<b>Crash.net's Brands Hatch Blog</b>.

Sunday 5 August

18: 03 - Ousted and disqualified.

Sunday 5 August

18: 03 - Ousted and disqualified.

Sebastien Charpentier had a bad day at the office. Not only did he have to hand his World Supersport title over to his young team-mate but he got disqualified too!

He got off to a bad start with his number one machine developing a clutch problem on the sighting lap so his pole position start turned into a back row start on his number two machine. Like the true champion he is, Charpentier fought his way through to fifteenth place to secure one point.

However that singular point was taken from him as he didn't go to parc ferme after the race.....

14: 43 - Where to for Sofuoglu?

Having just secured his first World Supersport title, Kenan Sofuoglu is already looking to next year.

I had a quick chat with him after the race and he is hoping that winning the title will help him secure a top flight superbike ride for next season. He did admit that he will look at other teams as well as his own but he will only consider the high level teams as he wants to see his career progress.

I also spoke to Ronald Ten Kate who was still in shock from his team claiming their sixth World title. Apparently it is a strange feeling even on the sixth time round! He is confident that Kenan has a long career ahead of him with the Ten Kate team.

Whether the team would want to run a rookie Superbike rider next season when they have a new bike to develop remains to be seen but as it stands the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team have a lot to celebrate and to be proud of.

12:35 - Jump start distraction.

Troy Bayliss thought he had jumped the start at the beginning of race one which was enough to distract him from the job in hand and lead to his untimely crash.

"I was looking for the flag to come in every lap, I just wasn't focused in the early laps. I pushed too hard and lost the front at Druids," he said.

11:08am - The calm before the storm.

This is now the last quiet moment of the day before the racing kicks off. From race one onwards it is manic. So this is a good time to mention a few little items.

A number of riders, including James Toseland and Troy Bayliss, are running stickers on their bikes in memory of Ollie Bridewell. They simply show his number 46 with "Ollie" written underneath.

And on a different note, the Burning 2 Learn organisation are here this weekend with a group of school children who are putting together a little magazine based on their learning experiences at World Superbikes.

They have been armed with a TV camera this weekend as well as their note pads and I was one of their early interviewees - bit surreal as I normally do the interviewing. The aim of the weekend is for the kids to understand the importance of team work, the need to pay attention and for them to find out that they need their education in order to work in an interesting environment.

10:30 - Songbird Toseland.

It has been well documented that our current Championship leader, James Toseland is a talented musician and singer. I must admit I have danced the night away to his band Crash who are superb.

Today, in full leathers, Toseland entertained the huge crowd at Brands Hatch by singing the National Anthem ahead of the first race of the day. It was a very American tradition but it worked well and he had the grandstand crowd on their feet.

Let's hope he will have the crowd on their feet again after both races.......

09:31 - Other options.

If James Toseland had wanted to stay in the Superbike World Championship would he have stayed as a Ten Kate Honda rider?

With all the talk there has been about, "Will he move to MotoGP or won't he," the fact that he might have jumped ship from Ten Kate Honda and remained with a competitive team in the championship has totally passed by unnoticed.

As a hot property, there must have been interest else where within World Superbikes.

Sunday 08:14am - Why does it always go wrong on race day?

There is something about a race weekend that seems to jinx race day. I'm unsure what causes it but it certainly puts stress levels through the roof.

For example at Valencia I was covering World Superbikes from there and British Superbikes remotely from Thruxton so I really needed my internet access. The wifi system had worked ok all weekend - until race day.

This morning I was sat in my car by 6.11am, I know the traffic can be bad on the way into Brands Hatch so I was taking no chances. I had a really clear run and was just thinking, "This is going well so much for all this traffic," and that is when the race day jinx kicked in.

I turned off the M25 only to be directed away from Brands by a very stressed traffic cop who told me to, "Follow the white van he knows where he is going." Of course I promptly lost the white van and started to panic. Not knowing the area I was a bit clueless as to where I was going, that must have been very obvious as a nice man in the car next to me gestured to follow him, he also explained that there had been a road accident and that was why the main road to Brands was closed.

I followed him for all of 20m when I lost him too - sodding traffic lights is all I can say about that! The traffic was at a stand still by now and I was still on the same roundabout. I spotted Frankie Chili in his hire car trying to join the chaos so I let him into the traffic and then made my escape along the M20.

Once I got close to the circuit I picked up the signs directing the Media down a back road to the paddock entrance. It wasn't until I was rushing along this tiny back road that I suddenly thought, "How are the foreign press going to deal with this?" I'm not exactly local but I do at least live in this country and have a rough idea where I am!

I finally got into the press room lamenting the race day jinx but thanking my lucky stars I wasn't Frankie Chili stuck in traffic, in a foreign country, not knowing where to go - been there, done that and it isn't fun.

