Chaz Checks In...Sepang
As soon as we finished the race in Motegi we all helped to pack up the
crates then left for a hotel nearer to Tokyo airport. We arrived in Kualalumpa
Monday afternoon and I had forgotten how humid Malaysia is. Once you
step outside the airport doors it is unbelievable, it was also very hot.
We arrived at our hotel which turned out to be about 20 minutes from the
On Tuesday dad and I met up with Casey and his dad Colin and went
into "China Town". Malaysia is well known to have cheap electrical
stuff and also really cheap CD's and DVD's, but you have to haggle with
the sellers. Last year there were loads of people on the street selling
CD's and DVD's but the police in Malaysia are trying to stop it so now
there are people stood everywhere who call out to you asking if you want
any. Me and Casey said to the one guy we did so they then take you through
an alley and up to a room where there was hundreds of different stuff.
DVD players, mini discs, millions of CD's and DVD's. It is all a bit
dodgy but that's the way it is. I brought about 20 DVD's for around £15.
You do run the risk of them being not such good quality but as there so
cheap it's worth risking! As it turned out, when I played them during
the week on my computer only 5 were 'wobbly' and not very good!
On Thursday I had been asked by Dorna to attend a pre-event publicity
Go-kart race. From the 250's there was me and Sebastian Porto, only
one 125cc rider, Steve Jenkner and the rest were MotoGP riders, Colin
Edwards, Max Biaggi, Nicky Hayden, Troy Bayliss and Nori Haga. My kart
has got to be the worst kart I have ever driven. Only a couple of karts
seemed much good out of all of them. Colin Edwards was not impressed at
all. He was very funny using very strong language about his "crap"
kart! It seemed that Max and Porto had got about the best karts and
a rumour was circulating that they had been down to the track earlier
in the day and picked out their kart already! After qualifying, Porto
was quickest and we set off for a 12 lap race. My kart was under-steering
everywhere but as we were all racers we all wanted to reach the flag 1st.
Max and Porto were having a right scrap for 1st and 2nd and I tried
to get third off Bayliss but he blocked me really well. In the end that's
how it finished with Max winning and me forth. It was really good fun
and Colin was still swearing!
On Friday morning I woke up to rain but it did stop at about 8.30am. As
Malaysia is so humid it can sometimes takes ages for the rain to dry and
when we went out on track for our first practice the track conditions
were not ideal with damp patches everywhere. I ended the session in 13th
position but it was a bit deceptive as no-one could really put in a great
lap because of the track conditions and lack of grip in the wet areas.
Sepang is not a very grippy circuit at the best of times anyway. In the
afternoons first qualifying the track was completely dry but all session
I didn't have a good feeling with the bike. The front end was "chattering"
and the rear end sliding. The front was the worst as it kept trying to
turn in on the slow corners and I didn't feel comfortable trying to push
it onto the line I wanted to use. I finished the session in 15th position
and a time of 2.12.024 but I had a lot of problems to try and sort
out. The front tyre I was using was not the one I had used at Motegi so
I asked my chief mechanic if we could try that for the morning and we
had a problem with the gearbox. 2nd gear was the main problem generally
but all the changes we had available to us in the gearbox ratios were
going to make problems in other parts of the track. After qualifying I
spent a good couple of hours talking to my mechanics and Klaus, my telemetry
man, to see if we could improve the bike for the next day.
For the second free practice I had in the front tyre that I had used at
Motegi but really it wasn't that much better! We had improved the gearbox
though which really helped and other changes my mechanics had made had
helped the rear sliding a bit.I tried to follow a couple of faster riders
through the parts on the track where I knew I was losing time. Toni Elias
had really got the track sorted being nearly a second quicker than anyone
else all weekend and I was lucky enough to get behind him in a couple
of places I needed to improve on. Although Toni would pull quite a bit
on me, bike for bike, I could still see what lines he used and it definitely
helped me improve my lap. I could do low 2.11 laps consistently and
after a rear tyre change and with about 12minutes to go I put in a 2.10.99
which was over a second faster than what I had done the day before and
put me into 6th place at the time. By the end of the session I had been
bumped down to 12th position but although I was still getting some chattering
on the front and quite a bit of sliding on the rear, I still thought
in the afternoon I could probably go about half a second quicker which
I hoped would put me on the third row again. However this was not to be!
