Blog

2014 Season

NW200 - May 12-17

We started off the week with two big wins on Thursday night, but that crash with Lee [Johnston] in Saturday’s Supersport race wasn’t what we were looking for. We did the sensible thing and sat out the next race, which was on the Superbike, but we have to be pleased with the podium in the North West 200 Superbike race. The whole team put in a big effort and we’ve come away with two wins, which if we’re honest – we’d have taken coming into the event. Our thoughts are with Simon Andrews who crashed in the Superstock race.

Oulton Park - May 3-5

It was a typical Supersport race with no holds barred and we were rubbing fairings and bars, and coming onto that last lap I thought I had it defended well enough. But I started backing in and I didn’t want to run in too deep and lose a position that way. Billy showed me a wheel and I tried to hold him off and lay on top of him but he pushed me off with his knee. I’d like to thank my Mar-Train Yamaha team as they did an immense job after that crash yesterday as the bike was in bits. We’ve scored more good points and got our championship back on track and now it’s time to look ahead to the North West 200.

Brands Hatch - April 19-21

After positive tests in Spain and also at Snetterton we knew we would be coming here with good pace, but the weather yesterday really threw us. It was the first time we’ve ridden the Mar-Train Yamaha in the wet and we didn’t want to take any chances and ruin our championship. Even though we didn’t qualify too well it was just a matter of damage limitation, so third place we were happy with.

Today I knew it would be a dogfight as it always is at Brands Indy in this class. I sat back and watched for a while but at half distance I could see the Triumphs were starting to lose a little rear grip. It’s tight in this class and there was a bit of a rub when I made the pass at Paddock Hill but there was nothing malicious. After that I just watched my boards and it was quite comfortable. The Mar-Train Yamaha worked superbly well and I’m delighted to be leaving Brands leading the championship for the whole team.

2013

Brands Hatch

Well to say I'm gutted is an understatement. It's been such a rollercoaster year and the crash and injuries I sustained at Cadwell were what put a huge hindrance on my season and I've ended up second. I couldn't have finished second to a better and worthy Champion, we've had some fantastic battles over the season and it's been an enjoyable year just with the end result not what I was hoping. I finished this race smiling knowing that I had tried my best, my laps this year at every track were always consistently fast and that's a testament to the Gearlink Kawasaki team. They have worked so hard all year and with it being a new team for me to do what we have is a great achievement, I fitted in well from the start and everyone has worked so hard all season to help me win. It was difficult this weekend with the changing weather conditions as I wanted to push hard but not beyond the limit where I wouldn't finish, the track was really greasy and the conditions made things much worse. I tried hard this weekend and did everything I could to try and win the Championship and fair play and congratulations to Stuart Easton for winning it. Thank you to everyone who have supported me this season, my sponsors, my family, mechanics, girlfriend and the entire Gearlink Team, it's been great just unfortunate not to take the Championship win.

Silverstone

It was another good weekend and it was the first time since my crash at Cadwell that I actually felt good on the bike again and I was able to move it around to where I needed to. It was great to be back on the top step of the podium on Saturday and close in the lead in the Championship. The second race was a little messy and there was some contact between all riders, it was a hard race and we all wanted to win. I ended up with third but I was knocked back to 10th after a time penalty incurred for the O'Halloran incident. I'm a bit annoyed by the outcome of it as I'd worked really hard to get myself in a good position in the race and also the Championship but I will make sure that I keep fighting to the end.

TT Assen

It was another tough weekend and I was pleased to come away from Assen with some decent points. It has left me with a lot of work to do at Silverstone and Brands but I am still keen to keep fighting for the title even if it goes down to the wire. The last few races have not been good for me; the broken ribs are still giving me a lot of problems especially when it comes to change of direction on the bike. It was another tough weekend so to come out of it with fifth and fourth I am pretty happy with. I know I have a lot to do at the final rounds but I want to be back on the top step and winning again.

Donnington Park

It was another tough weekend and really frustrating, the last thing I needed to do was crash on Friday but I needed to test some things on the bike and down I went early on in the session and pretty quick. I ended up in the medical centre and missing out on the rest of free practice. I knew I wouldn't be able to do much in qualifying and so only did 11 laps and ended up in ninth.

