Qualification and night practice - Part 2
We are now Monday, the day after the race. How can I describe this event without missing too many details?
At the Riders meeting on Wednesday evening, that’s where I figured out what I was up against. All these Moto GP/Moto 2/World Superbike/World Supersport/BSB/FSBK riders… I was now adding to that list the CSBK. At the entry, they gave each of us the book of rules that has probably 150 pages. With a little over 160 riders in the room, they explain us a couple tips on the run off area, which way we could cut the track when pushing the bike back to the pit, how the pace car would work and a couple other trick related to the endurance scene.
The next morning was the first official practice; we then needed to start doing good lap time in preparation for the afternoon qualifying. On my first few laps out, while trying to go fast, I noticed a couple time big loss of traction at the max lean angle. After a couple slides and mistakes from my part, I headed back to the pit. I gave them my feeling of the bike without knowing on the spot what could be the problem and how to solve it. On my second outing on the track, on the first timed lap, on a quick transition, just getting my knee down, all of a sudden I found myself sliding on the ground watching the bike escaping from my hands. I see it spin and hit the barrier like a rock. Not knowing what happened, I ran to the bike to found that it is badly damage from the top, fuel tank, rear sub frame, front fairing with the dash not to be found… Back at the pits, the team Atomic worked hard on the bike to put it back in a rideable state, you couldn’t tell I crashed after just 1 hour.
Since it is not in my habit to lose a bike like that, there must have been a good reason for it to happen. I started looking at what could have been the cause. After lunch, I was getting a feeling of déjà vue, I already got that sensation of losing traction. I remembered that we’ve put a reference (tierap) on the rear shock so we could see the travel we were using. It was very difficult to go see it (which is why we didn’t look it up enough). We needed a mirror, a light and a cell phone camera, everything at the right angle to be able to see it. We could then see that the tierap was well below the bump stop, indicating a pretty hard bottom out. Without a doubt this was the reason for the lack of traction. With this information in hand, the spring needed to be changed for a stiffer one. Since next session was qualifying, they didn’t want to make any change to the bike. After a couple talk and convincing them that it would be better for every other rider, they accepted that I would ride with the stiffer spring, but they would only change it before my session (so the last one)
Considering that all tires are calculated during the weekend and that the limit of tires for the superstock categories is 27(not set, front AND rear), we could only put one set of new tire for the 3 qualifying session. Since mine was the last, the tires would already have 40 minutes of intense riding (around 20 laps) even before I get on the track. Right before my session, mechanics change the rear shock for one that has a stiffer spring like I asked. Right from the first lap I noticed the huge difference and it gave me confidence that this problem was solved. After 10 minutes, I started opening the throttle earlier, getting into the corner deeper and wasn’t thinking of anything else then to ride fast. It was to my surprise when I got back in to see my time of a 2.03.1, 0.02s shy off the team fastest rider (despite the used tire). Now the team was confident we were getting in the right direction
Following that superb qualifying, the night practice was something new for me. The team started to have confidence with me regarding drastic change to the motorcycle (a bit late unfortunately). We’ve made another big change that made the bike turn easier while practicing for the night. We all had to confirm the bike the morning after on our second qualifying, knowing if we would keep that setup or revert to the older version. I made sure everyone felt good and made a small adjustment in order to help one of the riders. The first rider went out Friday morning and managed to improve his ideal laptime, but due to traffic and pit in, he wasn’t able to show it on the board. For the second rider, he improved his laptime by 1.5 second which is a huge step in the right direction. I, for my part, got some sprinkle of rain when I got out so I took it a bit easier but still manage to be pretty close to my lap for the day before. We were all okay with how the bike handled. Don’t get me wrong, it was far from being optimal, a lot of other changes would have made it better, but we just didn’t had time for that anymore.
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