Note: If you can read German, read the German reports. The English reports are often just short summaries.
End of 2006 I decided to buy my own car with the option to load the bike into. I found a Mercedes Vito 110CDi that fulfilled my needs. After that, I bought another TL1000S, that was rebuilt into a racebike over winter: Pictures of the racebike build up. The former also track driven yellow TL1000S was converted back to a road only bike. Pictures of the street bike.
The target of the season was participation in both runs the European TL1000 Cup. That I won the cup in my first entrance, was a big surprise and of course the absolute highlight of the season.
Because I didn't have a chance to testdrive the newly built race TL1000S, I decided to take both TL to a local track at Eastern. Good idea... From the beginning:
Friday morning was ice cold. Had to scrape ice on the windscreen of the van. The temperature was a bit a problem because the heating of the van didn't work. I was almost frozen when I arrived 1.5 hours later in France. Anneau du Rhin, the so called track, had been changed this spring for safety reasons.
First session on the racebike was horrible. Gosh did this thing drive shitty. Back to the pits after just one laps to check if I didn't forget to put the rear damper back. Nope, it was there. Closed compression damping fully and added some clicks rebound. Even worse!! The tail pumped horribly, absolutely undriveable.
Back in the pits I compared my TLS with the TLS of two buddies, equipped with the same Ohlins shock. Not compareable, my Ohlins was definitely missing compression damping and didn't respond to any adjustement on compression. Crap!!!!!!!!! Ohlins damper is broken!!! I'll slap my suspension mechanic for that, he should have remarked when he overhauled it... For instance I could only leave a "not so amazed" message on his mailbox.
After cursing a bit I decided to transplant the Wilbers shock of the streetbike into the racebike. I could as well mount the race tyres on the street bike, but the target was to test the racebike! 2h later the Wilbers (minus helper spring) was in the racebike ready to go again.
When I put the right tyres on (Pirelli Supercorsa Pro SC1/SC2) the bike felt good immediately. Some minor instability problems were cured with setup adjustments. Oh, and the infamous EBC HH brake pads crapped out again. They fell apart totally burnt after one 20' session. I can't believe these pads are loved in the US. After all, the afternoon went very well.
Everything went well. No work on the bike today. I wasn't up the pace in the fast sections, but the slower parts of the track went excellent. It was very cool to drive with 5 other TLS in the fast group. And my TLS defintely runs well, I could catch up with Wolfgang and Gunna who have both tuned engines (about 140hp at the clutch). The gearbox on the racebike works very smooth, much more precise than on the street bike.
Well, all other TL drivers decided to leave at Saturday evening. After all it was just a test weekend. So I was the last TL1000 there. Morning was colder than the days before which was a problem without heating in the car. And this wasn't good for the already old Supercorsa. I had to change them for the 3rd session. With new tyres I drove another two sessions. At lunch I called it a day, I got more and more sick of a pollen allergy.
Conclusion: Race bike works... except for the Ohlins shock.
Here's my report from the last race weekend in Dijon, France. I signed up together with the friends from Ducati Bern: Koni, Gianni, Jean-Marc and Marco.
Friday, 20. April
Left at 04:55AM with the Mercedes van. Stopped at Bern to join the friends from there. We had no GPS, no Michelin map (Michelin maps are the only good French maps). All the way to Dijon no problem, but we were totally lost in Dijon and lost at least one hour there. Arrival at about 10:00, Pit number 4.
Nobody of our group knows the track. Marco (GSX-R 1000K3) drives ahead, me (TLS) and Koni (Ducati 1098) follow him. The track is in theory not difficult to learn, but there are plenty of blind corners and all corners have some positive or negative camber. Track surface is quite rough, bumps here and there and - oh my god - some SERIOUS elevation changes (up to 15%). Some of the corners are very long and it's extremely difficult to find the ideal line. The feeling is strange, I thought I have no lean angle when suddenly a knee puck touched down. There is quite little traffic.
After lunch we want to leave, but remark that the track entry is closed (already too much bikes on track). After a red flag there is plenty of room. Marco and me leave behind Koni and learn some interesting lines. But we're a bit afraid to get shot behind him, the Duc misfires irregularly but very loud. Marco suddenly gets slower on the S/F straight. Later I learn that a ramair tunnel got loose and he couldn't steer any more, OMG. A quite exciting turn, I'm still looking for ideal line and brake points.
