September 26, 2018
Red Bull Rookies
Located in the heart of the Zaragoza desert Aragon was set to be a gruelling one with temperatures reaching 40 degrees! That’s tough for any Brit, especially in all the kit that motorcycle riders are required to wear, but Max was determined to end the season on a high. It was yet another new challenge in a season which has seen Max learn so much.
Having never been to Aragon before Max was in the YRDA simulator (based at Arden Motorsport) on the week of the race working with the coaches to learn the circuit. During Free Practice it helped Max get up to speed quicker which is crucial as track time is very limited for the Rookies class. A sit down with the championships coaches (requested by Max) to go through data helped him quickly realise where he was losing time and set realistic targets for the weekend.
In the second session Max managed to improve on his own lap time by two seconds and closed the gap to the leaders by an astonishing 1.3 seconds! Impressive stuff on his track debut. Quickly moving into qualifying Max attempted to run with some of the quickest riders and in doing so was able to make further improvements. Max set his quickest time of the weekend with a 2:03.19 which put him 17th on the grid and 1.7 seconds off pole.
As temperatures soared into the mid 30’s just in time for race one Max knew the 15 laps ahead was not going to be easy! A poor start saw Max’s job made even tougher after lap one as he dropped back to 18th place. With all riders together Max was ready to start picking his way through the field but with everyone desperate to impress on the last weekend of the season things started to get slightly messy. It started to become a case of staying out of trouble and Max did that successfully which eventually led him to being in a 9-bike train for 11th.
As the race approached the end, brilliant racing from Max had seen him work his way through to the head of the group and he was now battling away with the champion, Can Oncu. Can had been on the podium in every race up until Aragon and is in his second season so for Max to be battling with him was hugely impressive! Heading down to the final corner Max was still at the head of the group under pressure from the 2018 champion but an over enthusiastic twist of the wrist on the final corner made him lose traction and Oncu pipped him to 11th by 0.08seconds!
It was still a 12th for Max and a brilliant performance. Of course to be racing where he was had all come from a huge improvement in lap times with Max going 0.7 seconds quicker than he did in Qualifying and he was now just half a second off the fastest lap of the race!
Now full of confidence Max went into race two hoping to end the season with his best result. He was going to give it everything and was not leaving the circuit with any regrets! The weather challenge had become even tougher with 40 degrees air temperature making it almost unbearable for some, but for Max he was coping just fine all thanks to his intense workout schedule with Jack Groves and his Racefit Programme.
Unfortunately Max got off to another bad start this time dropping down to 20th place! But he did not let this take away any of his confidence and once he had his tyres up to temperature he got into a great rhythm. The next four laps were the best he had done all weekend! Max was lapping around one second quicker than the riders around him which helped him charge through to 12th place within just two laps. Not only that but Max was now within half a second of the leader setting the fastest lap (2:02.0) in the process!
However, then came one of the biggest moments in the race! Going into turn five as a rider ahead ran wide Max saw an opportunity for a pass and took it with both hands. As Max tightened his line using the rear brake this somehow unsettled the bike and Max lost the front end! The natural reaction would be to let go of the bike, but he took inspiration from Marc Marquez (current MotoGP World Champion and renowned for saving crashes) and decided he’d try and save it. He dug his knee and elbow into the tarmac as he slid across the track, the rumble strip and onto the tarmaced run off area. It felt like an age but suddenly the bike regained grip and it went from being on its side to being on its wheels.
Max rejoined the track 22nd and last and from then on it was a recovery ride with just eight laps to go. In the time he had remaining Max did a great job to finish in 14th and although he was disappointed from what could have been, on discovering he had set the fastest lap his mood was lifted once again.
Whilst Max has come away a little frustrated, with his goals of a top ten not achieved, he has achieved quite a lot in one weekend. Max had two decent finishes, a fastest lap in a race, on heck of a save and an invite back to the championship in 2019. Overall, I’d say that’s not too bad at all!
Images courtesy of Red Bull / G&G