Note: If you can read German, read the German reports. The English reports are often just short summaries.
The target of this testweek was to try both front forks (KYB cartridge / Ohlins cartridge) and both rear shocks (stock KYB / Wilbers) and decide which one to use for the season.
Saturday morning, Michi picks me up with his big VW Crafter van and we drive to Barcelona where we stay in the Hotel Augusta. Sunday we drive the remaining 700km to Cartagena. On the way, the van reports low engine oil and we have to buy some at the next stop for diesel. The GPS navigation works well except that it doesn't know the address of the track. So we enter the coordinates. It navigates us very closely to the track, unfortunately on a highway without exit :-/ So we have to continue another 15 km, take the next exit and return another 15km. Because we were still too early, we first checked in to the NH Campo Hotel in Cartagena. Very good hotel, btw! Back on the track, we get our pit that proved to be a bit expensive for the size. In our pit are Michi (R6) me (GSX-R 1000), Thomas (R1), Jaime (BMW S1000RR), Michael (R6) and Dennis (GSX-R 600). Dennis also had his mechanic Jo. But Jo was lacking the correct socket to change the rear wheel... beginners?
First of all some words about the track: Cartagena is a very, very difficult track. Except for the short start/finish straight where you just reach 5th gear, there is no straight part! Corners over crests, accelerating when leaned over, braking when leaned over and there is really no easy part to rest. Corner speed is crucial. I won't try to describe a lap in English, sorry. Weather is good but with a strong and cold wind.
Did I say the track was difficult? It is! Anyway, the organizer put me in the fastest group "A", thus together with real racers like Roman Stamm, Daniel Sutter or Roman Raschle, all competing in the IDM (International German Championship). Lets say I started with respect to the track and the compeditors. The track was still in my memory from 5 years ago.
The first day was about getting a good pace again after the winter break. Lap times weren't fantastical and I was using up old rear tyres from last season. Non the less, in the first evening I was some 9 seconds faster than on the TLS 5 years ago! For comparison I started with the old forks and had the same problems as last year again. So in the first evening, I switched forks for the new tubes with Ohlins internals. The ohlins forks are also extended (have more travel) by about 1 to 1.5cm. In our neighbour pit there are some Scottish racers. Mark races a Kawasaki 1000 in the road races (Isle of man TT, etc).
Tuesday I was immediately 1s faster with the new forks. The feedback from the front is much better - I didn't expect that a big difference. The forks work very smooth now, thanks to top off springs you almost don't remark if they bottom out. During the day, I tried GP (reversed) shift pattern but didn't like it. I also tried the Wilbers aftermarket rear shock but didn't like the setup. The spring was too soft and too short, so I couldn't preload it enough. Well, the shock would need some serious work to adapt it to my taste. In addition, the compression and rebound ajusters are not well placed. In terms of lap times, the shock made no difference. The strong crosswind on the start/finish straight was sort of a problem. The GSX-R got light up to the 4th gear and when cross landing wheelies it always ended in big headshake. Once I badly crosslanded one and it almost spat me off - on the straight in fourth gear! I only remarked it later at home, but the steering stop protection had been beaten badly by this one. There was nothing left. Yeah, the Dunlops with the very stiff carcass really aren't forgiving. In the evening, Michi and I put the KYB shock back in.
Wednesday Michi was up to the pace, too and we were driving together for one or two sessions. When he remarked that I was still one or two tenths a lap faster, he went out again and crashed in the next lap - he tried the braking point of a 125cc racer :-o Fortunately he was OK and his R6 quickly repairable. I had a rencontre with this 125cc, too. They brake so late, you have to overtake them almost at the beginning of the straight to be sure they don't come back ont he brakes. In the evening, my front tyre was already over. Dunlop sold me a soft instead of a medium compound and they don't last. For me this was an expensive mistake.
Thursday was wet weather, but not wet enough for the wet tyres. Because the weather forecast for Friday was good, I decided to wait. At the end of the day, we had one dry session in the evening.
Friday was originally race day. But the organizer cancelled the races and scheduled a 60 minute superpole session instead, thus fastest laptime wins. I guess a real race would have been to expensive because they would have needed more track marshals and two ambulances. I did two 20' sessions in the superpole and ended up with a time of 1:41.664. That was about 6 seconds over the overall fastest lap driven by Roman Stamm, a licensed Swiss driver competing in the IDM (International German Championship). I was a little bit surprised that in the end I was the winner of the superpole. The licensed racers were out of the classification, that's why i won. In other words: out of the amateurs, I was fastest, very cool!
Corsin, the friend who bought my old race TLS and myself both change job in 2011. So we expected some holiday shortage and thus booked another week in Spain well in advance. Motorland Aragon is an all new track built last year. It contains some of the most famous corners of other tracks: The last corner is a mirrored copy of the first corner in Brno. And there is a mirrored version of the Corkscrew of Laguna Seca!