Later this afternoon Marco and me leave together and drive our fastest laps of the day: 1:34 for Marco and 1:35 for me. Amazingly I can follow the Gixxer on the straight line if I catch a good slipstream when accelerating out of the last (extremely important) corner. It's different if I'm ahead though, the Gixxer has the advantage.
In the evening I removed the kickstand because that ugly heavy piece always bottomed out in the first of the "double left" corners. Koni and the others drive to a Ducati dealer to get some new spark plugs for the 1098.
Stayed over night in a Hotel in Daix.
Saturday 21. April
We got up very early because of our two rookies just to find out that the rookie briefing wasn't THAT early. At least we had enough time to let the tyres warm up properly. Marco, Koni and me leave the pit lane together. Koni drives remarkably better now that the Duc doesn't misfire any more. But there's a hell lot of traffic and we loose each other quite soon. I drive a turn of about 15 laps until my tank is empty. 20min before the free practice ends I'm leaving the pit lane again, just to see red flags two corners later. Ah well. Back to the pit lane exit immediately. Until we can leave, the tyres are almost cold. But I'm in the first group, so there's a lot of room on the track. Let's learn to brake late for the first corner after the 1.1km S/F straight. There's a banner at about 150m before the first corner. Should work. Arriving at over 280kph, I remark that this is perhaps a bit late. There's no emergency exit, but I manage to stop before the deep gravel pit. After finding first gear, I leave again, with a lot of crap and gravel flying off my tyres. I drive another 10mins until the chequered flag comes out.
11:30 is my qualyfing turn. Well, it begins at 11:40. That means I have too much fuel on board, I'm sure the French will end the session at exactly 12:00 for lunch. So it was. At least my last lap was my personal best, grid position 10 or 11 in my class.
There's another free practice session in the afternoon at 15:00. I do some short turns and experiment with adjusting the injection. At +5% H with the Yosh box, I manage to do 280kph at the end of S/F straight. At +10% H, I have a hard time to reach 270kph. Back to +5% H again. The rear slick shows clear signs of wear. These uphill righthanders eat tyres like cheese. I decide to exchange the worn Metzeler Ractec K2 for a Pirelli Supercorsa Pro SC2 matching the front Supercorsa Pro SC1 that looks still like new. Total about 50 laps.
Dinner in Dijon.
Sunday 22. April
Free practice from 09:00 to 10:00. I change the setup one or two clicks softer, for better control over the bumps. The guy at the track entry tells me that the transponder ran out of battery. Did leave anyway to scrub in the rear tyre. Because there was still plenty of fuel in the tank, I drove some 6 or 7 laps to get the tank empty. Back in the pits I exchanged my transponder for another one. Added some 2l of fuel and drove another 5 laps. Everything works very well.
My race (classic superbike class up to 750cc I4 and 1000cc V2) starts at 10:30. Two warmup laps, flying start and 8 race laps. Well, they wouldn't call it race but rather "timed free practice in groups" because of some dispute between the track owners and the organizer. There's no starting grid which sure isn't ideal. I start in the group of the first 10 but loose some positions still in pit lane when the TL stalls one or two times. Now let's go. Two very fast warmup laps later, I already left the backmarkers rowed up too far forward behind me. The race starts, let's follow these I4. We went fast. For the first two laps, I was overtaking one bike after the other. What a fun! Almost every overtaking opportunity worked perfectly. Braking for the hairpin was my favourite overtaking zone. There was only a two stroker who didn't brake as early as the others there, but I got him anyway. It would have been a good idea to discover this disturbing bump at the inside of the braking zone for the hairpin in practice, where the rear wheel took off several times during the race.
Now I've free track, with two faster guys about 150 to 200m ahead. I try to catch up. It works well, I'm flying for my means. After about 5 laps, the front Supercorsa signals end of grip at the first corner when driving over the 2nd bump. No problem to save it, but I take it as a signal and took it a bit easy entering there from the next lap on. At the end, I'm 7th of 28 started, personal best lap was 1:32.45. That's about 5s over the best lap of the day of all classes. I think that's OK with the good old TL.
The friends decide to leave after lunch. First I wanted to drive some more laps in the afternoon, but I felt quite sick because of my pollen allergy and finally decided to call it a day. 3.5hours later I was back at home.
Conclusion: Everything is ready for the TL Cup.
