Qatar: Dubai resident Erikas Savickas heads off to race the Losail track
Doha, Jun 8th – The Erikas Savickas Blog – The UAE Sportsbike Championship may be over, but the Qatar championship still had 2 rounds to go, with the latest event being on the weekend of June 7th & 8th.
Erikas enrolled an additional team member for the event. Ian Rodgers (race engineer to Mahmoud Tannir) agreed to come over and help run the bike and see if he could extract some more performance out of both Erikas and the bike. Friday morning saw the team meat at Doha Airport arrivals, check into the hotel and then relax until departing for the circuit at 2pm. During the day the wind gradually built up to eventually what felt like gale force 10. Not a problem right? Wrong. Due to the high winds and the resulting sandstorm, the main road that you leads to the circuit was closed by the police in both directions. The meant that the team and the bike had to go “cross country” until they could reach an exit / entry point between the police road blocks. The team didn’t think that you would find this piece of advice in the highway code book, but needs must.
Arriving at the circuit, Erikas signed on, had his riding kit inspected whilst the team presented the bike for its technical inspection. With all of that done it was time to set-up the garage, clean the bike (WD40 has many uses!), set the tyre pressures, fuel the bike and for Ian to explain to Erikas what information he would be putting on the new pit board (the ice cream sign meaning Ian was busy…). At the riders briefing it was stated that usually the wind drops once the sun sets….. well today it didn’t.
The circuit sent 3 riders out for a track inspection where it was reported that it wasn’t safe for the bikes to venture out. With that the bikes were put on hold and the cars sent out to practice and qualify. Eventually the bikes were told to suit up with the practice session commencing at 22:15 for 45 minutes, with the 30 minute qualifying starting at 23:30. Well when the circuit is built in the middle of nowhere and is fully flood lit starting this late is not a problem, keeping awake was more of a problem. Given the general conditions it was agreed that nothing was going to gained from running new tyres and so used tyres were fitted to the bike. Erikas qualified 10th, which he wasn’t to upset about but he felt the front suspension could be improved. As it was now past mid-night the team agreed that they would meet up over a coffee in the morning and discussion possible set-up changes. Saturday morning still saw gale force winds, here we go again.
The team arrived at the circuit at 3pm (the main road was open this time) with the order of priority being 1) drop the wheels off for new tyres to be fitted, 2) buy more fuel, 3) fuel the bike, 4) fit new brake pads and 5) make changes to the front suspension. Whilst checking the front suspension it was found that there was a) differing levels of oil in each fork and b) there was too much oil in both forks. No wonder the suspension was chattering when hard on the brakes! With the oil level set correctly, the sag was set and with further delays due to the weather, the team went and had a coffee and relax. With all of the delays questions started to be asked if the bikes would go out at all? would 1 or 2 races be held? would England beat Australia at cricket. After a further track inspection at 20:30 it was declared that warm-up would commence at 21:00 and race 1 (the only race that would be held) would start at 22:10.
A quick mental calculation showed that if no further delays were encountered then Ian would make his 01:30 flight. At 9pm Erikas was waved out of the garage and told to spend 2 laps bedding in the new front brake pads (a strip of gaffer tape stuck on the tank with NEW PADS written in red acted as aid memoir) and scrubbing in the new tyres, 2 fast laps then in for a tyre pressure check and suspension adjustment (if needed). All went to plan and with only 30 minutes before the pit lane opened, the bike was given a quick check over, fuelled, a slight suspension tweek and Erikas rehydrated. The plan for the sighting lap was for Erikas to check if the suspension settings had improved the feel and thus Ian carried the front and rear bike stands, front and rear tyre warmers and the necessary tools (Ian: I need a trolley next time Erikas!). Erikas felt that a further tweek to the suspension settings was needed and so the tools were put to good use. With 1 minute to go the team wished Erikas all the best and departed from the grid. The end of lap 1 saw Erikas in 9th position (1 up on his grid position) and right on the tail of 8th (Surya) and 1 second behind 7th. The next few laps saw the 3 riders circulating close together but pulling away at the rate of 1 second per lap from the 10th place rider. This information was relayed to Erikas via the pit board and so he knew he could focus on getting passed Surya then try and pass the 7th placed rider.
All was going to plan when disaster struck on lap 14 when the left front fork cap become unscrewed. So with only the right hand fork supporting the bike, Erikas eased his pace so that he could take the chequered flag in 10th place. Despite the suspension problem, Erikas was very happy as the bike had never handled so well in the fast corners and he felt really comfortable pushing hard. With that the team packed up and headed to the hotel or in Ian’s case direct to the airport where he was seen thinking over how to improve the handling in the low speed corners. The next and final round is in 2 weeks’ time where the team hopes the weather plays ball as 3 races are schedule to be held…..