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Chaz Checks In... Istanbul

We moved on from Australia on Monday with a long flight to Istanbul. It was 7 hours to Singapore from Melbourne, then 1 hour waiting and then almost 8 hours from Singapore to Dubai and then an 8 hour stop over there and then finally a 4 hour flight to Istanbul. My Dad met us in Istanbul. He has been at home for the last 5 weeks and decided he wanted to come out to the last fly away.

The first impression of Istanbul was cold! I was expecting it to be pretty hot there, how wrong I was?! The second thing I noticed on the way from the airport to the hotel was the traffic, it was one of the busiest places I've ever been too. And some nutty drivers! On Wednesday we went to the circuit in the morning, stayed there for all of about 5 minutes and then left to go back to the hotel! The rain was torrential and there wasn't a lot of sense in walking the track in the pouring rain when we could do it the following day so we turned around and went back to the hotel in Istanbul which on a very good run was 30 minutes and in the traffic could be up to 2 hours! We didn't do much the rest of the day, just stayed in the hotel and watched the rain. Also I was pretty tired from all the travelling and the time difference.

On Thursday it was a brighter day and we went to the circuit early in the morning and walked a lap. I have got the handheld Playstation PSP and have got the Formula One game for it which has the Istanbul circuit on it so I generally knew the basic outline of the circuit but it doesn't show the hills quite like real life! It was really impressive and looked like an awesome circuit with a bit of everything in it, I was looking forward to getting out there. It was also good because Casey has the Formula 1 game and you can have some really good wireless link-up races, a good way to learn the track! We went back to the hotel in the early afternoon after I got everything organised at the circuit and then went to a shopping centre for about the 100th time on this trip and saw the same old stuff!

On Friday morning it was very cold. We left the hotel at 8.30am so we could watch the 125 and MotoGP and we were due to be out at 11.30 with an extra 15 minutes added onto our morning session because of the new track. In the end we didn't end up getting out on the circuit until around 1pm because of a delay for the 125's in the morning due to it being too cold!

My first impressions of the circuit were as I thought, excited! When I walked it I was trying to guess at whether the fast right at the back of the pits would be flat out on the 250 and after doing a few laps I knew that it would be. The circuit was very challenging with all sorts of different corners that makes it hard for setting up the bike. It didn't take long to get the quick right hander fully flat out. The first laps I was rolling off slightly plucking up courage and within about 6 laps I was confident enough to take it flat stick! The gearbox was pretty good for the first session. Aprilia look at the circuit and study the corners to work out what they think would be a close gearbox and then give that information to the teams. I only wanted to change 2nd gear as most of the corners were 2nd gear turns and it was a bit on the tall side but everything else was good. I used the same rear tyre for the whole session as I was just learning the track. The bike felt generally ok but I couldn't turn it particularly well in the long series of 4 left handers so I knew we had to work on that. I ended the session in 16th on a 2.01.0. For the afternoon we didn't change too much, just the 2nd gear and a small tweak with the chassis. I learnt more about the circuit in the session and didn't really put together a 'qualifying' lap but I was reasonably happy with the chassis. It was very good in the tight section in Intermediate 4 but in the faster section with the long left hander I was still struggling. We could improve the bike there very slightly but that meant sacrificing feeling and grip in the 90 degree tighter corners. I did a 2.00.3 which was 18th place.

On Saturday morning we never really improved the bike but I was getting to grips with the circuit more and more and trying different things to see what works best. My section times were all more or less ok apart from T2 with that long left. That was where I was losing my lap and nothing that I tried on the bike or anything that we tried with the setting was making much difference. I went 0.1 faster than I did on Friday and ended up 16th.