The European TL Cup has been mainly organized by Gunna and Wolfgang from the German TL1000 board, in cooperation with Dannhoff Motorsport. It consists of two events with own categories during race events of Dannhoff Motorsport: Lausitzring in May and Oschersleben in August, both well known tracks in Germany. I signed up together with Corsin, a friend from Basel.
I leave shortly before 09:00 with the van and pickup my buddy Corsin in Basel. We leave at about 10:30 from there. Very little traffic on the German highways. The roof of the van makes an annoying noise at about 130kph, later also at slower speeds. We can finally finally fix it with duct tape. Arriving at the entry of the Lausitzring, we have to wait about an hour. Damn is it cold here!! Less than 15° Celsius, fortunately I took some warm clothes with me. Joke of the day: No wonder the little ice bear "Knut" likes to live in the zoo in Berlin, it's almost as cold as at the north pole up here.
Finally we're in pit #44, wait a good hour in the queue to get the inscription and the transponder. Some beers close the evening. I stay in the van during the night.
I wake up before 6 o clock, almost frozen. Damn is it cold here! At about 07:30 I get up. It seems the others had cold, too. After a coffe, it's time for the drivers briefing. Our group drives first. I enter the track just behind my friend Gunna who knows the track already. I can follow him three laps, then I have to find my own way. The whole track had been covered with oil by the side car race yesterday. The staff did a good job cleaning the track, but it still lacks a bit of grip. The track layout isn't too difficult. No blind corners, but in some corners the fast line is quite tricky to find. I was clocked at 2:06 in the first turn.
The 2nd turn begins behind Wolfgang, another friend. I can't yet follow his pace, but a 2:00.5 is OK for the 2nd turn. Third turn is already the qualyfing for the sprint race. That's hard! I can improve a good second, 1:59.1 is good enough for the front row in the TL cup. 4th place, to be exact. After the qualyfing, I have to switch from the Pirelli Supercorsa Pro to Metzeler Racetec slicks. The Pirellis wear bad, probably because of the low ambient temperatures.
Our sprint race is scheduled for 16:00. After standing half an hour at the pregrid in the sun in the pitlane, the race is cancelled and rescheduled at 17:30 because of lack of ambulance. At 17:30, it really starts. Scandal of the day: The gridgirls left already, so no gridgirls for the TL cup! There we go, driving to the grid position. Start to the warmup lap is used to get the feeling for a good launch. It works out good. The race start works out good, I can almost keep my position. But TLR #13, started fifth, almost takes out Wolfgang when he touches the tail of his TLS in the first corner. Phew! Number 13 has to take the emergency exit that he uses as a shortcut with the result that he enters the track before me again. Well well! But he's slow in corners and I overtake him shortly after. Alex blasts by, but the race is stopped with red flag in lap 3 because of a crash in the first corner. Same procedure again, except that we start without warmup lap. Gunna almost jump starts and then misses the real start. Number 13 passes on the outside for turn one, but I can get him some turns later again. I'm in a similar position just behind the leading group when the race is stopped again with red flag: A TLR crashed out in the first corner. Race definitely cancelled for today, no more restarts.
Corsin makes some excellent pasta for dinner. Some beers and a shower later I'm back in the van for another cold night.
Today I wake up only at 7 o clock, a bit less frozen than yesterday. Today there's a 2h endurance race scheduled, drivers briefing for that just after breakfast. My team mate is Mika. A real though guy, yesterday he was crashed out, today he drives another race. Stefan, Roman and Susanne are our pit crew. We decide a signal for pit in and test it in the morning turns. We decided to change about every 30 minutes. Mika will drive the opening turn (his bike as a kickstand), I will drive the final turn. The "Le Mans" start works out well, Mika is quite far behind for the first two laps, then improves and drives consistenly for the rest of the turn. After 30 minutes he is waved in and the transponder is transferred to my bike. My first turn works very well, quite a lot of traffic but no problems to overtake. 3rd gear once jumped out with horrible noise in 4th corner. Otherwise I'm doing very well and drive about 3 laps more. Mika does his 2nd turn very consistent. My 2nd turn was a bit difficult, because I was blocked behind some guys that I could't get past. On the straight line top, in the corners flop. With the power of the TL I couldn't overtake these 1000 I4 safe. But I finished the race as planned.