Corsin and I got to Spain with my van, thus the small Mercedes Vito. With the experience of last year (where we raced together, too) we had not too much problems fitting the two bikes and everything else in there. When we arrived in Spain late Sunday, it rained. But weather forecast was good! We installed us in a pit with other Swiss racers.
Monday we both first needed to learn the track. The track flows very well and there are some big elevation changes (obviously in the Corkscrew). Plus there are many long corners where you accelerate quite long. From the beginning, I had some serious problems with the rear suspension of the GSX-R. Temperatures were much higher here and the rear shock extremely faded. The adjusters almost didn't make any difference. Something was wrong here! Rear tyre usage was horribly, I destroyed in just one day all used rear tyres I had with me. Obviously I didn't have the aftermarket shock in my luggage any more and we were unable to find a solution or a working rear shock in the evening. Thinking about it, I just put back the working setup of Cartagena for the next day.
Tuesday. Corsin asked me if I could do a session on the TL because he was suffering gearbox problems and wanted a 2nd opinion. So I went out on my old bike and immediately remarked there was something wrong with the gearbox: It went strong and as described by Corsin the 4th gear was jumping out very frequently. I tried to drive without 4th gear, but in the end 5th gear made some problems, too. And comparing with the GSX-R 1000, I remarked that the slipper clutch was setup wrong, there was not enough engine braking. I went back to the pits and told Corsin to be very careful - the gearbox could lock up at any moment. And it let go just one lap later - unable to shift from 4th to 3rd, very bad noises and a neutral between 4th and 5th gear or so. Broken Gearbox, damnit! The only good news was that it didn't lock up and that Corsin didn't crash. I offered him to drive on my GSX-R.
In the next session, I had a gearbox problem on the GSX-R 1000, too. Damn, I was really cursing under my helmet. I was unable to shift from 4th to 3rd. Back in the pits we were able to repair it by shifting by hand with the bike jacked up, phew.
Starting in the afternoon, Corsin drove on my GSX-R 1000, too. He changed group such that we had a break between our sessions. Like this there was enough time to prepare the bike. I put on a new rear tyre and from that point on lap times began to drop. The problems from yesterday weren't away, but I simply tried to push hard in the first laps - before the rear gets soft again. I also tried to not think about it :-) At the evening my fastest lap was 2:07.5 - 28th on the grid of tomorrows race (row 7).
Wednesday, there were just two sessions in the morning for each of us, but Corsin had to skip the 2nd one because it was just before my race and there would have been no time to prepare the bike. The race was an 8 lap race with flying start. My race went quite well, I overtook a lot of people including one in the corkscrew (not quite Rossi style, I was still on the curb!). In the end I was 13th, not a famous result but quite OK looking at the grid position. There were also a lot of fast drivers there. My best lap time was 2:04.9 - about 6 seconds over the fastest lap driven by a Swedish licensed driver. Corsin drove his race on my bike and did quite well! In the afternoon we did some onboard filming and Corsin drove until they closed the track! He actually liked driving on the GSX-R!
Great track, but a completely different story in terms of setup. Bummer about the gearbox of the TL. We both really liked the track, the big and clean pits, the good weather. It was fantastic and I think we'll return there. A new rear shock is on my todo list!
Well, this was in theory the preparation for another event on this track in July, but the 2nd event has been cancelled. Speer usually has a quite high level in his cup weekends, so there should be plenty of fast drivers.
It's a long time since I have been in Hockenheim, september 2007 to be exact. I recalled that I'd need a long final drive ratio and warm clothes. In the mean time I serviced the bike, just oil and filter change now running Motorex oil (thanks to Dorfgarage Ersigen!). And last but not least I found an used Ohlins rear damper. The weekend before Hockenheim I picked it up from Willi near Mainz. Willi had put in a very strong main spring and setup the damper differently. I was a bit worried about the super strong spring. But Willi told me to NOT change the setup because it was perfect.
I was in the process of changing job, so my old boss decided to pay my remaining holidays to have me in the office just some more days. So I could leave only friday evening. After some traffic jams, I arrived about 9pm in Hockenheim, refueled the bike and found the same Swiss racers in the pits that we used to stay with in Aragon. Corsin arrived shortly after with his son Fabio. In the paddock there were a lot more Swiss racers than usually, roughly 50% of the vans had Swiss number plates. I also found Ruedi. In our pit there was also Beat, another very fast Kawasaki driver.
Driver briefings are compulsory, even Max Biaggio should know that by now. Everything was explained, including race mode: Pregrid in the pitlane, then one formation lap and directly a flying start. 8 race laps. In the paddock there's also a "drift challenge", will be fun for Fabio to watch the cars.
