It was a case of see no Evil, hear no Evil in Southern France, but for our James Whitham Evil took its revenge only days later
Oli (the snapper) seemed to really like the look of the shots and had us going round it several times each on all the bikes. I was on my way back down the hill on the Blade when I saw Evil, coming the other way, just tipping into the bend on the Kawasaki. He didn't look to be going too fast for the corner, or be carrying too much lean angle but the front gracefully folded under, sending Evil and the ZX-10R sliding off the road and across the stony overshoot at 80mph or so.
Now, I've witnessed many a crash, at most speeds and from most angles, and never batted an eye. But that was on track when it's not so much expected but certainly not surprising. But I have to say, it does wake you up when you see a fairly fast crash on the road. By the time I'd parked the Blade and the rest of the lads had run up from where they were stopped 100 yards down the road, Evil was staggering out from a cloud of dust like Ned Kelly. In the event he was lucky and thanks to good riding gear and a bit of space, escaped with only a couple of broken fingers and a bit of gravel rash.
To be fair to Jim, I've done loads of riding with him over the years and never once seen him look like falling off, and he'd mentioned that morning he didn't like the feel of the front tyre on the ZX-10R.
As we were loading the bent bike into the van and picking up the larger bits of dead Kwak we realised it wasn't the first time this corner had seen a bit of action. When you looked you could see broken plastic from at least two other bikes. Not that it made Jimbo feel any better. Made the rest of us chuckle though.
A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER I wasn't laughing. My mate Shoey competes in the British Superstock Championship and has been on at me for ages to have a go on his R1 and let him know what I think of his set-up. So I went to an open test day with him at Oulton Park. Got to admit I was a bit nervous at the prospect of having a lash round a circuit I'd last raced on the Boost Yamaha 11 years ago. I got even more edgy when I arrived to find most of the British Championship paddock was there, including Chris Walker, Cal Crutchlow, Tommy Hill, and James Haydon. No pressure then!
Within a couple of sessions I felt at home on the bike and was really enjoying reacquainting myself with a track I always loved to ride. The only differences were a new chicane at the entrance to Nickerbrook and the fact that with an extra 40bhp than I had in '96 the straights seemed shorter.
By the third session I was passing people and the lap times were looking pretty good. Then, just when I was starting to think there may be a bit of the old magic still there, it happened. I tipped her into turn one, Old Hall, and lost the front. Even before I hit the tarmac I realised how embarrassing this was going to be.
Rob Mac and the boys had a right old laugh, even the bloke who took me back to the pits in the van was pissing himself. In fact the only people who weren't happy were me and Shoey. Still, looking on the bright side, until I barrel-rolled the thing I thought his set-up felt pretty good.
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