March 13, 2006

Losail Nationals, Rd. 4

I'm back from sunny Qatar! Sorry if you guys felt like I was M.I.A., but I never know where I'm going to be staying when I go to Qatar, and internet access is never a given.

Round four of the Losail National Cup was great, with off and on sunshine, and a more relaxed feel to it due to the lack of SBK or MotoGP being in attendence. Our riders were eager to ride hard, and there were some decent laptimes. . . that is, until the actual race. Raceday was cold and windy, and it made for treacherous conditions. Four bikes went down hard, and we had a busy evening repairing the bikes before going back to the hotel to pack for our 1AM flight to Madrid. My rider only managed tenth place, but considering he kept it on two wheels, I was happy.

I left Barcelona on Thursday afternoon last week, ready and anxious to get to work. We flew directly to Munich, instead of Heathrow, and then had to spend a couple hours waiting for our connecting flight. I checked out some electronics and decided to get something small for my iPod, seeing as how my expenditure would eventually make it to Makoto Tamada's team! What have you done lately to support your favorite teams? I also had a beer (it is Germany, after all!) and it was surprisingly sweet and nice. I was hoping it would take the edge off and let me get some rest on the flight to Doha. Not!

This time I stayed at the Ramada hotel in Doha, and it was luxurious! I couldn't believe it. Not only were the rooms large, the bathrooms well-equipped, the beds comfy, but there were more restaurants than I could count, and the food was great! The Ramada also has two liquor serving extablishments, one called the Library on the top floor (where I heard a genuine country western singer), and another on the first floor, which is more of a dance club and pick-up joint. I never got the name of the club so the only word I have to describe it is . . . . . "Dirty". When I say they had restaurants, we're talking about a Beni-hana's clone, a scrumtuous buffet with steaks and seafood, middle-eastern food, and Italian place, a Chinese place, and more. To make it easier on the team accountant, we all ate at the buffet, but it was awesome. They even had a full Ha'agen Daz (spelling?) bar in the midst of the dessert area, which offerred fresh fruits, muslim treats, cakes, and more. I snuck away to a little lounge for some peace and quiet, because 20 Spaniards away from home can be quite trying. This picture doesn't do the place justice. The walls were lit up and the hotel is really nice all around. I spent some time horsing-around in the pool (which has a poolside bar) and realized my lower back has gotten weak!

This was a relatively short trip for me, two full days working, three days travelling! I made it back to BCN yesterday, but needed to put in some serious time sleeping (15 hours!).

This next month is going to be a difficult one for me, because I'm trying to line up some travel plans and also keep chugging away at getting a job. Money is always short, but I am getting more creative and whatever, I'm sure everyone else would have a good time in my shoes, so all I need to do is keep kicking ass and learning as much as I can. In the months I've been out here my knowledge of racing, team structures, motorcycles, and what it really takes, has gone through the roof. I'm proud to say that I've been doing everything I can, and now is not the time to ease off. My goals haven't changed a bit and I'm very excited about the upcoming seasons in both SBK and MotoGP!
Although two mechanics were injured in last week's Kawasaki truck accident, Nakano and De Puniet were able to lap really well at the Jerez IRTA test. Unfortunately, the truck accident didn't help me (no, I didn't sabotage it) . From Team Kawasaki:

"Hello Liam,

Thanks for keeping contact with us.
At this stage we have no vacancy in our team but it is always good to keep in touch.

Best regards
Harald Eckl"

As always, it's chin up and chest out. I hope to have a couple more endeavors up my sleeve, and the future will be fun, regardless. I wish I could say that the possibilities are endless, but at this moment in the season I know that a lot of doors are closed. I'm just going to have to keep knocking and hopefully someone takes advantage of my skills, passion, and enthusiasm.

I've also been doing more research into the current crop of riders and their histories. I was not aware how connected Tony Elias, Dani Pedrosa, and Casey Stoner were, as all off them were under the wing of Alberto Puig at one point. For various reasons, some left to seek their fortunes with other sponsors, some competed in different classes so as not to upset the cart, and some ended up triple World Champion.
Politics played a large role in their careers thus far, but this season they'll all be competing on Hondas, and it should be very interesting how they all do.

Here's some thoughts concerning Steel and Ceramic Bearings:
While it is possible to acheive higher RPM's with ceramic bearings, they're also quite delicate with regards to their ability to handle side loads. That said, it would be great to use them *if money were no object*, but for practical purposes, it's not feasible. For instance, a good place to use them would be in the wheels, but because the bearings are expensive and delicate, you have to be very careful not to damage them installing the axles. And because all tires are changed by different people and tire companies, you can't keep an eye on the wheels during the balancing procedures and it's a risk some teams can't afford to take. Also, bearings in areas that see frequent servicing are subject to forces that they aren't designed to handle, so steel is the answer there. Unless you can replace them every single time. . .

And on tires:
While it's very exciting to see three tire companies running up front in the IRTA tests, time will tell how good the endurance of the tires really is. The Superbike times have come down this year, but they run much shorter race distances (about 2/3 of a GP race). And although Checa has lapped impressively on the Dunlops, he's stated that they aren't performing very well after 6 or 7 laps. Bridgestone is looking very strong at the moment, and I hope they keep this momentum and continue to work hard because Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Ducati are all counting on them.

Anyway, testing is just that. Testing. I can't wait for the racing to start in two weeks, and then we'll see what's really going on!

How strange is my life? Here's the guy sitting in front of me on the last trip from Doha to Rome. Yes, he's strapped to the chair, and how I wish it was duct tape!

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