International Classic Grand Prix
Sachsenring 17th / 18th June 2017

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For round 3 of the ICGP Championship we did our homework and not having ridden there before, the team suggested I try and get a track day in. Smart move as I had heard it was a technical track to learn. I was so glad I did, as it took me two days riding to fully get to grip with the layout, massive undulations, and multiple hidden apex corners, most of which where late too.

The ICGP Championship hadn't been there either so it was a fair bet there was going to be more riders not done it than had.

Unfortunately my main two protagonists in the Championship George Hogton-Rustling and Ian Simpson where unable to make the meeting but as the event was one of the biggest Classic events in Germany it would raise everyone's game, with loads of other racing, parades and some Classic car racing as well as lots of famous faces.

We had one free practice and qualifying on Friday, a second qualifying session and race one on Saturday and a warm up and second race on Sunday. Anyone that had not been there before was going to struggle for sure.

Practice was mainly about getting the gearing in the ballpark, we had guessed and gone with Donington gearing but as the session progressed I quickly figured out it was a bit tall for the back straight it was the long mid section of the track where you are keeping up momentum round a quadruple left that was the deal breaker. I plug chopped the bike, so we had an idea about the fuel mixture, the bike felt good on the throttle so I was confident we were not far away jetting wise.

 

The weather on Thursday was Uber hot but Friday was much cooler and windy with rain threatening and as I was pushing back to the awning the heavens opened.

With the wind and the sun came out again the track soon dried up just in time for our first qualifying session in the afternoon, we decided to splash out and fit fresh rubber as we would be on new tyres for the race anyway and see how the bike would perform.

With only 20 minutes to play with I didn't want to waste too much time and got out right at the front of the group and cracked on. I put in some quick times straight away but I was a little concerned we wouldn't get through the session without encountering rain, however most of the session was dry with just a few spots towards the end.

The bike was pattering on a closed and part throttle when I was pushing hard and I knew this was an area were a lot of time was being lost as well as not feeling nice, so we sat down in the awning and tried to work out a plan of action. I was really pleased with my times and was around 5 seconds clear of the field.

We had previously been testing at Mallory and found putting a much harder spring on the rear gave me a much better contact feel of the rear tyre but here the front was feeling a little vague by comparison. Ally noticed that the rear tyre was working well and was up to temperature but the front was much cooler and didn't look like it was working anywhere near as good as the rear.

We lengthened the shock aiming to get more weight on the front wheel and looked forward to our second qualifying session on Saturday morning.

Saturday was warmer and less windy so I felt if necessary I could push that bit harder as the field would be learning the track better by the end of the session. I was keen to experiment with changing damping both front and rear to see if we could help this patter I was suffering, so I was in and out of the pits for most of the session working with Ally trying stuff. It was a bit of two steps forward one back then two steps back one forward but eventually we found softening the rear rebound and increasing the front preload gave us the best compromise for the race.

The time gap was closing from the chasing pack so I did a few laps at the end of the session to make sure I would end up on pole for race one.

The nature of the track was also showing its hand with the tight twisty sections the 250s were being very competitive with Don Gilbert on the beautiful Exact Weld 250 on second spot and Stefan Tennstdt on his Bakker Rotax 250 rounding out the front row.

There would only a short time before they were calling out for ICGP competitors for race one so there wasn't time for any big changes of problems but it seemed like we had it covered.

 

Race one soon came around and we all lined up for the start, I was feeling good and confident of a good result so red lights out and we all roared away into turn one. I settled down and didn't push too hard wanting to warm my tyres, then crossing the line to start lap two I looked back and had already a big lead. I didn't want to mess about and break my rhythm so push on opening up a huge lead which never looked like being closed.

The bike felt great, still a bit of patter but I was lapping faster than I did in qualifying, Eddie and George were chuffed with the result and I was quite pleased too to be honest. Jean Paul Lecointe was second and Leif Nielsen third in the 350s however I felt for Don Gilbert who was running 2nd overall until his chain broke on the last lap continuing the Exact Weld team's terrible run of luck.

We decided not to change anything on the bike for race two other than a new front tyre so with little else to do Eddie and Ally pulled the cylinder off to check the pistons, rings etc. All was perfect so we called it a day.

Sunday there was a warm up session but I decided not to do it and save the bike for the race.

Before we knew it was our time to go racing again, lights out and we all screamed into turn one for the first time. This time I decided not to push quite so hard and ran round, leading the chasing pack keeping an eye on who was doing what, the group were doing a bit of shuffling about with Jean Paul Lecointe and Don Gilbert swapping second place. After a few laps I was enjoying the race watching the chasing pack and gradually increasing the pace keeping the small gap I had constant. However I noticed a change in the exhaust note, I thought it was one of my ear plugs had moved letting more noise in one ear but a few laps more and I knew something was wrong. It was the last thing I needed was to not finish the race I was leading so comfortably, so I eased back and kept the revs down and kept my fingers crossed the bike didn't seize.

Don could smell blood and was now all over the back of me, the on the penultimate lap he past me into turn one.

I followed him for the rest of the lap to see where I was quicker using the bike as gently as possible, but he was riding very well so I had to wait until the start straight pulling past him and out braking him into turn one for the last time.

We were amongst back markers and I made the most of them opening up a gap so I could ease back and save the engine to the line and take a second win.

I was very relieved to say the least to make the end of the race and to cross the line leading overall.

 

Jean Paul Lecointe was second again and Guillaume Foureau a well deserved third in the 350s.

Mission accomplished, Championship lead not only maintained but dramatically increased, team TBR did a great job providing me with a fabulous machine and the support to make this event a great one.

 

Looking forward to round four at Rijeka, I think Iíll take a trip out there as this is another track Iíve not been to before, it looks fast and sweepy right up my street, so I best see if I can rustle up some funds, and make a plan to get out there to learn it.

 

Perhaps see you there?


It was great to catch up with my former MuZ team boss Christian Steiner.