Immediately after the endurance race, the TL cup was rescheduled. 6 laps with Le Mans start. There was just time to add 5l fuel, no time to change tyres. Number 13 passes again on the outside for the first corner. Knowing his poor corner speeds, I overtake him immediately again. Alex passes me, but his bike looks quite unstable. Harry apparently stalled his TL at the start and now blasts by like a rocket. On the start/finish straight, I pass Alex again, thinking he has technical problems (but he only missed a gear). Wolfgang is about 200m away and I try to catch up. In the tight lefthander before the back straight, I almost loose it when the rear wheel spins over a bump. Looking back at about half distance, I remark that there is no one behind me. I then drive home 4th place.
The day ends with awards ceremonies. Mika and me are good 26th from 54 endurance teams, that's 5th team in the TL ranking. Helmut, Uwe, Mika, Susanne, Gunna, Frank, Corsin and me have a barbecue in the evening.
Corsin and me decide to drive home over night. Leaving at 21:15, we arrive shortly before 5 o clock in Basel. I need some sleep when I get home.
A big thank you to all those, who made this event possible and to the pit crew, namely Stefan and Roman.
Drivers briefing. Freely translated "you paid for two days, so don't crash in the first session". It seems nobody listened, because in the first turn there crash five (!!) bikes out in front of me. That was because of a blown engine (bad smell of oil) and a lot of oil on track. Of course there were red flags and a break until the track was cleaned. When I left pitlane again, I was following a blue R6. The oil was covered, but not removed, still very slippery. The R6 driver crashes out at lap two just in front of me. Heck, what's up?? One timed lap at 3.06.
2nd and 3r session were similar. There were a whole lot of yellow flags and I can't either remeber a session without red flag. People were crashing and crashing, it was really crazy. Perhaps all the crashes helped to clear up the groups a bit and I could drive a decent lap in the 4th session: 2.52.149 was my best time of the day. But not one turn without a yellow flag!!
The TL runs great, pulls strong up to 6th gear, the speedo shows (wrong) 270kph up to Les Combes. Blanchimont needs a lot of courage, the first one goes WOT, for the 2nd I have to close the gas a bit. The new chicane is a lot better and you can brake a heck of late! Only downside is the very high curb, don't put your knee down there!
At the evening I had to replace the worn AP carbon pads for some AP sinter pads. Remarked that the rear brake doesn't work (again!).
Daniel arrives later because he was ill.
The first session in the morning is the absolute disaster. They put a lot of idiots and beginners into our "very fast" group. It is impossible to drive fluently because there are rows of four bikes parked in the corners such that you can't outbrake or even overtake them! In the chicane you'd be faster on a pushbike through all the standing still bikes. Boy that was a shit turn. How on earth did all these beginners and idiots get in our group? That was horrible! I am happy to return to pit.
Spa is a bit frustrating on the underpowered V-twin. You loose a lot on the long long high speed parts and can't make it up on the brake and by corner speed. I decide to mount a fresh set of slicks for more confidence in acceleration.
The 2nd session is cancelled for all classes because there was a bad accident on the straight (!!) after Eau Rouge in the beginners group that caused four injured drivers. God knows how that could happen.
3rd and 4th turn work out "about normal", of course not without the obligatory yellow flags. I drive under 2.50 in the 3rd turn and in the 4th turn I drive my PB of 2.49.666 with fading front brake.
I was not happy about the organization and in particular the unordered groups. Prospeed probably can't be blamed for the many incidents, though.
None the less, Spa is a really great track. It is such a high speed track, it really seperates mans and boys. The famous Eau Rouge corner is a challenge for each lap. It's even a pleasure to watch!
Morning: Free practice and Qualyfing for the endurance race.
The bike with the transponder for the endurance race had to do a time faster than 1:55 according to the organizer. Even when I drive for the first time here, that shouldn't be a problem.
First session: Chris, one of the two "team raptor" drivers, crashes out in the first session. The 2 piece leathers don't hold and he gets some rash. The raptor is hurt worse, the shift axle is bent.
2nd session. There goes my team mate. Mika crashes out quite bad and looses his glasses. TL doesn't look good either. I form a team with Uwe, the raptor driver without a team mate.
In the last session before the endurance race, somebody crashes in the esses, but I didn't recognize him. It was Wolfgang. Bad highside, broken collarbone, shit! He was one of the favourites. Gunna now doesn't have a team mate for the 4h endurance race any more. He decides to drive alone, so he can at least carry the points from the victory in the first endurance round at Eurospeedway Lausitz.
