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Chaz Checks In... Motegi

After the Czech GP I was at home for a couple of weeks before it was time to get fully packed up for the 7 week stint of all the fly away races.

During the 2 weeks I did a bit of cycling and also did my first time trial on my road bicycle which was good even though I thought I was going to be sick! It was a hill time trial, only 2 miles long but with it being up a hill that makes it really tough and it’s 100% effort as soon as you start. I went off a bit too hard for about the first half a mile and had to recompose myself and try to find some sort of a rhythm and try not to be sick before the top! When I did reach the top I could taste blood and was gasping for oxygen as if I was winded but was well satisfied that I pushed myself so hard. At the end I did it in 8 minutes 59 seconds which was 5th out of 17 riders so I was pretty chuffed with that for my first time trial. One guy said to me he‘d been trying 5 years to get under 9 minutes. I reckon if I‘d have scouted the course a bit more beforehand and not gone out quite so hard at the start I could have saved myself about 15-20 seconds but I‘ll know that for next time. The fastest time was 8.06 so I’ve got something to aim towards. I also went shopping and bought myself a big suitcase that I thought would be able to withstand the beatings of the baggage handlers and hold 7 weeks worth of clothes. Also I went to Oulton park to watch the BSB on the 11th which was good. There was some really good racing and I caught up with a few friends there. The problem with going there is you bump into people who you haven’t seen for ages and they all ask the same questions about racing and then I have to go over all of the recent disappointments at least 100 times a day! But that’s all part of it I suppose….!

About half a week before I flew to Japan, Hopper came to our place for a bit of supermoto and karting. He left his bike at our house from the time that he came last year and it has been parked there ever since. It was a good day, the weather was nice and we both did a fair few laps and at a good pace. It’s good to have somebody else to ride with for a change and makes it more fun. It’s also very good training, probably about the best thing we can do for our sport. Our track isn’t mickey mouse but you are always muscling the bike around and you get no rest and have to be 100% concentrated and that‘s what makes it so tough. At the end of the day I did a 41.6 which is the fastest I’ve ever been around there and John did a 42.8 which equalled his best time from last year but he was more consistent this year. Just as we were finishing up I wanted to have one more crack and get under a 41.5. The lap started really well and was very fast for about the 1st third of the lap and then I lost the front on our fastest corner of the track, a long right-hander. No damage but gutted because that was THE lap! Ah well, another day.

I flew to Japan on Monday evening and the flight was an absolute nightmare. Normally you can get a direct flight from London to Tokyo which takes about 11 hours, albeit a bit more expensive than the one we had but not that much more. I left from Birmingham airport, 1 ½ hour flight to Frankfurt where I met up with the team. Then I had 2 hours stop over in Frankfurt and then a 12 hour flight to Singapore. Then we had a 7 hour stop over in Singapore, then a 6 ½ hour flight from Singapore to Tokyo. From the time I got to Birmingham airport to when we arrived at the track in Motegi I worked out that it took 34 hours!

At the circuit I got all my riding gear out of the flight cases and got it all setup in the little offices that we have there and at all the fly away races. We arrived in Japan at 7.00am there time which was 11pm our time so it was a battle to stay awake all day but important that I did. The weather was pretty hot, much like Malaysia with a lot of humidity. Later in the afternoon James Ellison and I went for a run around the circuit to stay awake.

On Thursday I didn’t really do a great deal. I was still a bit tired and didn’t sleep particularly well in the night. I looked over last years data even though It was a very unsuccessful weekend which ended up with me having a crack in my heel but just for reference points with gears etc.

On Friday morning things didn’t start very well. The chassis was the main problem and I was struggling to turn the bike mid corner. At Japan there is a lot of hard braking and it’s very important that you can get the bike stopped well in the hairpins. We played around a bit with small effect but I was quite sure that if I could get the feeling I wanted we could go fast as I did 2 years ago at that circuit. It was my best weekend of 2003 and I finished 10th in the race with a few wild cards in front. Last year couldn’t have been more opposite but I was optimistic of a reversal of fortune! For the afternoon we made a few more small changes but again without any major result and improvement. I needed at least 1 second over what I was doing and at that moment that felt like the limit. At the end of the session I did a 1.55.3 and that was 19th place with a few wildcards ahead. After the session my chassis mechanic and I had a chat about exactly what the bike was or wasn’t doing and we came up with a solution to try for Saturday. We were going to put 1 harder spring in the front forks and alter the swing arm pivot position so that there is more weight on the rear and less weight on the front because at the minute there was too much weight on the front and it was hard to stop and pushing wide.