In the afternoon I knew that I would need to do at least a mid-1.59 and even better a low 1.59 to get a decent qualifying. The bike was more or less, that left was still killing me though but I had to deal with it. With 15 minutes to go I did a 1.59.7 which was enough for 16th at the time. For the last 10 minutes I came in for a new front tyre. Strangely, the fronts were behaving like in Qatar and tearing up on the left side more than the rears were. It is normally totally the opposite to this, especially in Europe where the rear do normally 5 good laps and then go off and the fronts stay strong. It was a problem that everybody was having and I knew people were going to suffer with it in the race. On my first flying lap I abandoned it midway through because I wanted somebody to follow and tow off but I didn't find anybody. Then on my second lap I came up on one of the Yamaha riders which scrapped my lap but I kept my head down so that I would be in front of him for the next lap. I passed a huge group at the end of the lap which had Dovisioso and Takahashi in it so I was hoping that they would pass me early in the lap and I could follow them for the lap. I broke slightly earlier than normal into the 1st corner and let Dovisioso through but he went wide and backed off which was a bit annoying because that would have been an ideal person to follow. It also messed my lap a little bit but it wasn't completely gone. ½ way around the lap Takahashi passed me but then a few corners later backed off and I had to roll off which was definitely my lap gone and then a few more who were in the group came by so I didn't get a clean shot at improving my 1.59.7. I was a little bit annoyed at this but there was nothing that could have been done. In the end I was 17th on the grid. T2 was still not good, I was losing at least 0.5 through there to where I should have been but there was proving no quick fix for it. Just after the session, when I was looking at my telemetry I couldn't resist to have a look what speed the quick right is at the back of the pits. The best I went through there was at about 152mph, full stick, head on the tank!

On Sunday morning it looked like it was going to be a fine day. It had been getting warmer and warmer and it was also good for me because I wanted to race on the harder tyres. Warm up was ok with the full tank. We made a small adjustment to the chassis to try and help that long left hander but it made the bike a lot more vague in the tighter corners. I ran in the bike and new brake pads and at the end of the session I decided I wanted to go back to what setup I had on Saturday afternoon and then suck it and see for the race.

My start was the worst one I'd done since the start of the fly away races. My clutch seems to be very inconsistent, in the previous races I couldn't fail but get a good start but in Turkey I didn't do a good one all weekend! I said on Saturday night that I fancy my chances and I'm gonna go for the outside line at the first corner. It's a risky move but if it works then it usually pays off. It was working a treat until De Puniet threw it up the road in front of me. I had to pick it up a bit to avoid him and then I was on the slippery stuff at the edge of the track and lost the rear slightly and lost whatever I'd made up. I passed a couple by the end of the first lap and was in 16th, near the back of a big group but ready to work my way through it. On lap 3 I was nearing the front of the group and then Sekiguchi crashed and then my team mate on lap 4 which split the group a bit and Guintoli broke away while I had to pass Baldolini and Corsi. Baldolini was ok to pass and I just got right up on to the back of Corsi and he lost the front in the first corner which made my job a bit easier. The rest of the race was a little bit boring really! I was pushing to try and get back on terms with Guintoli and Takahashi and did start to close them is but they were too far ahead. I just had to concentrate on holding off Baldolini to the flag. I could hear that every time around the long left he would close right up to me but everywhere else I was slightly quicker. I tried everything at that left that I possibly could but still couldn't turn the bike and run through there like I wanted. I was using a lot of rear brake to try and pull the bike in but I never really got it that good. On the last lap I really pushed to make sure Baldolini had no chance to go back at me which he didn't and I set my quickest lap of the race. I was pretty happy with the result though. It would have been nice to get off the line a bit better and stay on terms with Guintoli and Takahashi which I'm sure I was more than capable of doing but it didn't happen.

So, just the one more to go now and then three months of boredom! As far as next year goes it is still up in the air. Aprilia are making 3 semi factory bikes which I have been offered one of these along with Guintoli and another rider who I do not yet know. The problem is that these bikes will cost about 6 times the amount of what I am riding at the moment so somehow we need to try and work out how to find the budget to afford one of these bikes! Anyway, I'll keep my head down for the last round in Valencia and see how that turns out and maybe I'll have more news the next time I write.

That's it for now Kids, stay safe-Don't ride motorbikes!

Wish me luck.




© 2006

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