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Chaz Checks In... Sachsenring

After the Brazilian GP we had a brief few days at home and then we were back on a plane and off to the German GP at the Sachsenring. In the few days I had at home I did a fair bit of driving going firstly to Cardiff to get a custom ear plug mould taken ready to have a pair made and then two days later drove in to central London for an interview and a photo to go in 'The Sun' newspaper to promote the new Scalextric MotoGP game and also the up and coming British GP. I got a bit of stick off my mum when I said I was going to drive in to London rather than take the train because of my driving inexperience (especially in London) but I really enjoyed it and by the end of the day I felt like a cabby ducking and diving in and out of the traffic! We flew to Altenburg airport on Wednesday afternoon which I have to say is the smallest airport I have ever been to but it was close to the circuit which is always handy. That afternoon I did about 5 laps of the circuit on scooter. The steep hill at the back of the pits is an awesome place to speed test the teams scooters and I managed (with the help of Casey Stoner's slipstream) to get my bike off the clock at about 80mph! Casey's team scooter would top out at about 60mph which was quite funny.

On Thursday morning I went to see the team and found out that we have a new data recorder man after Klaus Nohles's departure. Our new telemetry man, David, has no telemetry or bike racing experience but is good on computers and is in the team to learn how it works. After getting my riding gear organised and making a circuit plan with gears and speeds from last year's data it was time to get ready for the annual football match between riders and German All-stars. I have played in the match for the last two years and really enjoy it. We won the match 13-11 thanks to the Italian 125 rider Manuel Manna. We later found out that he used to play professionally in the Italian 4th division so no wonder he was a bit trick.

Image of Chaz playing football

For Friday morning I re-aquainted myself with the circuit for the first half session and then got down to some reasonable times in the last 15 minutes. I finished the session in 15th on a 1.27.7. My best time from the whole weekend last year was a 1.27.4 so we weren't too far away for the first session. As usual at this circuit the left hand side of the tyre becomes difficult to control after more than 5 laps. This is because there are 8 left corners on the circuit, most of them long which wears the tyre even more and only 4 right handers. For first qualifying in the afternoon we went harder with the front tyre because the softer tyre would no way last a race distance. At the end of the session I did a 1.26.7 and finished in 14th and was reasonably happy with the bike set-up.

For Saturday morning we decided to lower my second gear so I could pull harder out of the tight uphill right third corner. In the early stages of the session I ran in new pistons and did quite a few laps on an old rear tyre to get a feel for what it would be like in the race. Half way through the session I again went harder with the front tyre because we were doubting whether the medium tyre I was using would last the race distance. The tyre felt OK for holding the line and the grip didn't seem too bad but I didn't like the harder feel of the tyre compared to the more cushioning feel of the softer tyre. With the hard tyre you can feel every bump on the road but my times were just as good with it and if this was the only tyre that was going to last the race then I had no choice but to like it!. In the last few laps with a new rear tyre I did a 1.26.4 which put me up to P9 and on the last lap I got bumped back to P10 but I was happy with the session and so were the team.

For the afternoon we made a few small changes to the front of the bike to make me more confident with the harsh feeling from the hard front tyre. The changes didn't seem to make much difference to the bike which in a way was a good thing because it wasn't getting any worse. The temperature now was the hottest we'd had so far all weekend which was making the circuit more slippery. On some circuits, once the track temperature gets over a certain point the grip level starts to decrease. Also the type of asphalt at the Sachsenring circuit is very tight and has no pores in it which means that once the MotoGP bikes start to lay down a lot of rubber, the rubber just sits on top, of the asphalt and makes it a little bit more slick. I did a 1.27.0 up until the last 10 minutes when I put on a new rear tyre and equalled my time of the day before of a 1.26.7. I defiantly noticed the difference in grip from the morning because when the tyre was new in the free practice session I would more or less be able to nail it and still have grip for two or three laps but when I tried to do the same thing in final qualifying the rear wasn't hooking up as good and sliding sideways. I was a bit disappointed not to improve and even more annoyed at being bumped back to 17th. But at least I knew I was not the only person struggling to improve because only 6 people in the top 20 managed to gain time over the day before. Also I knew that my set-up for doing consistent lap times in the race was not too bad where as by looking at the time sheets I could see that other people were struggling to string more than one or two good laps together. In Grand Prix's I've found that you've always got to search for a better setting even though the bike can feel quite good. When you consider my time would have been good enough for 8th on the grid last year it shows that things can't be so bad and another example of how much the 250's has stepped up this year.

For Sunday morning warm up my chassis mechanic, Stefan Kurfiss had some ideas to try and give me back the less harsh feel that I liked. I was also given a different front tyre from Dunlop which was in between the medium compound and the hard which I had been using. The changes again didn't feel a lot different but for the race I had decided to use the new front tyre as I was assured this would last race distance.

My start in the race was pretty good. At the end of the first lap I had gained a couple of places up to 15th. On the second lap I passed Joan Olive and was with Baldolini and Guintoli with Ant West, Battaini, Nieto and Debon were just breaking away. On lap 7 Poggiali crashed which put me up to 13th and I was on the back of Baldolini getting ready to pass him and try and push up to Battaini and Debon. On lap 9 Guintoli passed me who had found some pace and I tried to tag on the back of him but was losing ground due to a lack of rear grip. At about the half way point of the race the gap in front of me was growing and the distance to Olive behind was about 6 seconds. I had quite a safe 12th position and then on lap 19 Debon ran slightly off track and that put me in a battle with him for 11th. I could follow him quite easily and found that in the first 3 corners we were similar and then over the long left hand 4th corner he was slightly faster than me so I learnt from him. I found that I was quite a bit faster than him in the 5th corner and up the hill and was trying to work out where to pass him on the last lap. Over the top of the big hill before the steep drop down the back straight I was losing to him due to him using 4th gear and I was using 5th. For the last lap to pass him I would also have to use 4th and get a good run on him ready to outbrake him at the bottom of the hill. I was very close to him on the way up the hill but over the top of the hill as I changed direction I had a small moment where the bike shook its head which lost me the few metres that I needed to pass him at the bottom of the hill. All in all I was happy because I did all I could and so were the team. After the race my engine mechanic said that he thought we may have had slightly the wrong gear-box in the bike because I was using different gears to some other Aprilia riders.

The next race is the big one at Donington which I will pushing as best as I can for a top ten. I always enjoyed the circuit as just being at my home GP is extra adrenaline. I look forward to seeing you there.

Chaz#57!

 
 

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