The Erikas Savickas Diaries: The Season End………..
June 21st and 22nd saw the last race day of the season for the Qatar National Championship. The dramas for the team started at Abu Dhabi airport where the UAE immigration computer had no record of Ian returning through Dubai airport the night before…… Luckily the immigration office accepted that Ian had returned from his departure to Muscat on June 16th (well the fact that Ian was stood in-front of the officer might be fairly conclusive!), with that matter dealt with the team were able to board the flight with a few minutes to spare.
With the temperatures raising, plenty of fluids were purchased on the way to the circuit as keeping hydrated was going to key for all of the team as a 45m practice session, 30 qualifying and 15 lap race were scheduled for Friday.
After getting the bike and riding equipment through scrutineering, tasks to be completed before the practice session were a) fit the new race bars, b) fit the new Brembo racing master cylinder, c) Clean the bike (WD40 does a wonderful job!) and re-set the fork oil level / air gap. With these tasks completed, Erikas was sent out for the 45m practice session with the aim of getting the front suspension working better. A couple of tweaks were made during the sessions which saw Erikas gradually improve his lap times.
After the session Erikas felt the suspension settings had improved the feel but felt that they could be made better. With that the Ian twirled the spanners, fuelled and cleaned the bike while Erikas rehydrated and relaxed.
Soon enough though, it was qualifying time. Now in Qatar if a rider sets a lap time quicker than 2.10.000, the rider gets a free tyre from the organisers. Now you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what Erikas’s target was then. The plan was to build up a rhythm and try and go quicker on each lap. As Erikas passed the start / finish line Ian would put the previous lap time out on the pit board for him to read. Sure enough on lap 7 the lap time of 2.09.984 is displayed on the timing screen, and with that Erikas was called in as there was limited time to fit the new rear tyre for the 1st race.
The bike still wasn’t using all of its front suspension and so it was agreed to take another 10ml of oil out of the front forks, this is when the disaster struck. The pre-load adjuster in the left hand fork broke leaving the team with no means of adding the necessary pre-load. Breaking out a big hammer was contemplated but it was felt this might do more damage, so whilst Erikas donned his riding gear Ian quickly twirled the spanners again to set the suspension to take into account that one fork leg being devoid of pre-load. The net result of the drama was that Erikas had to start from the pit lane after all of the other racers had passed pit exit at the race start.
After a couple of “gentle” laps to get used to the handling, Erikas lit the blue touch paper and started his fight back. Lap after lap in the 2.09’s saw Erikas pass bike after bike and even posted a sub 2.09 lap which had the team shaking their heads in disbelief given the lack of balanced front suspension. The question became not how high could Erikas finish but could he finish in the top 10? Well it was never in doubt was it, end of lap 15, chequered flag and 10th position in the bag. When enquiring about the handling of the bike, Erikas responded “it wasn’t too bad actually, a bit soft at the start of the stroke but fine towards the end of the stroke”. With that the team departed back to the hotel and made plans for tomorrow.
Saturday dawned bright with little wind, which, meant it was going to hot again and so fluid intake was going to be important. After getting a new front tyre fitted, the team started to work on seeing if they could fix the broken pre-load adjuster. Well the answer was no, and after measuring on the working pre-load adjuster how much the front spring was compressed 2 washers where inserted into the broken fork to “simulate” the pre-load settings. Luckily there was a 20 minute warm-up to test the new “improved” suspension settings. As it turned out the settings were pretty good and after adding a litre or two of petrol the bike was given a wipe over in preparation for the race.
This time there were no last minute dramas which meant Erikas could take his position on the grid. A mediocre start saw Erikas loose a few places on the 1st lap. Again consistent 2.09s laps saw him reclaim the lost places and with a couple of laps in the 2.08s saw him finish the race in 8th position. Erikas smile could be seen through his helmet as he returned to the pits, which is always a good sign.
Now with only 1 race left and a new tyre being available, Ian quickly removed the rear wheel and dropped it off for the new tyre to be fitted. Whilst the tyre was being changed, more fuel was added, more fluids drunk and shock of shocks NO SUSPENSION ADJUSTMENTS!
As the rear tyre was brand new, Ian sent Erikas out as soon as the pit exit turned green. This way he could get to sighting laps in which a) scrub the tyre in and b) put some heat into the front tyre as the tyre warmer decided to stop working. Right, last race of the season, time to go large or go home. This time Erikas got a decent start and fought his way into 8th position with more mid 2.08s laps. One lap to go, 30s+ lead over the 9th placed rider (Joe Oxley), play it safe….. The 7th placed rider takes the chequered flag but there is no sign of Erikas. 25s later he appears exiting the last turn and takes 8th place. Turns out, the gear lever grounded out and low sided the bike. Luckily Erikas had enough time in hand to pick the bike up, restart it and get back on the track before Joe overtook him.
With that it was time to pack up and head to the prize giving and gala dinner. The team congratulates all of the winners especially Surya Raja on winning the rookies championship. Ian was heard congratulating Alex Cudlin (an Aussie) on winning the championship and that it was nice to see an Aussie winning something. All that was left was to help Mihai to load the van and return to the hotel.
So as the sun settled over the horizon, the team reflected on an eventful season (both in Dubai and Qatar) and declared that they were taking next weekend off… so as Loony Tunes says “that’s all folks, see you next season”.
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