I had a disastrous 2nd qualifying. After running-in some pistons I did
two quicker laps but for some reason the bike was not behaving how it
had been in the morning. I came in and spoke to my mechanics and my
chief mechanic told me that after the morning session he had altered the
swinging arm quite a bit to try and help the handling. Unfortunately it
had made it worse so they put it back to how it had been in the morning.
This took about 15 minutes and as we only have 45 minutes to qualify in
time was going on. When I went back out of the pits after the changes
I did a full lap but as I was coming round to complete the lap I could
smell fuel. I stopped on the side of the track and noticed my fuel pipe
had not been put back on in the rush. I had to go back into the pits in
case fuel had got on the back tyre and after a quick wipe I went out to
try and get a time. I had very little time left and knew if I wanted
to get a time close to the mornings I would need to get going quickly.
This didn't happen. The more I tried the more mistakes I made. I knew
I was capable of a good time but I knew the session was about to finish
and I hadn't even bettered my best time from Friday. On the last lap
I managed to match Fridays time which of course was not anywhere near
good enough and I was going to start the race from 20th position. Not
where I wanted to be at all. After the session I again talked to my mechanics
and decided on a setting and tyres for the race. I was not very confident
in either as I had practically lost a whole session but we had to make
a decision and I would try it in the mornings warm-up and hope that
it would work.
The next morning another problem! It was pouring down and everyone thought
it was going to stay like that all day but just before my warm-up the
rain stopped. The track was still very wet for warm-up and although
I couldn't test the race set-up as I wanted to (and needed to), the
wet session did give me a chance to have some time on the 250cc in wet
conditions. The last time (and my first time all year) I rode the bike
in the wet, was in the race at Assen which was a disaster through one
thing and another so it was good to have some time in the wet. I actually
felt quite comfortable and ended warm-up in 14th position and with lots
more confidence for the wet. I had over two hours before my race and
it was looking like it would be dry race. I was a bit nervous as I didn't
really have a set-up I was confident with but my plan was to try and
get a good start, pass as many as I could on the first lap and then
try and do consistent lap times and see what happens.
I did make a really good start and by the end of the first lap I had
passed 6 riders and was in 14th position. I was in a group of five riders
in 12th to 16th place. My team mate Dirk was leading the pack then Baldolini,
Me, Marchand and finally Olive and we were all in the same second.
As I hadn't tested a full tank of fuel in the dry (I normally do this
in the warm-up) and my settings weren't great, I was struggling with the
heaviness of the bike for the first 12 laps making it difficult to lean
on the front until about two-thirds into the race. I got into a fight
for a few laps with Marchand and Olive swapping places with me but once
my bike got lighter I passed both of them and started to pull away.
For the last eight laps my bike felt better but not great. Because us
three riders had been tripping each other up it had allowed Baldolini
and Dirk to get away and they were now four and a half seconds in front
of me. I got my head down and did very consistent laps and got the gap
down to 1.9 before the flag. I think three more laps and I could of
had them both but the flag was out and I was 12th. I was disappointed
even though I had done the best I could but I know without the chaos of
the 2nd qualifying the top ten was again a possibility.
So now I fly this afternoon to Australia. I am stopping off for a couple
of days with the team in Cairns. It is my team boss's birthday and a
friend of his is doing a small party and we may have the chance to go
snorkelling off one of the reefs. I am looking forward to Phillip Island
because I really like the track even though the weather is usually very
very cold. Once again I shall try for a top 10 and I also need to get
some more points as my helmet suppliers will give me a bonus if I finish
in the top 12 in the championship. I have 9 points to make up on Spanish
rider and 12th place holder Joan Olive as it is at the moment. It is
going to be very difficult as the last race is at his home track in Valencia
but I am certainly going to try.
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