I've been really looking forward to this coming part of the season, don't get me wrong, I always look forward to the season starting but starting from Snetterton we have a pretty good run of tracks right the way through to the last round of the Championship in October. Do you know what, I never even realised how good Snetterton has been to me over the passed few years, I'd be lying if I said yeah I've won however many races there because I genuinely don't know the number but I'm fairly sure over the course of the weekend the officials mentioned something like 7 of the last 8 races I've won there, putting that into perspective if I hadn't got run off the track at turn three last year in a coming together with Leon that would've meant is won every race there for the last four years!!
My bike and I both really like Snetterton, last year in qualifying I remember going something like half a second a lap faster than everyone which was unheard of then, after that coming together with Leon which ran me off the track and put me dead last I came all the way through the field to finish 3rd and went faster in the race than I did in that qualifying lap so to say I couldn't wait to get started is a bit of an understatement!!
Having tested just a couple of weeks before we were all set and ready, Giovanni had modified the settings slightly from the test as the conditions then were savagely windy but it wasn't so much the constant wind speed it was the strong guests that were causing the problem back then. The bike felt pretty good literally straight away, there was some work to do in s few areas, the gearing needed changing and some suspension/chassis work to improve the feeling but generally things were good, the conditions were real good so we got straight to work on my preferred race tyre and set about placing ourselves in the best possible shape for Sunday's two races.
I ended FP1 In P1 and say down after to discuss changes for the afternoon session, we didn't have massive things to do, a bit of work on the boiler for back shifts, some engine braking etc, a slightly different gearing, just a few small things.
The team and I had made a decision to give the new swingarm another go this weekend, I said I'd ride it for the first day but if we couldn't improve the bike bearing in mind how good the bike worked last year that for Saturday's FP3 session we’d revert back to our original but as it was again in FP2 we made some more progress and improved the areas where I tend to struggle with the new one. We ended FP2 In P1 which was good but we knew there was still work to do in FP3 On Saturday morning to see how hard the extra grip from the new swingarm would work the rear tyre over a longer duration I.e a race run.
We started FP3 on the tyres from Friday afternoon just to confirm a couple of items we'd changed then put some new tyres in and did a very decent 13 lap race run, that gave us some important information and allowed us to follow a good seeing direction with the bike ahead of qualifying, I really didn't want to find myself with a bike that was great for ten laps or super fast over one LSP in qualifying but had no tyre left for the last 3-4 laps of the races as the battles here are usually tough.
Qualifying went real well, real well, again were were fastest in every session, my Q1 time was literally am out lap and a flier for P1, my Q2 lap the same but I made a right pigs ear of the lap yet it ended up being the fastest ever lap at the track so I knew I had a little bit in hand!!
For this round we'd be using our Super pole format for final qualifying and having finished P1 in Q2 I was the last to go, I got to see James Ellison’s lap before I headed out and fair play he really pulled it out of the bag with a 1.46.5, 3 tenths under my Q2 time, right, I thought, let's have it, all in, I nailed a real good lap, real good but just, just missed the apex slightly at the last corner, I tucked in up the straight after losing some exit speed onto the start/finish straight and crossed the line to do a 1.46.02, to put that into perspective that super fast lap record I did last year was a 1.47.7!!!!! 1.7 seconds a lap slower than what I'd just done, I was absolutely chuffed to bits!!!!
So with our race pace and our one lap pace looking good I decided that for morning warm up i wasn’t going to go mad at all, just ride the bike, check everything was ok then do a practice start and that’d be that, don’t ask how but even in doing just that i topped the session so all that was left now were the two races, no pressure lol!!
Talking of pressure after morning warm up i’d done two practice starts throughout the weekend and both were absolute crackers, would it be third time lucky? it didn’t seem to take 5 minutes after warm up had finnished before i was lined up on the grid and ready to find out.. the lights went on, i was there ready for the launch then the instant they went out to start the race i released the clutch and the bike jumped forward and skybound all at once, i caught the wheelie but knew already there was no chance i’d be leading on the run into turn one, i lost quite a few places on the run up towards turn one but got a couple back on the way into turn one so by the end of the first lap i was around 4th or 5th, eventually as the laps went on i ended up on thr front and once there i settled into a real good but safe rhythm, there was no point getting to the front and using loads of rear tyre pushing to get a big gap so i sat at a pace i knew i could maintain and if need be improve towards the end of the race and forutunately it was enough to get the job done so i took unbelievably considering we were 5 rounds into the championship my 2nd win of the season.
Knowing how well the bike had worked in race one i was keen not to change too much setting wise but at the same time in racing things never stand still and generally the 2nd race is a bit faster than the first so we made a small change to the front of the bike to help me a little bit in once i’d started releasing the front brake on corner entry, the bike was really stable on the brakes in race one but i felt it was almost a little too stable as releasing the brake and trying to get the bike into the apex felt a little bit awkward so we adjusted the bike accordingly to help me.
I got a much better start in race 2, not perfect but much better, i had a drag race up to turn one with Josh and slotted in in 2nd place but then as i jumped on the brakes into the hairpin at turn 2 the bike done a bit of an endo which meant i had to release then reapply the brake meaning i ran in deep and completely missed the apex letting James Ellison through, i gathered myself together after and spent the next few laps sat in 3rd following James, i could see at about half race distance that Josh was pulling a bit of a gap on James and when James missed a gear and went a bit wide at turn 6 i took the opportunity and nipped up the inside of him, as soon as i passed i got my head down to reel Josh back in, at first i was making a big effort to do so and in one lap i took at least half a second out of him so from there on in i just eased in a tenth or two a lap just to make sure that if need be i’d be able to pull the pin at the end of the race, with two or three laps to go i made my move on Josh going up the inside at turn one, as soon as i’d passed him i set about being as perfect as possible, hitting all my marks and apexs and trying to make sure he couldn’t come back at me, entering the final turn i flicked through the change of direction a little bit aggressively and my foot fell off the inside peg, i gassed the bike hard on the exit of the corner but without the correct weight on the pegs i went a bit wide and ran off the edge of the track and ended up on the grass, i held it together but fully expected Josh to repay the turn one pass i’d put on him the lap before, fortunately he didn’t so i got back to hitting those markers and apexs and brought it hoome for my first double of the season!!!
To say i was happy is a bit of an understatement, i’d said after Knockhill that we had a run of tracks coming up that suited both myself and the bike real well and i couldn’t have gotten off to a better start than leading every single session, breaking the outright circuit record, wining the first race with a new lap record then winning race 2 and smashing my own newly set lap record, race weekends simply don’t and can’t get any better right? So explain this, why didn’t i take it all in, why didn’t i enjoy the moment, literally as soon as i drove out of the circuit gates on the way home all i could think about was Brands Hatch, the next round, Snetterton ended like 2 hours earlier but it was already like a lifetime ago, onwards and upwards, isn’t that how the saying goes…
I had a cool couple of weeks planned straight after Snetterton so i’ll let you know how that went before Brands, for now though, thank you all so much for all the support, all the kind messages of support and talking of support, massive thanks to my PBM team, the boys did good, yet again, take it easy guys and girls, Shakey.