It is only two months since my first diary and already we are halfway through the season! The last few weeks have been incredibly busy and life as a MotoGP rider is proving to be just as tough as I expected. There have been some very good points for me on the track and some very bad ones, but the important thing is that this is a learning year for me in Grand Prix and I have certainly been taught some valuable lessons recently.
The week leading up to my home Grand Prix at Donington Park was one of the busiest of my life. On the Monday I was in London for a meeting about a new book I am working on covering my first season in MotoGP, followed by some filming at an indoor golf centre with the BBC and then lunch and an award ceremony for the RAC in Pall Mall. On the Tuesday I went to test an F1 simulator with the Williams team and Kazuki Nakajima, the Japanese driver, which was great fun and then on the Wednesday morning I was appearing on BBC Breakfast television.
That afternoon it was finally time to drive up to Donington Park. It was my first ‘Day of Champions’, the charity event organized in aid of Riders for Health, as a MotoGP rider on Thursday and as well as taking part in the auction and playing a gig with my band ‘Crash’, I also rode a few laps of the track on a bicycle with 52 of my fans, who had all donated money to the cause. It was a busy week but in my view it was all good preparation for my home Grand Prix because it took my mind off racing and relieved some of the pressure I would otherwise have been feeling. Playing with ‘Crash’ really helps me to wind down and I am looking forward to playing more gigs at Yamaha Fest and Laguna Seca.
Free practice went well in the dry and although we didn’t find the perfect set-up on the first day I felt I had the pace to run in the top six, with plenty of improvements still to make to the bike. Unfortunately we never got the chance to make those improvements because it rained on Saturday and qualifying was a complete disaster. I was pretty comfortable in sixth place with just a few minutes left, which was okay but I felt like I was on the edge of the setting. I tried to change some things but we never really went in a positive direction. We were running out of time and put ourselves under pressure to get a lap in right at the end and I got on the throttle too early out of the last corner and high-sided myself. I got back on but it damaged the rear brake. I was going through Schwantz Curve when the rear brake engaged and threw me off again. I think somebody was telling me they didn’t want me to do the lap! I have to say thanks again to the marshals because where I crashed at the last corner was in a dangerous place and they risked a lot to try and get me going – they were true heroes.
The problem is in MotoGP if you don’t get everything right you are down in 16th and I gave myself a huge mountain to climb on the Sunday. I decided to attack from the start, got away from the line well and passed a few people going into the first turn. I didn’t think I was too fast into the first corner but the rear end came round and I was down. I could have just cruised back to the pits but a lot of people had come to see me ride. I was hurting because I hit my head pretty hard and I smacked my right hand down on the tarmac. The right footpeg had also snapped off, but I soldiered on because I wanted to get to that chequered flag more than anything. It is hard to explain just how disappointed I felt. I really wanted to get a good result for my home crowd but it was always going to be difficult after the problems in qualifying.
It is not in my nature to give up and I wanted to finish for all those fans, who were unbelievable. I know my turn will come but this year at Donington has got to be one of the biggest disappointments of my career. I was obviously disappointed, but it was still a great day for British racing because 15-year-old Scott Redding won the 125cc race and became the youngest rider ever to do so, which is an amazing achievement. After his race I went to his garage to congratulate him because he did a fantastic job and it was great for the British fans to see him do that – it’s just a shame I wasn’t able to give them something to cheer for in the MotoGP race.
On the Sunday night I went to stay at my mum’s house in Sheffield and then just four days later we were back on track at Assen. We tried a completely different setting on the front but we had quite a few problems and the mixed weather is really killing us at the moment as we try and make some big progress. With all the wet time we are not moving forward in the dry. We have had wet conditions for at least one practice session at each of the last six races and to only have one full dry day to get the bike dialled in is difficult, even on tracks that I know. It is frustrating to watch and frustrating for me to be down in ninth position and I know I have got work to do. We are quite a way off with the setting and it is up to me to make it better. I’m not riding any worse than I was before but we have hit a bit of a brick wall. We’re having a bit of a tough period and I apologise to the fans because I know it must be frustrating to watch but I am committed to working my hardest to continue to improve and get the bike to where we need to be.
Sachsenring is another new track and I’ll have a think about where we are at over the next few days, watch some videos of the races so far and try and work out where we can improve. Laguna Seca is a circuit I know well from my World Superbike days, so hopefully we can have full dry conditions throughout practice and the race there and start to make some real progress again. In the meantime, I want to thank all my fans for their continued support and I hope to give you something to smile about soon!