Well, enough already, lets get on with it and let you know how the weekend went from my view, as you’ll probably remember from my last Blog about Cadwell Park we treated that whole weekend as nothing more than an extended test in order to get us into as good a position as we could possibly be heading into the Showdown part of the series, I quite obviously wasn’t overly ecstatic with leaving Cadwell with a 20 odd points lead in the Championship yet heading into Donington Park 7 points behind but all of that was completely irrelevant as we just needed to get out there, get on it and do our best to beat the rest, that, was the cunning plan!!!
It all started off good to finishing the 1st dampish session right near the front after with a fairly decent initial feeling from the bike despite the iffy conditions.
The afternoon session was completely dry and immediately I went quite a bit quicker than the morning session to the tune of about 2 seconds per lap but with that increasein lap time came a bike that felt really good and pretty relaxed to one that felt like being sat on a razor blade i.e. you were gonna be jumping off pretty quickly!!! I couldn’t believe the difference and to be honest if I didn’t know better I would’ve thought I was on two completely different motorcycles, I wasn’t overly worried though as the fact we were once again right up there gave me comfort and I knew Chris and the boys would only make the bike better as the weekend wore on.
We spent a fair bit of Saturday’s morning session waiting for the track to dry out as overnight rain had made it far from ideal, we learnt a couple of bits and pieces from the session though and continued working chassis wise to get things closer to where we’d need to be for the afternoons qualifying sessions.
All tucked in!!!
Heading into the first session we were trying a slight modification to the chassis to help me to get the bike turning better, I’d been complaining a bit that on the brakes hard or with a lot of weight on the front tyre the bike would steer good but as soon as I released the brake or flicked the bike in without loading the front good the bike just didn’t want to hook around a corner causing me to run wide by the apex then even wider on corner exit, when I got to the garage before the session and Chris explained what he’d seen on the data I decided to go two steps rather than one and during the first session made small additional steps too.
The second session was quite frustrating, I knew I had a good lap time in me, certainly fast enough for a front row but after just one flying lap it was obvious it wasn’t going to come in this session, that said we did enough to get through to the last session so hopefully it would come in the 3rd and final session.
Unfortunately it was once again blatantly obvious after just one flying lap that this final tyre wasn’t to be the one either, I was laying 4th so on the front row at that point in time but I pulled in straight after the first lap as I wasn’t sure if there was anything to do to help my problems and Chris made a quick change but despite this on my out lap down through Craner curves and into the Old hairpin the rear started to once again chatter and skipped around on me, the inconsistency lately has been shocking, I wasn’t a happy boy I can assure you as by the end of the session I’d dropped to 5th!!
For the first time pretty much ever I think we used a new rear tyre for morning warm up as it was important to press on to a certain degree to check out our latest chassis changes and the session went pretty well, you cant read a lot into morning warm up lap times but we were right on the money regardless so fingers crossed for the races..
Talking of which I had a plan for the races, it’s not very often I can state that, generally if you asked I’d simply say yeah, the plan is to win but this time round I knew that the Yamahas of Tommy and Michael as well as Hopper were particularly strong, my plan was to just get stuck in, proper, I knew that if they got clear track they’d be difficult to stay with so I knew I had to be a massive pest in the early laps then see how things shook out later in the races, that was the plan anyway!!!
Well as the lights went out to start race 1 you could definitely say things went completely to plan, starting 5th on the grid so 2nd row I got a good launch and made my way towards the inside on the run into Redgate, I waited until the guys just in front braked then braked myself as hard as I dare and ran up the inside of everyone to take the lead, perfect, that’s part of the plan sorted, over the 1st lap I had a bit of a dice with Michael Laverty and got in behind him for a lap, our 1st flying lap was my fastest of the weekend which boded well, I managed to put a pass back on Michael down into the Old Hairpin and lead from then right through to about lap 10 I think, Tommy Hill put a move on me into Goddards (the final turn) that sent us both wide and allowed Michael and Hopper to pass the pair of us which was a bit frustrating as by this point I was already suffering a bit with some rear grip issues and vibrations, immediately I re passed Tommy into turn 1 and even had a look at Hopper too on the exit and run down through the top of Craner curves, a lap or so later Tommy had another lunge but this time we nearly went to the edge of the track so the front two got a bigger gap, by this point things had gone down hill a bit more for me and I couldn’t keep the pace so I dropped back and ended up a fairly lonely 4th which was really annoying, after the race we checked the rear tyre and it had spun on the rim throwing the wheel out of balance but not only that it had actually cold torn a little bit too, sounds daft I know but basically we had to make some changes for race two to actually make the tyre have a slightly harder life so that it didn’t rip up so bad…. Either that or I needed to try harder ha ha ha!!