Corsin had his first session before me and came back with a smile. "The Honda is wobbling very much in the Parabolica, but I like the track" was his first feedback. In my first session, I had to re-learn the track. Amazingly I had no difficulties finding the lines again, they were still in memory. Laptimes after session one: 1:57. I remarked that the two other GSX-R in our pit, Reto (on a K5) and Dani (on a K7) were about equally fast. So we decided to drive together and my time dropped to 1:53 in session two. We had a lot of fun driving together. I asked Beat to show me the line in the entry of Parabolica. He told me to follow him in the first laps. The line was quite strange, very tight through the right hander, then about one meter over a green painted piece of asphalt aside of the track, flick it over very quickly and then accelerate very hard through the lefthander. After some tries I ended up with a lot more topspeed in the Parabolica, it works.
The suspension worked very well as long I was pushing. The raised rear ride height definitely changed the geometry of the bike and the feeling for the front was a bit different. And last but not least the bike wheelied a lot less with the new rear damper! The suspension worked really excellent. I once made an error and took T1 too tight, fully over the curb on the inside. I expected that I will end up in the runoff area, but no the bike just continued on the line. Amazing!
Reto unfortunately had a lot of electronics problems, so I continued to drive on my own. The track was quite crowded, so it was never boring. My front and rear tyres began to slide and because I had more rear wheel spin the final drive ration was almost too short in the Parabolica. In the afternoon there was some rain, but the track dried again. But it was difficult to improve the time after the rain, it was much cooler. My best lap time is 1:52.5, about position 25 overall.
In the evening we had a barbeceue along with some beers in our pit, very delicious. I changed the steering damper for an Ohlins model to complete the Ohlins suspension (well rather to exchange the old not very efficient steering damper). Corsin and I also visited Ruedi and got a demonstration of video analysis by Thomas Kausch (TKR).
Today my group drove the first session and Corsin could sleep a bit longer. The first session was still a bit cool, but everyone was driving because there were a lot of dark clouds. There were some hot situations, one where someone behind me completely missed the braking point at the hairpin and almost took me out when he had to take the emergency exit while being on the inside of me. I almost collided with a slower driver when entering Motodrom, I could only just avoid a a crash by driving over the curbs on the inside. I talked with him later in the pits and I guess he changed the group.
Then rain came. I decided to wait, but Corsin mounted the rims with the wet tyres and drove some laps. He came back with a scratched fairing. "Grip is not so good" was his feedback. Fortunately he was OK and the bike was quickly repairable.
Amazingly I was on position 7 of the grid of the sprint race. Strange, yesterday I was about 25 overall. The solution is that the drivers that drive in the Cup race mustn't drive in the sprint races. OK, that makes sense.
The cup race at lunch was wet, well extremely wet to say the least. It was pouring down!! I was very happy that this isn't my category yet. During the race I had my old rain tyres changed for some new Dunlop wets, if it rains like that for our race I'd desperately need them. There was another race following the cup race and that was still clearly a wet race. During lunch break the weather got better, but it was still very unsure wether it would get wet or dry in the afternoon. The first race in the afternoon was the Bimota race. The track was still partially wet, about 50% of the drivers choose wet tyres. It was really impossible to choose tyres now, but I finally decided it was too dry for wet tyres and thus put on a new rear slick along with the almost new front slick. Just when mounting the rear wheel, Corsin and Fabio pointed out that it was raining again. Well, there was no time to change again, let's stick with the choice.
In the pregrid in the pit lane there are still some rain drops. The fromation laps reveals that the track is almost completely dry, so let's heat up the tyres. I have a good flying start and can overtake the bike in front of me during the first lap. In the following laps I have a fight with one or two Hondas. I got by at the hairpin, but he got me again in the next corner. But I learned and in the next lap I kept him behind me. My bike is working extremely well with the softer rear tyre, but I have no overrev reserve in the parabolica, the final drive ratio is too short for slipstreaming. At about mid race, lapping of slower drivers already begins. I hear a bike behind me and desperately try to keep him behind. Then when lapping a slow Kawasaki in Parabolica, he has the better line on the inside while I chose the long way around the outside. Amazingly this BMW looks like Ruedis, but it can't be him because he was in the Cup race before. Maybe his secret twin brother? Anyway, I followed the bike that looked like the BMW of Ruedi and amazingly he left me pass just before the last lap and I finished the race on my own.
During the inlap, I had a look on the laptimer: 1:49.5. Cool, below 1:50! It was difficult to know where I was in terms of position. The BMW and Aprilia that were in the first row were certainly ahead me.
Corsin did his race on the good old Honda 600. The weather was just about dry. But shortly after the race, rain came back and we decided to pack up and go home. Well, there was still the awards ceremony! I quickly put on my Suzuki T-Shirt and Dunlop cap - you never know. And I finally got 3rd, well above my expectations.
After a short drive I was back at home at about 9pm.
- The suspension worked very well, tyres lasted perfect!
- I am very happy with lap time and result!