The races were really tough especially at Donnington with the change in direction of the track it was very difficult with my rib and back injuries. I really need to get myself back fit and ready for Assen and the last races of the year as I still have a Championship to fight for. I have now dropped to second in the Championship standings so I have to make sure I'm fully fit and ready to go at the final three rounds of the series.


Cadwell Park

I'm really gutted about this weekend as things have been going so well all season and this weekend it took a turn for the worst. I had a good set up and was feeling good during practice and qualifying. I felt strong in the race and even though I was struggling a little with grip I thought it was all ok. On lap five it just came round on me and I landed pretty heavily it knocked the wind out of me for sure. I knew the main race was going to be difficult and I tried to go hard from the start but as the race went on I was struggling and I knew then I just had to secure some points as it might help me at the end of the season. I will be resting now until Donington and getting myself fully fit for there. I'd like to thank all the Gearlink team for all their help and support this weekend.

Oulton Park

It's been a really good weekend for myself and the Gearlink Kawasaki team, both races were really tough but two great battles. Today's race was very fierce and action packed and must have been great for the fans to watch. I really wanted to take the win and we were swapping paint work on most laps, it was hard but brilliant to ride in. There was no contact made but I'd imagine you couldn't have fit a bit of paper in between some of the passes that were being made. The bike was sliding everywhere but I knew I could keep pushing. The Gearlink team have once again done a great job and thanks must go to all my personal sponsors."

Brands Hatch:

I'm really pleased with the results that we've gained today and I now have a Championship lead of 40 points as I leave Brands. We made a few changes after race one for race two, but in turn this caused me to have too much corner speed and on lap five I took to the grass, thankfully I have been out on my motocross bike the last few weeks and these skills came in handy. I was able to regroup, settle down and get myself back up with the front runners. I was really pushing hard and was really keen to try and get the win. Both races were really tough but I know I have to keep being consistent in all the races until the end of the season. The races were really good today and this is the form I want to carry on through the rest of the season

Snetterton:

I'm really pleased to have taken the double race win here and also regain the lead in the Championship. It's been a hard weekend with the conditions and heat here and we all had to work really hard to get the results we got. It was a huge benefit for us to come and do the test here and get a good set up before we arrived for the race weekend. I'd like to thank all the Gearlink Kawasaki team for all their hard work this weekend and I'm glad I was able to repay them with a double race win.

The first lap of the race today was a little messy and we were all very bunched up, I just wanted to get my head down and try and make a break. I've always gone well here in the past and luckily I was able to do the same again, everything went right and I hope we can continue this form for the rest of the season.

Knockhill:

That was my worst weekend so far this year but a second and fourth can't be classed as a bad weekend. The Gearlink Kawasaki was set up well and but I was only able to qualify sixth, my start was ok and I made up a place after the first lap then I was locked in a battle with Stuart and Billy, I was pleased to get second. On the Sunday I really struggled with grip on the track. It was very slippery compared to yesterday and as I was pushing harder I was finding I was getting arm pump and this really had an impact on my race result. I want to make sure I'm back up there again at Snetterton and back on the podium again.

Oulton:

It has been a great weekend and a really good feeling to leave here leading the Championship. I learnt in the race yesterday where I could and could not make a move and today I tried a few different places but I was not able to bridge a gap so I knew I had to make a move on the last lap. I had to get the drive coming out of Druids and keep the front wheel down which is where I made the mistake yesterday. I was able to pull it off today and I went in pretty hot into Lodge on the brakes and was able to make the move. Stuart and I had two really good races and I'm just pleased that I was able to secure some really good Championship points this weekend and hope this will continue for the rest of the season. I would like to thank my mechanic Arron and all the Gearlink Kawasaki team for all their work this weekend.

Thruxton:

They were both really good races today and it's always close at Thruxton, I managed to get a good set up early in the weekend which helped me as with the bad weather track time was limited on Saturday. I was trying to set something up for the last lap in the second race and was in a good position to make a move but it was cut short so had to settle for two podiums and I have left here leading the Championship so I am pretty happy. The Gearlink Kawasaki worked really well all weekend and we proved we have the speed to run with the Yamaha and Triumphs. Thanks must go to all my personal sponsors and also to the Gearlink Kawasaki team again for all their hard work.