Afternoon: 4h endurance race
Uwe and me decide to drive as long as we can with a tank. Thus fill up and drive until the tank ligth goes on, then give a signal to the pit lane. Everything works well, Uwe comes back in just after a hour. My first turn works perfect, also exactly one hour. 2nd turn of Uwe is just under 50 minutes, because the Raptor shows a FI error code. I leave with full tank but fuel will probably be short for over 70 minutes. But towards the end there are numerous pace car phases under yellow flag. The pace car drives very slow and I can economize fuel. Unfortunately, a bike some meters ahead of me begins to loose oil when the pace car leaves the track. The one in front of me almost crashes in the 2nd last corner because of the oil. In the next lap, I recognize Gunna and a badly crashed TL at the exact same corner. Just three laps later, the 4h were over. Uwe and me finished on a good 22nd place out of 55 teams.
Gunna had less luck. He highsided on the oil. Bruised ankle and some other minor things, he is a really though guy. But his TL was totalled, swing arm torn out. That means the winner of the 1st round is out of TL business.
The first two sessions in the morning are the qualyfing sessions for the sprint races. I get hold up by a stupid Ducati driver and drive "only" the 2nd fastest time with 1:43.7. Peter is on pole. I'm happy with this result. Gunna starts with his 2nd bike, the GSX-R 1000, out of the TL ranking.
In the afternoon, the different classes have their sprint races. I put a new Metzeler racetec K2 rear tyre to have maximum grip. TL class is the last class to start. I'm starting amazingly well, but not as early as Steffen on the 3rd grid position. But his front wheel goes up to sky just a fraction of a second later and he drops back. Gunna starts very well and is ahead, with me behind. Peter oversleeps the start and drops considerably back. I'm behind Gunna but can't quite follow the GSX-R 1000. But I don't loose him out of sight. 3/4 of the race later, I look back. Nothing. I didn't believe it and continued to push. Gunna and me finish 1-2 with a big gap behind me. So seen we're both winners. Gunna because he finished first and me because I won the TL class!!! Steffen and Sandra (on another Raptor) completed the TL cup round two podium.
By winning the 2nd round, I also won the 2007 championship!!!
We drive just some quick laps to record them on video. I drive with Peter and Gunna, wich works out good even when I use old tyres. I take a spin on Uwe's Raptor. The bike handles very well in the corners, but misses some horses on the straights. I forget to activate the lap timer, but there were probably laps under 1:50. After lunch, I drive some interesting laps together with Steffen. His wife clocks us even faster than yesterday... on old tyres! Unfortunately it ends how it began: With a crash. A driver crashed in the fast triple left and doesn't move, it doesn't look pretty and she flies to hospital by helicopter.
Conclusion: A great event on a beautiful track. Unfortunately a lot of crashes also by my buddies.
About the track:
Circuit Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. That's where MotoGP and Formula 1 takes place as well.
A difficult and fast track. Quite different from anything I've seen before. Extremely hard on the equipment (brakes, tyres, engine), about 30-50hp more would've been handy. The layout is interesting: Almost all corners open to the end, that means you've to drive line combinations in virtually every corner and you've to accelerate a lot in lean angle. The height differences are amazing, you can't see that on TV. Excellent pit infrastructure.
Sunday evening: Loading the TL and all the stuff into the van. Monday drive 1000km to spain alone (the friends drove Sunday already, I was occupied otherwise for all the weekend). 9h travel, arrive 16:00 at pit #20. Here I meet the friends from Ducati Bern (a friend works for this dealer and kindly invited me). Our pit is full of Ducati (748R, 2x 999S, 1098, 1098S, Monster S4RS) except for my TL and the GSX-R 1000 K3 of Marco.
Oh and our pit neighbours are four girls. How should we concentrate with at least 2 very attractive girls aside??
I'm in the "Racing 1" group together with Koni (Duc 1098) and Marco (GSX-R 1000K3) from out pit.
As I wasn't here before, I had to learn the track. Fortunately Koni and Marco already knew it briefly, so they could show me the basic line. The layout is quite easy to remember, but the lines in all those long corners are VERY difficult to learn. We discuss the lines after each turn and improve in the next. It's hot, more than 30° C and thus the 30min turns are physically hard.
Afternoon: The temperatures get even hotter. 38° Celsius, whow!!! After 20min driving, you're completely over. Out of the leathers and directly under the shower! Tyres and suspension also suffer from the hot temperatures. It wobbles more than usually. Adjusting the suspension harder doesn't work, the tyres wear bad. The front Metzeler K1 (soft) slick gives spongy feedback when it's that hot. The rear K2 (medium) slick is OK, but already quite worn out and thus soon replaced. Koni and Finn are waiting for brake pads. Finally someone from Dantin Ducati MotoGP team ships them personally to our pit, whow!