- We had a lot of luck with the weather
- An excellent weekend with Corsin - a big thank you also to his family!
- Note to Willi: I didn't change anything on the damper.
I booked this event as a replacement for the cancelled Hockenheim event of the Swiss championship. I joined over www.gsx-r1000.de and Mario kindly booked a place for me, thanks for that.
My preparation for this event was mountainbiking. I had a big crash when I flipped over a fence, you can still see the gravel road on my hip.
Journey via Frankfurt, Kassel. Except for a big traffic jam of about 1h, the 800km went by without problems, total time about 9h.
I joined the Pit number 21 with plenty of other GSX-R 1000 of the forum. It was interesting to meet the people that I usually only "meet" virtually. There was little paperwork to sign up. Unfortunately my number 300 was already taken, so I took the 301 and quickly changed the last digit on my fairings.
In the evening we had the usual beer and barbequeue in the pits. After that I did a track walk with Ecki, Mario and Erik. I was amazed to see that in some areas there were rain ducts between the curbs and the track. I didn't remember seeing these last time I was here.
At the drivers briefing, the organizer explains exactly how the sessions and the races will be held. The times of the first two sessions will be taken to sort out the groups. So it must be by target to do a fast lap in the first two sessions, otherwise I'd have to drive in a slow group. Not an easy job, because many of the drivers were already here yesterday to practice on the track. The 2nd target is the qualification for the sprint race in the afternoon.
First session. I am in the 2nd fastest group and have to relearn the track after 3 years of absence. Fortunately the racing line is still in memory. Only difference is the chicane that you can't cut hard any more because they put some (flexible) obstacles in the way. After the 2nd session I'm on a 1:42. Not excellent, only about position 75 overall. That means I'll stay in the 2nd fastest group, OK for now.
Now from the 3rd session on the target is to qualify for the sprint races, a position under the first 40 overall would be safe. Unfortunately the 3rd is also red flagged mid time, but for me this wasn't a big problem because I was still running with an old rear tyre. For the next session, I put on the rim with the used medium compound slick from the last race, this one should provide more grip. With that new bit of confidence, I drove my qualification time of 1:39.4, position 28 on the grid. That's not famous, but hey I'm qualified. The field is quite impressive, up to position 34 everybody is under 1:40!
I'll drive the sprint race (7 laps) with this used medium rear slick, it still looked excellent. Race procedure is classic: Pit lane opens for 2mins, drive to the pregrid, warmup lap, standing start, then 7 race laps. Everything works out very smooth, no waiting at all, that's good to keep the tyres hot. My plan for the start was to drive straight on the left side to the first left hander. My start was good, but the left side was so dirty and crowded that I lost all places again when turning into T1. Anyway, I pushed as hard as I could. There was no time to rest because I always had someone to overtake, but at the same time had to pay attention to the bikes behind me. It was really extremely interesting. Except for a hot moment when the rear wheel got a bit too sideways when braking for T1, I drove a very safe race. At the end I was 22nd with a for me good lap time of 1:37.39 driven in the very last lap.
In the evening I had dinner with Daniel and his brother and we had a lot of fun telling each other stories of the good old TL days :-)
Today my first session was scheduled only for 9:10am. But the track was still damp and I decided to wait. The organizer scheduled free practice for one hour. At the end of the free practice, the track was completely dry, but I decided it was too crowded to drive a fast lap now. My first session was shortly after and I quickly turned a 1:37.1, that should be good for the qualification for the GP race. The front tyre began to tear up a little bit, so I decided to just drive some laps with full tank in the 2nd session. That was a good idea, the braking point in T1 needed slight adjustment.
For the GP race (14 laps) I mounted a new Dunlop slick, again in medium compound. This time I was 22nd on the grid, thus rather on the clean right side of the track. My start was quite good, I overtook about a whole grid line. But in the 1st phase of the race I was a bit too conservative and some drivers overtook me. Then I was stuck behind a slightly slower driver. When I overtook this opponent, the times began to drop and my pace got a lot better. I had (again!) a hot moment when braking for T1, the rear wheel got off the ground a bit more than I'd call comfortable. Otherwise the race was quite clean, but still very interesting, there were again a lot of opponents in my range of lap times so I always had someone to fight with. At the end I was 18th, personal fastest lap 1:35.81, driven in lap 12. Well if you ask me, the race could have been a bit longer!
After the GP races there were some sessions of practice and also some free practice. But I decided to save some energy for the last race of the day, the forums race for all members of the GSX-R forum. The weather was getting worse, too. At about 5pm there was some rain, but fortunately it dried up very quickly and the track was completely dry again for the forum race at 5:40pm.
