Had a test ride with Aprilia
Last week I was asked if I would do a test ride for Aprilia Malaysia. They are getting involved in the MSS and are sponsoring 2 riders this year to ride their 'Aprilia RSV 1000 Factory'. They have already committed last year’s runner up in the Open Supersports class, Armand Ali, to ride one of the bikes. However, they've been struggling to find a suitable team-mate for him. Most of the riders that have tried the bike have been doing high 2.20's around Sepang when testing. The best test-time except Armand's was a 2.25. Armand has done a 2.20'9 after several sessions of testing.
Sadly 4 weeks ago Armand was involved in a traffic accident while riding a scooter and broke his left forearm (both bones). The brake was open so one of the bones was protruding out after the accident. The car that bumped into him and caused the accident ran away from the scene. However, the driver called the police next day. Armand was taken to hospital and now has 14 screws and I don't know how many plates in his arm. His current aim is now to be able to participate in the second round of the MSS.
Even so, he proposed me as a candidate to test ride the second bike. I was of course not saying no to this chance and went up on Friday. Aprilia had booked the track for Saturday morning. I wasn't the only one to test on Saturday. Aprilia had also asked last year’s Novice SBK champion (Mohammed Fairi Osman, aka 'Bob') to try out. He has had a remarkable form of late. During last years MotoGP support race he did a 2.26 on his 2 year old Fireblade. I was told rumours that during the winter he has done a 2.20, but was also told he had crashed. Must say I didn't really know what to make of it, so I didn't put too much into it in order to concentrate on my things.
It is definitely different to be the only rider out on the track. No traffic to mess with your concentration. Only thing was getting down to business. After a couple of laps testing out braking points I had to pit as my arms and hands were cramping up. It was the first time I'd been on a track with a 1000cc bike. Even so they had timed me and my times were less then impressive (2.34 and 2.31). Bob went out on the bike and had a stint. After a couple of times of us changing back and forth doing alternate stints, Bob did a 2.26. He came in and I obviously had to get my head down. My next session out was about 8 laps and much better. I did a 2.25'4. According to Armand this would be good enough to make the team. Bob went out again and seemed to be going well, but I didn't get any times from the team manager. In retrospect I must say I regret not having asked. I jumped on the bike as soon as Bob came in, and drove straight back out. Aprilia had the track from 8-11am. However, we were only getting on the track around 9am. I knew that I wouldn't have much more time on the track, but at the same time I felt that I'd done my work. The bike felt good and I did some good laps (I thought). When I came back in they told me I'd done a 2.23'4. I was obviously happy having set a new personal best by a second after so few laps on a bike I'd never ridden before. However, I was then told that Bob had then gone and done a 2.21'9.
Looking back now, I wish I'd pushed that bit harder. I regret never having ridden a 1000cc bike at the track before. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated by all this 1000cc power people have been talking about. It was surprising how much the bike accelerates and how far down the straight the bike continues pulling. Even so, the power was pretty controllable. In fact the RSV was a very good bike to get on with. The brakes were very good (radial/Brembo up and down) even though they lacked the initial bite they were very progressive. The suspension is Ohlins front and back, and I didn't have anything reminiscent of a 'moment'.
I’m sure if given a bit more time to get accustomed to the big bike, I would have easily been able to get down to 2.21-2.20’s. However, understandably Aprilia have decided to let Bob have a chance with the team this season. Given the times on Saturday, his recent form and the fact that he is Malaysian; there wasn’t really any question I think.
My congratulations to him!
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