Thursday, 29 March 2012
The weather couldn't really have been much better to be honest, I reckon we must of had around 18-20 degrees and sunshine all day so it was perfect, as soon as we got out on track it became apparent that whilst the circuit doesn't flow quite as much as some circuits nothing less than 100% there will get you anywhere near where you need to be lap time wise and with the bikes now having no traction control or wheelie control etc the nature of the circuit was definitely going to give us a bit of a work out!!!!
Fortunately the problems we'd been battling against in previous tests and started to get the upper hand with we're there in the background which meant we could carry on where we'd left off in Snetterton.
I got down to a pretty fast time within about 6 or 7 laps and the funniest thing about that was that on my first couple of laps the bike felt perfect, dead composed, controlled and nice and easy to ride but a second or so a lap faster and boom, there we have a whole different beast to deal with, all cool though and a great challenge!!!
As the day went on we started doing more and more work and trying different things that we hadn't yet had the chance to test and it threw up some real interesting feelings, one thing we were finding was that after about 35 laps or so my lap time constantly compared to my fastest was so consistent it was almost unreal, I'm not kidding when I tell you that on a number of occasions I actually thought my lap timer had broken because the lap time was so similar every lap!!
About 1 ish we put in our first pair of new tyres and I felt very confident of knocking another chunk of time off my previous best which was already pretty fast but after about a 6 lap run it was obvious we had a duff rear tyre, I knocked 2 10ths off my best lap but was sideways everywhere in doing so, I pulled in and we checked the tyre and it looked like it hadn't even been out on track, it was literally brand new in appearance!! A new rear and another couple of 10ths but this time consistently saw a big smile come on my face!!!
The great thing about this test was every time we made a change to the bike if it was good we went faster or not so good I could lap nearly as fast but it was far harder work, the team worked so well in fact that at the end of the day we actually got through our test plan and simply ran out of time to test anything else, we got exactly what we needed from the day though in more ways than one, we got a load of work done, ticked a load of boxes in terms of things we wanted to try, got to the bottom of some of the problems we'd been suffering all along, made a bit more headway with the electronics, got me feeling far happier on the bike AND got 82 race pace laps in from a fitness point of view!!!
I'm sat on my flight now on the way back to Gatwick feeling far more positive about the whole job, that's not to say I was feeling negative before perhaps just a bit more apprehensive about things, I feel better prepared now and really look forward to getting started, sure Brands and all the other races this year are gonna be incredibly tough and we'll find out just how tough in just over a week but at the end of the day if BSB was easy then everyone would be doing it, I'm certainly looking forward to those lights going out at Brands, that's when the talking stops and we find out exactly where we're at, fingers crossed it'll be in front of 31 other riders and well on route to another BSB Title, take it easy, Shakey #67
Friday, 23 March 2012
After a slightly disappointing time at Brands hatch the day before I was fully up for getting out and turning things around at Snetterton, Brands indy is a real scratchers circuit where getting to a lap time is one thing but finding the last few 10th’s is completely another and those last few 10th’s only come when you’re 100% happy and can push things to the limit, something we weren’t able to do yesterday..
My crew chief Johnny and our Showa suspension guy Sergio sat down in the morning once some of my media commitments were out of the way to formulate a test plan for the day hopeful of the fact that the electronics were going to be a little bit closer due to the work done at Brands which would allow us to start experimenting a bit with the bike from a geometry and suspension point of view, we all know form the very limited amount of work we’ve been able to do in these areas that there’s a fair bit of work we can get done in order to make the bike work how I want it to rather than how it decides it wants too at the moment, we know that we have some strong areas with the bike but our weak areas massively affect how well we can utilize the stronger areas.
Our first few exits were done on the tyres we’d used the day before and from an electronics point of view we hit the rewind button a little bit because at the end of the Brands test we seemed to somewhat overstep the mark in terms of how the bike runs into the corners, we went from a bike that was too tight and backing in sideways everywhere to one that wouldn’t shut down quick enough and nearly drove me off the circuit…not ideal!!! ;-)
It was pretty much immediately obvious that we had work to do electronics wise and from a chassis point of view my initial thoughts were confirmed very quickly too meaning we knew exactly what we needed to work on to improve the bike, the fact it never threw up any unwanted surprises from a chassis/suspension point of view was good too!!!