So same procedure as for the sprint race again. But this time I was in the front row, position 3 on the grid. Obviously my plan was to win the start and turn first into T1. My plan worked out perfect and I was first after the first corner. I put down some quite fast laps. After half of the race, I had a look on the back straight, nobody behind me. I then decided to drive it home safe and pushed a bit less in T1 and the very fast triple, the front tyre didn't feel so good any more. I won the race with a clean start-finish win. My first race win on the GSX-R 1000, whow!
After that I quickly packed up and drove back home during the night. I had to work monday...
- The weather was very good and very hot
- Suspension works excellent, including the new steering damper
- Very well organized by prospeed. The pace with the 1000 class was really impressive
- A big thank you to Mario who organized the pits and the forum race and to everybody from the GSX-R 1000 forum for the good time.
Speer organizes this "Monday evening free practice" event regularly for racers. I booked it because I had holidays and because I wanted to test a bit more in Hockenheim for the Swiss Championship weekend in September. Well the weather forecast was rather bad, but I went anyway.
In the paddock I met Wolfgang and Oli and at the drivers briefing I spotted Chris Alex.
My first session was OK, I was here just in May so I didn't need time to adapt to the track. Unfortunately the rear slick didn't like the cold weather and began to tear up. Lap time was 1:53, so still quite far from my best lap.
2nd session: I was on a fast lap, braking and downshifting for the hairpin, when I suddenly catched a false neutral. When I shifted another gear down, there was a really awful noise:
Oh sh.... what on earth was that? 2nd gear seemed to work OK, so I continued. But it became evident that 3rd gear was broken, in fact there was no 3rd gear any more, just another neutral. I limped back to the pits where we confirmed on the paddock stands that 3rd gear was gone. Well, broken gearbox, that's it. Head back home :-(
After the gearbox failure in Hockenheim, I had to find a solution to drive wednesday in Dijon! Obviously it would be impossible to repair the gearbox in just one day. I called Tom Hauri for the repair of the engine and he offered me the repair until mid August. Fortunately I have an identical road registered GSX-R 1000. So the easy solution would be to put slicks in this bike. I finally decided to put the race fairings on it as well, to minimize costs just in case.
Of course there was a bit of work involved to put the race fairings on stock fairing stay and stock rear subframe. But at the end it worked quite well. The short stock chain lead me into clearance issues between the huge Dunlop rear slick and hugger/lower fairing. I finally got around it by removing the hugger. The electrics needed some time as well, as the weather forecast was bad I decided to work very properly covering all the unused connectors to avoid problems afterwards. I also switched over the rearsets and footpegs from the race bike, but left the stock clipons on. Instead I rotated the clipons slightly forward to get about the same angle as on the race bike.
The bike was ready at about 8PM, I just ate something and put everything in the van before leaving. Even when I already knew the way, I had some trouble finding the right roads in France: In Pontarlier there were road works without redirection and around Besancon the roads had that changed that I really had a hard time finding the highway. My printed directions were worthless and the Nokia navigation was completely lost, too. Ah well, it was a difficult job to navigate anyway, it was dark night and it poured down... when I finally found the damn highway it was an easy way to Dijon. Arriving at midnight at the track, I was prepared to sleep in the van outside, so I was well surprised that there was still someone to let me in. I parked the van in a good spot and only just moved some boxes to get room for some sleep that I really needed now.
Eybis is organizing this track day for Suzuki Europe. I signed-up, unloaded the bike from the van, put the tyre warmers on and jumped into the leathers. In the mean time three other Swiss with one GSX-R 600 arrived parked just aside, we agreed to use my tent together.
Drivers briefing was a bit strange. They really made an effort to translate it in a lot of languages, but there was virtually nobody present. Ok, this was the 2nd day, perhaps I was the only one to drive just one day? We'll see...
In one of first sessions I almost caught some idiot driving out of the pits straight onto the racing line. Well, that was one point of the drivers briefing: Pit out is on the right side, first turn is a righthander, while on the left side the bikes on track arrive with close to 300kph from a 1km long start/finish straight. So it is very important (and very logical) to stay right when driving out of the pits, but obviously someone knew better there. To me this didn't make the best impression.
The track on the other hand is still very impressive: Arriving from a 1km long start/finish straight, brake late under that bridge for the fast first corner, a 3rd or 4th gear righthander depending on final drive ratio. Then there are very fast esses, only brave drivers go really fast there. The esses lead to a very steep downhill lefthander, very difficult to drive. We arrive at the deepest point of the track, suspension gets compressed hard when braking for the steep uphill hairpin. After the haripin, short shift into 3rd gear to avoid a monster wheelie over the crest, because just after the crest there is a sharp double left hander, a completely blind corner. After a fast left/right combination, there is another compression before the final right hand corner. And this one is really famous: A never ending corner over a slight crest, through a compression leads you ***throttle wide open*** onto the start finish straight where you shortshift on the crest into the next gear. The track is really a lot of fun on the 1000!
