Through entirely my own fault I've got to admit that this Blog is one of the more tricky ones I've had to do, why, I hear you ask, well, because typically me I kept thinking to myself I'll do the Knockhill Blog, I'll do the Knockhill Blog then before I knew it I had gone to Snetterton for the next round of the Championship and now I'm sat on a flight to LA thinking right, we've got ten hours or so to kill, I've already watched two movies, what can I do to kill some time so here we are, let's catch up on the Blog job!!
As you'll probably will know by now the week before Knockhill we had an official BSB test at Snetterton, having had 3 rounds of the Championship at this point and having won our first race this year going into the 6 week or however long it is North West 200 and Isle of Man TT break I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back out and get some riding done but whilst Snetterton is a great track and suits the Panigale well the conditions on the day of the test were far from ideal, I'd go as far as to say it was probably the windiest day I'd ever ridden there so I rode with plenty of caution as the last thing I needed was to lose the front in a gust of wind and end up going down, I'm not kidding it was that bad and all I wanted to do was race up at Knockhill the following weekend to try to carry on where we left off!
I said at the beginning of last year when the PBM team took on the Ducati’s that our two tough tracks would be Knockhill and Brands hatch Indy due to the scratchy nature of both of those tracks, Knockhill in particular was really tough last year due to all the camber changes there etc, the Ducati has been built and designed to work around big fast following circuits and let me tell you when it's in the zone at those kind of tracks it almost goads you in to pushing harder and works exactly like a race bike should, however, throw some fast changes of direction in the pot with big camber changes and plenty of stop start type riding and it really doesn't want to play ball, in some ways last year I got lucky as literally the whole weekend we really struggled set up wise and it didn't seem to matter what we did we just couldn't get the bike working good enough to attack in the dry so when race two was wet and I won I got a bit of a get out of jail free card, this, like last year started exactly the same however unfortunately we were all out of get out of jail cards this time round.
Without exaggerating I reckon we threw more setting changes at the bike throughout the practice, qualifying and even the races themselves than we threw at the bike in the last 5 rounds of last year's Championship which I know may sound ridiculous but it's true, literally everything at some point over the course of the weekend got changed, big things like swingarms steering head angles, off sets, swing arm pivot position, you name it, we even put a spare pair of front forks in the bike for morning warm up just to make sure we weren't missing something or to check there wasn't a problem inside my race forks, my poor guys definitely earnt their wages that weekend I tell you!
By the end of qualifying the best I could manage was P4, not an absolute drama it’s just that I could ride the bike to a lap time and maintain a rhythm comfortably but if I upped that pace by as little as a tenth or two of a second I quite literally felt like I'd be off the thing and on a number of occasions I almost was, it gets really frustrating when all you want to do is ring something's neck and ride the wheels off the thing but as soon as you give more than about 90% of your ability the bike just wants to throw you off!!
Race day morning having once again tried a different set up we had to gamble, we kept all weekend fixing one thing a tiny bit but making something else worse so heading into race one we went with a completely different set up and unfortunately for me the first time I'd really get a feel for it would be down into turn one on the first flying lap of the race which was one of the biggest problem areas on the track for me anyway, great!!!!!!…
As it panned out I guess all things considered the result wasn't too bad, it was a very long 30 laps basically just hanging on and trying to stay upright, I eventually crossed the line in third to take a podium finish which all things considered was OK but it was definitely a case of a major debrief after the race, study the data and make yet another plan for race two.
I got a better start in race two and once again tested the changes very early on, I was holding my own in 3rd or 4th feeling relatively comfortable and I guess the only blessing was the fact that I actually finished the race far from comfortable but actually in with a shout of a win, I once again ended up third which clearly isn't a win but in a second I'll explain why I was overall fairly content with my weekends efforts..
We all know and it's no secret that it has been a very poor start to the season for me, not just by my own usual standards but generally, I went into Knockhill all the way down in 7th in the Championship, out of Showdown contention and a big lump of Podium points off of the leader, I may well have left Knockhill absolutely exhausted as I promise you racing those two 30 lap races felt like racing two 24 hour races but the reason I'm content is this, I worked harder than I've ever had to work before with the Panigale, felt like I was literally pretty much a crash waiting to happen at any given moment on the bike yet all that hard work got me up to third in the Championship and got me a couple of more podium credits, the way I looked at it was this, if on a weekend as drastically bad as Knockhill had been I could drag out a couple of podiums then roll on the run of tracks we have coming up from here on in as they're all tracks I like and tracks that not only I like but ones that suit both myself and the bike, there's exciting times ahead for me that's for sure!
I think now, and yes you're right I do this every time anyway but after that weekend I really want to thank my team, Giovanni, Kev, Sam, Chris and Jack all worked so hard and never once moaned, we win together and lose together in PBM, we lost that weekend but we'll be winning again soon!! Right, that's one Blog done, I'll make a start on Snetterton in a bit, take it easy guys and girls, Shakey #67