My audio recording kit started playing up last night too, now it would be typical if it packed up just in time for race day. What is it with race day?

Saturday 4 August

16:55 - Compliments to the Roman.

It is not unusual for riders to compliment one another in the press conferences after Superpole or after the races. For example when Haga pulled off a sub 2 minute lap at Brno all the riders at the press conference congratulated him on his result. It is nice to see the respect the guys have for one another and it is essential when they race so close on track.

However, at the post Superpole press conference today I was even more pleasantly surprised to hear Max Biaggi complemented on his performance for his first time at Brands Hatch. What was really surprising was he wasn't even involved in the press conference!

Both Troy Bayliss and James Toseland said how impressed they were with his level of professionalism and ability to learn quickly and safely. Biaggi will start from a superb sixth place on the second row of the grid and Bayliss has even mentioned that Biaggi will come on strong in race two once he has learned the ropes in race one.

It is shaping up to be an epic race day with at least seven riders all capable of winning. It is going to be a Brands Hatch special, I can't wait!

13:10 - Broken bottom....

...well that is the polite version! "I've broken my a*se," exclaimed Wild Card rider Marty Nutt when I asked him how he was.

Marty crashed at Mallory Park and was run over by James Buckingham, despite this he was determined to take up his grid position at Brands Hatch as it has always been his dream to race in World Superbike.

He was in a lot of pain on Friday and decided to get checked over; the outcome was a cracked pubic bone from the Mallory spill. The Doctor has told him he needs four weeks on crutches but with Brands this weekend and Croft next, I somehow can't see that happening.

Riders really are a tough bred.

11.33am - Chewing gum and photocopiers.

As the "Will Airwaves Ducati step up to World Superbikes?" discussion continues to roll on undecided, a further twist to the story was added when Leon Haslam was spotted in the Xerox Ducati hospitality.

Now Haslam being there could be for any number of reasons, when I collared him he said he was at Brands to help out his mate Graeme Gowland who is running in Supersport. He did also admit that he would like to be back in the world paddock and if Airwaves aren't making the move then he needs to look at his own options.

Troy Bayliss is contracted to Xerox Ducati for the 2008 season but Lorenzo Lanzi is on shaky ground. Could there be a possibility for Haslam to slip in there? He has a full season of World Superbikes under his belt and that was on board a Ducati.

I spoke with Xerox Ducati's press officer, Julian Thomas and he remained tight lipped about their rider line up for next year. He said no decision would be made until September or October this year and budget restrictions would probably be a deciding factor.

If they want to keep costs down then it would make sense to run a younger rider rather than signing a big name and big cost rider. He did say that someone like Jonathan Rea could be of interest to them, a young talent that they could develop. Xerox are running a Junior team in the Superstock championship and Niccolo Canepa has been impressive both in racing and in the development work that he has been doing behind the scenes, so he is another possibility.

To put even more spin on the story a colleague of mine ran into Alex Hofmann who is at Brands Hatch and talking to a number of teams one of which is Ducati. His horrific hand injury sustained at Laguna Seca is healing well and he had his fifty - yes fifty, stitches removed yesterday.

Whatever the truth is we won't know officially until towards the end of the season but it really is keeping us guessing.

09:13am - Up and down and round and round.

TV does not do the Brands Hatch circuit justice. I had no idea until last night when Brendan Roberts gave me the guided tour of Brands, just how involved and hilly it was - even the main straight isn't straight!

As we pulled out of pit lane Brendan headed straight across to the left hand side of the track, "See that dip there?" he asked, I could just pick out a slight undulation in the track, "Well when you hit that bump that is when you start to brake." We then hastily pulled across to the right, "Then you aim for the first curb stone, that is how to get through Paddock Hill bend," he explained.

At the braking point you can't see the corner at all I now fully understand why it is such a challenging place. The run out of Paddock Hill and up Hailwood Hill is much steeper than I had ever imagined. "When you come down here you get stuck to the bike," he said as we zipped through the dip at the bottom. When I used to come as a spectator I always watched from Druids hairpin, but I had never noticed how the track levels off after the steep run up to it. A few riders have suggested banking it but that would make life way too easy.

Graham Hill bend tends to be high side central once the racing starts in anger so I asked Brendan why that was. "You are coming down hill and braking at the same time, the front of the bike is fully loaded so by the time you get on the gas the back end is really light and it is easy to spin it up," he said simply.

As a Ducati rider he did admit that the one turn his machine struggles with is Surtees as it is a long, up hill corner and getting the drive out of it can be fun. Something that really shocked me was how low the bridge is between Pilgrim's Drop and Hawthorn Hill, "If you stand up on the pegs you can just about touch it," Brendan added helpfully. I actually ducked as we ran under it!