With the changes made to the bike I was ready once again for action, race 2’s plan was identical to race 1, be a pest initially then see where we were at after a while, because of the lap times from race 1 I was starting the second race from P2 behind Hopper which gave me a much better shot at making my plan come to fruition, I got a good start as the lights went out and matched Hopper on the run down to turn one, I was on the inside of him thinking I’m not braking until you do, I’m not braking until you do and the instant he hit the brakes I hit mine and ran up the inside of him, I went in there pretty quick but still got turned for the apex and was already thinking good drive, get good drive when I felt a big bang in the side and suddenly found myself riding a Swan Yamaha as well as my HM Plant Honda towards the gravel trap, I couldn’t believe it, surely that never happened…
The moment it all went so wrong :-(
as we came to a standstill with my clutch in and engine running I jumped up quickly checked my bike which apart from a bent brake lever seemed fine and got back on track as quick as I possibly could, this people was gonna be damage limitation taken to a whole new level, I got up to speed as quick as possible, repassed the course car into the esses and from then on in just had it lit, I set the fastest lap of the race on lap 2 despite a moment down Craner Curves which in hindsight I’m glad happened, at the moment I have to concentrate too hard on riding my bike rather than racing the track and I’ve explained that to the team ona number of occasions this year so me in full on attack mode racing the track not the bike caused the exact problem I’d been telling them about all weekend, quite often my comments are that I can only ride the bike to 100% of its ability but not to mine which might sound a little daft but basically it’s me saying I could change direction quicker but it will do that or I could flick the bike in faster but it would to that and the moment at Craner was a prime example and showed the team on the data exactly what it is I’m talking about when I say it, funny enough the exact same thing happened at Cadwell the other week!!!
Using all the track and more trying to catch back up!!!
Anyway, moving on I just kept going and going as fast as I could and kept a much better rhythm than I had in race 1, the changes Chris had made definitely improved things a bit, I treated every lap that I wasn’t lining up people like an all out Superpole lap and eventually got up to 8th position, obviously this was Very far from ideal, we were or should I say are well and truly on the back foot Championship wise which is a bit frustrating, don’t get me wrong I hold nothing whatsoever against M Lav, he along with the rest of us fighting for the title are being forced to do things and put under unnecessary pressure because of the stupid championship format, how a championship that’s run over 12 rounds or whatever it is can then be decided over 175 points is beyond me, it’s going to induce risky maneuvers and guys pushing over the limit because we have no choice if we want to be Champion but hey ho, hopefully there’ll be big crowds at the final three rounds to see it all unfold…..
I feel particularly gutted for my HM Plant team over the course of the weekend, both Kiyo and myself struggled a bit through practice then Kiyo had a problem with his bike which meant a retirement from race 1 and I had the drama in race two which only netted me a 4th and an 8th, not what we turned up for at all bit on a positive note hopefully that’s our bad luck been and gone, sure we’re a good chunk of points behind now but anything can happen and I promise I’ll be coming out swinging at Silverstone trying my absolute best to get things turned around!!
A massive thanks for all your support over the course of the season, and thanks to to my Team and everyone around me, I guess the biggest thanks has to go to my wife for not firing out our 2nd child whilst I was in the middle of the races and on that note I’ve got to get cracking as we’ve got a baby to have now in between now and Silverstone…hopefully!!!
Take it easy, Shakey #67