I obviously needed to adjust the (bone stock) suspension a little bit to the grippy Dunlop slicks. Done so, the bike didn't work bad. Remember everything is stock! The feeling was quite different to my race bike, but it worked and the tyres lasted amazingly. The groups however were not very even, it was difficult to get a free lap. In the afternoon I did a 1:29.4 measured by my GPS lap timer. The last session was cancelled after a red flag. We were offered to drive in another group, but I decieded to call it a day because the fastest group was already difficult (slow) enough.
Oh and I have to write something negative about Eybis. What they called "tyre service" was really not up to the task. For 10 Euro they mounted the tyre, but when I double checked if it was balanced the response was "sorry, the balancer is broken". Ah well, and now I should drive with an unbalanced tyre? And I should pay extra for the disposal of the old tyre. Freaking hilarious!
Obviously it was no problem finding someone to balance the tyre in the paddock, but frankly that was ONE BAD TYRE SERVICE.
In the following days I transformed the road bike back to road specs and brought the race bike to Tom Hauri to repair the gearbox.
Bottom line : 1 day driving, 3 days wrenching.
Yes, Brno again! Corsin and I waited a moment for this one, Brno GP is definitely one of our favourite tracks.
But first of all some preparations had to be done after the gearbox failure. 3rd gear had all cogs sheared off. The engine specialist repaired the gearbox, replaced a broken chain tensioner and told me that the engine runs too lean in the high revs. The latter was corrected temporarly using the Yosh Box. And of course the bike had to be reassembled.
In summer I also did something for my fitness. Our team in the office joined a 5-athlon and I had to do the mountainbike part. I ended up in the top 30 of about 200 teams.
The Brno adventure really started Wednesday evening when I put everything in the van and drove to Corsin. Because it was late we decided to load Corsins bike tomorrow. Corsin bought an identical GSX-R 1000 K5, so spare parts were really less an issue. And because weather forecast was great, we left the wets at home, too. So we had space for spare forks, a spare rear shock and last but not least a complete spare front brake system.
We left at about 10:00 in Basel. At the last German fuel station we refueled the van and the bikes and paid for the Czech highway tax. Prague finally got a highway around the city, amazing! Only one tunnel was still under construction. Oh and there was still the dreaded highway between Prague an Brno, heck I think it dates back to WW2 and is in really ugly condition.
When we arrived in Brno we spotted some known faces in the paddock and installed us between Uwe and Tom. We unloaded everything from the van, put the tent together, drank some beers, business as usual.
If you can, go there! The TV images don't judge the track, it's a lot better! Brno is about precise lines, chicanes, up and down. You need confidence in the front end and in the rear end. And power certainly helps!
The weather is perfect! I was one of the first bikes to wait for the track to open at 09:00. The track is unchanged, still this great fast up and down track. After the first lap I decided to go back to the pits to check if nothing fell of and that the engine doesn't leak. Everything was fine, so let's go. In the first session I drove a 2:16.
After lunch, our red group was obviously topped off with slower drivers. Even when there was a lot of traffic on track I managed to drive a 2:16.0 on the old hard slick. Now that's finally faster than previously on the TL. But the tyre was done, so I mounted a new medium slick. With the extra grip, lap times dropped immediately a second and later to a high 2:13. In the 2nd turn of the afternoon I had a moment when I kind of missed the braking point at Schwantz curve, did a little stoppie at 230kph and eventually decided to cross the gravel trap. I managed to hold it upright and the corner workers lead me on the service road and back to the track. Because there was a lot of gravel in the belly pan, I drove straight back to the pits. Front brake felt strange, too. Back in the paddock I removed the lower fairing to get rid of the gravel and quickly checked things.
Corsin was sitting there and suddenly remarked "hey, there's a leak where the front brake line joins the caliper!". After closer investigation, we found out that the leak came from a crack in the alloy fitting of the steel braided brake lines. I never saw something like that, an extremely dangerous failure! And the worst thing was that BOTH sides were cracked. Absolutely unbelievable!
Now that's where the spare front brake system came into play. Instead of changing the brake lines and bleeding the brakes, I simply put on the spare brake system. Yes it was a good idea! And of course Corsin has quite some extra credit now because it was him who found the defect. Of course the failed brake lines will be returned!
Well the good thing is that I had now an excuse for my excursion to the gravel trap - it was the brakes fault. And that's very true, we found traces of brake fluid all over the fairing.
In the evening Corsin cooked some pasta with chicken. Very good! My job was beer supply :-)
Again our group had the first session in the morning. Well today this wasn't an advantage, the medium rear slick really didn't like the cooler track temperature and almost disintegrated. I tried to do another session with it, but it was really over. So I had to mount a fresh rear slick for the qualyfing at 11:00. The qualifying practice was OK, if I remember right I did a 2:13 with really a lot of traffic on the track. I skipped the next turn (qualyfing ended just before) and prepared the bike for the 8 lap sprint race. 10l of fuel and a fresh front tyre. Unfortunately I got a soft front slick instead of a medium. But ambient temperatures were very hot now, so the tyre could work. For lunch Corsin cooked some pasta.
