I’ve been off the Aprilia one too many times recently. I’ve already crashed the Aprilia more times than I put the Yamaha on the deck the whole of last year and I’m getting tired of scuffing new bodywork, helmets, leathers, boots and gloves. At Donington I totaled the bike crashing down Craner Curves in race two through frustration at seeing the riders in front clearing off into the distance. During the first five laps I was being held up by Sylvain Guintoli and then suddenly the tables turned and I was struggling to hold on less than a quarter of the way into the race. I began pushing beyond the limit which was never going to last long and down I went. The frustration had accumulated throughout the day after I’d suffered a long race one and dropped back to finish 15th. The electronics were confused and not giving me sufficient power so whilst I had an easy ride it certainly wasn’t enjoyable!
Qualifying has been a real struggle for us this year as the bike resonates through the turns with the extra grip of the qualifying tyre. All I could manage at Donington was 12th on the grid which makes life tough come race day. On the upside the Aprilia is brilliant off the start which all but makes up for our poor qualifying position. Donington did start on a fun note though with a morning of white-water rafting as part of the media build-up to the British round. Sam Lowes, Leon Haslam and Chaz Davies joined me in the boat as well as the water a short time later! There was a bit of a panic on when we all fell in and they had to throw rescue floats our way. Unfortunately that was as good as the weekend got for me though.
Monza was a disaster on all fronts but in the end the best decisions were made under the difficult circumstances. I know a few former riders have voiced their opinion after the riders opted not to race but if I remember correctly they weren’t the ones getting hit by pieces of their own rear tyre and mudguard during Superpole. We couldn’t race on safety grounds and that’s that. Nevertheless I managed to salvage another podium from the weekend which made it two on the bounce following my 3rd place at Assen.
Of all the crashes I’ve had this season one really stands out. At Assen the rear let go on the entry to a right-hander when it started to spit with rain during Superpole. Instead of being highsided properly I ended up stood completely upright on the side of the bike as it slid its way across the track and towards the gravel. I had perfect balance and even when the bike took off a few inches above the ground as it went over the raised outside kerb I managed to regain my composure and thought I might be able to ride it out all the way until we stopped. Unfortunately for me the tarmac run-off didn’t last long before it turned to gravel so I had to jump off. As luck would have it I managed to land on my face so as I tried to stand up my left leg wasn’t responding! Basically I’d had a knock to the chin like a boxer and I had jelly legs. Apologies to the marshal who was wisely trying to stop me rejoining only for me to continually judo chop his arm. It was slightly out of character for me but then again I was slightly out of sync! I thought I’d just posted the best time of the session but unfortunately I’d read that on my pitboard as I crossed the line and not my onboard laptimer.
Sometimes you’ve got to look at things in a lighthearted manner and while it’s been an up and down season to date I know things will come good. The Aprilia is a fantastic package but right now we’re just suffering with a few fundamental problems. The Aprilia engineers are a clever bunch and so I know it’s only a matter of time before we iron the problems out. Salt Lake City is next up on the calendar and I’m confident that the Aprilia will work well on that layout and surface. Carlos Checa will be hard to beat around there but I plan on giving it a good go in order to get back in the title hunt.