A very hot day without too much troubles on my side.
Morning: The turns work out good, Koni clocks me at about 2.04 by his Ducati Laptimer. I'm loosing ground on the long (1km) start/finish line, but on the brakes and in the tight turns I can catch him again. Yes, you can feel the >40hp power difference between the TL and the Duc 1098 or GSX-R 1000. Lines are working quite well already.
At lunch it almost begins to rain. The friends stop my "rain dance". I don't know why, at least it would have been a bit cooler. But the rain goes away.
In the afternoon I have the front Metzerler K1 slick changed against a Pirelli Diablo Superbike SC2 (medium) slick, because the feedback of the soft front tyre gets too spongy and the lines too wide. It didn't have wear marks, so I couldn't see how bad it was worn, but it was time to change! Marco is changing brake pads. Yes, they wear fast here. I have a good fight with a red R1. He passes me on the straight line, I pass him on the brakes or in the tight corner sections. Fun fun fun!
After the 1st turn, I had to change brake pads as well. I replace the AP racing carbon pads by a pair of old Brembo RR pads I still had in stock. I break them in during a turn of a slower group. They work, but need more lever force.
Then again together with Marco and Koni. We do some good laps, about 2.03 to 2.02, but I can't 100% follow them. I often loose much time passing slower 1000 I4 bikes, because I don't have the power to follow them on the straight and can't get close enough to pass them on the brakes. When I get the Alice corner right for the first time, the left midpipe touches down. OK, we need more hangoff!
Oh and there was this French TLR driver from Marseille who got in our pit asking who's driving this fast yellow TLS. "What the heck did you do to the engine, it goes like hell!!??". I passed his TLR on the s/f straight, that's why he wondered. Well, I explained him that except for the airbox mod and the Akrapovic full system, the engine is completely stock. The TLS is the faster one ;-) He coulnd't believe it.
At lunch I exchange the totally (but beautifully) worn rear K2 slick against a Pirelli Diablo Superbike SC3 (hard) in 180/55 on a 5.5" rear rim. The front SC2 has to go as well, because it wears bad on the right side. Heck this track is VERY hard on tyres! The front tyre is replaced by a slightly used Metzeler Racec K1 (soft) slick, that's all I had on stock.
The first turn in the afternoon works out OK, except that the left midpipe again touches down at the left hairpin. It seems the 180 rear tyre asks for even MORE hangoff. The 2nd turn doesn't work too well, I don't feel very well (heat??). The front tyre works OK, but the hard rear tyre begins to move around after abot 2-3 fast laps. I think it's too hard for these high temperatures. But everyone has some problems with tyres.
For the last turn, I put a yellow safety vest and want to do instructor for Gianni (1098S). The guy at the pit lane exit doesn't like my idea to drive with another group, but finally lets us go. I follow Gianni for two laps, then pass him on the brakes and show him where he has to improve his line. It was mainly the chicane and the last two corners where he had to improve. He has got very fast and it's fun to drive with him. At the end he drives a 2.07 and is happy!
Koni and Marco manage to convince me to drive the last turn of our group as well. Refueled for a last time and there we go. We do some fun laps, passing each other again and again. Big fun!! And we're not slow! Koni drops a bit back after a powerslide. Shortly after, I almost loose it when the left rear header again! touches down at the left hairpin. That was hot! But we all stay on the bike and finish the session with some good 2.03 laps. Nobody except two alien instructors pass us.
The climatic shock
Marco, Andrea and me drove almost straight from the last track week in Barcelona (Spain) to Hockenheim (Germany). In Spain we had 38° C, in Switzerland they announced floods and about 15° Celsius...
OK, we did a little stop in Switzerland because I had the Duc 999S of my buddy Finn in the van and... because I didn't feel good. Indeed I fell sick with a flu and instead of preparing the bike, I spent the whole Saturday in bed. Sunday the fewer was almost away and I decided to finally prepare for Hockenheim. I had to change the brake fluid. Except that the bleeder screws were overtightened a simple procedure. Black old fluid out, new Castrol Super DOT4 in.
After lunch we left direction Germany. We arrived a bit too early but could install us in the paddock already. Damn it's cold here. Finally we signed on for the fastest group.