On Saturday morning I felt the change while running in new pistons. The session went a whole lot smoother than the Friday did and I felt like were starting to get somewhere with the bike, and I like that feeling! I did a consistent run near the end of the session all in the mid 1.54’s and the fastest being a 1.54.3 which put me inside the top ten at the time and at the end of the session was 14th. The bike was much better but I still wanted a bit more stability on the brakes so we decided in the afternoon qualifying that we would try the hard front tyre as it has stiffer sidewalls which cope better when heavy on the brakes and doesn’t give a mushy feeling.

In the afternoon I immediately liked the feeling of the tyre on the brakes because it was more stable but was unsure about it when hard cranked over. I caught Locatelli and did 1 55.0 on my 5th lap which had already improved my qualifying time and he was holding me up. I don’t want to whinge but his bike was an absolute missile, I thought mine was going OK until I got with him, it was a joke! I stopped in the pits and told my chassis mechanic how the hard tyre felt and I said I wanted to give it a bit more of a test. With a new rear tyre on I went back out and on my 2nd lap I lost the front in the 2nd corner. It went very easily and the bike was too badly damaged to get back on. That was the session over for me with 30 minutes to go and I knew that I was going to be well down on the grid. After the session we could see clearly why I crashed. The tyre on the right side looked like it was working well, slightly mottled which is a sign that it’s working. But on the left side it looked untouched, and looked like it hadn’t even been out on the track. This was because there aren’t left corners on that circuit that work the tyre as hard as the right corners do. Also the track temperature went down 10° c from the morning session which wouldn’t have helped. My grid position was absolutely disastrous, 23rd and the lowest I’ve been for a long time but I knew I was capable of more and took the positives out of the Saturday morning session.

On Sunday morning warm up I ran in new pistons and tried to get a feel for the bike with a full tank of fuel. It didn’t feel great, and with more weight on the front it felt half way in between what I had on Friday and Saturday. I would just have to wait for the load to go down in the race and in the last half it should start to feel better. We were definitely going to go back to the medium front tyre for the race rather than the hard that I crashed on, it was going to last the race no problem but it was just a question of feeling on the brakes and stability on the way into the corner.

My start was an absolute flier, even though I did a better one in warm up this one was still good. From 23rd on the grid I was 17th at the end of lap 1. I picked off a couple of others and then Ant West crashed in front of me and I lost about 1.5 secs. I was on the back of a group behind Sekiguchi, Corsi, Debon and then Guintoli who had broke away slightly. I was stuck behind Sekiguchi who was pretty good on the brakes and his bike was quite fast so he was hard to pass. Debon and Corsi had started to get away and I could find no way by. I was losing time on the exits on the very first part of the gas which is a problem that we need to solve, the way my power works seems to make it hard to get on the gas early and gives me no feeling to the rear. I had some new exhausts in Sachsenring and we’ve had this problem since around then so in Malaysia we will need to test more. I was in 14th and I knew there was one place I could pass Sekiguchi and was just waiting for the right opportunity but the exit from the corner before had to be spot on. Also I didn’t feel very confidant with a full tank, I couldn’t stop the bike as well as I wanted and had to be careful in some parts of the track when hard on the brakes. On lap 7 I entered the corner on to the back straight no different to what I had done in qualifying and the front bounced twice and then folded, with no chance of getting it back. The bike was far to damaged to continue and that was the end of my race. The only explanation for it was the extra weight of the full tank just loading up the front end that bit too much.

Obviously it’s another huge disappointment because the race wasn’t going too bad until that point. Maybe looking back I should have bided my time a bit more and waited for the fuel load to go down even more, but I could see Corsi and Debon getting away and I thought I could run with them. Next weekend is Malaysia and it’s a track I really enjoy. I finished 9th there last year and a repeat of that would be nice but no guarantee’s with the way things are going at the moment! I’ll be trying.




© 2006

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