On one of my first few exits I caught up to one of the new Ducati’s and after getting a real good run on him (I think it was Polita) I drafted him and passed him up the start finish straight got to my breaking marker hit the brakes hard and immediately back shifted to third gear, this threw the bike sideways pretty much to the lock stop and I ran straight on at a rather rapid rate of knots into turn one, fortunately I got it straight and ran off onto the grass before rejoining the track further around, more engine braking assistance in 3rd gear then please Mr Motec ;-)
We spent the day working mainly electronic and geometry changes and kind of missed the boat a bit in terms of the best session to go fast but at the end of the day if I could buy one of the lap timers that some of the teams must’ve been using then I’d of been there anyway, the final two sessions saw the track temperature plummet and no one was going anywhere near as fast as they reportedly had been but it was in the final session when everything kind of came together for me, a run of about 10 laps saw me record a very consistent and relative to what everybody else was doing very fast lap times so whilst from an outright chest out bragging exercise we never posted the fastest outright lap when we started to get things going good in less than perfect conditions we were as fast if not faster than just about everyone on track from what my guys saw of all the other top guys.
A debrief after we finished riding with my crew chief and members of the team has lead us to the conclusion that we can be very happy with the work we got through at Snetterton, we’re hoping now to get one more test in on the bike before Brands although that is yet to be confirmed because we literally touched the surface of the geometry and suspension changes we made yet it made me so much happier on the bike, I literally can’t wait for my next test if not the first race at Brands, I think we’re in pretty good shape, it’s not going to be easy but then if it was everybody would win, I’m certainly up for the challenge that’s for sure!!! Before I sign out I just want to say a big thanks to the team for all their hard work since Spain and to Shoei and Alpinestars for pulling it out of the bag too, good job and many thanks to you all!!! Right enough typing for one day, take it easy, Shakey 67
After spending what should’ve been five full days riding the Rapid Solicitors PBM Kawasaki in Spain I was more than a little bit keen to jump back aboard it in the UK and with our first UK test being at Brands hatch it couldn’t have been a better place to start because lets face it I’ve done a lap or two around there in my time!!!!
My first exit on the bike couldn’t possibly have started any better, within 4 laps I was pretty much getting on the pace, I even surprised myself a bit!! That said though due to the new technical regulations which mean a “Superbike” is no longer so “Super” what a decent lap time is or how consistent we can expect to be over race duration remains to be seen…
One thing the team had managed to do since returning to the UK was unleash a little bit more grunt from our engines and improve the way the engine responds to the amount of throttle I twist so I was real happy with that as in Spain this was a pretty big issue, winding on 100% throttle in the middle of a corner with no traction control just to get things going a bit quicker could well spell a one way ticket to the moon!!!!
We spent pretty much all the sessions at Brands working on the new Motec ECU, any ideas of this championship having a control ECU that you can just bolt in and go are miles off, so far pretty much quite literally all we’ve done at pretty much every track we’ve been to is spend the whole time working on the electronics because until you get them somewhere near the way the bike works from a chassis point of view is irrelevant, as soon as you make another change and improve the electronics you automatically knock a chunk off your lap time but then you run in to new chassis problems that you try to fix, once they’re fixed you go faster then run into electronic issues again and it just seems to carry on and on like that at the moment!!!!
I have to admit that after 80 odd laps at Brands hatch I left there not so happy because we seemed to hit a bit of a wall lap time wise, the most frustrating thing was that by the end of the day my lap time on a 32 lap old rear tyre was only a 10th of a second off of my fastest which in turn was only a 10th faster than my lap time that I did on my 4th flying lap so progress in terms of lap time wasn’t made at all but we learnt a lot about the electronics in the process so we could take that information forward with us to Snetterton and hopefully build in a big way.
Putting a positive spin on things as I always like to do we know that we still have a fair bit more work to do but even so we’re there or thereabouts in terms of outright pace but from a tyre management point of view things are almost too good, usually at a small track like Brands a new set of tyres would be worth maybe half a second a lap or so, maybe a tiny bit more but the fact it gave us nothing tells us that something’s obviously still amiss, so with that in mind in two weeks time we’re looking to be in pretty good shape as we have Snetterton and maybe another test before we return to Brands hatch for round 1 so plenty of time to get things dialled in properly… Right enough from Brands, I have to type up Snetterton now, take it easy, Shakey #67
Friday, 16 March 2012
After getting to the circuit about 9-30 in the morning it was obvious from a track temperature point of view it would be a little while before we would be on track, saying we I mean Keith and I as Rat Boy had decided to skip this day as he was having some issues riding the previous days and had been going more and more downhill with them.
The team took the extra bit of time to prepare some stuff to test including a different swing arm etc and we finally got on track around 11, on one of my first flying laps I went straight on at the end of the back straight and it was obvious that despite the fact we'd already done a heap of work engine braking wise we still had a bigger heap more to do!!! Almeria's funny because towards the end of the long straight there's a little slip road type thing that's always been a great braking marker reference but no matter how much I tried there was no way I could get the bike slowed enough to make the apex of the penultimate turn which I seemed to run into way too hot every lap, that said we made a bit of progress in that area and indeed in other areas especially parts where I had to roll in and out of the throttle to open or close my line a little, as soon as I first experienced the problems Almeria seemed to be the perfect track to test at because it really high lighted the problem due to the amount of time you have to spend right on the side of the tyres in the middle section of the lap.
