Note: If you can read German, read the German reports. The English reports are often just short summaries.
Technical changements on the bike: The clutch has been replaced by a Suter slipper clutch of a GSX-R 750. Forks rebuilt again using stiffer springs and a more progressive damper setup. The fairings have been replaced (front) and repaired and repainted (rear).
I'll be using Dunlop tyres for all races this year, to participate in the Dunlop ranking of SPS-Race.
Well I had to test the new clutch at some point. So I joined for a day of free practice at the "local" track Anneau du Rhin (France) just about 100 miles away from my home.
Weather forecast was good. That's quite amazing because it is still winter (or let's say very early spring) here and last Tuesday it still snowed! Friday afternoon I put the bike back together. Because I had only two hands and very little time, I put on the old crashed front fairing held together by lots of duct tape.
Saturday morning I left quite early, it's about 1.5 hours to Anneau du Rhin. I missed the highway exit because there was so much fog. Not a big problem, the next exit isn't far. Just after 8 am I arrived at the track and had to do the usual paperwork. 10 sessions of 20 minutes scheduled, whow that's a lot!!
In the first session my plan was as usual after engine work to do one lap and then check for oil and cooleant leaks. But I had other sorts of problems: My visor was completely blind after two corners, that I missed the exit and had to turn another blind lap. Fortunately the track didn't change much :-) Everything was fine with the bike, so I left for another two laps then back in the pits to clean the visor and open all vents of the helmet. It wasn't very intelligent to use the oldest visor.
So I could finally concentrate how the slipper clutch worked. In fact I was a bit desoriented when downshifting because there was no feedback from the rear wheel nor from engine noise. Click click click through the gears and I had no idea which gear I had in. But in fact it doesn't matter, the bike will just turn in fine! The rear wheel just follows the line. It's great!! And the Suter clutch works MUCH better than any other slipper I ever drove, you can barely remark anything.
Did I mention they slightly changed the track? The very tight chicane after the fast "Flicflac" esses is gone and the old corner is back there... except that it is 20m closer to Flicflac and that the exit has finally been made safe (no wall anymore near typical highside exit). I like it!
In the following turns I setup the revised front forks (stiffer springs, more progressive damper setup). They work well and don't bottom out any more. I then care about the very slight load change effects when the engine regains RPM after the slipper clutch did its job. For non-slipper clutch drivers I have to explain this: With the slipper, the engine rpm will stay low after breaking hard/closing the gas suddenly. It will stay low until you open the gas again or the difference in engine and gearbox speed is low enough. When it picks up again, revs raise suddenly and there is a slight load change on the chain. I tightened the chain a bit and the effect was gone.
Later I cared about the exact air pressure of the Dunlop front tyre. Last season I used quite low pressures but now tried what Dunlop racing service suggests. I needed some time to get it fully on temperature, but when it was there an the hot pressure was exactly right, it worked like a charm. The rear Metzeler K2 slick didn't like the low temperatures and began to tear off. Not unusual towards the end of life. I adjusted compression and rebound damping and it didn't get worse. But honestly the tyre was simply gone, not much rubber left.
At lunch I had a chat with some other Swiss racers there.
After the lunch break, I continued with the old rear tyre and concentrated on driving style: Put as much weight as possible on the inner clipon and on the front tyre and quick direction changes. The latter didn't work well in the fast esses, I was simply exhausted! My arms were sore! But otherwise I quickly regained feel and confidence for the front end, thanks to the improved fork setup. Driving went smooth and I was gaining confidence on the brakes thanks to the super smooth slipper clutch. It really works amazing!!!
For the last two sessions I put on a new Metzeler K2 rear slick. With the new tyre I could almost follow Ivo, a very quick racer from my neighborhood on an also extremely quick Supersport Honda CBR600RR. That was big fun, we both have very similar lines. For the last session, I tried a standing start from the pitlane which worked out quite OK. My pace with the new rear tyre was really good, except for some rare aliens nobody overtook me.
Conclusion: That Suter Clutch conversion was very well worth it!!! Thanks to Dannhoff motorsport for the perfect free practice day.
Here's my report of the first round of this years European TL Cup.
Monday, April 6th
About 800km to drive by van from Switzerland over Italy and Slovenia to Croatia. Everything from my home over Milano, Venezia to Trieste is highway. Then I miss the exit and visit Trieste :-) From Trieste to the border of Croatia was a very bad, very bumpy road. The croatian border was the last "piece de resistance". Croatia isn't in the European Union and importing/exporting non registered vehicles is forbidden. That's obviously a problem for race bikes. Fortunately I was informed about that and took the number plate and registration papers of my other TL with me :-) So no problems at the border. In Rijeka I missed another highway exit and visited the harbor :o
At about 20:00 I was at the track "Autodromo Grobnik" and installed near the German friends. Perfect weather and still 20° C, great! Not good was that my pollen allergy wasn't better at all - rather worse!!
Tuesday, April 7th
Very little paperwork to get the transponder, drivers briefing. Very well organized.
I have no idea of the track, except that it is counter clockwise. At 9 o clock I'm leaving the pit lane with the red group. The layout is very flowing with some elevation changes. Braking is very difficult, because the braking zones aren't straight and bumpy / with remarkable elevation changes. It takes some time to find a good line. Harry, Peter, Willy and the other instructors answer my questions. And it takes again some time to get on a good lap time. At lunch, I have only a 1:47.4 on my timesheet.
