I was pretty relaxed about the Brands Hatch meeting despite being really busy preparing the bike approaching the event. Once I’m sat in the van that’s it. It’s a massive weight off my mind and I’m ready to go. What will be will be. The first meeting is a good chance to see who’s done their homework and who hasn’t. What I have this year is good in terms of package and setup and although I am slightly down on power by 10-20 bhp compared to other bikes around me due to running last years Superstock engine. There is always scope to tune in the bike and, as it stands, we are not far off the front man anyway so that’s a positive.
We ran slicks in the cold conditions on the test day, the grip was down particularly on the edge of the tyre but I needed track time on the new Dunlop slick tyres. My test in Spain was spent largely on last year’s Superstock Pirelli tyres as it allowed me to contrast setting changes easier as they were more familiar. I believed that the changes we made would translate to Dunlop tyres anyway which they did. Dry setup wise we felt as though we were good to go after making a small wheelbase change in the afternoon which gave me better punch off the turn and more stability running a longer bike.
Qualifying came and I was ready to go in the wet. I dont seem to need much practise in the wet and can go OK regardless but we discovered that a new spec shock we tested in Spain found time in the dry but was awful in the wet! I tried 2 or 3 pit lane ride throughs to change settings to find grip but it just wasn’t there with what we had so I had to settle for 9th, I wasn’t best pleased but I knew I would find time with a different spec shock in the bike and I am not bothered about scrapping my way into turn one.
With the shock change, race 1 went as well as could be expected and I jumped up 6 places on the grid over race distance to finish on the podium. I had fixed the grip issues and gone a couple of seconds quicker so it was all positive!
Race 2 was dry. I got a good start and settled into a rhythm and after a race long battle with Phil Crowe I eventually crossed the line in 5th. We had actually managed to catch 3rd place man Craig Neve and i’m absolutely sure if I had just 1 more lap I could have robbed the two of them for a podium on the final lap but the chequered flag just came out too soon finishing 0.7s off the podium.
Race 3 remained dry but the temperature had dropped significantly, something I was concerned about as the Dunlop’s we are running this year don’t offer the same grip as Pirelli or Michelin in the colder temperatures. I managed another consistent 16 laps of good times but I just couldn’t push into the cold weather and go for the extra half a second I needed to tag onto the front boys and finished 5th.
All in all I was pleased with the weekend results. A podium and two fifths but, more importantly, the times were so close to the top 3 that it could have gone anyone’s way. The error we made in qualifying has reaffirmed our wet setting which we won’t need to address again. I’m really looking forward to Donington now and if that ground temperature comes up it’ll really bring the Dunlop tyres into proper working range and then who knows!
Race 1: 3rd
Race 2: 5th
Race 3: 5th