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Chaz Checks In... Jerez

Image of Chaz on the 2005 season bikeAfter the final pre-season test of the year in Jerez at the end of March I went home for the two weeks before we were back at Jerez for the first GP. During these two weeks Casey (Stoner) came back with us from Jerez, for a bit of fun and something to do, before the season started.

During the two weeks we both bought a 120cc minibike each (probably not the wisest idea at the start of the season!). We have a small track at home in the car park for my dads go-kart circuit which we were thrashing around on and we also took the bikes up in the woods behind our house for a big enduro-style loop around the hills which was good fun.

As well as playing around on the minibikes and a few laps on the karts we went to Brands Hatch to watch the first round of the BSB. We stayed at Shakeys house on Sunday night as he only lives 30 minutes from Brands and went with him the following day to watch some racing. Me and Casey both pointed out that the last time we were in a BSB paddock at the same time was when I was leading a damp 125cc race at Rockingham and he was right behind me when I highsided and he rode over my bike and crashed which cost him the championship. That's a sore point with him so it's best not to go there!

It was good for us to see a few old mates from the BSB paddock and good to watch some racing. There were quite a few guys there from the GP paddock. Apart from Stoner and I, 'DJ' John Hopkins was there, Randy Mamola with Jamie Dobb and also Paul Denning who I think still has quite a bit of involvement with the Suzuki team in the UK. I got to say fair play to John Reynolds for just getting out there with a leg in the state that his is in. My dad broke his leg in 2 places last September and only now is it coming close to normal and JR only did his in February so he's surely in quite a bit of pain.

After Brands, Casey went to Worcester with a friend of his who has come over from Australia to race in the British 125cc Championship and I went back to Shakeys as 2 days later was the Dorna 2005 Grand Prix Launch for the British press so it wasn't worthwhile going back to the Welsh borders.

The launch went pretty smooth. There was DJ, Shakey, James Ellison, Paul Denning, Phillip Bernie who is the sports director at the BBC, Manuel Arroyo who is second to Carmelo Ezpeleta at Dorna and myself. There were quite a few journalists there from daily Newspapers and bike magazines etc. After the press conference we went home and picked up Casey on the way back.

We flew to Jerez on the following Wednesday afternoon straight into Jerez airport which is only 15 minutes from the circuit. I did a couple of laps of the circuit by scooter later that afternoon, as I knew I'd be pretty busy on Thursday. On Thursday we had all the usual pre-season photos of all the riders on the start line. The weather for the weekend was forecast as mostly sunshine but partly cloudy for most of the 3 days.

We were starting the weekend pretty close to the same set-up as we had as the test we had had there previously. The engine is exactly the same as what we've had since the first test of the season which is the standard Aprilia kit so we've got to do our best with the equipment that we're on. You can't do any more than that.

Friday was a big battle with the chassis. For the morning free practice session I had my new M-Tech leathers which were very comfortable. It's the first time I've had a set of made to measure leathers that fit perfect from the first cut. The only problem was that because the leather was new it was very slippery and I had to keep holding myself from slipping on the bike for the first session and didn't have time to put it right so I had to wait until the session was over. For the afternoon we put a bit of sand paper on the tank to stop me slipping and also rubbed sand paper on the ass of the leathers just to take the slippery edge off them which helped. All through the session I was struggling to hold the line half way through the tighter corners on the circuit. I followed a few riders and I could enter the corner on the same line as them at the same speed which was no problem and mid-way through the corner they could turn their bike tight and stand it up and get on the gas whereas I was fighting to try and get my bike to hook around the last part of the corner and I was drifting out wide. At the end of first qualifying I did a 1.45.9 which was about the same that I did in the test 2 weeks previous but there seemed to be a wall stopping me from breaking that high 1.45 barrier. We needed to look at the chassis in order to gain time but each change that we made didn't improve the bike. I finished the session obviously not happy with 18th and struggling to make the bike handle better.

For Saturday the wind had really picked up. It was extremely windy and at the first and 2nd corner it was like a sandstorm. They say that the sand was coming from the Sahara Desert and the times were about 1-1.5sec off yesterday afternoon. Obviously, given the conditions, it was going to be difficult to get anywhere near the previous days times. If I wasn't already struggling with the chassis I was even more so now with all the wind which was pushing everybody wide. We continued chasing the chassis in the afternoon and again it was going to be difficult to go faster because the wind was still there. Nothing was making much odds to the handling of the bike and I did a 1.46.3, 1 person went faster and as a result I got pushed back to 19th on the grid. That evening I looked on the telemetry and compared the data from my best lap in qualifying and my best lap in the test of a 1.45.4. I could see that the first half of the circuit I was just as quick if not a little bit quicker than I was at the test, but as soon as I got to the corners that I was complaining about you could visibly see by the telemetry graph the difference in speed.

For Sunday we tried something slightly different for warm up which again didn't make much odds to the bike. For the race we made a bit of a gamble with the set-up as we were a bit lost and hoped for the best.

My start was a pretty good one. I got away just behind Giansanti and Jenkner and started to lose touch with them after about 5 laps. I was losing time just where I was still struggling with the chassis and was involved in a race long scrap with the two Czech guys, Jakub Smrz and Radomil Rous. The conditions were very windy and as a result a few riders went down. With about 10 laps to go I decided to follow Smrz for a few laps and just suss out where I was faster than he was ready for the last lap. I led at the start of the final lap until the double-right stadium section 5 corners from the flag. At the double right Rous dived up the inside of me and pushed us both wide which let Smrz back up the inside of us. I got on the gas earlier than normal just to make sure that Rous stayed behind me so I still could stay in touch with Smrz and make a pass in the last 4 corners. I knew I was much faster than Smrz in the 2 fast corners at the back of the pits and I got a good exit on the run towards them where I was able to draw myself alongside him. I could see him in the corner of my eye and I was just waiting for him to roll off the gas and then I'd get off a split second later. I stuffed it up the inside of him in the first of the fast rights and then pushed hard through the second so hopefully he wouldn't have a chance to come back at me in the last corner. I defended my line into the last corner and was just waiting for his front wheel to appear on the inside of me but it never came and I held the two Czech's off to the line and got 11th.

I wasn't particularly happy with the race as I felt I should be mixing it somewhere near Debon who finished in 8th. It was a hard weekend and to be honest I didn't expect to be anywhere near 11th in the race. I'll take the points however they come but I know that I won't get so lucky every weekend and we really need to make improvements with the chassis. Even so, I have 5 more points than I did at this time last year and we still have 15 races to go.




© 2006

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