In the afternoon, 30min sessions are scheduled. Well, the track is physically very demanding and I usually drive back to the pits after just 20 minutes. In the very last lap, I clock my fastest lap of 1:45.9 and beat Peter. The Suter slipper clutch proved to be extremely helpful on this track. The braking zones are so difficult, it really helps that you can just bang down 2 gears without caring much about your clutch hand.
Barbequeue in the evening, very delicious.
Wednesday, April 8th
Drivers briefing for the sprint races in the morning. Race mode is a classic pitlane to pregrid lap, 1 warmup lap then standing start and 8 race laps.
The qualification is till 12:00. At the 2nd session I drive my qualy time of 1:43.6 with the used Metzeler Racetec K2 rear slick. Now because I want to compete in the Dunlop Cup, I have to drive a Dunlop rear tyre. So the other rim with a brand new Dunlop GP racer slick in "E" compound is mounted. I immediately drive a 1:43.7 laptime with this new tyre and I'm happy that it doesn't feel much different than the Metzeler.
The qualy time is good enough for a front row start in my class, 4th position. The race of my class (750 I4 / 1000 V2) goes well. The start works out much better than before, thanks to the new clutch. In the first corner I'm 5th, then overtake during the first laps and am 3rd. Finally Willy overtakes me with Ducati 998R power on the s/f straight and I can't quite catch him. So I end up on the 4th place after 8 laps. But the instructors don't count in the final results, so that results to a 2nd place overall and 2nd place in the TL ranking as well (Harry was faster). My personal best lap is 1:41.5, good improvement over qualy time. And I receive a Dunlop Winners cap because I'm 3rd in the Dunlop ranking.
2nd place in the TL ranking isn't bad, but one has to consider that there was another TLR driver that was faster than me but he didn't compete in the races.
Thursday, April 9th
Time to explain the track: You fly in 6th gear at about 280kph on the (lying) tach on the s/f straight and dive into a slight righthander into a "falling", bumpy and very difficult braking area. Shift down from 6th to 4th gear, then turn into the first lefthander. A fast double righthand corner follows where you accelerate hard in 4th gear, into the next long left hander, a bit slower but still in 4th gear. Then accelerate until the bump, DON'T brake (switch off brain) and fly into a left/right/left "corkscrew" combination. The entry is rising, the exit is falling very steep and bad tarmac. On every fast lap, the rear slides sideways. But don't back off and pull through the next lefthander, then brake a littlebit for the next fast right/left combination at the bottom of the track. Accelerate very hard and on a good lap take the right/left combination over a crest full throttle to the back straight. Click in 5th and 6th and brake at about 150m for the long lefthander "Zagreb". Extremely bumpy braking zone, back two gears. At the exit, accelerate first gently and then full throttle through the following left/right combination, click in 5th and immediately shorthshift into 6th gear, cut the pitlane entry to avoid the worst bumps and accelrate full throttle with shaking bars to the s/f straight.
You have to drive this track to believe how demanding it is. Always keep cool, ignore headshake and small rear end slides and always keep that throttle under tension. That is by far the best flowing track I ever drove.
Today, the GP race is scheduled. Thus 18 laps or about 35 minutes without a rest! In the morning I improve my qualy time to 1:40.906, that means 12th grid position, thus 3rd row on the right. My start wasn't bad, but I missed 3rd gear and lost a lot of places before the 1st corner. But it came worse: When I entered the esses before the back straight with full tank, I completely screwed up the line, got onto the curbs on the inside and had to open up and run off track at over 160kph. The TL shakes her head very badly and wants to spit me off. In a fraction of a second I remember the offroad course I took last autumn, open the throttle, the bars settle and I am able to drive back to track. The opponents behind were bombed with stones, sorry for that! Next two or three corners careful because of the dusty tyres. Then Harry on the TLR overtakes me and I try to follow him. Amazingly, my TLS is faster than his tuned TLR on the s/f straight and I always get 10 to 20m closer. But he is a late braker and I can't quite overtake him. I follow him like a shadow. It gets interesting when we were lapped at the same moment when we were lapping a bunch of backmarkers. Somehow this worked out OK and I finished 2 seconds behind Harry on the 15th position overall, 2nd position in TL ranking. Personal best race lap 1:41.7
Then one other 20min session of free practice to cool down.
All the Germans left at the evening. Me, two other Swiss and an Italian had the whole paddock for ourselves during the night. I left at 5 in the morning and was at home at about 14:00
- very well organized
- perfect weather
- great flowing but difficult track
- result is OK, I didn't crash
- I had some problems with physics, also due to the pollen allergy
TL Cup 2009 round two: Won but got beaten anyway
970km of highway in just 8h thanks to no traffic on the German highways. Basically I entered the highway, put in cruise control at about 125kph and quit the highway 8h later (of course I had to stop for a refuel and a short break).
Installed with the usual suspects in the paddock of the Eurospeedway Lausitz. We had no pit, so I had a small tent with me.
For the drivers briefing I was already in the leathers. Sky looked really dark, so I didn't want to loose any time for the first session. The TL had some starting problems due to old sparkplugs and bad Croatian fuel (still from the last round in Rijeka), but we managed to start it anyway and I entered the track at exactly 9 o clock. Front end felt slightly off and after just some laps it began to rain and I returned back to the pits. Back in the paddock I checked air pressures and found out that the front tyre was missing about 1 bar of pressure, so it basically was missing a lot of pressure which explains that it felt strange.
