You can't believe how much I've been looking forward to going racing again since Thruxton, funny really but that's me all over, some times you have a crap time of something, in my case something that I dedicate my life to and put everything i've got in to, it doesn't work out so you think balls to that, can't be asked to try again, or you find some excuse to not have to put yourself in that situation again but me, I go away, I think long and hard about what went wrong, I train my nuts off and I come back ready to get on with the job in hand, that job in my case obviously is trying to win races, it’s almost like I kind of get off on things when they go wrong because it properly gives me something to sink my teeth into..
Before heading up to Cadwell I had a bit of fun lined up courtesy of Audi, Wag my mate sorted us a driving experience day at Silverstone so Wag collected me from the airport Tuesday evening and we headed straight up to Silverstone. We were due on track at 12:45 so we went into Milton Keynes first to meet my friend Sean who sorts all my cycling stuff through Mavic and got a pleasant surprise when he gave me a pair of the new full carbon Mavic Comete shoes, I was made up!!!! The Audi event was quite good fun although I was a bit disappointed to not get to do proper laps of the track instead using different techniques and different cars on different sections of the track, we got to drive R8, RS7,RS6,RS3 And TTRS So it was a good chance to experience pretty much their whole performance car range that afternoon before making the trip up via Lincoln for dinner to Cadwell.
We'd tested at Cadwell three or four weeks ago and that test went really well, Cadwell is a really unforgiving place, there is in my opinion no gentle building up to the place, you have to just get out there and go and at the test we did just that, I went real fast in the process, under the lap record comfortably and generally throughout the day we just got the bike better and better so with the disappoint of Thruxton a distant memory I was really looking forward to this weekend!!
Something was wrong in FP1, obviously we started the weekend exactly as we'd finished the test as the bike in the test was great but my feeling on the bike was dreadful, we had a massive thunderstorm the day before so granted the track was green but I had no feeling whatsoever with the front or the rear of the bike, it was really strange, so strange that I never even bothered using a new tyre at the end of the session as we were trying to get our heads around what was going on…
FP2 from a performance point of view was slightly better, we ended that P1 but far, far from happy, we tested all sorts of settings throughout the afternoon session but we pretty much suffered the exact same problems we had in FP1 only I guess this time we had the chance to stick a tyre in and have a bit of a push at the end of the session. We sat down for a fairly substantial debrief after the session and spent ages looking at data etc in order to give Giovanni the best possible chance of coming up with a solution for FP3 on Saturday morning..
It almost feels like I'm fobbing you off with this paragraph as I may as well just copy and paste the last one, another session trying loads, going faster again, staying P1 but coming in moaning still about a massive lack of feeling despite everything we'd been trying, qualifying was going to be tricky that's for sure!!
Just to give you a little idea as to how far away we thought we were for Q1 we actually tested a completely different steering head angle pipe, one we'd never used before, sure it was ok and good enough to get us into Q2 but it had to come out after my laps and for Q2 it was back to the original, we were so so lucky in Q2 as I was down in 10th and out of the running until my final two laps which put me back up to third and through to Q3, if I thought the first two sessions had been tense Q3 was going to be extra hard!!
I went all in in Q3, a front row start at a track as narrow as Cadwell is really important, I did my out lap then just gave it as much as I could, I still felt massively like the bike was riding me rather than me riding the bike but nonetheless I did a 1.26.2 which was good enough for Pole position so for practice and qualifying at least our work was done!!
Morning warm up saw us try some stuff that Giovanni wanted to try as well as some ideas I had and I'm very happy and relieved to say that we made a step forward with the bike, don't get me wrong, we weren't there and ready to attack but we definitely went in the right direction and ended the session a couple of tenths clear of the field so a few extra little tweaks and that'd be us as ready as we could be for race 1 at least..
Giovanni had made a few little setting tweeks from the data we got during the morning warm up and whilst i never go out on the sighting lap and push like mad i did notice that the front of the bike felt a little bit firm and like it was riding just a little bit high, i mentioned it but like he said on the grid if i wasn’t pushing the front on the sighting lap the bike would feel a little bit firmer than the warm up so we went with the setting we had in.
Starting from Pole gave me the best possible chance of a good run up into turn one and for once i got a semi decent start, i got a good launch and a decent run up towards turn one, peeled in then right at the very last second got lifted by Leon which pushed me wide on the exit, i gathered myself up and to be honest sat there thinking perfect, you lead then, 18 laps is a long old race around Cadwell anyway lol, Leon did his typical steady away pace wise and to be honest other than defending a little i was quite content, on lap 2 we headed down into Mansfield, a tight steep downhill 2nd gear left hander, Leon peeled in and i followed but mid corner i lost the front of my bike, i was off the thing trying to hold the bike up on my knee then i recovered it then it went again then i literally hit my elbow on the floor before finally it bounced back up and in all of that which i can asuure you at the time felt like about 10 minutes i gathered it all up and only lost one place!!! After that moment i’m not going to lie i honestly thought i had something wrong with the front tyre, i was really gentle on it and i remeber riding around the fast Chris curve and braking for the top of the Gooseneck the following lap literally thinking to myself please grip, please grip!! As the race wore on and with a few little moments here and there i knew i had to bring the thing home, i desperately wanted to win but a needed to finish, i got into a little bit of a battle with Jason O’Halloran but managed to get back past him to eventually take a 3rd but let me tell you that felt better than some of my previous wins!!
We made a couple of changes to the bike again for race two, somewhat unusal changes too, shifting weight and balance to try to increase my feeling, starting P2 this time around i got another good start and settled in P2, Jake passed me then set about passing Lee Jackson who initially lead but i figured unless Jake was getting away which he wasn’t there was no point attacking early on so i’d preserve my rear tyre for the end of the race, the order stayed the same for about 11 or 12 laps, the three of us together but going into Hall bends Jake lost the front and crashed out, i decided there and then that i had to get to the front and push on with the lap times to try to get away and got to the front, with about 4 or 5 laps to go and leading i got the pace back down into the 1.26’s and thought right just hit you marks, concentrate and we’ve got this, coming into the top of the Gooseneck everything was fine and then as i exited the bike felt like it hit a neutral, i shifted up to knock it back into gear but no drive, i back shifted to 2nd, no drive, i knew i had a problem and thought initially that the chain had come off but as i came to a halt at the top of the slip road just to the right of Mansfield it was obvious that A) the chain was on and B) my race was done, i was literally f*^%$ng fuming, i sat there on the side of the track thinking how and why have we given away a potential 10 Podium points in back to back race weekends, this shit is unreal, i actually had to have a little bit of a word with myself though as to be fair it’s not very often i remember having a technical with PBM so i guess you’d take one now rather than later in the year, the word with myself never really helped that much though and i’m not going to lie i left Cadwell that evening feeling a little bit like what have i got to do!!!!
Feelings like that never last that long and the reason they happen is because i’m so passionate about my job and so so badly want to win, i soon snapped out of it and was looking forward to getting more training done and coming back as ready and prepared as i could possibly be for the triple header at Silverstone, now though we have 2 clear weekends off so it’s time to put those weekends to good use with some well earned family time, on that note i’m going to crack on, take it easy guys and girls, catch you soon, Shakey #67