The European championship having disappeared, we chosed to run in the Spanish national championship in 2017, whose season begins in Valencia.
It is an opportunity to situate our level of performance within the riders because we know only part of them and they impresses.
Not being able to get the new ZX10RR in a reasonable time we gave up and decided to use last year's motorcycle. We have had good feedback from this new bike, competing brands are also coming out of new models ever more powerful, we hope that our 2016 ZX10R will not suffer too much from the competition.
The winter tests were three days in Valencia in January to evaluate all the tire manufacturers and two days of Dunlop testing, since we finally chose this brand, in Albacete two weeks ago.
The Albacete test days went very badly with big insoluble chattering. So we have not tested anything at all and come to Valencia with a big apprehension and an empty setting sheet.
Thursday and Friday, free practices.
The tire allocation is a problem, because we do not have worn tires to start working and therefore have to use new tires but we have, for example only three rear soft tires available, for two races and two qualifying sessions. We are not able to use them for testing.
No chattering for now, we are not sure that this results from the changes made to the bike but are relieved.
Dunlop tires are very different from last year's Michelin, the bike requires specific adjustments, we progress step by step, the lap times go down and Pierre improves his track record from the first day.
Saturday qualifying practice.
We now have a medium tire, for which we have a satisfactory setting, a qualifying tire and a soft one that we have never tested before.
We therefore choose to use the medium and the qualifying tire during the first session and then work on the soft tire, which is likely to be the racing tire, in the second session.
The test sessions last only thirty minutes, so we will not be able to work on the data analysis during the session as we used to.
Pierre rides half a second slower than the day before, we hesitate and then decide to pass our only qualifying tire which should allow him to make two laps with perfect grip.
Pierre improves by one second in 1'36.5 and ranks eighth in the first session.
We finally have a glimpse of our level against the competitors, the top ten is pretty good under these conditions.
Dunlop officials are surprised and delighted by this performance and offer us a second qualifying tire for the afternoon. This disrupts our schedule and forces us to use a new front tire but we know that Pierre can ride at least half a second faster in Q2.
The evaluation of the soft tire will therefore be reduced to five laps in order to preserve the front tire for the use of the rear qualifying tire. Pierre lacks grip in the corners, especially in the right turns, this is very surprising and reveals that we are still far from the basic setting with the Dunlop tires.
Pierre then runs with his second qualification tire, he will be unfortunately blocked in his two fast laps and will not be able to do better than 1'36.4, a little tenth of improvement. It is not enough to stay on the third row, he will start from the thirteenth position on the grid for the two races but the times are very tight as only a half second separates the 4th rider (Italian Fabrizio Perotti) from the 16th (The Spaniard Yvan Silva), 13 drivers in the same half-second!
Saturday, the first race of the season.
The bad feeling with the soft tire due to the lack of tests makes us opt for the medium on which we have more perspective.
A start of the fifth line is always risky. Pierre has developed a very effective launching technique and the large distance between the starting grid and the first corner will probably allow him to fully exploit it, if everything goes well around him.
The red lights comes up and then goes out, it's gone! The difference of impulse with its close competitors is blatant, he makes his way, everything happens well it is seventh at the exit of the first turn!
Pierre looses one place and then two, we feel he is uncomfortable at the corner entries, his times are not good, something is going wrong...
Lap after lap he is the tumble in the standings, with each lap we think that he will be able to keep his position but his lap times gets worst again and his pursuers are always faster than he is! We have never experienced such a situation, the race seems endless, Pierre crosses the line in fourteenth position.
On arrival at the parc fermé he is in a physical state in which we have never known him, his back causes him to atrociously suffer, his left arm is tetanized. He explains to us that the front wheel had no grip and that he tensed on the handlebars to keep control, very quickly causing pain in the left arm, which he probably compensated with the back. His race was a calvary, he could not move, each braking was a real torment.
Our setting is not optimal and the limits are very close. We noted that an excess of pressure of the front tire had bad consequences about the sensations of Pierre but we had never rolled with this temperature of track and the estimate that we made was unfortunately not good. The rear tire medium also lacked grip, it is then obvious that the soft was a better choice.
Sunday, the second race.
The track temperature is similar to that of the first race. The soft tire is therefore the most obvious choice for all, except for us who do not have enough experience to decide the adjustments. We can make calculations, we do not know what pressure the tire will take, nor what pressure it will give the best on eighteen laps with our settings. There are too many unknowns in the equation.
For the front tire, however, we take advantage of the experience of the first race.
Here we are in grid, always as far. It is enough "just" to redo the same start to win several lines. And that's it! Yes ! Still an impressive start with first-line riders behind Pierre at the first corner!
This time he is in the lead, tenth in the first lap he goes back fast on his predecessors.
He overtakes Gregory Leblanc in the braking then goes back like a bullet on the two official Kawasaki Speed Racing, he overtakes them both in the same lap and digs a gap of one second to the following turning up on Barragan, sixth.
He laps in 1'36.420, faster than with the qualifying tire, and with a lot of fuel!
He undergoes a big wooble at the chicane and gets out of the track, making two spots to his direct opponents but he goes back to fight.
But Ponsson passes then Leblanc, Silva is far away but he comes back. It is again a defensive race, we do not understand what happens.
Pierre will manage to resist Ivan Silva and cross the line in eleventh position. But what happened again? The answer is appalling, his new undergarment made a fold at the right forearm which blocked his blood flow and caused a loss of sensation and control.
Pierre's right hand is purple, he no longer feels anything, we do not even understand how he crossed the finish line in front of Silva…
Everything missed for a piece of cloth ... every detail counts, it's the hard law of the high level sport.
We leave Valencia with only seven points, a thirteenth place in the classification, it is hard, the lost points do not catch up.
The performances, on the other hand are good, especially on a track where Pierre usually does not shine. Indeed a second and a half faster than last November and only at 1'2 of Carmelo Morales race best lap time
We have now reduced the gap with the race leader by 8 tenths from last year.
We now have data to study and we will be able to optimize our settings in Barcelona on the weekend of May 28th.
We dedicate this first weekend of the season to Christel, one of our most fervent supporters, who unfortunately left us too early this same week.
Thank you to all our partners KART System, LS2, Pam Racing, Team33 accessoires and Poupiz Performance.