We begin the second part of season on the circuit of Portimao. Pierre Texier is currently sixth overall and first Kawasaki.
At the last round at Albacete we made further progress and finally found our lap times from last season and finished just off the podium. We hope to continue and reach it in Portugal, a very challenging track that Pierre likes.
Thursday free practice.
The program is usual, rediscovering the track, looking for settings with different tires available from Michelin and evaluating performance, wear etc.
We start with hard front tire and rear soft and as it is now our habit we are right back in the good times.
The track was partially resurfaced, there are asphalt fittings with different grip levels that cause unexpected reactions to bikes. The grip is generally good, the rear tire fit on the race duration at the moment.
The lap times go down and Pierre is already improving his personal best. We end the day with a rear tire extra soft test that is interesting.
Friday free practice.
Two sessions of forty minutes to continue the work of the day and stay in the times of the first lines.
The bike is working well and we focus mainly on riding, Pierre does a great job and the lap times go down more and more.
The second session is devoted to compare the soft and extra soft in terms of performance and wear. Pierre comes out with a nearly new tire for a few laps and then returned to use an extra soft tire it claims to be the limit on the front, under the understanding that could go faster with more grip at the front.
In its first lap, without forcing it does a 47.2, a few tenths of Morales, but in the second lap he loses the front in a right very bumpy quick break, Pierre is safe but the bike rebounds on the track.
Back at the box verdict is, the front of the bike is destroyed, brakes, electronics and especially the frame is twisted!
We contact Kawasaki Spain who moves heaven and earth to get us a frame among the Spanish teams but none are at a reasonable distance.
Each crash is a lottery and we know that with a single motorcycle we may stop if a piece is missing. Pierre can never ride thoroughly as pilots who have ten mechanics and as many motorcycles it takes. Thus.
This is the heavy heart that we load the machine into the truck and pull out the 2014 bike.
The weekend starts again for us but we are already in qualifying.
The bike is very different from the 2016 one. Either we make adjustments, or we leave Pierre ride, the track is very difficult so we choose to focus on the riding, we must also evaluate tire wear, fuel consumption...
Pierre is devastated when he entered the box, the bike does not suit him at all, he has brake problems, gearbox is failing too but especially the suspensions are harsh, tire pressures are adjusted and he ends the session with its last year best laptime. He is eighth 2.8 seconds from pole, far from the first line we could hope for the day, it's hard.
He takes no pleasure to ride this bike and he does not enjoy having to ride both races of 17 laps in these conditions.
There is no mistaking the settings ... there is only one session and the extra soft tire to try.
The bike is getting better and Pierre's getting there, it lacks grip at the rear but it's better with extra soft and Pierre ranks sixth in 1.6 seconds from pole. He found a little smile.
The bike is hard to turn and Pierre struggles to reach his rear brake in this position. The podium is still playable if we can make a most effective motorcycle.
Settings of all kinds, chassis geometry, rider position, refurbishing the gearbox, brake pad change, the evening is busy.
Sunday, the warm-up and races.
Fifteen minutes warm up to see where we are in the standings, without excessive risk-taking of course. The verdict is not good, Pierre lack of grip at the front and that's very damaging to performance.
It is too late to test anything, we leave on the settings of the old, Pierre will drive a bike that has difficulty turning and lack of grip but that gives him more confidence on the front.
He tells us that the gearbox works worse than the day before, it is catastrophic. Worn parts were replaced so we assume the seat height change requires an adjustment of the linkage. Fortunately we still have the sighting lap.
11 AM, the first race.
Pierre is in second row inside on the dirty part of the track.
The gear shift is too high, we readjust it on the grid.
It's nice and warm, not enough for the extra soft tire we go on with soft. We do not know too much into that state he will finish the race with as much slippery.
Pierre Texier takes rather a good start, a competitor just fall in front of him in the third turn and he loses contact with the head.
He's fourth and leads a group of five riders. We see on television that his bike moves a lot. He applies to outrun his pursuers but Eeki Kuparinen, the Finish, benefits from the extra twenty horse from his Kawasaki 2016 to attempt overtaking on Pierre at every straight line.
Pierre resists on the brakes but it's a boon to prosecutors who can manage to stay in the group.
After ten laps to the plan, Kuparinen, who is very familiar with Pierre begins to try overtaking in several other places, enjoying the unusually wide paths of Pierre in cornering inputs. They will overtake four to five times per lap until the end of the race, Pierre always arriving ahead in the final straight, sometimes overtaken on the line by Eeki.
Three corners from the finish line Kuparinen makes a forced passage, Pierre must touch him not to leave the track, it is just enough distanced to avoid rejoining on the line he so crosses in fifth position.
A good race, even if we can not repress a feeling of disappointment.
The soft tire was not the right choice, a piece of tire is missing. Everyone rolled the medium one that offers a better grip, a tire that we have not even had time to try.
The first race video can be watched here.
3 PM, the second race.
The track has warmed up and we choose to go to extra soft tire provided more efficient if it can reach its operating temperature range.
The wind suddenly rises when we go on the grid, here that will not help us for the tire temperature, nor for the top speed on the straight. Pierre is instructed to hardly heat the rear to the warm-up lap, left to wait longer start on the grid.
The light turns red and Pierre loose clutch! Stops immediately just when the light goes off to give the start. Pierre starts with a half second behind the other, his worst start of his short career.
Pierre is tenth at the first corner, in the pack. He crosses the first lap line in seventh position, he then overtakes Kuparinen and goes on a group of two Kawasaki, Mac Fadden the South African and the Portuguese Magalhães who plays at home.
He overtakes them both on pit straight braking, despite a much less efficient braking system, by the way. He is now fourth!
We fear lest he be penalized of a ride through for his movement on the grid despite the new regulation which states that if no advantage was gained of the movement, no penalty is applied. After four laps the control panel announces "No Jump Start" phew!
Pierre makes a small mistake and Mac Fadden overtakes him and even take a second ahead, the group fighting for sixth position back one second per lap. Pierre can breathe a little.
He increases the pace and soon returns to Mac Fadden but this one gives up on a technical problem even before the battle begins.
He is fourth again. The gap with the third is stable at thirteen seconds, the one with the prosecutors continue to increase and stabilize at eight seconds.
Overtaking the last riders has lingered nearly end badly, the Commissioners have not stirred the blue flag to Pierre's passing but he fortunately manages to cross the line in fourth position.
The second race video can be watched here.
So we get the same results as Albacete race but with the old bike, what a pity that we could not achieve with the new.
Pierre Texier is now ranking fifth in European Championship Superbike, to one point of fourth but twenty three points behind third. There are three race to do and the podium is still possible but will require that the luck turns.
A new race begins to find spare parts, disassemble, check each component in order to avoid unpleasant surprises at Jerez in a month. Fortunately we benefit from the support that Kawasaki will, as always, everything possible so that we have the parts in time.
The other nasty surprise of the weekend was the announcement of the abandonment by the international federation of the European Championship title for this category in 2017. We have as yet no idea about the results of that this decision on the championship, or even what league we will participate.
We thank our partners KART System, LS2, Pam Racing, Louit moto and Poupiz Performance.