The rest of the morning is quickly explained: It rained and we decided not to drive. Despite having brand new Dunlop rain tyres ready on rims, I decided it was better not to drive because the track (which was originally an oval built for IndyCar) is EXTREMELY slippery in the wet and the weather forecast for tomorrow (raceday) was good. After changing final drive ratio to 16/39 and adjusting the rebound damping on the front forks, I had a sleep in the van...
...and woke up because of a lot of noise. Heck they're driving again!! It was now about 1:30 and we were in the middle of the free practice session over lunch. I prepared for the next group session at 2 PM.
Well, the track is quite different compared to the last round in Rijeka. Much more work on the brakes, I basically had to re-learn braking. The long 30min sessions in the afternoon were perfect for this. Harry, my biggest opponent returned with a TL500R from his first session. He had lost his front cylinder (or at least the spark) somewhere on track. Finally it was a torn off exhaust valve - bad luck for him.
In the 2nd afternoon session I got my time down to last years PB of 1:56.8 Had a slight moment when I locked up the front wheel at the braking point after the start/finish straight. OK, I'm braking hard enough then. The free practice in the evening was wet again. Prepared a new Dunlop rear slick on the gold rim in the evening.
Weather report: Blue sky and sunny!! So lets get up, breakfast, into the leathers and out on track! The qualification was until 12:00, so exactly three 20min sessions. In the 2nd session I was already down to 1:55.8. I forgot to connect the tyre warmer for the brand new rear tyre for 3rd session, so I had to finish the qualification with the old Dunlop slick from the last round. I found another 6 tenths, personal best 1:55.209.
Finally this was good enough for a front row start, 4th position on the grid in the Pro SBK (750/V2) class.
After lunch break, our race was scheduled for 2:30. Timing was very well and after driving to the grid there was the classic warmup lap and standing start procedure. Willi (Duc 999R) aside me almost jump started. I got away well, but not so good as Angy (GSX-R 750) behind me. Damn! I was already behind her in free practice and couldn't overtake because she drives a perfect line and has definitely more power on the straights. In the 2nd lap I block passed her outside/inside in the very tight right/left combination before the back straight. Now I had to catch up with Willi. I constantly gained a little bit of ground, but at the finish I was missing 0.5 seconds. Harry finished first on his wife's GSX-R 750, so he beat me anyway! But my race wasn't too bad either, I improved my PB to 1:53.339 and won the TL ranking very comfortably. In the Dunlop ranking I was 3rd overall.
Well, an important victory for the TL cup ranking! I improved my PB by a massive 3 seconds compared to last year, so I'm really happy with the result.
From May to end of July I didn't drive one mile on track, nothing, nada. But I was recharging my batteries in the Californian sun and have been inspired by the Laguna Seca GP. I lost two rounds because of my USA vacation, but luckily only missed the points of the Oschersleben round because the other round in Most (CZ) was cancelled due to very bad weather. So basically my preparation was some mountainbiking.
The bike needed an oil change, new plugs and some minor things like replacing the cooleant overflow bottle due to corrosion in the connecting parts.
Thursday 30.7.09, a long road journey
It started bad when my van didn't want to start. Finally it was probably some air in the Diesel system, back from the inspection done just before. Then the 970km to the track are explained quickly: ONE DAMN BIG TRAFFIC JAM. I needed more than 12h to get to the Eurospeedway Lausitz (compare this to 8h last time round).
Signed up, got my transponder and picked up the ordered slicks.
Today we have an amazing 7x 45min sessions!! That's a whole lot of track time! The long turns would be ideal for some setup work, but I already have a working setup. So my job is basically to slowly get into it again after the long break. I drive with an old rear slick until the afternoon when I mount the gold rim with the as new Dunlop rear slick and finally drive some faster times. In the very last lap, I improve my personal best to a good 1:53.084. That's about seven tenths faster than my biggest opponent Harry briefly drove this afternoon.
One has to say that despite the good laptime, the Eurospeedway Lausitz is very hard to drive with the good old TL. It's a modern stop and go track and in fact you have no chance against the 25+hp stronger 750 I4 and even less against the big 1000 I4. None the less I can make up almost everything on the brakes and in the corners, but overtaking is a difficult task.
Beer&barbequeue as usual in the evening. Oh and some late repairs on Franks TLR that didn't run a lap today (engine and electrical problems).
Saturday 1.8.09 - Swiss Independence Day
Qualyfication for the endurance and sprint races lasts up to to 12:00 and in the afternoon there is a 2.5h endurance race.
For the sessions in the morning I mounted the black rim with the old slick again - I am slow waking up. But then I suddenly catch an old friend on track. Stefan, last year an opponent on the TL, now on a KTM 990 Super Duke. I couldn't resist overtaking him and decided to squeeze through in the tightest of the tight chicanes just to show the TL isn't too old yet :-) The exit of the chicane didn't work too well though, I lost the rear, got very sideways and almost highsided it, holy crap!! Of course he was through again, only to pass him in the same lap again. That should be bad enough for his motivation ;-)
For the endurance race, I mount the 3rd rear rim with a brend new Pirelli Diablo Superbike SC2 slick. On the front, I decided to mount a used soft Dunlop KR106 slick, which wasn't such a good decision because it began to tear up and had a little bit of chatter. But I decided it would last for 2.5h endurance anyway.
