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Chaz Checks In...Rio

After the Portuguese Grand Prix, I went back home for a week before we started the long haul GP's. During my week at home I had a drumming lesson which didn't go too bad, but I certainly need a few more lessons! My dad also bought a quad bike so I spent a bit of time thrashing around on it, ripping chunks out of the garden!

Dad & I flew to Brazil from Heathrow on the Monday night. the flight was about 13hrs long and I only managed to get a couple of hours sleep. We arrived Tuesday morning in Brazil at 7.00 a.m.local time (11.00 a.m. British time) . We spent Tuesday exploring the area after we had checked into our hotel which was right on the beach in a place called Barra. We did quite a bit of walking up & down the beach then took the hire car to a nearby shopping centre. At about midday both me & dad were really tired because we had been awake for so long but we managed to wander around the shops and not fall asleep anywhere until about 10 p.m. when we went to bed.

On Wednesday we drove to the circuit with my team-mate Dirk which was about 20 minutes away from the hotel. I didn't remember that much about the circuit from last year, as it was probably my worst race on the 125cc (I finished last) and I was really wondering at that point what the hell I was doing there! The 125cc was so slow there last year it was ridiculous. However this year has been quite different and as I walked the track with Casey (Stoner) I started to remember the corners, layout etc. After this I went & did my usual pre-practice routine of getting my leathers & gloves cleaned & taking my helmet to Nolan to have it serviced.

That evening I went out to dinner with my team to a really good buffet restaurant. There was a bowl on one of the tables full of cooked chickens hearts which is apparently a delicacy in Brazil. One of my mechanics, Marco said these were "to die for" so my telemetry man, Klaus, nicknamed named him Marco, 'The Chicken Nightmare' Winter! I thought this was quite funny!

On Thursday morning, which was the first day of practice because Brazils race day is always a Saturday rather than the normal Sunday, I got quite a shock when I went out on track as it was really bumpy. Everyone I spoke to could not believe how much bumpier it was than last year. My team boss, Dieter Stappert, told me before I went out for the first practice that he had heard it was extremely bumpy but I was not to try and change anything drastically on the bike to try & cope with the bumps in these early sessions. He said that it was going to be near-on impossible to find a perfect set-up & he told me to just ride the bumps. This I did as well as learning the circuit on a 250cc machine and doing the usual running in of new pistons etc. I was also trying to find a good line around the bumps! For the afternoons first qualifying I went out on used tyres from the mornings session until I got up to a decent lap time. I found over all three days that the rear tyre was only really good for about 3 laps then the grip level would disappear. The biggest problem was that I had no grip when I was in the high gear corners & the rear tyre would start "pumping" as you exited the corner . I finished the session in 18th position.

For Friday we made a few changes to get more weight on the rear so it would hook up better. I went out initially on old tyres in the morning and again had no grip at all. Every time I touched the throttle in the higher gear corners the rear would come sideways very slowly, which I call a "lazy slide". We had this problem all of the session and the only thing that would cure it would be a new tyre, but then, that would only last for a few laps & the problem would return. We tried a different front tyre but that made the bike go wide mid-corner so we went back to the original tyre & tried to find a different solution to the rear end problem. At the end of the 2nd free practice I was still in 18th position. I knew I could gain some time as the engine was not as sharp as it could have been & my mechanics would improve this for the afternoon but we still needed to improve the rear end grip. We all had a big think as to what we could do and we decided to change the geometry of the bike so the weight was further towards the back of the bike. I started the session again on old tyres but I could tell the geometry change had definitely improved the rear grip a bit. We altered the rear suspension some more & the rear again felt much better. With about 20 minutes of the 2nd qualifying session to go we put in some new tyres and after a couple of slow laps then one flying lap I moved up to 13th position. However the lap was a little messy and I knew if I could get it together just a little bit more I could be looking at a 3rd row start. I came in with 10 minutes to go & put in another rear tyre. I had seven minutes to try and improve my 13th position and I knew I would get 2 flying laps. My first was again not the tidiest of laps but I equalled my fastest time but on the second flying lap I got the first half of the lap near on perfect. I was up on my time at that point by 6 tenths but as I went down the back straight I could see Katja Poensgen in front of me and I was praying I would reach her in a good passing place. However as we tipped into the corner there was no way I could break late enough & pass her without possibly hitting her and one or both of us crashing. I was very disappointed because if I could of finished the lap it would of been about three-quarters of a second quicker and definitely good enough for the third row of the grid maybe even the 2nd! To add insult to injury a couple of riders had gone a tenth quicker on their last laps than me & pushed me down to 15th place!

For Saturday we made another adjustment to the rear for the mornings warm-up session but it was no better so we went back to the previous days settings. I spoke to Dunlop, the tyre technicians, before the race about my rear end problem & they told me a lot of riders were complaining of the same thing.

Before my race at every meeting I always watch the lights at the start of the 125cc race. In Rio the time between on & off I counted to be 3 seconds and as I was looking at the lights at the start of my race I counted in my head and when they went out I was ready!
I was 11th into the 1st corner! After 6 laps I was in 8th position but I was starting to lose touch with 7th placed rider Hector Faubel. My rear grip problem was getting worse each lap and "pumping" on the exits of the medium speed corners. The gap back from me to the two riders behind me, Joan Olive & Anthony West, I could see by my pit board was also shrinking. I tried standing the bike up more but it was still pumping. In the 2nd & 3rd to last corner especially, I found myself standing up like a motocross rider to try & get some weight on the front pegs to help the pumping. Olive passed me with about 6 laps to go. I noticed he was using the normal line, kerb to kerb style, but there was no way I could copy him. My bike by then was pumping all the time & I was losing between 1 to 2 seconds a lap on him and then West came past and seemed to be having an easier ride than me also. I finished the race pretty pleased with 9th position as it was my first top 10 result & something which I have been trying to do now for several races. I was a little disappointed though because I knew if we could of cured the chassis problems a bit more, a 6th place was possible, but I do get a bonus for my 9th position from my sponsor KF Concept so that cheered me up!

I have nearly a week at home now before I start the really long trek to Japan, Malaysia & Australia. I am looking forward to the Japanese GP as it is a really good circuit which suits my style. The only problem is that there will be plenty of really good "wild card riders", but I definitely want another top 10, so I will be trying my best.

Chaz #57

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