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Chaz Checks In... Catalunya

On Monday I left the circuit in the afternoon with Shakey and his friend Wag in his motor home. Shakey had already pre-booked the ferry from Genova to Barcelona and asked me if I wanted to come with him so I jumped on the band wagon. You're always guaranteed a good laugh with the Shane and his mate Wag is pretty out of control so it was highly amusing!

My team mate, Martin, rang me on Tuesday night and asked me if I wanted to go supermoto riding the following day so I took him up on the offer. I was up pretty early Wednesday morning and met Martin. We then went to meet a bunch of his mates and then loaded up his bike which is the Suzuki RMZ450 and headed for the track which was about 1 hour away. The weather was seriously hot and the circuit looked very cool. I'm only used to riding on my dads track which is quite a bit different to this one so it's a nice change for me to ride somewhere different. Martin and I shared his bike and were doing pretty similar times. The track had a really good layout but it was quite slippery and bumpy compared to my dad's. We rode for about 4-5 hours and we were all pretty stuffed by the end of the day.

On Thursday I did some laps around the track with Casey again, and the Italian TV commentator was racing us! 2 years ago he turned up in the paddock on crutches and in casts from head to toe! He broke his leg in 2 places, arm, collarbone and some other stuff that I don't remember in a scooter crash and after riding with him we could see why! After looking over last years data and the data from the test here, then it was time to head to the hotel and get an early night.

On Friday morning things started well. After running in new pistons I quickly got back into the track and on my 8th lap did a 1.49.7 which equalled my best time from testing. That seemed like a pretty good lap but to go faster I needed more feeling to the front because it was very vague giving me no feeling. We made quite a few changes but it wasn't really making much difference and I did another 2, 49.7's but that seemed to be about the limit before the front was tucking and I was picking it up off my knee. With about 15minutes to I had the biggest front end save of my life and in a corner where I wasn't really expecting it! It was tucking in all of the faster corners on the track but on this lap in the middle of the 5th corner, the tight hairpin left it well and truly tucked. In the middle of the corner, just as I was about to get on the gas it folded and I was on my knee for, no joke, about 10meters and then it just came back and I picked it up with my heart in my mouth! The next lap when I came around there was a huge black line from it, right the way from the middle of the corner to the end. I was hoping that somebody would have got it on camera as I'm sure it would have been equally as impressive as that picture of McWilliams on the Proton 500 when he's just about on his elbow and saved it! I was proud! By the end of the session I never improved on a 49.7 as that was the limit before it was tucking everywhere. I was confident that we could go pretty quick when we find the setting. I finished up 15th.

That afternoon in hospitality, Casey and I were eating and talking about how the session went. He said he was also not getting a lot of feeling to the front. I said 'Yeah me too, you should have seen my save at the left hairpin, it was a beast'. He said 'Holy shit was that you!' I saw the big ol' black line there and thought whoa someone's had a big near highside!' I said 'No that was the front!'. He said 'Shit, you're joking!!'.

In the afternoon session we made a few slight adjustments to try and help the vagueness but it changed it very little. We dropped the front end of the bike which brings it closer to me and gives me a little more feeling but the tucking was worse. I did a 1.49.4 and had many other front end losses (not as big as the morning!) and finished the session in 17th. After a big de-brief with my chassis mechanic we decided that we would go the opposite way for the following day and take weight off the front. I was using the hard front tyre and only getting 8 laps out of it which is completely not normal.

On Saturday morning I immediately felt the change. I had more feeling to the front and didn't seem to be losing the front half as often as I was the day before. The engine was running ok and didn't seem to be having the shifter problems of Mugello so that was good. In the last 15minutes I did 7 laps all in the low 49's and felt like I could have done more had they not put the flag out. On my last lap I did a 1.49.0 and finished up in 13th pretty confident for the afternoon. Also the hard front tyre was now lasting more than 8 laps and looking much better after, without the big tear strip around it.

