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Chaz Checks In... Mugello

When I got to the Mugello circuit early Thursday morning I did the usual looking through last years data and went through where we were going to start with the set-up with the mechanics. Then Casey and I did a few laps on the scooters. Normally we have pretty even scooters so it turns out in a race but as it's his teams home GP they had a heap of 500cc 4-stroke Aprilia scooters, absolute beasts! You could get up to 100mph without even getting much of a run on to the main straight! After us messing around for most of the afternoon, killing time, we went out for a pizza in the local pizzeria and then got an early night at the hotel. Them boys know how to make a good pizza!

On Friday morning the sun was well and truly out in usual Mugello style. It was pretty warm but nothing compared to 2 years ago there. It was about 35-37°c 2 years ago but now about 30ish. My team mate was feeling it a bit. It's weird because you'd think he'd be used to it coming from Columbia but he wasn't really, I put him at ease. I said 'Wait until Qatar, then you'll sweat!!'.

For the first 5 laps I ran in pistons and got settled in quick. Mugello is far from the easiest of circuits when you go there for the first time and I've done a few laps around there now so it helps. The chassis felt pretty good right from the off which is always good. I did a 1.57.2, only 0.3 off my best lap from the GP last year and ended up in 13th.

For the afternoon we changed absolutely nothing on the chassis which is the first time we've done that for a while but I knew that as the weekend went on and the faster I go the more problems occur so we would definitely not be leaving it at that. The engine wasn't particularly strong in the morning session so my mechanic made some changes for the first qualifying. Right from the start of the session I couldn't change gear properly. It's quite difficult to explain but the 'quick shifter' we have on our bikes that allow us to keep the throttle fully on, while changing gear, wasn't working properly. This is nothing to do with the shifter being broken but when the engine is squeezed on the carburetion for more power this seems to upset the shifter. All session I was in and out of the box but the problem wasn't going away. I was having to use my hand to change gear which costs time and also the bike was misfiring at random times. I did about 6-7 laps less than most people and finished up in 18th on a 1.57.0.

On Saturday we made some changes overnight in hope of getting somewhere with the shifter problems but nothing really changed in the morning free practice. It was the same scenario as the day before, in and out of the box and not many laps. The frustrating thing was, that there's not many times in the year, when I can say from the very start of the weekend that the chassis is good, it seemed like if it wasn't one problem there was always another. I finished the session in 19th.

In the afternoon the problems improved slightly and I could now change gear but had to sacrifice changing a few hundred RPM lower than normal as this is the only way it would work. We made a couple of very small alterations to the chassis which were for the better and I was finally able to concentrate on going fast for the first proper time in the weekend! At the end of the session I did a 1.55.8 which I was a bit disappointed to be in 17th on the grid with but the times were very close, only half a second to 10th and 0.8 to the second row of the grid. Also I knew that people like Ballerini and Baldolini did 1 lap with a tow which is worth ½ a second down a straight that size easily. Also Ballerini was on pole at Mugello in the 125's 3 years ago so he knows the place pretty well.

Sunday morning warm-up was easy going as normal. I ran in new pistons for 4 laps and then just checked everything was as it should be. I did a 1.57.0 with a full tank of fuel and old tyres so I was feeling pretty good for the race.

I was quite confident for the race, the only thing that I was slightly concerned about was getting off the line good. I did a practice start in warm up which wasn't too good because the clutch was very rough but it was a new one. I was nervous before the race, I ought to be used to it by now but it's the same every time!

I didn't get the good start that I was hoping for. Again the clutch was very rough and jerky. Luckily not that many people did get good starts because the 1st gear is very tall at Mugello. I made up a couple of places in the first few corners and at the end of the first lap I was 17th. On lap 3. I passed Smrz, Guintoli and Giansanti to get up to 14th and on lap 4. I passed Ballerini and Baldolini. I tried to brake away from them and stay with Aoyama and Takahashi on the factory Honda's but they were just a few tenths per lap too fast. I equalled my qualifying lap for two laps running early in the race but wasn't able to break the group. There are so many kit riders who are all riding together this year so it's important to try and break the group up as much as possible so there's only a few in the group rather than 6 or 7. I couldn't pull away from the group and on lap 8 when Guintoli passed me I was just going to sit behind him for a few laps to see what he could do. Smrz also came by at the start of lap 11 and that was as far back as I wanted to be in the group because I didn't want to let anybody get away. I was comfortably following Smrz and Guintoli when Smrz made a dodgy move and clipped the back of Sylvain and took them both down. I was quite lucky not to hit either of them and snapped on the brakes quick to avoid Sylvain's bike and locked the front wheel for a split second.

Surprisingly nobody passed me and I led Ballerini and Giansanti for the next 5 laps doing mid 57's but not pulling anything on them. With 5 laps to go I let Ballerini past to see what he had but he couldn't lead. The pace dropped from mid 57's to mid 58's as soon as he was at the front. With 3 laps to go I went back to the front again and purposely didn't push as hard as I could to try and lead them into a false sense of security, quite tactical! I did Ballerini's pace that lap and did a mid 58. With two laps to go I put the hammer down to try and catch them out and did two laps in the low 57's. At the start of the last lap I had 0.4 over Andrea and was giving him no chance to pass. I made a mistake mid way through the last lap which cost me a few tenths and I was kicking myself for it but pushed hard right up to the flag and got 10th. I was happy with that because it's nice to beat a couple of Italians on there home soil and also it was a good hard fight which I was bearing the war scars after! There was a big black rubber mark on just above my right knee slider, marks on the front of my bike and on the rear where the bike goes on the stand, the metal lugs that the stand goes under was snapped off leaving a big hole in the carbon fibre swing arm and the carbon cover over the exhaust was also broken! Proper carnage! The team were pleased with the result. It's also good for the privateer championship as neither Debon or Guintoli finished so I gained some points back on them.

Chaz#57!!!!!

 
 

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