dirk and did a couple of laps on the scooter. I couldn't really remember the track that well from last year because this was the circuit where my handlebar snapped off in qualifying, whilst I was doing about 115mph! I injured my back & didn't get to race. Brno circuit, I think, is also one of the most difficult as well because it is so wide & you can get tricked into using all of the track width when there is no need to. To do a fast lap time the circuit works in a strange way. There are many sweeping left to right corners so you have to slow the bike in the left & keep pulling the bike left as if you are doing a u-turn but then you put the bike into the right at the last minute.

First practice went fairly well, there had been rain in the night so we were riding on a drying track. I ended the session in 14th position with the bike feeling quite comfortable but I knew when the track became fully dry and I pushed a bit harder the bikes handling would change quite a bit. For the afternoons 1st qualifying session, what I thought would happen, did! Just trying to go a little bit faster was making the bike chatter on the front end and it wanted to go wide at most corners. I had to run quite low corner speed just to try and hit the apex of the corner. I also had a bit of a dramatic session as about half way through I came out of the first corner and was fully tucked in when I felt a sharp pain in my neck like it had been cut & vinegar was being rubbed into it! I soon realised it was one of the millions of wasps around the Brno circuit that had stung me. On the same lap out the back of the circuit I heard a 'clunk' and felt something hit my foot. The first thing I did was look at my handlebars as it felt like last year. I was still on the racing line when this happened and nearly got collected by a "campatella" bike! As I moved off the racing line I could see that my 'belly pan' had come loose so I coasted back to the pits hoping the belly pan wouldn't catch on the back wheel and fetch me off. it turned out two of the screws on the one side had come off. I eventually ended the session in 19th position & not particularly happy.

We decided to make fairly big changes for Saturday but during the morning session it was no better. We made more changes for the afternoon and I went slightly faster than I did the previous day but really this was just because I was doing more laps rather than the bike behaving better. At the end of the 2nd qualifying session I was 20th & not where I wanted to be at all. We were scratching our heads because we could not find anything that would make the bike feel better. We had chased the chassis around all day but only managed to find a few tenths. On the last lap I was up on my splits but Anthony West had a crash & the session was red flagged so 20th it was and I had no idea how we could get the bike to go as fast as I needed to in order to get me into the points for the race. We talked to the mechanics again that night and came up with a setting which we thought would work and I was going to give it a try in the mornings warm-up. Basically we had decided to go harder with the front fork springs to keep the front up in the corners & hopefully stop it running wide. I felt quite confident about this setting but after my first lap in warm-up I knew that we had not found a cure for the front end problems. I was very disappointed and after more discussions with my mechanics we decided to take a bit of a risk for the race by putting the bike back to its standard setting & push the forks this time down through quite a bit. this made the bike flatter & we all hoped would hold the line better.

I was pretty nervous before the race as we were going to go with an untried setting but I got a flyer of a start and into the first corner there were no big dramas like I have had at nearly all of the races this year. By the end of the first lap with my good start & passing a few riders I was in 14th position & by lap two I was 13th. The risk we had taken with the set-up worked quite well for about 10 laps. For the first eight laps I was following Matsudo, Bataille & Faubel and I was able to do consistent lap times which were over half a second quicker than what I had managed all weekend and this was with about 16 litres more fuel! Just over half way the front tyre began to shred and my qualifying troubles started to appear again. I was about three seconds in front of a group at this time & about 6 seconds back of Bataille but once my front end started playing up again I couldn't do the lap times I needed to do and the group behind started closing me down. On the 2nd to last lap my team-mate passed me and I got a good idea of how strong his engine was running and also he was able to keep good corner speed which I was now struggling to do. I tried to stay with him and I was going to try & make a move on him on the last lap but Czech rider Jakub Smrz, made a kamikaze pass on me which sent him head first into the gravel and lost me some time on my team mate which I couldn't pull back.

At the end of the race I was pretty happy with 14th position, as after all the qualifying troubles, the race had turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Also for the first time this year no-one crashed in front of me so it was a hard earned points score. Back in the garage after the race I looked at my team mates tyres and they looked hardly touched whereas mine had about an inch thick tear all around it! This set-up problem is my main concern at the moment as I feel I have got to grips with the actual riding of a 250cc now. I hope at the next GP in Portugal we can find a reasonable setting on day 1 and I can get closer to the top 10 where I really want to be finishing now. In the meantime I have another 3 week break which I shall be spending at home seeing some of my mates & doing some training.

ps. I collected my 7 GCSE results last Thursday. With all the days missed due to racing over the last two years & the fact that I had to take 6 papers in Italy I was not at all confident but .......... I passed all of them with B's & C's!
I was pretty chuffed with this & my mum was over the moon.


Chaz #57



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