Hawthorne Bend has a string of bumps to keep the riders on their toes and that is followed by the off camber Westfield turn. Now we were on a scooter and not going very fast but I still managed to miss the spot that Brendan pointed out as his brake marker for the blind Sheene Curve which is steeper than you realise just from TV viewing.

Stirling's is relatively simple compared to the rest of the track and the run through Clearways to the high speed Clark Curve is awesome. The home "straight" has a dip in it too just to add to the fun, and as we flashed by the pit wall we completed our lap of Brands Hatch.

I have so much more respect now for how difficult this track is having experienced it, all be it at low speed. If you get the opportunity for a lap then I suggest you go for it, you will be amazed. Now all I need is a fast lap....

Friday 3 August

18:32 - A shame and a disgrace.

That is what I am for never having completed a lap of Brands Hatch GP circuit. However, that will be sorted out this evening as Brendan Roberts from the Xerox Ducati Junior team has agreed to give me a guided tour of the circuit and all its technical foibles.

16:00 - Hodgson's return.

Neil Hodgson has returned to the World Superbike paddock this time in the guise of TV commentator. However we can all be forgiven for thinking that he will hunting down a ride whilst here.

Toseland's move could have an interesting impact on the rest of the rides in the paddock, a kind of ripple if you like. The outcome of which could leave a nice high level opening for the return of a former Champion.

With a history on Ducati's perhaps Hodgson could land there, although there is no seat available at the moment Lorenzo Lanzi's lack of results this year could warrant him being given the push.

It is all speculation at the moment, the only seat we know for sure that Hodgson has this weekend is in Eurosport's Commentary booth!

15:05 - Silence is golden....

....unless you are a TV commentator. James Whitham has lost his voice just in time for the biggest World Superbike round of the season. Apparently his little girl Ruby came down with a heavy cold and Mr Whitham also succumbed.

Let's hope he gets it back in time for Superpole tomorrow afternoon.

14:35 - The good beer buzz is gone.

After ten years in the World Superbike paddock Corona Extra have decided it is time to quit.

They have been a huge part of paddock life for an exceptionally long time in terms of sponsor relationships and it will be a shame to see them go. The thing is who will step up to take their place?

The Taiwanese company, Hannspree who make novelty TVs amongst other electronic products, came into the paddock as a personal sponsor to Roberto Rolfo. Since then they have branched out to back the Ten Kate Honda team and in January of this year they joined forces with FG Sport as a Championship sponsor.

If this logical progression continues it would make sense to see them step into the void left by Corona exiting the paddock.

14:10 - Getting run over is a bad idea.

I ran into wild card rider Marty Nutt as he hobbled down the stairs of the media centre. He managed to get run over by James Buckingham last time out at Mallory Park and looking at the state of him it wasn't a good plan.

"I'm really struggling with my legs at the moment and I'm having to use my arms to move the bike around. It is really hard work, I don't know how I will manage race distance," he complained.

Despite hurting and not having trained for three weeks he still managed to complete free practice in sixteenth place. Hopefully once the adrenaline is flowing on race day he will be able to achieve his dream of scoring points at a World Superbike round.

12:27 - A slightly jet lagged Leon Camier.

Following his superb outing at Suzuka with the Moriwaki team who finished fifth, Leon Camier has turned up at Brands Hatch. He was chilling with his girlfriend Georgia when I nabbed him for a chat to try and pry some information out of him as to where he is going next year!

He played dumb......

"I have no idea what I'm doing next year. I would like to get here (the World Superbike paddock) in the next couple of years. But I don't know what I'm doing just yet," he said.

He was laughing while saying this so maybe he has something in mind. As usual, only time will tell.

09:15am - Jonathan Rea spotted at Brands Hatch with Roger Burnett.

With the news of James Toseland's departure from the World Superbike paddock to the heady heights of the MotoGP paddock it does beg the question, "Who will replace JT at Hannspree Ten Kate Honda?" So when I spotted Jonathan Rea along with Toseland's Manager, Roger Burnett my mind started to race.

Rea has made it known that he is keen to make it to the top of his sport - at just twenty years of age and running second in the British Superbike Championship, he looks set to do just that. He has a wise head on young shoulders and he knows he needs to take the chance to move onto the World Stage rather than stagnate in Britain.

Ronald Ten Kate assured me at Brno that there would be a press conference at Brands Hatch announcing his team's plans for next season. Since the Toseland announcement that press conference has been put on hold and it does seem that the move has somewhat surprised the Dutch squad.

Could Rea slip into the Ten Kate squad? Well why not? He is a Honda rider with a proven track record, he is young enough for the Ten Kate team to develop and mould him and he has the ability to run at the front. Next year Honda are bringing out a New Fireblade so it will be a development year and it could possibly be a learning year for Rea if he secures the ride.....he has promised an announcement of his plans in the next two to three weeks.

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