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Chaz Checks In... Rio
After the Dutch GP at Assen we went straight from there to the next GP in Rio on the Monday evening rather than coming home for a day. On the Sunday we stayed at the Assen circuit and early Monday morning we took the train in to Amsterdam city centre and explored Amsterdam for half a day which I have to say was very different!!
I flew with my dad to Rio on the Monday night, which is good because
it allows you to sleep and pass some boring hours in the plane. Our flight
was a connection flight firstly to Paris and then to Sao Paulo and then
a change of plane to Rio De Janeiro. We arrived in Rio at about 6.00am
local time (10.00am UK time) on Tuesday morning. The first thing I noticed
when I went outside, even early in the morning, was the temperature. I
had been told that because we normally go to Rio over one month later
it would be their winter and therefore wet and quite cold. I could tell
straight away that this wouldn't be the case. We got to the hotel and
even though all you feel like doing is sleeping for a few hours because
of the lack of sleep on the plane, you can't let yourself because then
your bodies "clock" will be all out of sync with the country's
That evening just to stay awake, we went to the huge local shopping centre with Casey Stoner and his dad to get something to eat and then went back to the hotel.
On Wednesday we had an easy day on the beach front just outside our hotel. I went for a run about mid-day and spent most of the time drinking coconut milk. That afternoon I saw Shakey Byrne walking on the beach with two mates. They told me they had just been watching a game of football/volleyball about 100 metres up the beach and Ronhaldinio, the top Brazil and Barcelona football player was playing. So I couldn't resist going to see one of the best players in the world having a kick about. He was playing with 1 other Brazilian against 2 other people in a game where they had to get the ball over the net using anything but their hands (just like football but over a net). They were seriously impressive. Always putting the ball exactly where they wanted it to go, and passing the ball between themselves with any body part they fancied with accuracy.(Also later in the weekend Roberto Carlos was at the circuit having a taster of MotoGP so I also managed to get a picture with him).
On Thursday I went to the circuit in the morning, with my team mate Stiggy, to go through some of last years data on the computer because at the moment we are our own data men. I got my best result in Rio last year of 9th so I checked with my chassis man how close my bike was to the previous year and he told me it's very close, just slightly harder on the front. After getting everything prepared for the next day I walked the circuit and then went back to the beach for a swim with Casey and Stiggy. The hottest part of the day was usually between 11.00am and 12.00, and then after the wind would pick up slightly but the water was surprisingly warm.
The first session on Friday morning was OK. The engine didn't feel so bad but as usual at Brazil the bumpiness and the dirt on the circuit made the chassis hard work. At Brazil you will never find the perfect chassis set-up, there is always going to be a compromise what ever change is made, when you make a change you may make one thing better but lose out in another area. I did a 1.56.1 already 2 tenths faster than I did all weekend last year and in 16th position. For the afternoon's first qualifying session we made a few adjustments to help with rear grip and I also wanted to try a hard rear tyre to get some more life out the tyre rather than using a medium and getting 3 good laps. In the afternoon the harder tyre on the rear was much better. For 3 laps the tyre was really good and then where the medium grip would drop dramatically the hard's grip would drop slightly and then level out for the next 8 laps. With 5 minutes to go I got up to 13th and on my last lap went faster but so did a lot of other people so I was pushed back to 18th, but the times were extremely close. Generally the bike was OK but I had a harsh feeling with the front which needed to be worked on for the next day.