Brands:

It's been a really mega weekend for myself and the Gearlink Kawasaki Team, it's good for my confidence after having a tough 2012 season to get back on the top step of the podium. We've not had much testing time and so it's a great result for us all and to leave here leading the Championship is a great feeling. The team has worked really hard and we got a good set up early in the weekend, I felt strong from the start and I'm really happy with the results we got here. I'm looking forward to getting to Thruxton it suits my style and it has similarities of the North West for me, I enjoy racing there and hope we will be able to get similar results there.

_____________________________________________________________________________

2012

My team blogs seem to keep coming up after really tough weekends in British Superbike and this month is no different after what can only be described as a rubbish weekend for me at Donington Park.

In saying that, I completed a test at Silverstone just last week, where we changed my position on the big Suzuki, among a number of other bits and pieces, which will hopefully help me get back on the pace at Assen.

The test was pretty positive all round for me as we are at Silverstone straight after Assen, which is next up. I now have a much better feel for the bike. I’m able to get up over the front a whole lot easier and it’s made me more comfortable with my riding position.

I didn’t get over to Assen to test but my girlfriend Dani got me set up with the Playstation game to learn the circuit and I’ve also been on the simulator at Road to Race at Eddie Irvine’s place in Bangor. It’s a fast flowing circuit, which I like but it’s looking like we’ll be using the kerbs a lot. When I get there on the bike I’ll just stay out for the first two sessions and really learn the place.

I normally pick up circuits pretty quickly so hopefully it shouldn’t be a problem for me. I’ve now got to forget about the top six, re-load and try to get in amongst those boys and show what I can do.

I just haven’t got the momentum going this year in BSB. The silly front end crashes I’ve been having, normally you can run and pick the thing up and get going again, but they have been causing more damage than a fast high-side to the bike, giving the boys a lot of work to do.

The idea now is to try and do what Michael Laverty did last year for Tommy Hill, only I’ll be looking to help Josh try and win the championship.

The big positive I’ve taken from Donington is saving that big slide down Craner Curves. It’s the last place you’d want to bail off. I’ve had plenty of support from people ringing me and texting to say, ‘keep the head up’, but unlike 2010, I’m not letting my head drop this year.

I aim to finish the season strongly; well that’s the plan anyway. I’ve not really had such a flat season before, and I just keep reminding myself that we’re all only as good as our last race. Thankfully the gap between weekends is short.

Take a look at John Hopkins in World Superbike. Last season he was the best thing since sliced bread in BSB, but this year everyone says he is rubbish, which is harsh. He’s had a couple of injures and he’s struggled to get his confidence back. That can only come for a rider by getting results.
After Donington I cleared my head by going out on Dani’s brother’s pushbike – even though it was about two sizes too big for me! I was just so determined to get some miles in, so I put on his size nine shoes with two pairs of thick socks and dropped the seat post right down through the frame.

It felt like I was climbing on to my Superbike, but once I got going it was great. I printed out a Google map from the Internet and kept an eye on the GPS on my phone and clocked up 30 miles. The only problem was, I never got to see any of the countryside, as I was so intent on not getting lost.

It’s now a matter of going to Assen and getting a result on the Tyco Suzuki, and after the recent test I’m a lot happier and don’t have to turn up with my tail between my legs.

May 2012 I’ve been pretty busy since the North West getting back home to see Lewis and getting my camper ‘dunged out’ and also taking in Snetterton which was a bit of a come down after the North West, but that’s racing.

The week at the North West couldn’t have started any better going P1 in two classes and P2 in Superstock and less than a second off pole – so we knew we were bang on the pace straight away.

On Thursday we knew it was going to be wet so it was important to get those times down on Tuesday. I just took the Superstock bike out in the practice on Thursday so we could get it set-up for the Thursday night race. I think we ended up about fourth but had a bit in reserve, although in the race I didn’t think I was going to get it as comfortable.

It certainly wasn’t in the script to win it by 22 seconds but you take it whatever way you can get it. I had my BSB team-mate Josh Brookes out giving me an extra board at the Magic Roundabout and Davy Turk at the start line. The boys were relaying the times to Josh so I could see if anyone from the second group was in the mix.

