I don’t mind telling you that for the last few race meetings i’ve almost felt like life has been stuck in some sort of groundhog day, it’s like I leave a meeting, drive home not down but frustrated I guess thinking why has everything gone wrong again, suss the job out in my head, press the reset button then train my nuts off to ensure I come back stronger for the following meeting, the problem is though as I said every weekend seems to be the bloody same and the reset button is getting warn out lol, a plan had to be made this time, Oulton Park being the first of the Showdown rounds and ending in such disaster meant a new plan of attack had to be put into place, grinding myself in to the ground wasn’t working so I had a call and decided, yep, I'm in..
That call, well, for some of you who have followed me and my career for a long time you’ll remember I came up and through the Fastbikes magazine Race riot program, I met some great people and done some amazingly fun things and every now and again I even got paid for it lol, one of the great people i met was a guy called Simon Hammerson, to you guys that read the magazine “Hammer” he and I got on from the very first time we met, trust me we couldn’t possibly be from more different backgrounds but he was always such a cool level headed guy that could pretty much do what he wanted when he wanted and as I said we got on from the word go, we’ve kept touch over the years and spent some time out in LA with him and his family so when he contacted me a couple of weeks ago saying he was in Europe and asking if I wanted to come on a Harley Davidson launch as a kind of special guest with him to Barcelona i figured that could be just the tonic I needed!!
We had a great couple of days riding, the first day on the all new Harley Fat Bob and the second day on the latest Heritage model and sure I was in good company, sure the sun was shining, sure the location was amazing, the Harley guys treated me like an absolute god so all the ingredients for a great trip were there but do you know what the funny thing is, riding the Heritage complete with panniers etc made me realise something and I haven’t stopped smiling since, I rode that bike, a bike i’d never contemplate personally buying although I love Harley’s and i’m currently in the process of having another super trick one built, it made me realise that I absolutely love my job and I absolutely love riding motorcycles, it was like right there and then something clicked, yes I'd had a very frustrating few race meetings but there’s literally no better job in my opinion in the world than mine when it’s going right so rather than being all wound up and frustrated I needed to take it on the chin and to start enjoying my racing again starting this very weekend at Assen, I felt truly enlightened and whilst I'd like to say thank you to Nick and the team for supplying me bikes to play on at my will what I took from those two days was far more than memories, it was a whole realisation!!!!
Onwards then to Assen, I was really looking forward to getting back there, last year we had two good races, sure it resulted in two second places but in fairness I raced the hard rear tyre for the first time in race one here last year and crossed the line less than a tenth off the win and In race two I charged throughout the pack after particularly bad start to get back to second again, one of my biggest weaknesses was braking for the final chicane which is probably the most important part of the track but I had a good feeling that now that we have the blipper system on our gearboxes in BSB that should be fixed and everything else felt pretty good anyway!!
FP1 was dry but overcast, we did 2 or 3 laps and there was a red flag but already in those 2 or 3 laps I knew we were off to a decent enough start, I was immediately right at the sharp end even though I was on the hard rear tyre and feeling comfortable, we made some changes during the red flag period and done a good few laps getting faster and faster before finally chucking a soft tyre in at the end of the session, usually we put the soft tyre in and immediately go lots faster but for some reason with the soft tyre I got lots of chatter from the bike and made a few mistakes because of it, I got literally one lap and that was crap but it was enough to put me P2 just behind Peter Hickman so it was a decent enough start.
FP2 was even better, we continued with the soft rear from the morning and did a 13 lap run which went well, I was running P1 the whole session but towards the end we pitted for some small changes and new tyres then went back out again only managing one flying lap due to traffic but that one flying lap was enough to put me half a second clear of the field, a good first day, the best we’d had in ages that’s for sure!!!
Well, mother nature certainly had something to say about the dry first day, that evening, night and pretty much all Saturday the weather was horrific, the track started to dry out slightly in FP3, we did some laps in the beginning of the session when the track was at it’s wettest and then did one more exit mid session just to confirm the gearing but after that we stayed in, plenty of guys went out I the end of the session on intermediate tyres and went a fair chunk faster but we felt good all the time we were on track so I figured there wasn’t much point stressing about being fastest in FP3 as lets face it there’s no points for that!!
Unfortunately the weather never let up one bit ahead of qualifying and the track was wet, full wet, however the biggest problem was that not only was it wet it was bloody cold too, I did an out lap in Q1 and basically rode around with Christian Iddon a few seconds up the track, he always goes well in the wet so I just tried to use him as a bit of a gauge as to how hard to push, the bike felt ok in the full wet but nowhere near how it had felt in the FP3 session, the biggest problem was that I had absolutely zero corner entry grip and as the laps wore on it seemed to be getting worse so with P4 on my board and having very nearly being caught to on more than one occasion I pitted to make some changes ahead of Q2.
