Most of France was under grey clouds and rain this last weekend, except the South East, which was where we headed to Ledenon.
We arrived arround 9:30 on Friday morning, as first practise was at 10:30, installed the tent next to the FZR 6.4 racing team (FZR 600 and FZR400), attaching our tent to their lorry, and our van. The wind was very strong and gusty. Ledenon is on the top of a hill in the Rhone Valley so it picks up any wind that's going, and this weekend was going to be particularly windy.
I was running Nr. 2 ignition curve on the RG, which maintains the advance later in the rev. range, so was hoping to pick up some speed with that. The temperature was cool, around 19 degrees Centigrade, and the altitude was roughly the same as Magny Cours, so the engine should run a little leaner, which shouldn't be a problem. In the first practise, the bike was running a little flat, but peaking nicely, although it was extremely difficult to concentrate on anything other than the gusting wind. I was probably picking up 20kmph down the straight (due to the wind), and then being pushed about all over the place, in different bends. You can't make reference points with all this happening, it's all by instinct!
The 350 was running OK, although some noise at idle, I think from a leaking exhaust gasket. Believe it or not I found the 350 easier to handle, maybe due to a smaller fairing, not catching as much wind... dunno.
I was using under 7 litres of premix on the 350 and less than 9 litres on the 500 for 20 minutes track time.
We had to take the tent down in the afternoon, as the canvas was ripping, so we rearranged the vans to block as much of the wind as possible, to try and eat something without the plates flying off the table!
Saturday morning qualification, on the 350 was at 8:30, so an early start and a cold track. A couple of wobbly laps to warm the tyres, and off we go! The triple left at the end of the straight can be taken with virtually no initial braking, although it is a ballsy bend, slightly off camber, and you really have to hang off to ensure the tyres are still gripping well. I drop a gear going into the first part, and then cranked over I have to drop another and then for the exit I need to get into 3rd. This is really a challenge with the bike cranked over, and no room for the boot to easily get to the gear lever, I don't how these MotoGP guys do this waving leg thing on left handers especially as they need to get their toes under the lever for downshifts, I just need to find the top and stamp on it, still not easy. After the triple left, you hit a windy section, as you head down to a right hander with a big step in the middle of it (on the line), some guys were taking the bend real wide to avoid the step, but you leave the door completely open for attacks. Still qualified the 350 in a lowly 26th position, on the 9th line with a best time of 1:52.
Qualification on the RG was not much better, came in at 1:46 - 5 seconds down on my PB, must change something!
Race 1 on the 350
Got a reasonable start and maintained my grid position into the first lap. I made steady progress from my 26th position up to 20th position at the end of the race, battling it out in a small group consisting of a couple of Ducatis, a big Kawa and a couple of 350's. Nice enjoyable race with a best lap time of 1:48.
Race 1 on the 500
Sunday morning 8:30 am, the wind has dropped slightly, and we are on the grid for the first race of the day. We are kept waiting as Vincent Creance fell off in the warm up lap, and has to be ambulanced away! The temperature is getting higher by the second, but they do a good job and clear up the mess quickly. His ZXR 750 spat him off (highside) and then continued on it's wheels into the tyre wall about 60 yards further down the road (it was a mess, bent fork, frame fractured around the headstock etc...), At this time, Vincent has some broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and maybe suspect cracked hip! Anyway, got a really crap start as normal, which did allow me to see the entire field in front of me, before picking my way through. I went round the outside of most guys on the triple left, and was soon (lap 2) back to my grid position. Really frsutrating as I could be running much higher. I consistently worked my way forwards until I was behind the VFR400, who I blew past on the straight, only to have him come around the outside at the triple left. We continued to battle until the flag, with him winning out this time around. Best lap 1:43, and 23rd place.
Race 2 on the 350
Again an easy start, and good battles I made quick progress, and then towards the end of the race a couple of guys came back past. Either I was getting tired or the bike was slowing... Hmmmm Anyway finished up with a 21st position and an improved best lap of 1:47, so a bit better, but not near my PB on the 350, of 1:45 last year.
Race 2 on the 500
Can my starts get any worse - F**king useless! Still made good progress through the pack, and the bike was flying, I got past the VFR400 and RGV250 early on in the race, and then I sat behind a faster GSXR who pulled me forward for the rest of the race, we was a good consistent performer and although I think I could have got past a couple of times, I stayed behind as he pulled me past a couple of guys. I ended up in 19th position, and I hit my PB again with a 1:41. So good race!
Conclusions, the ignition curve on the RG needs work, the Nr. 1 curve is faster at Ledenon. I need to look at the 350, to change the exhaust (Or maybe powervalve) gasket.
Next race weekend at Carole in Paris on the 29th/30th September.