Under the floodlights at Losail....
Posted on Apr 05, 2012 by George Penny
When we rock up at the Losail International circuit in Qatar on Thursday evening for that first practice session of the season my life changes. Suddenly you are in the spotlight, literally in Qatar, and what happens in the next seven months and 17 races means absolutely everything to me and the team.
Don't kid yourself I've trained and we've tested very hard in the winter but it's almost in uncompetitive mode and good fun. At 18.55 on Thursday evening when the sun has set in the desert and those 3000 floodlights are switched on all that changes because everything becomes ultra competitive, everybody totally focused and my performance in the next four days means so much to us all. We are ready and can't wait to get started.
I've loved being the test and development rider for the team during the winter. I've learnt so much about the technical side of the Tech 3 Mistral 610 from the team and my crew chief Tom that should look good on my CV. It's still very much an evolution project and we took a big gamble by arriving at Jerez for that final three day test with a new swinging arm and chassis. We left a little bit off the pace of the fast boys but technically in a better position than we have ever been in. We improved the stability on the brakes and corner entry and certainly know the bike inside out before that first practice session.
I really shook the cobwebs out on the third day of test getting my first big crash of the season under my belt. I could have picked a slower corner and not the 120 mph right turn 12 and in view of the pits. It was quite a shock and a long time since I hit the road that hard and I was lucky to escape with a few bruises although the bike was not so happy with my performance. We had tested for nine days at Jerez during the close season and I can't wait to ride in Qatar because I felt I'd hit a bit of a wall in Spain racing round the same track lap after lap.
Not the best way to test the winter training regime but the body did not let me down. In the winter I went to California and had a ball, training, motocrossing and watching the AMA Supercross Championship in the sunshine. We changed the fitness regime during the winter with more emphasis on building up the muscle mass helping me change direction and finding more strength in braking on the bike.It was great to go back to my first love motocross and coupled with a lot more gym work I gained five kilos of muscle and lost two kilos in fat.
Testing has already shown there are more riders on good bikes this year which should make the racing even closer, if that is possible. I think it's going to be more like the 2010 season when there were so many different winners and pole setters. Remember the incredible race in Aragon last year, I think every one of the 17 races could be like that. The Championship should go right down to the wire with at least ten riders chasing the Championship.
Racing under floodlights is fantastic. You feel more like being on a film set or racing at a big Stadium Motocross event in the States. If nothing else the lights will certainly make my new leathers stand out on the TV. It may sound a bit poncy but writing the first part of the script for the season staying in a posh Qatar hotel with the gym and swimming pool and then racing Moto2 bikes under the floodlights does not get a lot better – Bring it on.