For endurance, Peter "the Great" and me formed a TL1000S team. Our strategy was quite simple: Each driver would drive 2 sessions of 37.5 minutes. The target was to somehow beat Wolfgang and Harry. I would start and get an as big gap as possible and Peter would manage it in the end. Our pit sign was a Swiss national flag (remember it's Swiss Independence day). Our pit crew were two guests from the German TL1000 board: Mathias S and Ronny K, thanks guys. Because they left me out much longer in my 2nd turn (I was a good 7s a lap faster than Peter), we were indeed able to finish ahead of Harry and Wolfgang, even if they changed once less. That was a big and unattended success! Well and I couldn't have driven one lap more, there was nothing left on my brake pads, DOH!
Small party in the night with some beers and other stuff. And not to forget the small fireworks for Swiss Independence Day (even if I was the only Swiss).
Todays schedule is just warmup in the morning and the sprint races in the afternoon. I put the good medium Dunlop KR106 front slick back and rolled around with the torn up Pirelli Slick to wake up. Then for the 2nd turn I finally mounted the magic 195/65 Dunlop KR108 rear slick in medium-soft compound. Oh and boy it felt good, such a direct and good feedback, so the tyre decision for the race was made very quickly. I'd give this new tyre a try.
The sprint race would be one lap to the starting grid, a warmup lap and full 12 race laps! I was 3rd on the grid with two 750 I4 ahead me and Harry (the biggest TL opponent) just behind me in 5th position. My strategy was to keep Harry behind me or if he overtakes me to stay with him. Well, that's theory, now it's over 30 degrees Celsius and it will be a VERY hard race. Just ahead the race we had a current problem in the paddock and thus my tyres weren't warmed up properly. Well, shouldn't be a big problem.
Pitlane opened at 12:48 for exactly two minutes, drive to the starting grid. A quick warmup lap to get some heat into the tyres. Standing start. My start is good, but I'm a bit too timid in the first corners and of course Harry goes through on the inside of turn 2. I hang on and amazingly he screws it up on the brakes after the back straight in lap 2, so I'm through again and concentrate to catch the 750 I4. When I miss a gear accelerating onto the back straight, I look over my shoulder just to see the grinny face of Harry. Phew, let's go. I put down some more fast laps, overtake the GSX-R 750 in 2nd position (in the chicane again, but clean this time) and try to catch first. Accelerating onto the front straight, I make a slight error and in full lean angle at least the left midpipe touches down ("ssssscccccrrrrrraaaaatch"), so I decide to settle for my position which is equal to winning the TL ranking. So I did and got 2nd about 1 second behind the winning GSX-R 750. Harry was nowhere, he had some physical difficulties and couldn't move well on the bike.
Well, that was one perfect weekend. Won the TL endurance and sprint ranking, improved my PB to 1:52.600, won the Dunlop Ranking and got 2nd in the 750/V2 class overall!!!
A big THANKYOU to our endurance pitcrew, to Bikeroffice and of course to SPS Race for the perfect organization.
Now if I calculated right, the standings in the TL cup are equal. Harry won twice, I won twice and each of us got 2nd once. It's getting interesting!
PS: When inspecting the bike back home, I found that not only the header touched down, but also the shift arm!! No, I didn't crash! Let's say the rear tyre supports more lean angle than the TL does
Quite a long way with the van from Switzerland to Brno (about 1000km), but thanks to the newly finished highway I was considerably faster than last year. I have no problems finding the famous GP track in the woods near Brno (yes, that's the track where there was just the last MotoGP!!). Setup in the paddock with Daniel and his brother Andreas. I knew Daniel from last years TL cup, he's very fast on his TLR. Andreas brought his Aprilia Mille.
The other TL drivers, namely Harry and Wolli, arrived already Monday at Brno and watched the MotoGP tests. They were impressed of the sound and the lean angles!!
Todays schedule is free practice in 20min sessions in the morning and 30min session in the afternoon. At the drivers briefing we are warned about an oil spill at the lowest part of the track and that we shouldn't turn in on the far right there.
I know the track already from last year. Fast, challenging and with big elevation changes. It makes our job not easier when another engine blow up spills oil in the whole 1st corner, the following straight and the chicane. This also cancels our 2nd session, because the track has to be cleaned up with oil binder. This makes driving the fast 1st corner extremely difficult, because at least in the morning you were NOT supposed to cross the oil. I tried it and the back wheel stepped out, so not good. Anyway, it takes me some time to get on pace again at Brno. The track is really challanging.
In the longer 30min sessions in the afternoon I manage to find a good pace and improve my times considerably. At the end of the day my personal best is a 2:19.4, already 6 tenths faster than last year.
On a side-note, the Dunlop KR106 6136 front slick I'm using is exactly the same as in last years sprint race. Last year it was horribly torn off after just 8 laps, this year it works great the whole day. I can only guess that the forks were twisted in the triples after the crash last year and that this caused all the front tyre problems. On the rear, the Dunlop GP Racer slick works OK. The rear is a bit unstable when changing direction in the very fast chicanes. A little bit more rebound damping helped.
Schedule is qualyfing until 12:00 and the sprint races in the afternoon.
The first two sessions in the morning I still use the old GP racer rear slick, but didn't manage to improve my time (I'm also a slow starter in the morning!). For the very last qualyfing session, I mount the magic Dunlop KR108 slick that I used with success in the last race. The tyre feels so much more planted that I improve my time to 2:17.029. That was not only the virtual pole in the TL ranking but the real pole in the 750/V2 class, whow! One disadvantage of the huge 195/65 slick is that 16/39 gearing was now a tad too long for the last and first corner, I probably should have tried 16/40 but I decided not to do so.
