Let’s be perfectly honest, i haven’t done a single Blog for you guys since the preseason test so starting this one now sat in the airport lounge in Barcelona airport i figure there’s no point trying to pick up from that last one as i’ve probably forgotten more than i remember about what’s happened of the course of 2016, sure there’s a few high lights for me, take Silverstone for instance, I was desperate to win on mine and the PBM team’s return to Ducati, perhaps a little bit of desperate though as the final corner on the 2nd corner showed, talk about sideways lol!!!
What else stands out for me… well i guess the 7th race of the year at the Brands hatch Indy circuit, it took a while to come but finally we got our first win on the Ducati, i remember after the first couple of rounds thinking that if we could just get through Brands indy and Knockhill then things should start coming together then i went and won a race at both of the tracks that i thought may not suit us so well!!!
Thruxton.. that was unbelievable, i mean unbelievable, i did 2 laps to bed in some brand new front and rear brake pads then literally on my first kind of get going lap was faster than i’d been the whole year before and initially put me something like 2 seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field by doing a 1.15.0!!!! Honestly though, that was a tough weekend, we were so fast, i felt so strong all weekend and we got robbed of our first Ducati double win by a snapped metal rod, that’s racing as the old saying goes!!
Brands hatch GP in August, this was another good weekend, i did the fastest ever two wheeled lap of the place only to get a puncture in my front tyre during my Superpole lap, i said on tv i made loads of mistakes and could understand why as I felt quietly confident of going even faster then when i got back to the garage the team showed me the hole in the tyre, i was lucky to even get a lap in let alone end up third or wherever i ended up, good thing was though despite terrible starts in both races we pulled off our first Ducati double of 2016..
Donington was massive, the first round of the Showdown, our test there at the beginning of the season when the bike was a bit of an animal was real good, i was faster than i’d been on the Kawasaki and i knew how much we’d improved the bike since the beginning of the season so i was really looking forward to racing there, I remember we got the bike in a pretty good place real early in the weekend and on the Saturday morning i did a really good race simulation, ok, i missed out on pole by a tenth of a second but I absolutely nailed race one and won by a massive margin and got a new lap record in the process, my pace and rhythm was so fast and even stronger than the race run from the day before, in the 2nd race i was strong again, in fact stronger again, i lowered my own lap record from race one and won by over two seconds, a good weekend at the office you could say!!
Assen was a funny one, i sat in a Eurosport TV season preview at Brands hatch during the final round before we’d even raced the last three races of the year going through things round by round and when the lady interviewing me mentioned the success at Donington then moved onto the fact that at Assen Leon beat me twice she said you must’ve been disappointed but believe it or not she couldn’t have been more wrong, you see the reason is the one thing i’ve worked really hard at all year is looking after my rear tyres and we’ve been so good with that that i’ve been able at a lot of tracks to use the softer of the two options we get in BSB, Leon however has been really good at going fast on the hard tyre which should have better durability over race distance and is definitely the way forward if the track temperature is cold, well, during qualifying we obviously use the soft tyre as the outright initial performance is better and my lap in qualifying was good enough in the exact same conditions to have put me 2nd on this years WSB grid behind only the king of Superpole Tom Sykes on a factory WSB with a qualifying tyre so i wasn’t too unhappy about that however, race day at Assen was cold, proper cold, we’d had some rain so damp and cold weren’t ideal conditions whatsoever and for the first time all year i had to use the hard rear tyre, i’d never even done a race run on it, my championship rival loved it and for a minute there it looked like things were playing right into his hands, during the race we battled with each other and eventually pulled a bit on everyone else but whilst i was wanting to get my head down and push real hard i never knew what that would do to the rear tyre so i had to sit there, eventually we crossed the line a tyre width apart and i knew from there that if race two at Assen or the final round at Brands were cold we’d be fine, i literally couldn’t wait for race 2!! I got a crap start in race two and found myself down in about 12th at one point, eventually I worked my way right the way onto the back of Leon but it was a lap too late, Leon won the battle that day but to me Assen was like an exam at school, i studied hard, did the test and realised i’d passed and that going forwards i’d be fine in the cold temperature too, there was only one round left, the triple header, at Brands hatch GP…
I think this year i remained remarkably calm, during my build up to Brands, there had been all sorts of nonsense going on since Assen, a certain rival team had been found to be cheating, nothing was eventually done about it which really wound me up then they had the nerve to protest me and my team at the final round which the organisers were obliged to check up on but rejected the protest as my bike was and has been all season completely within the rules, that fired me up even more!!
The first race on the Saturday was horrible, the conditions were typical Brands hatch October conditions, really wet in some parts, damp in others, not what we needed at all, i got a pitboard early on telling me Leon was out and all i could think of was the year that Alex crashed then i fell a lap or so later, my bike was set up completely wrong for the conditions, it was way too hard and stiff which made it feel like i was riding on a knife edge the whole race, i can’t even remember where i finished but i can honestly tell you that was the most difficult wet race that i’ve ever finished, i was so relieved to see the chequered flag!!
Morning warm up was wet and the team improved the bike a lot, again though i kept thinking about the year Kiyo and i were battling and he crashed in morning warm up and broke his collarbone, whilst the bike felt better i never pushed too hard as i didn’t want to make that same mistake!!
The first race on the sunday i started with a 27 point lead, all i had to do was follow Leon home but that’s not me and not what i’m about, i wanted to win this championship with a win if at all possible but again with damp patches on track and plenty of guys prepared to risk everything i settled in to the race very carefully, i never got the best of starts but as the track was drying my times were improving, i could see Leon a couple of bikes in front and if i’m honest my head for once ruled my heart, I desperately wanted to push on and overtake but my championship, my 5th championship was right there in front of me, I’m gutted to this day at taking the title with a 6th place finish but the reality is we got it done!!
The final race of the year i started from the 4th row, after a couple of red flags it was getting late, cold and dark and to make matters worse an oil spill meant the organisers had to wash Hawthorn corner, not only the fastest corner on the track but one of my strong overtaking places, the wet there though made that corner particularly tricky and they made the whole section a race long yellow flag area meaning no overtaking, BUGGER!!! I have to hold my hands up here, i worked my way through the field and got to third thinking there was a lap to go and feeling very good for a win but as we crossed the line to start what i thought would be the last lap the chequered flag was out, i’d been that engrossed in getting to the front that i’d misread the laps to go but at least we signed off with a podium!!
I guess that’s pretty much my season review wrapped up, i’m sorry it took so long to update you all, it’s something i WILL address for next season i promise, all that’s left to say for now is a lot of thank yous, obviously to my wife and children, Paul Bird, to Giovanni, Kev, Sam, Chris and Jack my team, to the rest of the Bewiser PBM team too, to all the sponsors, to all the fans, to the medics, Physios, marshalls and maybe most importantly for giving me that extra little bit of anger and determination our rival team and the organisers… Here’s to 2017, whatever that may hold of which i’ll update you very soon!!