We actually were a little bit restricted in some ways with what we could actually do with the bike in order to work on the chassis setting but I know that as soon as the team get the bikes back to the UK we know exactly what we need in order to push things forward so that's very comforting, it was always going to be the case I guess, new bike, new rules I guess it was always going to be a bit of suck it and see where we're at then get back to the UK to really get some work done on the actual tracks we're going to be racing on.
Typically Almeria is a circuit that's very hard on tyres both front and rear and one of the things I finally tried again was a different front tyre, I wouldn't use it all last year on the Honda and have to admit to being a little reluctant full stop on the Kawasaki but I'm really pleased I tried it in the end because it definitely helped us to make some clear steps regarding where we need to go with the setting of the bike, sure riding in Spain with good track temperatures one thing and rolling round a freezing Snetterton's something else so we'll have to reevaluate back in the UK but initial thoughts and feelings were very good indeed, another real good thing was how consistent I could be on a longer run, I felt very comfortable riding at and maintaining a pretty fast pace which bodes well under the new rules.
I got to try a new rear linkage towards the end of the day which had both positive and negative effects in different areas so until we've made another step we'll not be retesting that, right towards the end of the day when we'd made a bit of progress I put in a new rear tyre with a used front to have a bit of a stab at a faster lap which I managed but the rear was spinning a fair bit even on the first lap which is unusual, my first lap was my fastest of the day but entering turns 1 and 3 on the 2nd lap the bike chattered sideways into both turns so rather than push again I aborted it, we could've put two new tyres in and then really pushed but I was happy enough with the lap time so we put some used tyres in and done a longer run on them staying at a real good pace throughout the run so all in all it was a really positive test for us and exactly what we needed before returning to the UK where we know we'll have more stuff to try and hope to get things that little bit more dialled in, the great thing is when the flag drops at Brands hatch in about three weeks time we'll find out exactly where we are, are the lap times in testing mean naff all at that point it's time to get down to business and that's exactly what I plan to do!!!! I just want to say a big thanks to all of the team for all the hard work they put in throughout the test, it's great to be back working with them again, lets hope they can steer me to another BSB title!!!!!! Take it easy, Shakey #67
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
My first exit was made on some used tyres from the day before in Aragon and literally within about 4 or 5 laps we were into an ideal ball park lap time which was good but immediately it was obvious we had lots of work to do on the engine braking side of things as well as working on throttle connection, for the first time we made some slightly bigger changes to the bike chassis wise and then I headed back out onto the track with some new tyres and had a bit of a go at things, for me the changes we'd made weren't perhaps working as well as we'd hoped so we stuck a few laps in just for some data and for my reference then pitted to make some more changes, after some more changes I headed back out and did another 5 or 6 laps but in that time I knew we had more work to do so when I caught up to my Superstock team mate Keith Farmer I though right I'll follow him for a lap or so then lead him around for a lap to show him what I think he should be doing, the first part went entirely to plan, for me I could see some stuff that I could show him and help him with immediately so going into the final turn I ran up the inside of him, indicated to him to tuck in behind me then the next thing I knew I was looking down at him from about ten ft up in the air thinking what the f**k just happened there, then..... Bang, down I came practically with snow on me slammed straight into the floor, dazed, confused and concerned about my foot that I'd recently broken and having taken a big bang to my left knee I laid there for a bit gathering myself still trying to work out in my head how I'd got flicked so hard when I'd done absolutely nothing wrong, I got taken off to the medical centre to be examined and other than a big graze and a swollen left knee, a sore foot and a couple of toes that are probably going to be nail less in the very near future I was relatively ok.
Due to the fact we hadn't started unit lunch time anyway I decided to sit out the rest of the day, fortunately the bike was extremely lucky breaking a gear lever and a handlebar as well as scratching a fairing panel, Johnny my crew chief downloaded the data from the bike and believe it or not I was off the throttle when I got flicked so my only mistake was maybe being on a tighter line than normal, to finish off an incredibly unlucky crash that both needn't and shouldn't have happened!!!
As you can maybe imagine I was a little bit sore the following day but more than ready to get back on and get cracking again, I got back on track first thing in the morning and despite feeling a bit uncomfortable and struggling a bit to back shift whilst hanging off the right hand side of the bike I didn't feel too bad, I got straight onto or just under my pace from the previous day so it was back down to work again!!