In the afternoon the ground temperature had gone up quite a lot. The problem we were having on Friday returned with the heat and seemed to have lost all grip in the front and had the bouncing feeling come back. I struggled for the first 15 minutes of the session and came in to the box because the heat had seemed to completely throw our settings. We went more in the direction of what we did from Friday to Saturday and this improved the feeling but only slightly. My last 3 laps were a 49.1 then 2, 49.0's, only very slightly quicker than the morning but felt like I had to push a hell of a lot more for the same time and had a much worse feeling come with it. I was pretty disappointed because just where you think you've got a good setting in the morning, it's totally different in the afternoon. I thought in the afternoon a mid 48 should have been possible. I was 15th on the grid.

For morning warm up we made a couple of tweaks but it was difficult to tell how much different it was going to be from 9.00am to 12.15 and race day was pretty hot. The setting felt so-so but with it being morning warm up there is no drastic changes that can be made as it's a risk unless your sure it will work. I was 16th in the morning.

For the race I had to make the decision whether to use the hardest rear tyre that we have or the just hard tyre. I had done most of the weekend using just the hard tyre so I decided quite late to stick with what I knew and went with it. And the 8 laps in the low 49's on Saturday morning were with this tyre and it felt pretty good then. We made some adjustments to the clutch since Mugello also and all of the practice starts I was doing were pretty good.

My start in the race was also good and my first few laps I made up good ground just off the back of the factory bikes and at the head of the kitted bikes. At the end of lap 1 I was 13th, on lap 4, I passed Giansanti and Takahashi and also De Puniet had crashed so I was up to 9th. Just following Guintoli. Already in the first laps of the race I didn't feel comfortable with the bike even though I was going forward. The front was not tucking but bouncing like I had the day before and making it difficult to stay on line mid corner and also the grip on the rear felt fairly minimal right from the start. On lap 6, I passed Guintoli up to 8th and thought 'we'll if I'm going forward then other people must be having the same sort of problems as well'. Then in the next 2 laps it all got worse. When I tried to open the gas mid corner the rear was sliding easily and I started to lose ground and get passed by the other 5 kit riders behind me. Debon past me on lap 10 and almost squeezed me into the gravel which lost me a good second and let Locatelli through. Also he apparently was the cause of Ballerini's crash so there'll be a lot of riders out for revenge in Assen. I couldn't keep up the pace of Guintoli and Takahashi who were now at the head of the battle. I was doing high 49's, low 50's where as before the race I thought I could do mid 49's consistently. For the next 10 laps I was still about ½ a second too much on the group in front and that was as much as I could do. From lap 15 on my engine started to behave quite strange and wouldn't rev now and again. At the start of lap 20 just as I notched up into top gear going down the start/finish straight the engine again cut out and this time definitely didn't want to come good and then it seized up so I quickly pulled the clutch in.

A post mortem on the engine showed that somehow a bit of the rubber carburettor seal had broken off and worked it's way into the float bowl and was blocking up the main jet so in turn there was no fuel coming through and they don't like that much! Obviously the whole team were disappointed along with me. The race started really well and unfortunately as the race went on it showed that we didn't come across the right setup in qualifying and we started to fade. At best I'd have scooped a few points but realistically we should have been still in contention for around 8-10th position. Looking at my rear tyre after the 20 laps I did it looked pretty well spent.

So we've got to look forward to Assen which I am looking forward to. Unfortunately Guintoli and Debon gained quite a few points over me so we need to make a mends from the next race.

I finally have got myself a road bicycle after many months of researching so a big thanks to Brian from Yellow for helping me out with that. This weekend I have my first race called the Shropshire Highland Challenge, Guintoli is coming down from where he lives in Leicester to race in it so were going to have to work together for a change! It's 71.5 miles so were going to have to bide our time and be patient and then see how we feel in the last 20 miles and then attack! It should be fun. Wish us luck and I'll tell you how I get on after Assen.




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