The night we stay in a hotel. It was planned like this and was good because I still wasn't 100%. China Hotel Panda, Hockenheim, less than 4km from the track. The food was very delicious!
Monday morning, the training started at 08:30 with the drivers briefing for everyone. Our first session was scheduled at only 10:20, plenty of time left to wake up. My head still hurted a bit from the flu. When putting the leathers on I almost froze. Damn is it cold here. I added another thermo shirt. The randomly mounted 180 Pirelli SC3 slick should work perfect in these conditions (12° C). Well, the first two sessions turn out a bit strange. I have no feeling for the bike. I don't know if it's the flu or that the track doesn't have much grip or both. All I can say is that I don't trust the tyres. It wobbles and slides sometimes. We can't get under 2.02 and are in theory too slow for our group. But we aren't the slowest out there, by far not!
After lunch, the weather changes. First, a small breeze of wind damages my Pit "tent". Seconds after it rains very hard. Damn!! We move the bikes into the tent of Marco and Andrea and install us in the van from Marco. It rains and rains and rains. We drink coffee and eat biscuits (I have rain tyres in my van but no motivation to drive, I would only get more sick). After half an hour the weather changes again. From hard rain to a thunderstorm. It rains so hard, you can't see 100m. Forget driving in these conditions, a boat would be more suitable. So we decided to drive to Wolfgang to buy some brake pads and tyres for me. When we return at the evening, the rain just stops. So we didn't miss anything. Changing the brake pads, I remark that the bleeder screws are very slightly leaking. Ah, that's why they were overtightened.
Again, very delicious Chinese dinner in the Hotel.
Thursday we have to get up early, because our first session starts 08:30. We arrive at 07:45 to put the tyre warmers. But the tyres only warm up very slow, it's only 6°C outside!!! Damn is this cold! In the first session I remark that the front tyre gets not warmer but colder when driving. So I closed compression and rebound on the fork considerably to make the tyre working. That helps in the 2nd turn to keep the temps up, but braking is worse. At least two braking zones are very bumpy and with the hard set up, the bike jumps when braking over these bumps. Ah well, just brake a tad less late. Something really new is that I reach the limiter in 6th gear. I was very amazed to feel the limiter kicking in the exit of Parabolica. Because I didn't believe it I tried again and ensured that I was really in 6th gear. But it sure was right, damn! Just a fraction of a second after I saw (wrong) 295kph on the tach, the limiter kicked in. Not funny when leaned over! Usually the 16/39 final drive works on all tracks but apparently not here.
So I change the rims for the gold set with Metzeler K1/K2 slicks, the rear being a wider 6" rim with the big 190/55 slick. That should add another 5kph top speed over the 180/55 tyre. For the next session I'm ready with a set of brand new slicks perfectly heated up.
But when we want to leave, it begins to rain again. Damnit! Being optimistic, we left anyway. Knowing that I have brand new not broken in slicks mounted, I'm extremely careful. Entry Parabolica, there's the first broken bike. Someone highsided on a Kawa ZX-10R and lost oil. End of Parabolica, the corner workes wave fast the red/yellow flag. More oil?? No!! There is heavy, local rain in the hairpin but I couldn't see it because of the black visor (silly me!). Starting from the braking point, it is really wet and thus fun on the slicks. We get through OK, but not two others of our group. Marco and me leave the track immediately again, it's too dangerous. I set the fork back to soft setup.
The sessions in the afternoon are all stamped by the ever changing weather conditions. In our next turn, there's again some local rain in the hairpin and some brake zones are still wet. But it's much better than in the last turn, also thanks to the clear visor I mounted. I'm still careful (the slicks are still new) and loose Marco. I catch him again towards the end and overtake his GSX-R 1000 in the Parabolica (he missed a shift ;-)). Marcos PB is a 2.01, I don't have a laptimer but it must be about the same or a little bit faster. I watch the tach again in Parabolica: Good 295 kph indicated, even with the 190/55 tyre. Damn, even when the tach is off because of the final drive ratio, that's nearly 20kph more than on any other track!!! The TL goes like hell.
Then there would have been another session. Would have been. But 10min before there was another thunderstorm of rain and we quickly loaded the bikes into the van!!!
We cruised through another 27 thunderstorms when driving home.
On a side note: A friend told me that it is not uncommon that engines run better at Hockenheim. There's something magic because of all the forest around. Drag racers can see a small boost on the data recording when they enter the forest!