My race was the last race of the day, starting at 15:00. I drank reasonably much because it was really hot. I was on the 13th position on the (full) grid. My start wasn't the greatest, the revs dropped a bit too much. The race was very exciting, I always had someone to fight with. Otto overtook me and I tried to follow him for a while. I had a slight advantage on the brakes, but then suddenly this turned into a disadvantage because my front brakes began to fade (remember these are my spare brakes, there's a reason for that). So unfortunately I couldn't follow him. Towards the end of the race, Asmir did two bad errors and got back to track just in front of me. Now there was my chance to improve my position. When he completely missed the exit of Schwantz Curve, I blockpassed him into the next chicane. Obviously I knew that there is another chicane after the short uphill session and I expected him to fight back, so I braked as late as possible. Asmir braked just a little bit later and passed me. Even when he couldn't hold the line, I was unable to fight back in the last corner. In the final classification I was 7th, best lap time 2:11.5. I was really happy about the big improvement in the lap time.
After the race Corsin and I drove a bit together and found out that we drive quite different lines. In the evening we had a barbequeue with our paddock neighbors. Some people in the paddock had a really big party, there was a lot of noise until 5am!
This time I was smart enough to skip the first session. Anyway, I ended up with a torn up rear tyre in the 2nd session, it seems the Medium slicks don't last more than 20 laps here. Because the tyre service ran out of slicks, I bought a Dunlop200/55 D211GP DOT race tyre. Interesting enought this tyre has exactly the same dimensions as a 195/65 KR108 R17 slick! Well the tyre also handles the same, I was quite happy about that. My qualifying time was 2:12.0 which was good for 5th position on the grid. Not bad at all. Corsin qualified as well. For the 16 laps I refueled about 15l. Concerning the front tyre I decided to use the used medium slick instead of the soft slick, I was concerned that the soft one wouldn't make the distance.
For lunch I wasn't in the mood of eating, so I just drank a lot of water. We watched the first race, the ladies cup from the pit roof. Well the ladies had a rough style! At 14:00 Corsin and I rolled onto the grid. Obviously it took some time to get the grid together with a mighty 54 bikes on the grid. My start was great, I was within the top three when turning into the first corner. But from that point on I was going backwards, I was overtaken by a lot of bikes. I can't really explain, but it simply didn't work. My laptimes dumped around 2:13, much too slow. When I almost lost the front in a downhill right hand corner I had to accept that the front tyre was over and had to enter with less speed. Towards the end of the race, the rear tyre began to move a lot when accelerating out of right hand corners, which was particularly delicate in the fast last corner. At the end I missed the chequered flag, I only remarked that the race was over on the back straight when the marshals waved with all flags. Certainly not my best race. It was also very long and hot.
When we came back to the pits, the organizer gave half a liter of fresh wather to everyone. After another half liter, I was able to speak again. I think my body had somewhat overheated. At the end I was on the 8th position due to some bikes crashing on better positions. But obviously I wasn't happy with my position and lap times, even when lap times were generally slower than yesterday.
Corsin and I packed everything back into the van and drove back. In Prague there was a huge traffic jam on the new highway. Finally we followed the Czech and quit the highway in a questionable way. Thanks to Corsins navigation device we had no trouble finding the "old" bypass road around Prague. Back in Germany we got (again) cought by the fact that there is no fuel station until about 100km after the border. We just made it... I can't understand why there is no fuel station on this highway. After some thunderstorms in Germany, we were back in Basel at 3am.
- Brno definitely is one of my favourite tracks
- perfect weather
- Gearbox works again
- The defect on the brake lines was quite strange. I was quite lucky to remark it before a complete brakedown.
I always wanted to do a "wildcard" run in the Swiss Road Racing Championship (SMR) and their last event finally fit into my agenda. I also booked free practice for friday. The track is similar to the GP track driven in May, but without the part between parabolica and hairpin. I never drove this variant so far.
I left at home at 4:45 to be at Hockenheim just before 8am. The paddock was already very crowded. I installed myself in pit Nr 12 just aside the Ducati Bern pit. Rolf assigned me a spot in the pit, that was also occupied by the Suzuki B-King trophy drives and last but not least some Superstock drivers like Horst Saiger, Carsten, Sascha, Michi.
