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Chaz Checks In... Brno

After another month long break it was again time to get packed up and get ready for the second half of the season starting at Brno.

During the summer I did pretty much the same things as the first month long break, cycled, rode Supermoto, MX, drove go karts, basically pretty much anything that had either two wheels or an engine, I was on it. Mid way through the break I went down to my friend Andy Walker’s house, in Bournemouth, who I used to race against in 125cc BSB. Leon Camier was also down there as well so it was a good laugh, hanging around Andy you‘re always guaranteed some sort of carnage, he‘s that sort of bloke, extremely funny!!

When I came back from Bournemouth, Leon came with me back to my house for a few days and brought his MX bike and road bicycle so we could do some riding. He stayed for about 4 days and it was good to have somebody else to ride with for a change. We went riding in the woods behind my house, went to Radnor forest which is a huge forest and is used quite often for high profile enduro’s. There were a few big bogs in there which we underestimated and it got a bit messy now and again! I took Leon out cycling which opened his eyes a bit and made his legs hurt! Where he lives in Kent, it’s more or less flat with a few hills here and there but nothing major so he wasn’t really used to it in all fairness.

About a week before Brno, Ady Smith who runs a supermoto school at my dad’s circuit asked me if I wanted to go and help him out on one of his enduro school’s which opened my eyes a bit. It was in a forest with really deep ruts and tree roots etc and it was all a bit more hardcore than what I’ve done before and I really enjoyed it and learnt quite a bit. I find it difficult doing stuff like that, because having spent most of my life on the tarmac, I’m used to having the throttle flat stick and with that it’s more about being controlled and constant with the throttle and your very rarely wide open. And also I was standing up 80% of the time as you get a bit more feel to the bike and that was very different but good.

We arrived in Brno on Wednesday early evening and went to the hotel early. On Thursday I did the normal routines and had a bit of a chat with the mechanics to find out what they’ve been up to in the break. My one mechanic and my team boss Dieter did a bungee jump which looked awesome from the pictures.

I had pretty good hopes for the weekend, Brno is a track that I really enjoy and last year went good there all weekend right from the start. From the first session I knew that this year would be a bit harder though. Some circuits we can just turn up and the setting is more or less there or thereabouts and we change very little over the weekend which was the case last year at Brno and a few times this year. This year with the newer chassis it seems to be more consistent but it didn’t feel good in the first session. We made slight changes throughout the session but there was no dramatic improvements. In the middle of the corner the bike was drifting wide and was much harder than normal to be accurate with the bike. At the end of the session I was 15th on a 2.06.9.

For the afternoon we had a few ideas to try and improve the chassis but it was much the same as the morning. I followed a few riders and on the entry to the corner we were very similar and my bike was turning in very well but when I wanted the bike to hook around in the middle of the corner and really turn it wouldn’t and I was losing valuable time on the exits. At the end of the session I was 17th, on a 2.06.0 with very little improvement to the chassis over the morning.

For Saturday morning I had a good chat with my chassis mechanic about possible solutions because at the moment we weren’t improving the bike like we needed to be. Two years ago I had a similar problem at Brno which we cured by pushing the forks up through the yolks, taking weight off the front. I decided I wanted to try this and see if it helped. After running in the bike I knew that this was completely the wrong way to go which was a good thing because then we knew that we had to go in the opposite direction and try and keep more weight on the front. So we took some oil out of the forks so they stay a bit lower in the turns and also dropped the forks back through the yolks. This was the first immediate improvement that I felt all weekend but we still needed more and tried not to sacrifice any grip on the rear. I finished the session in 13th on a 2.05.8.

It shows how temperamental these bike are, last year we turned up and the chassis was on rails all weekend and we touched very little. This year it couldn’t have been more opposite but there’s been places where we struggled last year, turned up this year and the chassis was good, its swings and roundabouts. It can be a bit frustrating as well because you can remember exactly what the bike was doing last year and to try and make it do the same thing this year takes a lot more effort and work on the chassis.

For final qualifying we went more in the direction of what we did in the morning, which was more weight on the front of the bike. The changes were improving the bike for the line but with all the weight on the front a bit of chattering started to appear so we had to compromise and find a medium for the both, but finally I started feeling about 80% happy with the bike. My mechanic told me I needed a tow off another rider preferably some body like Takahashi who was about ¾ of a second faster. This was because the last part of the circuit is uphill and a good tow off a faster bike can be worth a good ½ second. On my last burst with a fresh tyre I did 1 lap by myself which was a 2.04.6, then sat up to look for another rider but couldn’t find anybody. My last 4 laps were all 2.05.0/2.05.1. At the time I was 13th but on the last lap a couple of riders got tows and I was pushed back to 15th on the grid but I was reasonably happy as we had improved the bike and done some consistent times which was good for Sunday.

On Sunday morning the sky was very grey and it definitely looked like we were going to have a wet one. It was raining as we got into the paddock in the morning and then stopped and was more or less dry for the 125cc warm up and dry for our warm up. I had to run in new pistons and was old on a hard rear tyre that had done over race distance so it was less than Ideal. I couldn’t get any feeling from the well spent rear tyre and the ground was cold so we were out on the wrong one. Even so, it’s called warm up for a reason and it’s just a chance to run in pistons, brake pads and to do a start on normally a new clutch.

The weather was still extremely dodgy before our race, it looked like it could have gone either way and similar to last years race where we had a bit of rain in the middle. I got off the line pretty good, aside from the fact that Debon, Heidolf and Ballerini all got really good starts from behind me on the grid and were in front into the first corner. At the end of lap 1 I was 15th and being held up a bit by Heidolf which let the group in front pull the best past of a second on us. I passed him at the start of lap 2 and then I was catching the group up to 10th place. At the start of lap 4 I was right on the back of the group and ready to get involved and try to get to the front and get away. Midway through the lap I was just waiting until I was close enough and finding the right opportunity to pass Debon who wasn’t going particularly quick. In the ‘stadium’ section of the track, the long left hairpin I saw a wheel out of the corner of my eye and before I knew it, Baldolini was into me and I was in the gravel trap trying to bail off so not to hit the barriers head on. I got up but both of my knees had taken a bit of a smack and I couldn’t function for a minute or 2. The side muffler on the bike was bent but that was about the only bit of damage, my knees got the most of it. So, another DNF and in an unlucky way was again very disappointing. Luck isn’t on my side at the minute but somebody told me it goes in three’s so I hope that’s the case. After the race Baldolini came around and apologised and reckoned he hit a false neutral on the way in!?

Next we have all of the long hauls which most are circuits that I like and I hope a bit of luck comes my way as I’m well overdue now.

Finally, on Monday when I got back from Brno my sister told me that Chris Jones, a fast, young guy that I’d known for a few years had a serious accident at Cadwell Park that afternoon and was in a critical condition. The following morning Chris died which is a big upset to anybody that knew Chris or had seen him race. Without a doubt he was one of the next breed of young UK guys ready to go to GP’s in the next couple of years. A few years ago just as he was finishing riding minibikes he was using his metrakit bike around my dad’s track and it was pretty unreal to watch for an 11 year old, fast and throwing it around like a toy. Condolences to Chris’s family.




© 2006

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