The gap just got bigger and bigger and after that I just calmed it down, short-shifted everywhere and found the damp patches to preserve the tyres; but the Pirellis did a brilliant job and it was nice to give Suzuki their first-ever win in Superstock trim for the new GSX-R1000.

There was a lot of media hype again this year around me possibly doing a clean sweep on Saturday and with Thursday night’s win they were even talking about me winning six. That’s a big ask for anybody and can make me look disrespectful to other riders which I’m not.

It is possible to win them all as Ian Hutchinson proved at the TT, but you have to take each race as it comes and you need a lot of luck to win them all, which I didn’t get on the Saturday, but I’m more than happy with my results.

The papers were saying William Dunlop won the first 600 race and blew my chances, but it’s them that keep talking about five and try to draw me into it. In that first Supersport race I couldn’t believe the speed of the Wilson Craig Honda – it was unreal!

Even in the slipstream he was pulling away. I couldn’t get close enough to get into his slipstream, and with McGuinness right in mine, he was sucking me back which wasn’t helping matters.

I managed to break away from McGuinness and with William being a Dunlop rider I’d a fair idea his tyres would cause him difficulty at the end of the race. I just kept chipping away and was riding the Coast Road really hard and fully committed in and out of all the chicanes.

I could tell the gap the gap was coming down from Metropole to York Corner as I was much faster on that section, but as soon as we got out of Mill Road and down to University I could hardly see him again. It was an accordion effect and it was frustrating, but I kept my head and hoped he’d make a mistake, which he did at Juniper Hill just before we went onto the last lap.

He run onto the grass and made a mess, then down into York there was a backmarker and he fluffed that up and I dived up the inside. But as soon as I got to Mill Road the red flag was out. Someone said William had a hand injury, so maybe that was coming into play or the Dunlop tyres were starting to fail, but I never got my chance and that was it. It’s ironic my team-mate caused the red flag that probably cost me the win, but I’m just happy Guy is okay and back in action at the TT.

All the flak has come from my pass on William in the second race on the last lap, but he has his followers and I have mine and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Anybody who gives me ‘jip’ on Facebook or Twitter just gets blocked. I don’t need to be listening to that.

I’m sure once William calms down he’ll be all right. I’d be the same if someone did it to me, but there was nothing malicious in the pass. I’ve got the utmost respect for all the other riders and William included. We’re all there to win; we’re not playing billiards – it’s a high-speed sport and you get a split second to make a decision. If I see a gap I’m going to go for it, but I didn’t intentionally run into the side of him.

Look at Lowry at the Sunflower. He run into the side of me and I didn’t complain about it. But if I had of got the chance I’d have repaid the compliment that day. That’s the way I work.

William and I rubbed elbows yes. As I say there was no malicious intent and it wasn’t so bad that it forced him up the slip-road or onto the kerbs. I hadn’t planned to touch him but we did. I was rubbing elbows with Hillier and Farquhar in the Superstock race and no one complained about it.

I suppose the fact that it was the last lap and it cost him the win people are going to accuse me of hard riding. It was a hard pass but there was nothing in it. It was no different to the pass I did on Easton a couple of years ago.
In the first Superbike race I felt comfortable in the lead, but I selected neutral instead of first gear for Church. I stamped it back into gear but it unsettled the bike, so I picked it up and took the slip-road; did a three-point and got back on the track. I got back in behind Hutchy in 14th and at Juniper I hit neutral again and had to go straight on.

So I was telling myself to be more positive selecting the gears. I caught a big freight train of riders and just picked them off one by one. The Suzuki was fast and very stable, but I knew it would be a miracle to catch John, even though I could see him on the last lap, but he’d probably rolled off by then.

In the big race [NW200 Superbike] I didn’t use first gear for Church, I just rode it in second and we had no issues. Everything was smooth and I just rode to my pit board. I could hear them on the first three laps in my slipstream, but then I saw my board creeping up and I knew I’d broken the tow. Lucky enough there was no one on my bumper at the Juniper Hill Chicane on the last lap and we got the win.

Snetterton BSB didn’t go to plan and after going fastest in the first session I had that big crash in FP2 and the bike went on fire. The boys did a brilliant job building it back up and apart from my confidence being dented; I was lucky to walk away with just sore ribs.