Q2 was weird, the changes we made definitely helped me feeling wise on corner exit and I felt like I had more grip once I was back on the gas but the bike just did not want to enter the turns, closing the throttle and leaning in to the corner was like an off throttle high side just waiting to happen, I managed a lap or two upright and was around 5th or 6th but with the extra grip I felt I had a thought i’d try to be slightly slower entry wise but use the grip to get some time back, everything was going relatively to plan until I started winding the bike up for the run back down towards the end of the lap, I shifted to third, picked up the gas and the bike and I had a total disagreement about the acceptable levels of grip and throttle application and literally the rear tyre let go and sent me to the moon!! It was a pretty big crash to be honest and took me a couple of moments to get to my feet but once up I saw the bike look relatively ok and that i’d be able to get it back to the pits so I rode back, the boys gave it the quick once over and I headed back out but with stone cold tyres, I saw on the exit of pit lane that someone else was coming round so as I rounded the 1st gear left hand hairpin I moved slightly to the left to keep out of the way and no sooner did I do that I highsided the bloody thing again, that one hurt too and I remember just sitting on the track and shouting inside my helmet “just F*%K off will you” I was fuming!!!!! 6th row in qualifying it is then.. Oh what a difference 24 hours can make right???
Sunday morning we woke to sunshine, that’s always a good sign, not such a good sign was trying to crawl out of bed to turn off my alarm but hey, two high sides within probably 5-10 minutes just over 12 hours earlier will do that to a guy, the swelling on my hand had gone down slightly through the nigh so with the sun was shining and a cold and damp in front of me I headed out for warm up, on my out lap it was obvious there was a problem with my quick shifter so I had to pull straight back into the pits but it took a whole new foot rest, gear lever, sensor etc to fix the problem so I managed to get out for literally one flying lap at the end of the session but at least I got a lap!! Now all we could do was wait to see how much the temperature was going to warm up ahead of race one in order to decide which rear tyre to race..
Race one was going to be pivotal, I knew I needed a good start and knew I had no option but to go for it, I had to get to the front as quick as possible as whilst it’s very difficult to break away at the front of a BSB race it’s equally very easy to get caught up in groups once they settle down and for the front group to go, the start I got in that first race at Assen was nothing short of amazing, it was semi luck, semi judgement and mainly luck to be fair though, they held the lights on red for a long time and my clutch was just starting to try to bite and the bike was trying to move forward against the front brake but then the instant the lights went out I released the clutch and the bike absolutely rocketed off the line, I reckon I made up two rows by the first turn lol, it was probably one of the best starts i’ve ever done lol!!!
The first few turns all went to plan and I got a real good exit from the 1st gear hairpin tucked right in for a perfect slipstream from Michael Laverty but as we selected a couple of gears he must’ve had a technical problem and I was forced to roll off the gas allowing a few others back past me, b*&^%$£s I thought, anyway, I carried on and made some good progress through the field eventually getting into the front group, I was feeling really comfortable and confident in the race, I had plenty of overtaking places so towards the end of the race I started planning my attack, I overtook Leon and set about going forward but he repast me, then with him leading I passed James Ellison and was ready to attack again but then he passed me whilst I was lining up another move on Leon, basically four of us were battling for the win and whilst I felt very confident James and Sylvain were on a mission, it seemed like every corner there was an overtake going on from someone or another and with 2 laps to go Leon got to the front and with James, Sylvain and myself battling hard he got a tiny bit of breathing space, I got through to second in the end and crossed the line both happy with my performance and happy with the race i’d put together from 17th on the grid but equally annoyed that whilst i’d passed him and raced him during the race Leon stretched the gap at the top of the championship by another 5 points, anyway, it was what it was and I was on Pole position for race two so I had a great chance of making something happen from there!!
We made a couple of small changes to the bike for race two, nothing major, again I got another good start and was second thought turn one although I got good drive on the exit and went straight into the lead, basically to save me wearing out my fingers I pretty much stayed there until lap 16 of 18, James overtook me about 8 laps in whilst he and I had like a second and a half gap over the rest of the field and to be honest I'm not too sure what he was thinking because whilst I'd been lapping in low 1.37’s and building us a gap as soon as he passed he dropped into 38’s so the group caught us which was annoying, nevertheless as I said earlier I stayed in the lead until lap 16, Sylvain passed me through the fast left before the last chicane then as I lined him up on the exit he had a moment which closed us all right up, we headed down towards turn one four abreast and I braked as late as I could, I really didn't want to get caught up in the group, all of a sudden though there were two front wheels in my peripheral vision so I realised the brake a little to defend but as soon as I did I thought oh no turn one’s going to be tight now, I braked all the way in but had to sit up and run straight on and in the process I went from 1st to 5th with two laps to go, it became obvious once following where my weakness was, coming out of the long double right to start the run towards the end of the lap I just didn’t have enough drive grip and for the last two laps whilst I could make up time and hold my own for the rest of the lap both laps I got dropped there so I crossed the line absolutely gutted in 5th.
There’s not really much point in if’s buts, maybes, could’ve’s should’ve’s etc so i’m not going to bother typing anything along those lines, we basically went from lapping half a second a lap faster than anybody in the dry on Friday to a second and a 5th on Sunday, sure I had two fastest laps, I had Pole in race two but none of those give you points and I left Assen even further behind Leon at the top of the standings. I’m a very realistic person and I'm not stupid enough to think that even three wins at the final round is going to be enough to retain this title because reality is that if Leon has no technical issues and doesn’t crash in any of the races then he only has to score a certain amount of points to take the title but at the same time, one mechanical, one crash and all of a sudden it’s all to play for, in some ways this really takes the pressure off of me and I can go to Brands now to simply enjoy racing my motorcycle and try my very best as always, if my results are good enough and things go my way for a change but if they don’t lets enjoy it and come back fighting, I certainly never came this far to give up now so see you all there, take it easy guys and girls, Shakey #67