Brands hatch Indy isn't one of my favourite circuits, far from it in fact, I love and I mean love the GP corridor circuit but other than there fact that for spectators you can literally see pretty much a whole lap wherever you stand to watch at the track in my opinion any track that takes less than a minute to lap around is a bit too short for modern day Superbikes so lapping here every 45 seconds is almost enough to send you dizzy ha ha!!
That being said the one gear thing about riding the Indy circuit is that you get to do it many times per session so you get up to speed very quickly then just chip away at the final 10th or 2, I was actually genuinely chuffed when I found out the organisers had turned round 2 into a4 day event because let's face it I'm a little bit behind the ball in terms of laps completed and riding here for an extra 75 minutes should increase bike fitness and feel no end!!
The first 75 minute session got off to a great start, I had a fairly decent rhythm and actually stayed at the top of the time sheets pretty much the whole session then with a push on new tyres at the end I lowered my time further to end the practice P1 and even managed to match my qualifying time from last year so all in all a good start!!
The weekend felt all a bit strange having had the practice session on the Friday, the actual FP1 session almost felt like it should have been the session before qualifying which clearly it wasn't but the 2nd day definitely had more of a race weekend type feel to it, I used FP1 to Re evaluate some chassis parts, we'd tried a new swingarm in the afternoon session the previous day so we went back to our usual one in FP1 before swapping back again to the new one in FP2 to be able to fully back to back test them comprehensively, I was really keen not to just throw something in because it was new because news isn't always better but working in this way gave us the best chance of drawing all the right conclusions then after FP2 we'd be able to make a proper call on what way to go. The session went well, I picked up on all the positives and negatives of the standard swingarm we'd been using all last year and ended up P2 looking forwards to getting out in FP2 In order to make the call on which way to go.
FP2 Actually went really well, we started the session with the tyres that we finished FP1 on and my rhythm was really good, i was happy with the lap times but couldn't help but feel if we could just improve a couple of things feeling wise at 2 particular parts of the track that I'd be able to be even faster, to be honest we tried a few different things with the bike but when you're literally searching for a 10th or 2 it's hard to determine how much better or worse off you are as the lap time will be very similar and for sure there will be some things that feel a bit better but it's always a compromise and whilst some areas improve inevitably some get worse so it's a case of trying to put together what feels best overall for longest!!
The FP3 session was pretty fresh temperature wise, we used that session to try the harder rear tyre out, I did getting on for a 20 lap run on it an maintained a decent ish pace but as always the tyre just doesn't work quite so well on the Ducati so it was back to a used softer tyre to back to back the two. At the end of the session we put in a new tyre to push for a lap time but I didn't really get the best out of it and to be honest i was feeling a little bit up against it heading in to qualifying, sure we had good race pace and longevity but our out and out 1 lap qualifying pace wasn't quite so strong..
All through qualifying we were chipping away still with the bike, trying various chassis balance and suspension settings, I'd been particularly struggling as I mentioned earlier at two places, in the beginning of Q1 i told the team i could maybe find a 10th if i closed my eyes and bit the screen but I ended up finding 2 10th's and eventually qualified P4 just off of the front row with a 45.0, of course i wasn't happy, we always aim for the front row especially somewhere like Brands hatch Indy but i was probably more annoyed at not making the 44 club, fair play to James Ellison, 44.7, that's not hanging about!!!!!!
Morning warm up was cold, we were going to use that session as a tester to see just how low the track temperature could get before the softer rear simply wouldn't work, track temp was around 12-13 degrees, we normally aim for around 18 so it would be a good test, unfortunately though the bike didn't want to play ball, i did an out lap and it wasn't running right at all so i had to pull straight back in the pits, the team sorted it but i literally got 4 or 5 laps at the end of the session all of which i rushed and made mistakes in but nonetheless it showed definitely that the tyre wasn't great when the track temperature was that low!!!
I have to admit I was a little bit tense ahead of the first race, that said I hooked with my team about the fact we were already doing far better than two weeks ago as at least at Brands I was actually sat on the grid ha ha!!
I never got what you might call a flyer off there line when the lights went out and I was perhaps a bit tense and tight into turn one costing myself a good few positions, by the end of the first couple of laps I was way down in like 9th or 10th, we'd mate some changes to the rear of the bike and straight away it was obvious we'd gone the wrong way, I just couldn't get the bike to hook up at all around Clearways and it was costing me dearly, after what ever up being too long I got past the Honda's and then had a massive gap to bridge, I got my head down and pushed as hard as I could for the rest of the race and got right on to the back wheel of Leon and Christian Iddon, with a lap or 2 to go I was planning my moves thinking we could be on for 2nd here, I really needed a clear run to get through but in the last laps those two were all over each other and it seemed every time I set something up one of them had a go at the other and it blew my attack, I eventually finished 4th which obviously I wasn't thrilled about but I'd shown really good pace with no grip so I knew with some changes to the rear we'd hopefully be much stronger for race 2, not only that I felt great on the bike and had barely worked up a sweat so all my efforts over winter looked like they'd started to pay off, I was really looking forward to race two!!
It's remarkable what a couple of hours can do, Giovanni, my boys and I sat down to talk through the problems we were having in race one then I headed off to have a shower, some lunch and a nap in between races, Giovanni had come up with a new rear shock seeing for race two and was convinced it would be better. I got a far better start in race 2 even though I got a little bit boxed in at turns one and two, I think I was running 5th or 6th and for the first 10 laps or so I was pretty connect just sat there riding around taking care of my tyres and just sussing various riders out, I passed Peter Hickman then Jason on the Honda then had a tiny gap to bridge to Leon, I still remember now putting one semi clean lap together to bridge that gap without pushing like crazy and seeing 45.4 come up on my dash, I had a little chuckle to myself when I saw that lap time as it had come so comfortably, soon I was right on Leon's back wheel, he was making lots of small mistakes and looked to be struggling a bit so I started to make a plan about passing him as there were still a 8 or so laps left and I had Christian Iddon and Luke Mossey to try to pass too, Leon made another mistake at bottom bend so I managed to get turned and drive it up the inside of him then pass into Surtees, knowing though how tenacious Leon is I fully expected a big block pass back up the inside of me at Clearways so I covered that but running in real tight as I knew if I could just get through Clearways i'd be able to get a small gap and set about catching the other two, the weirdest thing I'd been thinking nothing other than how I was looking forward to standing on top of the rostrum and how much I wanted to thank the team for the changes they'd made in between the races, I was so comfortable, do content and so convinced I had the race won then the next thing I know three or four big bounces later I'm upside down in the gravel trap at Clearways, it was like i'd been watching a movie I've seen a million times and I knew the ending of but somehow someone managed to put a new end to it, I honestly couldn't believe it.
Obviously not finishing in three of the first four races isn't ideal, it's far from ideal in fact but, and there's always a but, there were far too many positives to be in any way negative about how the weekend had gone, my outlook is this, Leon now has 14 podium credits over me, something I need to work on addressing in the coming races but in (hopefully) recovering those podium credits I'll be racking up the overall points to get myself a showdown spot and away we go, it's all good.
It's very important to put your hands up and accept responsibility when you know you've f****d up and I did royally at Clearways so I just want to say a quick sorry to all of my team and all the sponsors, fans and friends that were there supporting me, hopefully that's our season's worth of bad luck out of the way now and we can concentrate on bridging the gap to the front from here on in.
Last but not least i'd like to say congratulations to Luke Mossey on his debut then double win, good job kid!!
Right that's me done for another Blog, catch up soon guys and girls, keep the faith, I can assure you I am!! Take it easy, Shakey #67