I'll be honest, heading into round 1 of the 2016 BSB Superstock 1000 championship, I did not feel ready to compete at that level at all. This because the preseason with Team ILR was far from ideal, especially considering it's my (and my teammate's) first year in our classes (Connall Courtney is competing in Moto3 standard).
Instead of going to Spain for testing, we entered a race meeting in Northern Ireland. Which provided 3 10 minute sessions and a canceled second day due to deteriorating weather conditions. We then did the official BSB test at Donington Park, where I suffered from the flu and could barely hold on to my Kawasaki ZX10.
All of a sudden it was time for BSB round 1, and I barely got to shake off the winter cobwebs. Luckily I did go to Colin Edwards' week long racer camp in February, which was perfect in many ways. Camp is always a blast, the racing we did got competitive, and I made some new friends/contacts. For example both Peter Hickman and James Rispoli made life a little easier for me at Silverstone, with some tips on the track and riding a superbike in general.
The race weekend itself was up and down (or down – up – down), but overall I came away with a positive feeling. Friday was extremely hard. In free practice, parts of the track were completely wet, other parts completely dry; rendering the session useless apart from a practice start.
Things were looking up for qualifying 1, however it started raining 5 minutes before our session, making the tarmac just wet enough to mount the rain tires. Once out on track, I felt like a fish out of water (or a moving chicane for the other riders). The track was drying quick, but it was hard to tell which parts were still damp. I didn't have nearly enough experience with the ZX10 to know how hard I could push in these conditions, and while I did get more and more comfortable, I needed way more time than 20 minutes.
As you can imagine, this was very frustrating. I desperately missed the tracktime I never got during testing. Luckily I know a few pretty darn great individuals I get to call my friends, who dealt with my complaining, and helped me turn that frustration into determination.
On Saturday our class had better luck in the weather lottery, the track was dry for qualifying 2. In 25 short minutes, I had to learn my lines, braking markers, throttle points, and put it all together for a fast lap. I gave it my all, and though I could have used 1 more lap, I felt (feel) very good about my performance that session. On Friday I was dead last, on Saturday I easily made the grid and kept a couple riders behind me.
While feeling good, I knew I had a lot to improve still, both in utilizing the full track and adjusting my riding style to the 1000cc. Hence up until the race on Sunday, I almost continuously ran laps in my head, ingraining every single detail of what I could do better.
In the end I never got to show how this work had paid off, as my bike died on the warmup lap. I was gutted, but there was nothing to be done about this particular problem for me, and dwelling on it wasn't going to make anything better. I learned a lot and felt great on my Team ILR ZX10 in the dry, meaning in the end this was a good weekend.
Before BSB round 2 at Oulton Park (30 April – 2 May), the team will fix the battery issues, and I will make sure I get some more tracktime. Starting with the official BSB test at Oulton, after which I will take my bike with me for a track day or two. Can not wait to see what the rest of my debut Superstock 1000 season brings, I'm aiming to make myself, my team, and everyone else who supports me proud.