Race of my class (750 I4 / 1000 V2). Formation lap to the grid, warmup lap, standing start. That was the theory! In reality the 1st start was cancelled because someone stalled. That means another warmup lap and in effect one lap more. As always I filled in as little fuel as possible and now I wasn't sure if that would be enough. Let's hope so! I started good, but not good enough because I was overtaken by a 750 I4 in the first corner. After the back straight Angy (on another GSX-R 750) passed me and Harry (my biggest TL opponent) sneaked through in the chicane as well. Oh well, I should really drive more agressive in the first lap. Harry overtook Angy in the 2nd lap, but I couldn't manage to follow him. The problem was that Angys GSX-R 750 is considerably faster on straight and that I lost so much ground that I couldn't outbrake her. So I was stuck and saw Harry disappearing. The only point where I saw a way to overtake was on the entry of the uphill 2nd last chicane, just where that oil spill was. I tried to pass Angy there about mid race, but it was too optimistic and I had to brake. Doing so my front wheel locked up in full lean angle and the forks bottomed out very hard twice. Phew, that was a very very very hot moment!! So I had to catch up again. Two laps from the end, I block passed Angy entering the long righthander at the lowest part of the track, but at the exit I was in wrong gear so she fought back immediately. Last lap. Angys rear tyre was going and she struggled out of the corners. I had a look at the inside of the first corner, but I was still too far. So I concentrated on that 2nd last chicane and did my move again, this time successully. Problem is that the 25hp stronger gixxer will fight back in the following uphill section, so I drove a rather tight line towards the last chicane. Angy tried to fight back, but I was a fraction of a second later on the brakes. At the finish line I was on a very close, very hard fought 3rd place and on 2nd place in the TL ranking. Best lap time 2:16.7, almost 3.5 seconds faster than last year!
Congrats to Harry, he was simply faster in the race. A big thank you to the organizer, SPS Race and Bikeroffice for the perfect event. Brno is definitely one of my favourite tracks, fast, challanging and we had an excellent race again.
In the following free practice session, Daniel and me drove some laps together with the camera on his TLR. But I wasn't done yet for today. I loaded the bike and all the stuff in the Van and drove about 3 hours...
2nd part of the Czech week.
...to Most, a city in the northwest of Prag (yes, "Most" is the name!). Navigation was a bit difficult due to small roads and lots of road work. I arrived in the paddock quite late and had a look for my old friend Gunna. It wasn't a problem to find him, but space around the organizers pits wasn't available anymore. Gunna is in the organizers crew because he is filming others, so he had to be near their pits. We also had no idea where our friends from Holland were.
So I finally decided to install me in the paddock at the other end of the pitlane. I discussed a bit with Mario from Spyder Motorsport who had rented a pit there. Finally we agreed that I rent a spot for my TLS in his pit, because the weather forecast for tomorrow wasn't so good.
Todays schedule is learning the track and ... surprise!!! ... the 2 hours endurance race in the evening! Andre and Jan from Holland show up in the morning and setup in the paddock around my van.
First session at 9:00. I had really no idea how the track looks. Well it turned out to be clockwise and with the exception of the chicane after the start/finish straight a very fluent track with lots of corner combinations and esses. Track surface is very grippy but also quite rough at some places, thanks to Wolli who warned me from the last corner. That last corner is in fact a double righthander with very rough surface at the entry and a very "sharp" bump at the exit. The TL always jumped a bit at that corner, not the best thing in full lean angle.
Between the sessions we mount my small pit tent to have some shadow. It's very hot already! The remaining sessions is dedicated to practice, the track is quite difficult to drive fast and you have no rest except for the 800m start/finish straight. Suspension setup needs some clicks of adjustment. I need a compromise between too soft for the fast corners and too hard for the bumpy last corner.
In the afternoon, it unfortunately begins to rain. Because it is so hot, water evaporates immediately. Anyway, I decide not to drive as long as the conditions are unclear. When it dries out again, I do one session on slicks just to get a feeling. It's working OK, no problem still good grip.
For the endurance race, Gunna and me will form team "Helvetia". The weather is still unclear, so we prepare Gunnas TL1000S with wet tyres and my TL on slicks. Just before the race begins, it starts to pour down. The organizer postphones the start by 15 minutes to give everyone a chance to switch to wet tyres. Now our strategy is clear: Gunna will start on wet tyres and drive as long as possible. I will drive the remaining either on slicks or wets. Andre's Girlfriend Marlene is our pit crew.
During the Le Mans start, I hold Gunnas bike. After a rather long start procedure, they're off and I have a look on Gunnas lap times. After about 20 minutes, it stops to rain, but the track doesn't dry. When we approached 40mins, I have to take a decision wheter to switch my bike to wet tyres or not. Because the track is still very wet, in special in the lower part where there is standing water, I decide to switch to wet tyres too. This is quickly done, I have them on a spare set of rims. I'm ready to go just before the first and only pace car phase, but Gunna isn't done yet and continues to race in the wet. Shortly after that, the race director tells Marlene at the Pit wall that we can't use our good old Swiss flag as a pit sign. In his opinion, the flag is too close to a red flag. I tell Marlene she should try to acknowledge Gunnas pit sign (raising his left hand when driving by) by waving with their hands. But of course Gunna doesn't recognize that because we had agreed on the Swiss flag as a sign. He drives by another three laps before he looks over the pitwall and sees me sitting ready on the bike. When he comes in, there are just 20 minutes left. I leave the pitlane with brand new rain tyres. It's really not easy to find your pace on a wet track that has an about 30cm wide dry racing line with still some really wet spots on the lower part of the track. I got something like a feeling for the rear tyre, but the front was spongy as always with rain tyres. But overall, the Dunlop wet tyres worked MUCH better than last years Pirelli, no headshake and such. I drove it home and was happy to see the flag without crashing. Note that I don't like driving in the rain!
