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British Grand Prix Recap: Paul Bird Motorsports Aprillia Comes Home.

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The Hertz British Grand Prix was a homecoming  for the Rapid Solicitors Paul Bird Motorsports MotoGP team  and Michael Laverty, with fans thrilled to see their native riders in action on their home turf. As a result, it was non stop activity in our pitbox all weekend long! We rolled into Silverstone Circuit with the full Paul Bird Motorsports hospitality kit, all the lorries, catering and everything else needed to make the teams Home MotoGP race special, not only for the team, but the fans, too. I didn’t get to the track until late wednesday on account of my daughter Grace beginning her 1st day of first grade that morning.  so I made sure to buy the team a pint of beer at a pub near the track to thank them for picking up the slack in my absence. Come thursday morning, we had a lot of work to do. Victor had gotten most our our pit box set up, but there was lots of work to do on ML1 after Michael Laverty’s getoff in Brno. We immediately got to work, tearing down both ML1 for repair and ML2 for the standard pre-race inspection and cleaning. ML1 needed the control set and bars replaced, as well as fitting new bodywork and fabricating a new front subframe and fairing brackets.

Friday morning broke, overcast and unseasonably cold for an August summer’s day- it was cold enough that we were forced to wear trousers and jackets all day long! During MotoGP FP1, Michael was experiencing quite a bit of discomfort getting heat into the tires and the first practice session was spent just shaking ML1 down. As a result of the cold, Michael Laverty was dead last on the sheets with a 2.11.919 in FP2, nearly 8 seconds off of the pace set by Marc Marquez. For MotoGP FP2, Michael went out on ML2 and experienced the same issues as on ML1 during free practice at Brno: the dash went black, with the word “regen” flashing at the bottom. Whether it was the exact same glitch as before, we’re not entirely sure, after half a lap it was all back up as normal and didn’t cut out. We made modest progress, Michael laverty finished the session in P20, cutting 3 seconds off of his FP1 laptimes, just 4.209 off of the lead pace.

Saturday morning was again bone chillingly cold, requiring jackets and trousers for the team once again. Michael commented that the bike felt good, though and his 2’05.732 result, moved him up a notch on the time sheets, placing him 3.826 away from the leaders on prototype machines, in 19th place. FP4 saw Laverty drop a little more time off of his laps, with a best time of 2’06.060, but it was only good for P21. Bad timing cut the session short on his 2nd tire, but it gave us a good idea of what we could do on a longer track. This race was a milestone for Michael and Victor and I: We ran essentially the same bike as Brno, making only minimal chassis adjustments. We did install lighter springs, as Silverstone is a flatter track with less elevation than Brno, and we moved the swingarm pivot slightly, to give the bikes a shorter wheelbase and more rear grip but that was about it. We’d finally gotten a great baseline setting that we could rely on. Qualifying saw even more time fall: Michael reeled off a 2.04.836, good for P20 and 7th row on the grid.

Rapid Solicitors Paul Bird Motorsports Michael Laverty in MotoGP Qualifying Photo by Gold & Goose

Rapid Solicitors Paul Bird Motorsports Michael Laverty in MotoGP Qualifying Photo by Gold & Goose

Come race time, DORNA set a new policy in an attempt to reign in confusion in the event of a wet race: we now were required to stage our backup bike with rain tires at designated spots on the grid. This eliminated the confusion caused at German Grand Prix, with part of the field starting from the grid and the rest, starting the race from pit row.   The race went well, Michael got off to a great start and quickly got to work, making his way through the field, making his way to P15 by the time they reached T1. Laverty settled in to P16 at lap 1 and held his position until a mistake in lap 5 forced him to cede 4 spots, sending him back to 19th. Michael managed to fight his way back over the course of the race to finish 17th. Although we didn’t earn points this weekend, we managed the smallest gap from 1st since Argentina, with a 1.10.939, which given that Silverstone Circuit is 3.66 miles long, vs Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo’s 2.986 mile length, arguably, this was our best race of the season. At any rate, Michael, the team and our boss, Paul Bird were all happy for such a good showing at our home race. Being our home race, we had a lot of visitors, which was occasionally irritating, but the festive mood of the fans was contagious. Michele came down for the weekend and stayed with me- having some 1 on 1 time with her when i wasn’t working was a nice break and reminded me a lot of when we were starting out together and i was club racing.

 

Since rumours have been circulating for a while now, i can finally let the cat out of the bag: Paul Bird Motorsports has put their MotoGP spots for sale for the 2015 season, which means Michael and myself and the team are kinda out of work. i won’t name names, but we saw a lot of top riders coming into the PMB Team pit box over the weekend, all asking about next year. Michael is fielding a few offers in BSB, WSBK and possibly MotoGP and has asked me to come along, but after talking together, we both decided against BSB. Michael would rather race in WSBK or MotoGP and for me, living in Luxembourg, working in Great Britain isn’t all that practical. I’m still there for my very good friend Michael, but ultimately, with a 19 race season all over the world and 2 races in the USA, I’d like to stay in MotoGP, so i’ve put my resume together and I’ve started putting out feelers for the 2015 season. I’ll keep you all posted as things develop.

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