I had tyre and gear selection issues in the races and with not being as confident as I was entering the weekend, I think it all rolled up into a bit of a disaster of a meeting for me. Josh did a good job for the team and is really on it, now leading the championship.

I don’t dwell on bad weekends so while the boys are at the TT, I’m off to Majorca for a bit of R&R and I’ll be back to my best at Knockhill. We’re not out of the hunt yet!

April/May 2012 The season's now in full swing and it's just Oulton Park this coming Bank Holiday weekend for the triple header then back home to try and add to my tally at the North West 200, and get the Tyco Suzukis on the podium... but despite what people think, it isn't going to be easy.

I'd like to just forget about Thruxton BSB at this stage, I suppose we all have to face up to difficult weekends in racing and hopefully Thruxton will be one of very few I have this year. The races were tough for me as you could probably see. I was struggling in both races for entry feel and on the exit; the tyre was really spinning up and pumping out of the turns. It was disappointing and I didn't even take my helmet off after the second race. I just marched back to the motor home with my bottom lip out!

We've since looked at the data and apart from a few things we can change, I think I have to accept I'm probably still riding the Superbike a bit like a 600; carrying too much lean angle and being too aggressive on the throttle. It's something I'll have to work on and I've been thinking about adapting my riding style a little to overcome this. I haven't just got that front-end feel yet to lash it into the corner, but again it will come. In the wet we are bang on; we are actually mint with that set-up, which brings us to Brands...

We knew from the first race at Brands, where we just lost out on giving Tyco - our new titles sponsor - its first win and we needed to get a bit more weight on the rear of the bike for more grip entering the turns and over the bumps and ripples in race two. The temperature had dropped at Brands and as much as I was disappointed that race two didn't run (as I thought I could win it), there definitely would have been more crashes. So postponing it on safety grounds was the right thing to do.

The new rules have already shown that there will probably be quite a few race winners this year. Kirkham and Lowry are both good riders, but no one would have expected either of them to win so early in the year, or probably me if I'd won at Brands. It's good for the Championship that other riders are coming through and pushing the likes of Hill, Brookes, Laverty and Byrne.

The new GSX-R1000 definitely has winning potential as Josh proved at Thruxton. I just need to get my bike working that bit better now. If you don't feel the bike is well planted and has enough grip, then the likes of Thruxton is character building to say the least.

After testing and especially coming away from Kirkistown - where I was doing consistent 54-second laps and matched my best ever time around there - I sort of thought we'd nailed it. But when you get to Brands and different circuits, it always throws up a few other things that need to be ironed out. I lost a bit of confidence at Thruxton and it just magnifies the problems. I really just couldn't get my head into it. One positive from Brands and Thruxton is how fit I feel. I've been training at the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland (SINI) and I'm a lot stronger than I was. I can chuck the bike about and I hardly broke sweat on it at Thruxton, so there are no problems physically.

Oulton Park is next up, and as I say, we have three races there. I like Oulton. I was watching the Superbike races from there in 2010 where I qualified fifth. I was running top-five but missed a gear on the last lap and John Laverty nipped in to take his first podium.

After Oulton it's off to the North West 200 and I've always had a bad round before the NW200, so I'll not be panicking or letting it creep into my mind. Last year I had a bad weekend at Croft on the Supersport bike before it, but this year I'm fully focused on the BSB races and the NW200 can't be taking up my thoughts until we get there.

I need to be getting some decent results at Oulton, as it'll work both ways: If I do well there I'll be back in the hunt in BSB and it will give me confidence for the North West, even though we're back onto the full FIM specification Superbike there. It's all about having a good Tuesday practice at the North West. I know how I prepared last year and also in 2010, so we can build it up on Thursday; then we have that Superstock race on the Thursday night.

I heard the other day, unfortunately, it's going to be the coldest May on record. What we don't want is another race day like last year: cold and wet. We have a good wet set-up so that wont bother me at all but it's no good for the fans. I think we'd all prefer dry and sunny if we had a choice.

Hopefully between Conor Cummins, Guy Martin and myself we can get some wins for our new sponsors Tyco Security Products - as they are an enthusiastic bunch - and bag a few decent cheques for the back pocket!