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Chaz Checks In... Malaysia

Almost straight after the MotoGP race had finished on Saturday afternoon in Qatar we left to catch our flight very late that evening to fly firstly to Dubai and then on from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur. The first flight from the circuits local airport, Doha was only about an hour long to Dubai and the flight from there to KL was about 6 ½ hours. We arrived in KL early on Sunday morning and started off the day with a bit of a power nap in the hotel room and then spent the rest of the afternoon in and by the pool. It was quite funny because normally as soon as we get out of KL airport everybody starts piping up about how hot it is, but after coming straight from Qatar I don't think anybody was going to complain about heat again! Like my Team Manager, Dieter Stappert (who has been travelling the world with motor sports for 30+ years) said "I never thought I'd ever think of this place as being mild!". He worked in Formula 1 for many years before bikes and he said that Qatar was definitely the hottest place he had ever been to, which means it had to be hot!

In the few days we had off before we were back out on the bike I spent most of the time in the hotel swimming pool. My dad was also quite enjoying lazing by the pool because it was giving him a good chance to rest his broken leg. On Monday evening I went into KL city centre with my team mate, Stiggy and his girlfriend Carolina and got some good bargains from China Town!

On Thursday we went to the circuit where I got everything organised and had a look at my data on the computer from last year. It helps to look over old data before the weekend starts because then I know exactly what gears I should be in and then when I know exactly what I should be doing I do laps in my head making sure I do it exactly as I would if I was on a good lap on the bike, in the right gears, on the right lines, knowing exactly where the bumps are and what to watch out for and it all makes it easier because by the time I get on the bike I've already done a fair few laps so I'm not scratching my head for the first day.

On Friday morning I ran in new pistons for the first 4 laps and got into the track fairly quickly. For the previous races I've struggled to get decent starts so on Thursday I talked to my engine mechanic and we agreed that I should do 2 practice starts per session. In the last 4 races my clutch has had a very all or nothing feeling. I either slip the clutch and really rev the engine and I don't go forward very quickly or I let the clutch out that tiny bit further and the engine completely bogs down. There seemed to be too much of a fine line with the way the clutch was set-up and we wanted to make it a bit more forgiving. It was no good busting a gut to get a decent qualifying time in (like I did in Qatar) if I couldn't get off the line any good. For the first day I struggled to get the feeling from the chassis that I was looking for. In the slow corners I wasn't really getting any problems but in the long faster sweeping corners I was getting a lot of chatter from the front which was taking me off line so I couldn't run as much corner speed as I wanted. We made a few slight changes which improved the chattering but it was still not handling as good as I needed it to. The adjustments that had been made to the clutch were definitely an improvement. I now felt like I could control the clutch rather than it being an all or nothing feeling. Both of my starts were pretty good at 3.2 and 3.3 seconds from 0-100kph. In the previous races my starts had been about 3.8 - 4.0 seconds which is about as good as I could get. It doesn't sound like that much of a difference in time but by the time we're at the first corner we're doing about 200kph and you lose all the momentum on the run down off the grid and a lot of places with it!

For Saturday my chassis mechanic made a few small adjustments to the front of my bike which made it quite a bit better in the faster corners but a bit more unstable on the brakes, but sometimes you have to sacrifice one thing to make another thing better and I definitely thought it was worth the change. I was 15th in the morning but the weather for the afternoon was looking very 50/50. Within 2 laps of our final qualifying session it started to rain slightly. On the first part of the circuit it was dry and then in the middle of the circuit it was raining enough to make the circuit slightly damp and then for the last half of the lap it was bone dry. Nobody really knew quite how much they could push on the damp part of the track so only Ant West improved as he went out very quickly and took a few risks early on. For the last 8 minutes it looked like it was starting to dry again so I went back out but within a lap the rain had started again. So, I was 18th on the grid from Friday's time but fairly confidant after looking at the time sheets because I saw that a lot of the riders ahead of me on the grid had just done 1 brain out lap and looked like they would struggle to put any consistent times together, whereas I knew I could do pretty consistent times.

In morning Warm Up on Sunday I again ran in pistons and got as feel for the bike with a full tank of fuel. It was a bit more unstable on heavy braking because of the extra fuel weight so we added pre-load to the front forks which stiffens up the front suspension slightly and made it slightly better. I again did another practice start which was 3.3 seconds and so far out of 7 starts my worst had been 3.5 seconds so things were looking good for the race. Before the race I ran through my head exactly what I needed to do in the opening laps. Get a good start, if there's a gap go for it because the first 3 laps are always half the battle and if you get stuck behind riders who you know you are faster than it can mess up the whole race as I had found out in the previous races.

I made 3 places off the line up to 15th, then by the second sector I was up to 14th, then I passed Faubel up to 13th. In the final sector Roby Rolfo high-sided and took out Ant West and made De Puniet go wide so I was up to 10th and just off the back of Battaini and Marchand with a slight gap to Nieto and Debon. After 5 laps I was a few seconds behind Debon and Nieto but starting to catch them slightly. On lap 8 I passed Battaini up to 8th and the next lap he passed me back. Just ahead of us Debon crashed and Nieto made a slight mistake and he started coming quite clear. As soon as Battaini thought he could catch Nieto he put the hammer down and I had a few small moments with rear slipping sideways trying to hang on to him. For the last 10 laps me and Marchand had a good scrap which I really enjoyed. I felt I was faster than him but he had a bit more acceleration than me which was making quite a difference on the exit to the back straight and the start finish straight. In the last 5 laps we had a really good fight where we touched a few times and were both doing hard but fair moves on each other. On the last lap I followed him and had a rough idea where I could pass him. On the exit of the fast right 6th corner I exited much faster than him and drew along side him into the double right but he chopped my nose of on the entry. On the run down to the final corner I thought I had no chance to pass him unless he made a mistake. I sat up on the brakes and he was still tucked behind the screen! I thought "Your definitely going wide" and he did but not quite enough. I took advantage of him being a metre off line and stuffed it in the gap that was there and we were side by side coming on to the start/finish straight but his slightly stronger acceleration meant that he just piped me to the line, by 1 tenth. All in all it was a good race and I got some pretty good points for 9th. I look forward to Phillip Island which I really enjoy as a circuit and hopefully can get another top ten finish.




© 2006

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