Our effort was good for 7th place of 18 started teams. The Dutch Jan and Andre were on the excellent 4th place.
Todays schedule is qualyfing until 11:00 and then sprint races in three classes. The TL fits in the 750 I4 / 1000 V2 class, so nothing new.
I drove the two qualyfing sessions with the old used GP racer rear slick. Andre finally shows me the right line in the last corner: Brake late and hard at 100m, release the brake just before the bumps. Then for the exit wait loooooong and then turn in very late but sharp, drive just at the outside of that last sharp bump, pick the bike up and accelerate early to the start/finish straight. Personal best is somewhere around 1:51, good enough for first row.
For the session at lunch I mount the little torn up but still good Dunlop KR108 rear slick. The feeling is again much better with this tyre and I improve to 1:49.404. Unfortunately the front tyre had to be changed after this session, because it was missing wear marks on the right side. I didn't want to take unnecessary risk and mounted the black rim with a new soft Dunlop KR106 front slick. I do some laps in the afternoon to break-in the new front tyre.
Then it's pregrid in the pitlane for our race, one formation lap to the starting grid and then a warmup lap. My start is excellent, I'm first until about 3rd gear when the GSX-R 750 started 2nd overtakes me again. The first very tight chicane is always problematic on this track (we had been warned in the drivers briefing), so I didn't outbrake him there and settled for 2nd. In the first righthander, I had a lot of understeer, same thing in the hairpin. Probably my tyres weren't hot enough. That allowed the pole sitter pass me. There was no way for me to follow these two GSX-R 750, so I concentrated on keeping my 3rd position. I was sure Jan would try to pass me on his 150hp Ducati. When I looked back over my right shoulder at about mid race, I saw nothing, but suspected he was hiding in my left exhaust pipe :-) (so he was!!) I tried to put down some fast laps towards the end of the race and always concentrated to get a good drive out of the last corner to the start/finish straight. I ended up on the 3rd place again.
Back in the pits, I remarked that the right side of the rear tyre was very chewed up. You could clearly see the dual compound! Well it didn't feel bad, but it certainly looked bad now! Gunna raced with his GSX-R 1000 in the "big" class and ended up 15th after a restart. To "cool down" we drove some laps in the free practice after the race.
Beer & Barbequeue in the evening with the Dutch friends.
Todays schedule is just free practice and there are no transponders any more. So we decided to drive the morning and to leave after lunch break. There was some sort of a charity photo session in the lunch break where we obviously participated with bikes. Thanks to the organizer, Spyder Motorsport, to Gunna and the Dutch for these fun days!
I then loaded the bike and all the stuff back in the van and drove home. I had a slight problem finding a fuel station between the Czech border and Nurnberg in Germany and almost ran out of Diesel. Apart from that everything went well and I was at home shortly after midnight.
It was a good idea to subscribe for two events in a row, because both tracks are very far from me. Brno is definitely one of my favourite tracks, but I liked Most very much as well. Both tracks are very challenging, but have a totally different style. I didn't really like the paddock in Most, it is very noisy because the track passes so close on both sides. Czech Republik is certainly worth a trip, most people speak well English or German.
Yeah, Brno again. It was a pleasure to race again on the greatest of the great GP tracks around us within just 5 weeks.
Swiss- and Austrian championships have financial problems and thus joined together and more impotantly introduced an "Open" class to fill up the grids and to pay the track bills. Ducati Bern invited me to participate in this (licence free) class. In that class, there is also a seperate Ducati Cup and interesting enough a "B-King Cup" organized by Suzuki Switzerland. The latter defined my personal target for this weekend: Beat as many of these heavy B-Kings with the good old TL.
Qualification practice for the open class is scheduled at 11:20. Usually not a big issue, I was racing on this track 5 weeks ago and could drive a fast lap within 1 or two sessions. Problem was that the track was wet the whole morning, then there was an oil spill, so finally the QP was also the very first session. The QP was also very crowded. Finally my qualy time was a low 2:21, some 5 seconds slower than my best lap here. Well, I was qualified, that's important.
In the afternoon I tried different rear tyres than the expensive Dunlop KR108 slicks. But with the GP racer slick (clubracer slick), I couldn't get a good feeling and in fact almost highsided in the first chicane. That meant I needed another Dunlop KR108 slicks. In the evening I found one at ASR Kawasaki, a Swiss Superstock championship team. Same 7712 compound as I raced previously here.
As the first races, the first rounds of the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 championship are scheduled. In the evening, there will be a 4 lap "super sprint" race for the Open class that I'm racing. Much too short in my opinion.
Track was very very crowded in the free practice sessions and you had to be ready 5 to 10 mins before the session. Also the differences between the racers and the almost beginners were huge, so you had to pay a lot of attention in these sessions. In the last session I break-in the new rear slick.
