With three fifth place finishes perhaps Oulton Park, the 12th and final round of the BSB series, didn’t quite go as I planned – no podiums. But for me it was another step forward towards being 100% again so can’t complain. I had to fight real hard, spent most of the time bumping elbows and fairings. My lap times were similar to my first visit there back at the beginning of the season, (I got onto the podium, twice that time), it’s just that now everyone’s that much faster!
I did get to race with the front runners, trading positions with Leon Camier, Tommy Hill and the guys. As I told the team, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 was brilliant, I was just needing to get that last little bit of extra pace out of myself – and it was coming. The rhythm that I wrote of last time, it was there. I had confidence, pace and I could challenge.
In that first race of the weekend (they did three for the final round when it’s usually two), there was an intense five-bike battle for that fifth place, so to come out on top was so exciting and I think that flowed through into the Sunday programme. Being third fastest on the Sunday morning warm-up, I was ready for the races. The first race was brilliant. I got a great start and was able to get the tow on to the lead group. At mid race, I passed Tommy for fourth and the podium was close, but then I started to struggle just a little for grip and ended up in fifth again. So for the final race we changed some settings to try and get that last little bit, but you’ve guessed it – it didn’t work, it made the bike worse. So, another fifth for me and Suzuki.
For me though, the feeling, the rhythm, the combat – I got the feeling that my comeback from injury is almost complete. Mentally at least. Physically, well, there’s still some way to go. I’m having a little more metalwork removed from my leg this week, but some will stay in there for a year yet. By the beginning of next season, though, I expect it to be at 100% strength.
Now that could be this blog over, only there’s been a few events going on behind the scenes I want to tell you about. It’s only been a matter of weeks that I renewed my contract with Suzuki to race the Worx Crescent GSX-R1000 in British Superbikes (BSB) for next season. But then an opportunity to join their World Superbike team came up. It makes for some mixed emotions as I am very sad to leave this team, we’ve just got on so well together and it’s been a great adventure. But the opportunity to race in World Superbikes (WSB) is too great an opportunity to miss – a chance to ride with the best racers in the world, in the best teams, on the best bikes – everyone is agreed, there is no question, I must do it. And so while I am sad I am also very excited, the adventure continues and continues to be made within the Suzuki family. I can’t express how happy I am that Suzuki have this belief in me as to what I can do.
And like I said, it has all happened so fast. Even my debut for the WSB team, Team Suzuki Alstare, comes earlier than anyone could expect – in less than two weeks, as I’ll be racing at the very last round of this year’s World Superbike Championship at the Portimao circuit in Portugal!
So, racing a factory superbike in Britain is for now over. Y’know, this 2009 season has been so crazy. We started so well, first pole position, first race victory, leading the championship… Then everything came crashing down with the Donington incident. The dream became a nightmare in a matter of seconds. The road to recovery is not an easy one, especially after that kind of injury but I always believed I could be back before the end, that’s what kept me going during those months. So now all focus is on 2010 and I can't wait for it to start again.
Wish me luck!