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Chaz Checks In...Donington

Image of ChazThe Monday after the Dutch Grand Prix, despite all our flight problems, I did get to do my BBC television interview in Port Talbot. The interview was in aid of the build up to Donington & the fact that I was being presented with a scooter from Kickstart Motorcycles. I was presented with an Aprilia 50cc by the owners Paul & Charles Reynolds and also they have given me some money to help towards sponsorship for Donington. We also tied in the picking up of the scooter with a meeting with Kevin McNab who is the sponsorship man for a company called KF Concept. All of us are really pleased to have at last found some sponsorship!

On Tuesday me & the other British Grand Prix riders were invited up to London to join Valentino Rossi on a cruise up the Thames. There were a lot of media there from television & newspapers which was really good to promote the British Grand Prix before the event. On Wednesday I went to Donington & Thursday was the annual 'Day of Champions' charity event.I was part of a four-man scooter team along with Casey Stoner, Leon Camier & Rob Frost. The aim of the race is to swerve in & out of about 8 cones on the start/finish straight and then pick up 1 of 4 pieces of jigsaw at the last cone. You then turn around and go as fast as you can back to your team mates. After all of my team had been through the cones and come back with a piece of jigsaw our team were a fair way in front of second place, but unfortunately, the official guy doing the putting together of the jigsaw took too long & we ended up 2nd! This meant that yet again my team had been robbed of victory as last year Jeremy McWilliams cheated but his team were given the win! It was good fun though & in the evening I auctioned off one of my helmets which raised about £200 towards the Riders for Health charity. I think the final total raised was around £100,0000 so that was good.

On Friday before the mornings free practice I knew exactly how to go as fast if not faster than anyone around Donington Park, BUT that's on a 125cc! Until I got on my 250cc motorcycle I didn't know how different it would be compared to a 125cc and after the first session I was quite surprised just how different it was. The fast first section from the first corner, Redgate, down Craner Curves, up under Starkey's Bridge through McLean's and Coppice and onto the Dunlop straight was very different on the 250cc machine but the slower last section Foggy's, Melbourne, Goddard's etc. was not so bad. Even the small rise under the Dunlop Bridge I had to take with a much different line compared to a 125cc because of the bike trying to wheelie! Just after I finished running in I was going hard over the rise but I made sure I was covering the back brake just in case the wind got underneath and flipped me off! After this I decided to change my line & come from the left side of the circuit and turn on the rise to bring the bike over to the right. It was more complicated than on a 125cc motorcycle but much more exciting! After the mornings free practice I felt pretty good & just needed more laps on the 250cc to improve my lines & times etc.

In qualifying that afternoon I was still adjusting to the 250cc around Donington. The chassis felt quite good but I had very little grip on the rear end especially through the slower corners. I think because it got so hot in the afternoon this was badly affecting the grip. I ended the session in 17th but was confident that tomorrow I could definitely improve this position.

On Saturday during the mornings free practice session I went softer on the rear spring which felt really good, but after 5 laps the grip level dropped dramatically. My mechanics tried a harder tyre but again I had no grip because the track temperature was too cool at that time of the day. For the last 10 minutes we went back to the medium tyre and I did fast consistent laps & felt really good. I ended the session in 10th position & only 1.2 off pole. I was really pleased with this as I felt very comfortable with the times and when I looked at the data later on, through the last two sections, I was only .2 off Manuel Poggiali who was fastest. So far this year that was the closest I had been to the front runners & I was feeling very confident. Unfortunately with the rise in temperature the afternoons qualifying did not go at all how I would of wanted. We changed back to a hard spring with the medium rear tyre to try & get more 'life' out of the tyre. We started the session on a used tyre to see how the wear pattern would look. The tyre was still shredding so I came in & it was decided I should try a harder tyre again especially as the temperature was now much hotter than the morning session. On my second lap, on the hard tyre, I had one of the biggest ever saves on the left hand side down Craner curves. The rear completely stepped sideways as I got on the gas and tried to throw me over the other side of the bike. I put my helmet through the screen which smashed and I landed on the fuel tank which caused serious pain to my lower region. I felt a bit sick for the remainder of the session! I came in for a few minutes after this and the mechanics changed a setting on the rear of the bike & put in a new screen. Because of all the panic with the screen etc. the change of tyres for the final 10 minutes that we normally do did not happen. My mechanics brought me in with 6 minutes to go & changed the front and the rear but then I only had time to do two fast laps. It was too much to do in not enough time. I managed to go half a second quicker than the previous days qualifying but I made too many mistakes trying to rush it and I ended the session really, really disappointed in 17th position on the grid. I know I could of made the 3rd row without all the drama so I felt very miserable. I badly wanted to do well at Donington as I had lots of friends & family coming and also I had over the past couple of days been stopped by loads of people who I didn't even know and wished good luck.

As we still didn't have a good race set-up for the heat I hoped warm-up would go well, but this was not to be. I had a full tank of fuel to test and still no rear end grip which didn't put me in a very confident position for the race.

My start was reasonable. I didn't gain any places but I didn't lose any either. For the first 6 laps I was stuck in the wrong group with two French riders & Johan Stigefelt. I passed them all as quickly as I could and pulled a gap on them quite quickly. I then focused on catching the next group of riders. It was a tall order as my pit board was telling me they were about 6&half seconds up the road but bit by bit I was catching them. With 5 laps to go I was 3 seconds behind 11th & 12th position and on the final lap I started about 1 second behind them. I got right behind 12th place rider Hector Faubel into the penultimate corner & tried to line myself up for the last hairpin but I didn't get a good run at it although Hector ran wide & I tried to sneak up the inside of him but he pulled his bike across the front of mine. We crossed the finish line with him pipping me by 2 hundredths of a second! All in all the race turned out not too badly. Better opening laps would of made my race easier and probably put me inside the top 10 as the last half of the race I was doing the same lap times as 8th,9th & 10th position. Anyway 13th it was which equalls my best ever finish so far this year.

When I returned to the pits after the race Kevin from KF Concept had apparently told my dad whilst I was out on track, that if I finished inside the top 12 he would give me a £1000 bonus! After the race and bearing in mind he had watched all the problems I had incurred over the weekend with set-up etc. he said that 2 hundredths was close enough so I have earnt a bit of pocket money! Thanks Kevin!

During the Moto GP race I went out to see friends & family. A full bus load of people had arrived all wearing lime green "Chaz" t-shirts. They had a great day & I would like to thank them all for coming & cheering me on. Also thanks to all the people who rang the telephone competition line, this raised approximately £1000 to go towards my team and lastly I would like to thank all the people at Donington who waved "Chaz" flags & hooted horns at me on every lap. Like last year the cool down lap was very loud as I rode by so thanks everyone for your support!

I am now looking forward to the next GP in Germany as it is a very exciting circuit which I went well at last year and of course it is also my teams home GP. I am also playing in a charity football match on Thursday, GP rider vs. German Sports stars which should be fun.

Chaz #57

 
 

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