We watch the Superstock 1000 race from the pit building. Horst Saiger wins in front of the championship leader Gregory Junod. For the Superstock 600 race, we take the scooter and watch it at Omega. Very interesting race with an almighty battle for 2nd position. Roman Raschle wins in front of Dominic Plüss.
Then it's our turn. I'm 19th on the full grid, but my start is excellent and I can leave almost 2 rows behind me. During the first lap, I wasn't agressive enough and got passed by quite some opponents. Well, it is not easy to fight agains Ducs and 1000 I4 with a gazillion of horsepower compared to my 128hp TL1000S. Finally I cross the finish line as 13th, not really what I expected. But I wasn't the last Suzuki, that's for sure.
After the race I searched some new toe sliders for my boots. One of the Superstock 1000 championship contenders, Lorenz Sennhauser, was driving the same brand of boots, so I asked him if he had a right spare slider. With a smile on his face he showed me a full box of destroyed right toe sliders, but of course he had a simple solution: Using left ones works with a small mod, too.
In the evening I tried Koni's 150kph pocket bike. Scary, I tell you!! There were a lot of season end partys in the paddock, it was a very funny evening.
Today are the 2nd rounds of the Superstock 1000 and 600 classes. In the afternoon there will be a proper 8 lap sprint race for the Open class.
We watch the Superstock races again. Greg Junod is crowned Superstock 1000 champion, Dominic Plüss is Superstock 600 champion after a fantastic battle for the first position.
I drive some sessions of the free practice, but keep the good tyre for the race in the afternoon. The race in the Open class will be started from yesterdays race positions, so I'm 13th on the grid, 4th row on the left.
Today the race modus for the open class is the usual thing: Pitlane opens for 3 minutes, lap from the pits to the starting grid. Then a warmup lap. Standing start, 8 race laps.
My start is definitely the best of the whole season. I gained at least 6 positions at the start! But this time I was driving agressive and didn't let the others easily through as last time. OK, one or the other 1000 I4 passed me anyway, in Brno the horsepower has such a big impact that I can't avoid this. My race goes quite well and I can overtake one of the two really fast B-Kings in the first laps. The fastest B-King, driven by Adi Wohlwend (who raced Superstock championship earlier in his career), was in front of me by about mid race. I knew I had to pass him in the lefthander after Omega, where he had big problems with the heavy B-King. I did my pass on the inside curb and squeezed through. What a pass, and he didn't fight back. But someone else fought back! Tom, the pit neighbour on a very fast Ducati 996R passes me on the front straight with Testrastretta Power. But I'm much later on the brakes and fight back immediately. The fight goes on for laps. He passes me on every longer straight, I fight back in the next braking area. Finally I can break away and cross the finish line as 8th out of a full grid.
This time I'm happy, that was about the maximum I could do with the TL. Personal best lap has been improved to 2:16.242, half a second faster than 5 weeks ago. And last but not least I beat ALL of those fat B-Kings!
Thanks to Ducati Bern and ASR Racing. It was an interesting weekend.
The final TL Cup round of this year.
Well, in theory I couldn't participate in that last round. No more holidays left. In theory that shouldn't be a problem anyway, the cup should be decided before and I could skip that round.
Well, as always, reality was different. The TL1000 cup wasn't fully decided yet. My coworker was on holidays, so it was very difficult to get another day off. My boss said yes in a weak moment, so let's go. This time my dad joined me, because I had to return over night to get to work Monday.
The track is roughly 1000km east of Switzerland. I could only leave the office Thursday noon. We had some traffic jams too, so it was 01:00 AM when we finally arrived at the track in Hungary. Quickly unloaded the bike such that I could sleep in the van, dad was in the hotel right in the paddock.
Schedule shows 7 sessions of free practice, should be plenty enough to learn the track. Well, the track proved to be very difficult. On a first glance a very weird track with all different corners in a rather random sequence. I needed about two or three sessions to really learn the track! On a closer view, the track is quite fluent, but still difficult. It is very important to drive the right line, because there are many esses and some blind corners. Another important thing is that it is quite bumpy with two "wheelie bumps". The TL always shakes the head powering over these. Even after closing the steering damper by at least 5 clicks, I once get serious headshake that didn't calm down until some 50 meters later. The photographer had proof why, I horribly cross-landed the wheelie.
At lunch I'm with a time of 2:12 already on the first page of the timesheets.
In the afternoon I play with different suspension settings. Soft is fast but almost undriveable, it is very very unstable. Very wild indeed! I skipped free practice in the evening, temperatures dropped a lot and by the end it was almost dark anyway.
The usual beer & barbequeue in the paddock didn't go on for too long because it was very cold.
Schedule shows qualifing practice until 12:00 and the sprint races in the afternoon.
In the morning, I change the suspension setup to a rather stiff setup. Drives much better, much "sharper", too and there's much less of movement in the bike. Needs a bit more attention when braking, though. For the last qualy session, I mount the good medium rear slick from Brno last weekend. Unfortunately the session is shortened due to an accident in the previous group. So there are only a few fast laps possible. In the (fast) inlap, I suddenly see a front wheel on the inside when turning into T6. Well, that means carnage, you can't overtake there! A fraction of a second after my right hand grabbed the brake lever, the front wheel blocked and I was in the process of going down with a lot of speed (4th gear corner). Then very suddenly the front wheel gripped at full lock again, big "clonk" of a very hard bottom out of the forks, my head bashes to the fairing stay and windscreen. What follows is a monster tank slapper while running off track through about 200m of grass until I could stop it and take a very deep breath. Well, quick check of me and bike. Brakes feel spongy and my nose is bleeding. OK, nothing serious, slowly back to the pits.
