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Chaz Checks In... Qatar

After Malaysia we left on the Monday to fly to Qatar. Like last year, Qatar was absolutely scorching. It’s like Malaysia but it is more a dry heat rather than the humidity of Malaysia which makes it easier I think. I had been dosing up on the flu tablets to try and get rid of my cold before I got on the bike again. I was still blowing my nose and clearing my throat but I felt fine generally. In Qatar there is not a great deal to do apart from one big shopping centre so we went there on Tuesday but just looked about. On Wednesday we went to the circuit in the morning. It feels really hot there because of all the tarmac giving off heat and the buildings etc. Luckily, for all the mechanics the pit boxes are all air-conditioned but they still sweat! It was quite funny because the team telemetry man, Dave, was just sitting at the computer, studying data and sweat was pouring off him!

I studied all my telemetry from last year just to double check gears and to try an remember things about the circuit as it’s only our second time of going there. After that I walked around the circuit by myself and took a small wet towel that I draped over my head but that dried out by the time I got to about the second corner! It’s a good circuit Qatar. The only negative is the location because the track gets so dirty but it’s the same for everybody I suppose. It didn’t look to bad when I walked around it. Last year it started of absolutely terrible, like it was a slippery wet track but it did look a bit better this year and like it had a bit more rubber down which would make things better. In the first 125 session last year they weren’t even touching there knee it was that slick but it improved a lot as the weekend went on.

On Thursday it was easy to see that the circuit was in much better condition than it was for the first session last year by watching the 125’s. When we got out there it felt pretty good grip wise for the first day. It was extremely windy which was causing a few problems in a few of the corners but at least it was cleaner this year so if you did get blown off line there was a bit of grip. The bike felt pretty good. Like last year, the front tyre was chewing after 5 laps so we focused on tyres mainly for the first day to see what would stick it best. In the afternoon we tried harder tyres on the front and the rear, the hardest tyres that Dunlop offer to me. The rear wasn’t making any difference at all because it looked and felt good all the time but the front was taking a pounding. It’s the complete opposite to any other circuit. The front was behaving like the rear, having a big tear line after 5 laps and the rear looked good all the time. Strange! The hardest tyres were what felt the best for me in the heat in the afternoon, and the front looked not too bad so that was a good sign. I didn’t really piece together a very good lap in first qualifying and was down in about 21st but wasn’t too worried because I knew we had a pretty good setting and a slipstream in that wind was worth easy ½ a second which I didn’t get.

Friday morning went well. We didn’t make any drastic changes to the bike as it felt pretty good and I put together some pretty decent strings of laps always around 12th-16th position. I ended up 16th in the session and was confidant for the afternoon as I still didn’t get a tow off anybody like most other riders were doing. In the afternoon within 15 minutes I had bettered my Thursday time and gone up to 17th using old tyres front and rear. I did some more consistent times and came in for new rubber. I was using the hardest tyres because I was 95% certain that I was going to race on them. In the 250 we don’t get qualifiers either. When I went to go back out with 15 minutes to go the bike was would not start. I got off and the mechanics tried but it definitely wasn’t going to have it so that was the end of my session and I had to watched myself get bumped back down the screens to 21st! It turned out that it had seized slightly, the first one of the year, and the piston ring was slightly stuck. Anyway, I knew that I had the pace with a good lap and a slipstream to be at least 2 grid rows higher so I was banking on a start like Malaysia and then get fully stuck in.

I woke up confidant on Saturday that I could get a good result. I felt that the bike had been pretty good all weekend, apart from the seize and was ready for it. Morning warm up went ok with a full tank and old tyres. I was 14th and after running in the bike did 3 consistent laps before the end of the session. I also did another good practice start.

My start in the race was like Malaysia, it’s nice when you see bikes going backwards! And into the first corner everybody broke a bit early and I let off the brakes and slipped up the inside of a couple, kept it really tight around the first corner and gained another place. I was then on the outside for the second corner where I lost 1 place but through the first section I had gone from 21st to 15th. Simone Corsi was then doing his usual thing on the first few laps, using the factory power, which cost me time until I passed him. Then I had to chase down Debon who was about 2 seconds ahead. I felt really good and was in 12th at the time, gaining on Debon. I caught him after a few laps of chasing and then followed him for a few laps before I passed him. When I passed him I stayed ahead for another few laps then I started to get the same feeling as Malaysia. I hadn’t fully got rid of my cold but I didn’t think it would be a problem. My concentration went and I felt dazed. Then Debon re-passed me with a really aggressive move into turn 10, the left hairpin and almost hit me so I had to pick it up and went wide letting 2 other riders in the group by. I hung on to the group but just didn’t have that final bit of strength to fight with them and started losing about 0.3-0.5 per lap. I got completely swallowed by the whole group behind which meant that I had gone from 10th to 16th. I tried to almost slap myself to get some focus back but it just wasn’t there which is very unlike me. I came over the line in 16th obviously very disappointed and a bit confused as to why I was feeling the way I was.

After the race I spoke with Suzuki's physiotherapist, Dean Miller, who said that I was most probably low in protein as well as some other things which can cause these sort of problems and, with it being as hot as it was that makes it even worse. I've only had this problem once before in Japan last year and I hate the feeling because you just can’t focus properly. So next is Australia where I have good memories of from last year. I don’t go home in between so I should get a good 10 days to relax and do a bit of sightseeing before I head down to Phillip Island. I hope I can fully get rid of whatever I have and be 100% on the ball. At least it will be cooler in Australia which is sure to help. Wish me luck!

Chaz#57

 
 

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