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Chaz Checks In... Brno

After my disappointing British GP it was good to have a few weeks off. I spent the entire break at home. I did plan to do quite a few things and go some places but with the bad weather it was normally too miserable to go anywhere, unless you enjoy getting cold and soaked. At home I was helping out on my parents karting circuit as it gets quite busy in the summer.

After the first week I was pretty bored and was thinking roll on Czecho but then the last few weeks went quite quick. About mid-way through the break my ex-data recorder man Klaus Nöhles, who left my team to take up an opportunity to ride for the German Honda 250cc team in GP's, came to stay for 4 days. When he was doing the data work, in Aprilia Germany, he always talked about coming to our house to ride some supermoto etc. but never got around to it but he decided he was definitely going to come in the break this time. When he was here we did quite a bit of supermoto which he couldn't get enough of! I also took him mountain biking in some of the hills around my house, which nearly killed him! In Germany, where he lives, its all pretty much flat but where I go on my mountain bike it has some killer climbs if you're not used to it! But to be fair the second day, we did it, he was much better.

After Klaus went the time seemed to go really quickly. I got my computer back after my friend fixed a few things for me and I did quite a lot of video editing from video footage of me and Klaus riding supermoto, me and Casey Stoner doing supermoto, Klaus, me and British Supersport rider Michael Laverty on my 110cc minibike and my dad and Klaus on his quad. I've made about a 10-minute video, which I'm pretty happy with. In the last week of the break I also bought an electronic drum kit. I have had a normal kit for about a year now but the other week, I had a go on an electronic kit and loved it so I decided the old one had to go and have now got the electronic kit in my bedroom! Drums and video editing are about my only hobbies apart from anything to do with riding 2 wheels.

We left home at 7.00am on Wednesday morning to firstly go and collect leathers from my new leather sponsor Teknic and then fly to Czechoslovakia at mid-day. We landed in Prague at 2.30pm and then had to wait around for the next train directly to Brno and we didn't arrive at the circuit until 10.30pm that evening. We were told the journey should only take us about 3hrs and not 8. It was so hot and stuffy on the train as there was no air conditioning and I hope that's the last time I have to take a train across Czechoslovakia!

On Thursday I did all my normal pre-weekend routines, a couple of laps of the track on a scooter, a look at last years data just to make sure of a few things and get all my gear organised. I had my new Teknic leathers to use and also Sidi's latest boots. For the rest of the afternoon Casey (Stoner) and me played on the playstation. He has the new Athens 2004 Olympic game, which we were constantly trying to get new Olympic and World records. For the running, the faster you press 2 buttons on the controller the faster you go and by the end of the day we could feel a bit of arm-pump coming on!

On Friday morning as soon as the 125cc free practice finished the rain came and was very on and off throughout the MotoGP free practice and also for the first half of our session. For the first 20 minutes, it was raining slightly and then the rain stopped for about 10 minutes. I was getting faster each lap and then there came a huge downpour and everybody pulled in and waited around until it eased off, because at that point, the track had filled up with water in some corners. Just when it looked like it was going to come a bit brighter everybody went back out and by half way around the first lap, out of pits, the rain was heavier than ever. Coming up the hill into the second last corner my bike was spinning and aqua planing across all the standing water running down the hill! So with that, pretty much, everybody stopped. I ended the session in 17th but confidant of more to come. In the session I had used my new leathers and new boots which I was very happy with because I'm normally quite fussy if something doesn't fit right but both felt good.

For the afternoons first qualifying session the weather had brightened up a bit but the circuit was still fully wet. At the start of the session I had to bed in new brake disc's which I had on all 4 sets of wheels. Throughout the session I was getting faster each lap and only had a slight problem of the bike running wide halfway through the downhill corners. In the last 10 minutes the circuit had dried up a bit and there was a slight dry line in a few corners. I was a bit disappointed because I never made the best use of the dry patches on the track whereas some other riders did and pushed me back to 18th in the last few minutes. It wasn't a particularly good session but I learnt a bit about positioning my body in the wet. I was sitting back a bit too far and not able to feel the front of the bike, so I knew what I had to work on for the next time in the wet.

On Saturday morning we woke up to some blue-ish skies and were definitely going to have a dry morning session. Again I ran in new brake discs on another set of wheels for the first 3 laps, just squeezing them quite hard for the first 2 laps and then giving them a lap, of little braking, to cool them down. After 6 laps I had done a 2.07.00 which more or less equalled my best time from last year. We put a harder rear tyre in and made a slight change to make the bike hold its line a little better and in 10 laps I had done a 2.05.7. At the end of the session I had got down to a 2.05.1 which still didn't feel that great and I felt there was a bit more to come. I ended the session in 11th and was really hoping for a dry final qualifying in the afternoon.

