Hello again. Time races away, doesn’t it? Since my last blog – when I was readying to make my racing comeback – I’ve had three race meetings. Now coming up this weekend is the final round of the British Superbike Championship. Already?
So much has happened in that time. My return at Cadwell Park (in Lincolnshire) at the end of August – already seems so long ago. Thinking back, I don’t recall feeling nervous but I was apprehensive. I remember wondering how quickly I could regain my pace. I think, in a way, it’s not injury that slows a racer, it’s the loss of rhythm. You can carry an injury but if you can’t get the confidence then you are nowhere. The Worx Crescent Suzuki team were marvelous and it really was a wonderful homecoming. The team manager, Jack Valentine, reassured me that all he wanted was for me to play myself gently back in. Like many, he was nervous about the strength of my leg (honestly, I was as well…a bit).
At the circuit I did my usual thing of learning the track my way. I don’t follow others, I like to feel my way and let the lap times come to me. You can’t shortcut learning, but you can intensify it. As it turned it out I rather enjoyed this track. It may be the wildest, craziest, scariest circuit I’ve ever seen but I found it very absorbing. I forgot everything and got to work.
It was my first time at Cadwell Park and I qualified well, barely 0.15-seconds off the guy in second place, but as the track is so narrow that meant only three to a row on the starting grid – and I was on the third row. As I found out, while you can make the lap times, making passes wasn’t so easy. Over-compensated would be an understatement on what I did in that first race. I tried too hard to come back. I was actually very rusty when it came to race craft, so in trying to make passes, three times I found myself skating across the grass. But I got to the finish in eighth – so for a first time out we were all happy.
The second race was much better, I regained composure and felt a lot more like myself. Okay, the result was seventh, but very close to the second place man on the finish line (I’d got penalised for a pass that was technically – okay factually, under a yellow ‘caution’ flag). I was so sore at the end of the weekend. My leg was aching, but I was happy. I was back, better was to come surely.
Only, actually it hasn’t come. At Croft (North Yorkshire) all weekend was a nightmare for me and the team. It was another new circuit to learn and everything went wrong for the qualifying. I crashed on my bad leg and lost confidence completely. Race one was a disaster, crashing again on lap 17. The mission in race two was to regain some kind of pace (which we did) as I’d already crashed twice and was so far back in the pack that the team were communicating by semaphore, or at least I think that was what they were doing!
So by the end of Croft we had the Suzuki doing what it knows best, only who knew? Finishing DNF-13, even though we’d found a positive, to everyone else it looked really bad.
In the meantime, Suzuki and I decided to renew our contract for 2010. For me, there is no doubt, the Suzuki GSX-R is the bike I want to race. I know that when I’ll be fit and confident as I was at the start of the year, we will be on the podium again in no time. I was delighted that the team wanted so much to be together with me again for next year. I think while many have been judging me on Cadwell, and certainly Croft, Jack and the boys know what it’s been like, having been together since the end of 2008, when we did a fair amount of winter testing in Spain, and the first three meetings of the year when we were riding the wave.
We picked up more pace at the last meeting two weeks ago at Silverstone. Seventh and eighth were the results but my pace was top-five so this one could be assessed as “getting close – but not close enough...”
So that’s my mission for this weekend at Oulton Park in Cheshire. Yes, in the team we’re very focused on 2010 now, but for me going into the winter break, I’d like to leave on a high note. We had two podiums at Oulton Park back at the start of the season, so, for the first time – I already know the circuit and we have bike settings to work from. Podium, I am missing you!
That’s it for now. Thanks for joining me.