Cartagena showed us we needed a great deal more work to do on engine braking and from a gearing point of view there was nothing we could do to help the bike to settle a bit, one thing we were seeing though was that we seemed to be making tyres last very well which is encouraging. Whilst circulating on a shorter run I noticed Rat Boy had ran on into the last turn, he was there for at least two or three laps, I never even realised he'd fallen down in the gravel but concentrating on my own thing I managed to have another tiny slip off which was a bit of a bummer, i lost the front going down into the penultimate hairpin, it was a really gentle little slide off and once again just a handlebar and a footpeg so from that side we were lucky, obviously i was a bit gutted to tip off again but really i consider that my first crash and its always nice in a funny kind of way to get that out of the way!!! We managed to get through a fair bit of work throughout the day and whilst I left it way too late to have a proper go at a lap time that wasn't really what we were there for, it's great being fastest but we were more than in the ball park so I was cool with that, time for another road trip, this time slightly further south to Almeria, a track I hadn't been to since 2008 so I was really looking forward to getting out there, Tommy and Nori were testing there too so again another real good point of reference!! Right, that's Cartagena done, take it easy, Shakey #67
Going back a little in some ways I guess I can count the accident we had back in January as a bit of a blessing because after it happened and set me back big time training wise I decided to join a gym in order to try to fast track myself back to a decent level of fitness and as its turned out that seems to have gone exactly to plan, I've been waking for the last three or four weeks at 5-45am four times a week, heading straight to the gym for 6-30, doing a warm up, some cardio work, some strength work, some core work then finishing that lot off with a session in the pool, that little lot gets me back home by just after 9am then it's an hour or so with the kids, breakfast, then off out cycling for two or three hours, it's been pretty intense I tell ya!!!!!!
Right enough about training, we recently got our testing schedule fully sorted and it's an equally intense affair starting with 2 days at Motorland Aragon for the CRT test alongside James Ellison on the PBM bike, Du Puniet etc followed directly by 2 days at Cartagena then straight onto a possible 2 days in Almeria, looks like its a good job I did make such an effort training wise, 6 days back to back on the bike after 5 months off, #Fullon!!!!!!
I have to admit I wasn't exactly feeling the fact that I was going to get to ride my new bike at a track i'd never seen before but that said sometimes it gives you the facility to just chip away with no preconceptions as to what's good or what's bad so turning up there to ride only to find hurricane Katrina was in town was a bit of a disaster, it's funny though because had I have taken a photo outside of the pit box it looked like the most beautiful sunny blue skied day but reality was it was bloody freezing, there was no track temperature whatsoever and the wind, well, that was just out of order, changes to the bike were completely unnecessary because it was the wind that decided if you made an apex and whether or not you managed to stay on track on the exit, needless to say we didn't get much running done at all, we started a tiny bit of work on the new electronics package which would appear is going to take a bit of work to refine properly on track but that was about all we were able to get done, fortunately the weather forecast for the following day was better with nowhere near as much wind and going by the fact I absolutely loved the track already I couldn't wait to get back there the following morning!!!!!
The following day it took what seemed forever for the track temperature to come up a bit, again a photo of the outside would've had you thinking that it was at least 30 degrees outside but trust me it wasn't, the track temperature finally got into double figures about 11 ish so we headed out for a look, without the wind the track was completely different and so so much fun, my first flying lap was 2 seconds quicker than I'd been the previous day so that'll give you an indication as to how bad the wind was!!!!!
We managed to work through a fair number of issues electronic's wise and to be honest that was fairly critical because until the engine was responding properly engine braking, overrun and connection wise there wasn't a lot of point doing too much chassis wise, that said from a chassis point of view whilst things weren't perfect we started right in the ballpark so electronics was where we needed to make the biggest steps..
We worked and worked throughout the day and funnily enough having spoken with James Ellison about what kind of lap times he was expecting or hoping to achieve on the Moto GP bike relatively speaking we were going pretty good, however as the day wore on I started getting faster and faster and faster and ended up with a lap time that we were extremely happy about, that's not pre season testing bullshit times either, that's real, don't get me wrong getting all excited about a lap time at a circuit that frankly has not a great deal of reference to anything in the UK might seem a little silly but we were FAST!!!!
It seems obvious to us as a team what's needed to improve the bike and I'm definitely starting to gel with the Kawasaki, a lot of people have asked how it compares to the Fireblade I rode last year and to be perfectly honest it's a very unfair comparison because now the bikes are less tuned so maybe 20-25 horsepower down and they have no electronic aids so the style of riding has to change a little, one thing I will say is that the team definitely know their stuff with the bike and for a first test I consider it a complete and utter success, I left Aragon in a very happy state of mind and really looked forward to getting out on track at Cartagena the next day even though it involved a 300 odd mile road trip in the hire car with Rat boy and Keith, that said the road that leaves Aragon and heads towards Valencia was like a mountain rally stage so that kept me highly amused for the first hour or so, Cartagena's another story though, one that I have to sit and type out a bit later, for now though I'm a very happy boy, big thanks to my team for all the hard work they put in to get us there and for the job done at the test, onwards and upwards or downwards as geographically the case is to Cartagena. Take it easy, Shakey #67