However this wasn't to be and we once again had a fully wet track on which to start the final qualifying session. It was quite a bit wetter than the day before so people were going to struggle to improve because of the way it dried out the previous day. My times throughout the session weren't too far away compared to other people. At the end of the session it had dried out very slightly but not as much as the day before. I improved my time by only 0.2 and was only 1 of 8 people to improve but it wasn't enough to move from 19th on the grid. I felt quite comfortable and my time was the 10th fastest time of the session, which I was quite happy with.

On Saturday evening me and Casey had finished what we had to do and were a bit bored so we decided to cause a bit of carnage and tape up some peoples scooter horns, and as the motor home was parked outside the paddock toilets we were in an ideal place! Whilst people were using the public toilets we would run over and stick a piece of sticky tape across their horn on their scooters. As soon as they turn on the scooter ignition the horn blasts out and we managed to get Gino Borsoi, Alberto Puig, my team mate Stiggy, Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins! It was very funny, as they couldn't work out what was the matter with their scooter for a few seconds but the only thing is, that from now on, we will really need to watch our backs as I'm sure a few are going to try and get their own back!

For Sunday the weather rumours were cloudy and maybe some showers. They were pretty accurate as well! Warm Up was almost fully dry but there were some damp patches from the day before. I ran in new pistons in the early laps and ran with a full tank of fuel as normal. The engine wasn't very strong because of the setting used for running in the pistons but it was OK for warm up. I did a 2.06.9 and was 13th.

In the build up to our race and all through the 125cc race there was a threat a rain. It was overcast and nobody really knew what the weather was going to do. As the 125cc race ended it looked like it was going to be dry but then as soon as my mechanic's were warming up my bike, a few minutes before I was due to go out for the sighting lap, very fine rain started to come. By the time I had finished my sighting lap it had stopped. And that's pretty much what it was like all throughout the race. On the warm up lap I noticed a huge black cloud on the exit of the 2nd corner and I was sure it was going to come.

My start wasn't very good and I managed to maintain 19th through the first corner. I passed my team mate and Alex Baldolini on the run down to the second corner. On the exit I avoided a flying Franco Battaini and was up to 16th and by the end of the first lap I was in 14th position. On the 2nd lap I passed Erwan Nigon who had made a good start from 21st on the grid and then I was about 2 seconds behind Manuel Poggiali. By the 3rd lap I was on the back of him and ready to pass. The problem was that his bike was so fast, he would pull about 20 metres on me in a straight line, so to pass him on the brakes, I would have to go kamikaze to make up the gap! I decided that the best place to pass him would be in the tight stadium section, where I could draw on him through the double right and maybe pass him at the next left hairpin or into the next 90 degree left. On the 4th lap I went purposely slightly deep into the left hairpin in the stadium section and then on the exit got on the gas really early and cut underneath him and then out braked him into the 90 degree left. I really expected him to come flying back past me on the next straight, but he never came, so I must have got a slight gap.

By the next lap the gap had gone up to 1.6 to Poggiali behind me and I started to concentrate on Guintoli, Bataille and Fonsi Nieto who were about 5 seconds up the road in front of me. I started to draw on them very slightly and then it started to rain and the group in front of me went from 5 riders to 11. For the next few laps I started catch the whole leading group and got to within about 3 seconds of them. It was very difficult to know exactly how hard to push because in some places it was raining and in others it was dry. I didn't know, at that time, that at the front of the field Pedrosa & De Angelis had twice stuck their hands in the air to get the race stopped. I just kept going and wasn't going to sit up until I saw a red flag. Within half a lap the rain stopped again and the group in front started to spread out. At that point I was about 1.5 seconds back of Nieto who was chasing Guintoli and Bataille. On lap 10 on the entry to the second corner I saw Bataille crash and Nieto crash immediately after him without even touching him. As I entered the corner and as I got on the rear brake, my back end stepped well out of line and I got off the brakes and ran wide. I'm not sure exactly what was on the circuit but something made it seriously slick. After the race I heard that Bataille's bike may have been leaking some sort of fluid, so Fonsi grabbed and started waving the oil flag and he later got fined $5000 for doing so! For the next lap I was expecting to see a heap of bikes in the gravel trap and took a very tight line on the entry to the corner but the fluid must have evaporated quickly.

For the next few laps I could see Rolfo, Aoyama and Guintoli about 6 seconds in front and I had about 10 seconds over Poggiali. I was still pushing hard and then on lap 16, on the exit of the second corner, I came around and Guintoli's bike was just bursting into a ball of flames and there were bits of carbon fibre everywhere. The last 4 laps of the race the rain came again but in a few places it came more than the first time. There was no way I was going to catch Aoyama and Rolfo and there was no chance of Poggiali catching me because he was now 16 seconds behind, so I eased off slightly and settled for 8th place which was my best ever finish. The team were very happy and apparently Aprilia Racing boss Jan Witteveen rang my team boss Dieter Stappert that evening and told him that he was watching on the corner were I passed Poggiali and was quite impressed with my move, which can't be a bad thing!

Now I'm looking forward to Portugal and hopefully I can continue where I left off!

Chaz#57!!

 
 

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