I immediately hopped on a no name plane to get to Prague and there my BMW penz13 team was waiting to pick me up. We drove an hour directly to the track (Autodrom MOST) and the team was waiting for me with two race bikes. The problem was, it was five degrees Celsius and pouring rain. We spent some time setting the bikes up for my liking and had a little talk. I decided that I didn’t want to have my first ride in these conditions, especially being so tired and still fighting the stomach virus. They dropped me at my hotel and told me that it would be sunny and warm the next day and that I was going to be racing in the BMW Cup and the Superbike race! I had no idea about this until that second. I had never ridden a BMW, never even seen the race circuit, and was jetlagged and sick. They told me I would start at the back of the grid and it was just for me to get familiar with the bike. I had no choice. I went to the hotel, fell asleep at 7 pm and slept through until 4:30 am the next morning.
Saturday morning was sunny and 10 degrees Celsius. I got to the track and we had immediate electrical issues with the bike I was supposed to be racing. They told me to go out on what will end up being my “A" bike for the TT and Northwest 200. It had a brand new engine and I could not rev it past 9,000 rpm. Guys were flying by me on both sides as I rode around and learned the 5.3 km track layout in the slow lane. The team solved the electrical issue for the next session and I took that bike out and managed a 1:48; P1 was lapping 1:42, and there were 163 bikes with transponders riding this day. 90 percent of them were on BMWs!
Time to race. I started on Row 17, in 50th place. I am not even sure how I was allowed to race as I missed qualifying and the riders briefing. I am pretty sure having the biggest team in the paddock helps! I had a great start, passed a bunch of guys and avoided a big crash in T1 with 4-5 guys. I ended up finishing 14th out of 50, with a fast time of 1:448. The winner did a 1:41.5. In the Superbike race, they took my finish in the last race and gridded me on the 4th row. I got another good start and finished that race in 9th with a fast time of 1:438. The winner did a 1:42.6, so I was only a second off the pace on that one.
The bike was crazy fast, but a little unmanageable at times. It has this weave in high speed sweepers that is a little unsettling. It seemed like I spent more time off the seat bouncing around than anything. I suppose it is good practice for the Northwest 200 and the Isle of Man.
On Sunday I had a skeleton crew as my team had to head over to Magny-Cours for the opening round of the World Endurance Championship. We have a 24 hour event next week and they need to prepare. I went out for the morning session and immediately lowered my best overall time to a 1:43.5. I was getting comfortable with the bike and the track. I then lined up for the grid of Race 2 of the BMW Cup. I was on the 5th row which was a lot better than yesterday’s 17th row start. I had yet another good start but caught up to the guys in front of me and actually had to hit the brakes as there was no opening. I passed a few guys out of T1, put my head down and followed the lead pack, quickly learning the secret lines that no one would show me in open practice. This was wheel-to-wheel racing like in Moto2, a lot of passing and the odd bump. It was the most fun I'd had on a race bike in a long time. I finished the race in seventh, with the fifth fastest time of the weekend (1:41.5). The team felt I should get to a 1:42 to remain on target and be competitive for the upcoming 200 and TT. They were very pleased with the result considering I was not even on my Superbike, but rather a very stock Supersport bike.
I had to miss the second Superbike race since I had a plane to catch from Prague to Paris (I'm on that flight as I write this). Tomorrow morning I will fly from Paris to the Isle of Man and spend four days meeting with the rider liaisons and simply putting in some laps with my rental car. IOM management treats the newcomers amazing. They have arranged my hotel, car and everything I need while I am on the island. They take care of us like we are superstars. It is really nice.
It has been a crazy few days. I travelled from the other side of the world, experienced a new circuit, rode a new brand of motorbike, raced against some very quick Europeans and got to meet my awesome team of very crazy Germans. I already love my team and can’t wait for the Northwest.
Next blog will be when I am on my way home to see my family next Friday. I will fill you all in on my first thoughts of the mighty Isle of Man.
-- Dan #71