For Saturday's free practice in the morning immediately I noticed that the front was feeling slightly better and less harsh. I did a few mid 1.55's and used the session as more of a session to find a race set-up rather than just trying to go for good lap. I did a 1.55.4 on an older rear tyre so I was reasonably happy in 17th. The strength of the class in the 250's this year, really showed in Brazil. I went 2 seconds faster than I did this time last year and only gained 1 place! My team mate, 'Stiggy' had also gone 0.7 faster than he did this time last year and lost 6 places! My team boss quoted "bloody incredible really"
For final qualifying we didn't make too many changes to the bike. We wanted to try the harder front tyre just as a test but I had a really harsh feeling with the tyre over the bumps so we went back to the medium. We had a plan for the last few minutes to pull in and put in a medium rear tyre which would only be good for 2 laps. I had more or less equalled my time from the day before and I came in and my engine man made a carburetion change for the last 10 minutes which cost about 4/5 minutes in the pits. When I went back out, I didn't realise time was as short as it was and I saw T4 on my board. We had made the mistake of not putting in the medium tyre we had planned for and went out on the hard for the final blast. I went faster, doing two laps at 1.55.0 but it was just not enough. I was 19th on the grid but like the day before the times were seriously close and I was 3 tenths off 13th. Last year the time would of been good enough for 8th on the grid!
Not qualifying so well has seemed to be the case in most of the last GP's for me. Most riders out there rely on another faster rider to follow for the last few minutes in order to get a decent slot on the grid but when it comes to the race they don't know how to string any consistent laps together. Its easy to see after the qualifying on the lap charts of each riders laps who has found a tow and who hasn't because they will be doing mid 1.56- 1.57 and then in only 1 lap they do a low 1.55. You can get a good idea who will be able to last the race and who will fade away by just looking at the lap analysis. I prefer to do consistent times so I am confident for the race but I do need to improve my qualifying by about 1 row.
For morning warm up I ran in new pistons and ran with a full tank as usual. I found that the chassis changes we had made overnight made the bike run wide so I stopped in the box we made a slight adjustment and it was improved. Also this may have had something to do with the extra weight from the full tank which makes the front push more. I did a 1.55.6 and was 15th.
So far this year I have only managed to get average starts where I don't lose anything and I haven't really gained anything but my start and first lap in Brazil were very good. At the end of the first lap I was in 14th. Immediately in the early laps of the race my bike didn't feel like it had done in the practice sessions. It felt like it was in warm up because it was chattering and running wide. I put this down to the full tank and was expecting it to improve after about 8 laps. On lap 6 I passed Guintoli and got up to 13th.. The thing I have found after riding with Guintoli in Assen and in Brazil is that he makes a lot of desperate moves and normally ends up running wide and pushing me out with him and then we lose 1 second on the group in front. He did this on lap 7 and allowed Marchand to pass us both. After about 10 laps the feeling from the front of the bike didn't improve at all. I was losing so much time through the first corner because the chattering was taking me way off line but thankfully the engine was strong and I could make up the lost time through the last half of the lap. Up to lap 15 I followed Guintoli and Marchand looking for possible passing places ready for the last few laps. With the way the front was behaving there was no way I could get close enough in the first half of the lap but I knew I was stronger than them on the brakes at the end of the back straight so this had to be the place. With 7 laps to go my front tyre was still chattering but also starting to tuck on the left hand corners. With 5 laps to go I passed Guintoli on the brakes at the end of the back straight and I hit the bump and the front folded. I thought I was down but soon realised I was still upright and Guintoli came back past. I continued to push to get back on terms with Guintoli and Marchand but was having moments with the front every lap and didn't expect to see the end of the race. In the last few laps the two Frenchmen crept away as I was battling with the front to stay upright. I finished the race in 13th and was a bit disappointed because for some reason the bike didn't give me the feeling I had in qualifying where I could consistently run high 55's, low 56's and in the race I did a few high 55's early on and mainly mid 56's and in the end low 57's. When I got off the bike the first thing I looked at was the front left hand side of the tyre.Usually you will see a rear tyre badly torn but a front to be torn as much as mine was, is quite rare, so in a way I was lucky to even finish the race.
The team were pretty happy considering the state of the tyre and we are now looking forward to my teams home GP at the Sachsenring in two weeks time.
To put a downer on the weekend on Sunday night I learnt that my 125cc team mate from 2002 Jaroslav 'Jarda' Hules had made a suicide attempt on his 30th birthday on the Friday night and he is said to be in a "hopeless" condition with no chance of survival. Jarda was my first ever team mate in GP's. He was a very funny guy who I had some good times with and which I will always remember him for.
© chazdaviesracing.com 2006