In the pits I check the bike. I limited the steering lock using balance weights. Well, these weights were now about 0.01mm thin, completely destroyed!! For security reasons I also switch front wheel, you never know if the brake rotors or even the front tyre have internal damage. In the meantime, the one who tried to pass me came by and aplogized. He crashed himself two corners later at very high speed. Well finally it was my fault to brake and I didn't crash, so shake hands and forget it. Of course I was extremely lucky!!!
After the brief repair work, I drove some laps in the free practice at lunch just verify everything with the bike is OK. Then filled in some 8l of fuel and the TL was ready for the sprint race. I was 5th in the grid, personal best 2:09.1. Looks like a promising grid position.
Our race starts at 14:30. Pitlane opens for 2mins, I roll to the starting grid. The start to the warmup lap is used to check what's possible to the first corner. 5th gear, then back off, step one gear back to 4th was the plan for the first corner. Heated up the brakes properly before the start. My start was really good again, I was 3rd into the first corner. I stayed on this position for most of the race. For the last laps, I tried to catch up. During the last lap, the 2nd (on a GSX-R 750) looked back at T4 and saw me very close behind him. I was at his rear wheel at the short straight that leads to T12 and T13, where we approached two lapped bikes that had been shown blue flags. The GSX-R 750 in front of me hesitated and drove direction outside line of T13 to lap the yellow TLR in front of us. I decided to take the inside line and overtake them both at the same corner. Of course it got extremely close. With a deep breath I squeezed through on the inside, accelerated and crossed the finish line as 2nd. Personal best lap 2:06.592.
After the race I excused for the tight pass. Etienne, the driver of the (lapped) yellow TLR, said for him it was OK to pass on the inside, but he didn't expect the GSX-R on the outside. They touched and he had to drive through the gravel.
That pass was subject of discussions with the driver of the GSX-R 750 after the race. In his opinion, I was driving rough against the lapped TLR and that if he didn't give way we would have crashed all three. My opinion was (and is) that I was on the right line and that he clearly made an error to go round the outside. Finally I admitted that my pass wasn't really clean and so we shook hands and settled it as a race incident.
Well, that finally left me time to think about the TL cup: To get the title, I had to win in the TL class and Harry mustn't get 2nd. I did my part and won the TL class, but what's about Harry? He was already watching MotoGP practice, so I knew something had gone wrong and I would be the TL cup champion again!
What happened? Harrys TLR engine went south at the start to the warmup lap. So he had to retire. That means we have equal points in the 4 counted TL1000 cup rounds, but thanks to a better void result, I'm TL Cup 2009 champion.
The sessions towards the evening I test again the GP racer rear tyre. With the right pressure, it works OK on this track.
In the evening, there is a big barbeceue offered by the organizer of the race season, SPS race. Also there are the award ceremonies for all classes. My results today: 2nd in the Pro SBK class, 1st in the TL1000 ranking, 1st in the Dunlop cup ranking. The latter leads me also to the overall 2nd place in the Dunlop Cup 2009 ranking. I win two rear and a front tyre.
Of course we celebrate the good results, a very funny evening in the paddock.
Schedule shows free practice from 09:00 to lunch. Well, most of the drivers skip the first session to wake up after the short night. The target of this morning is to qualify for the GP race: Over 70 drivers on the list, but ony 44 can start. I qualify with a low 2.09. Unfortunately none of the other TL drivers qualified. The race would be a very long 18 laps!!
My time was good for 5th row in the grid, position 20. My start was good again, but I was blocked by the 4th row that all got a rotten start. Some 1000 I4 passed me into the first two corners. Well, I'll fight back. But even when power isn't so important here, it would help to pass. On every short straight I loose some ground and it's thus virtually impossible to pass on the brakes. Passing with raw corner speed is difficult and risky, so I need some time to pass back. When I am hanging on behind a ZX-10R, I get very close in T2 and want to keep as close as somehow possible through T3 to pass him into T4. Unfortunately there is some debris on the track in the middle of the corner, the Kawa decides to go round the outside and sends me to the gravel. Crap!! Thanks to the dirt bike class I did last year I didn't fall and came quickly back on track, of course behind the bikes I just passed.
Well, so I have to catch up with them again. They fight for position themselves, so catching up didn't take too long. When I was behind that Kawa again, I had a short attention span and ran off track at T14. Well, the gravel was very long and deep, but thanks to that dirt bike experience I managed to stay upright and get back on track again. But now my race was over, I needed almost a lap to get the tyres clean and on temperature again. When I got blue flags in the 2nd last lap, I looked behind and saw nobody. Well, that means if I get lapped I have to do one lap less. So I slowed a tiny bit down and let the leader pass me in the last corners. I was (mentally) totally exhausted, what a DIFFICULT track!
A race to forget. 19th place, at least I improved my personal best lap to 2:06.436.
After the race we loaded the bike into the van and immediately left. Monday at 4 AM, some 10 hours later, I was at home and showed up in the office as ususal :-)
|Photos Werner Rufer|
- THE 3rd TL1000 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP WIN IN A ROW!!!
- Pannonia Ring is a very very difficult track. I don't know if I like it or hate it, but it was certainly worth a visit!!!
Many thanks to my dad for the support and the great pictures. Also a big thank you to Bikeroffice Racing and SPS race.