Because the track was wet, I had a lot of time to get my wildcard license and follow the drivers briefing. The conditions were not good, it changed all time. Adi in the pit changed about 4 times from slicks to wet tyres and back. Finally at 11:00 the track was dry and I was just getting into the leathers when someone yelled "rain". Oh no! The track was wet again in no time and it was impossible to drive on slicks. The changing conditions persisted and the GSX-R race that was scheduled after the lunch break was cancelled. We were waiting in the pits when some tourists visited our pit and took lots of photos. We didn't quite understand what's going on, when somebody remarked that this was Sebastian Vettel's F1 pit :-)
About 16:00 and we still didn't drive one dry lap. Sascha and I decided that it was worth a try on slicks. But the track was still too wet, it was extremely delicate to drive. A BMW driver almost highsided in front of us and I almost lost the rear at turn one, I didn't even open the gas yet! So after just two or three lap I got back to the pits because it was still undriveable. There was just one session of 20mins remaining for our group. I did a lap time of 1:39 if I remember right. At least I had some dry laps! The new section is not very easy, the braking zone is quite delicate because it is not straight and tarmac changes.
In the evening we had a very nice beer & barbequeue in front of our pit.
For my class SBK open there is only one session of free practice, two session of qualifying practice and the race in the evening. It would have been possible to buy more sessions of free practice I found it too expensive. Newly, the classes SBK open and Superstock 1000 have been put together. Ah well, so I will race with the fastest Swiss drivers like Horst Saiger or Lorenz Sennhauser! The downside is obviously that I can't watch their race :-) In the drivers briefing the organizer explained very detailed what to do when there are blue flags, because in the last race there was an incident when the leaders lapped a slower driver.
I had some difficulties getting enough grip in the free practice, the track felt slippy and the hard rear grip didn't provide the needed grip. I changed the setup and lowered the rear of the bike a bit. Thanks to Sascha for the tools and the help. I qualified using a new Medium slick, at the end I did a lap time of 1:37.001. Compare that to a 1:30 pole time by Horst Saiger!
The Superstock 1000 / SBK open race was scheduled at the end of the day. Race mode is a bit special: 17 minutes plus two laps, so about 10 race laps. I was on position 24 on the grid, thus 6th row on the right. My start was almost perfect, I overtook almost 2 grid lines! First corner worked out well, 2nd corner not bad either with some care. But then things went wrong: Accelerating out of parabolica, a BMW in the first 10 positions of the field badly highsided, was thrown high up in the air and landed in the middle of the field. Instinctively I tried to pass on the inside. But unfortunately the flying BMW was thrown up in the air again and flew towards the inside. I couldn't avoid a collision and collided with the flying bike with the right side of my bike. I didn't crash, but I was pushed to the grass and felt very strong pain in my left foot. So I stopped after the IDM curve, put my bike against the guard rail and had a look on my right foot. I saw a hole in my boots and ... a bone! Shit! It was the pinky toe that got hit and almost cut off by the flying bike. When I waved with my hands the track marshals understood very quickly that I was in need of an ambulance. I was brought to the medical center, where the doctor decided that I had to go to hospital for surgery immediately. Sascha also came to the medical center, he crashed into another bike when braking hard because of the incident that I was involved. Fortunately he had only minor bruises. His dad quickly brought me my mobile phone and wallet before I was brought to the hospital.
Then I was brought to the hospital in Schwetzingen, some 10km from Hockenheim. Diagnosis was quite clear: The toe had almost been torn/cut off, I had a bad open fracture that needed immediate surgery. The spinal anaesthesia I got was a quite strange experience, certainly because it persisted almost 5 hours. After surgery, the toe was fixated by a titanium rod. My room neighbor was a very old demented man, it was not very pleasant. But otherwise they cared very well about me in the hospital.
Sunday evening Michi and his parents picked me up at the hospital and brought me and my van back home to Switzerland. Thank you very much for that!!
Monday I had to go to the hospital again, where they checked everything and I got a plaster cast for the right foot.
Well, that's it, end of the season! Congratulations to pit neighbor Horst Saiger for the Superstock 1000 title!
Video of the first lap crash, filmed by Ferdi driving just some meters ahead on the right of me. As you can see, this was a VERY close call. The bike that flew just an inch over Ferdis left sholder flew into my right side of the bike! From that point of view, this could have been a lot worse!
The video has been very popular on the internet and was shown on TV (Eurosport) and in the online part of a Swiss newspaper.
Article on Yahoo.au (well, 300kph is a little bit over estimated ;-))
Bottom line :
- Not so much track time
- Unfortunately I got injured towards the end of the season. But watching the video, it could have been a lot worse!
- The bike is quite OK. The right boot has been cut, the faring got hit, the crashpad has been torn off, but that's it.
After two weeks with the foot in the plaster cast, some five weeks with the titanium rod in (and protruding out of) the toe and some more weeks with walking aids, the toe can be considered saved. About 8 weeks after the incident I can walk again. But I mustn't run and can't do sports until 2012.
I have to say thank you very much to all the doctors, they miraculously saved my pinky toe. I also thank all people who helped me from the moment of the accident and during recovery: The track marshals, Family Kolb, my parents and last but not least my work mates.