The offseason officially began today. We completed a three day test at Jerez this week and fortunately we got sunshine throughout. I circulated almost 250 times but I would have been happy to do another 250. We continued to evaluate different swingarms and fork settings to see what works best with the new for 2013 17 inch Pirelli tyres and we made some good steps forward. In the end we lapped really quick, not just by superbike standards but even in comparison to MotoGP. The Aprilia has been going from strength to strength ever since we turned a corner in the midseason at Aragon. Tom Sykes was looking good at Jerez too so I expect him to start the season strong down under in Phillip Island.
I’ve spent the best part of November at home in Northern Ireland and managed four good weeks of base training. Unfortunately the trials bike hasn’t often left the garage as I’ve been trying to play some golf before the weather puts a stop to it. I’ve mentioned golf a few times in my blogs over the past year which may lead you to believe that I can actually play the game but I’m horrendously bad! Just ask Leon Haslam or Jeremy McWilliams, they’ve witnessed my prowess. Truth be told I just enjoy being out in the fresh air walking and talking with friends.
A few weeks back I enjoyed some days cycling in Monaco with a few of the pros. It was nice to have the sun on my back and thankfully they went easy on me! Aside from that my only other trips away from home were Aprilia’s championship winning party and a brief visit to the Motorcycle Live show in Birmingham en route to Jerez. I enjoy catching up with race fans at bike shows as I never get a chance at race meetings. As with most riders I’m in a different frame of mind during a race weekend and when I’m riding my scooter in the paddock I’m usually on my way to put my leathers on or take my leathers off! At bike shows I’ve got time on my hands so I’m happy to sit back and yarn.
Yesterday it was confirmed that Sylvain Guintoli will be my teammate for the 2013 season and I believe Gigi Dall’Igna has made a good choice. I get on with Sylvain and rate him as a rider so it’ll be nice to share a garage with a top rider once again. Some riders feel threatened by a fast teammate but I look at it in a positive light. Even in Jerez we were able to spot weaknesses in our riding by overlaying our laps and comparing them corner by corner. I know of a rider that requested a ban on data sharing with his teammate last year when he felt he had the upper hand but then he came back begging once his teammate started beating him again! And before you jump to conclusions it wasn’t inside the Aprilia garage but another factory team. The way I see it everything to my advantage; there’s twenty other riders I’ve got to beat and not just the one guy sat opposite me.
I’m looking forward to starting the 2013 season strong now that I’m in my second year on the RSV4. In 2010 I put together a fantastic season in the World Supersport Championship as I had the benefit of remaining with the Parkalgar team for a second successive season. I’m in a similar position once again with the factory Aprilia team and I feel that I understand the bike much better than I did at this point last year. The World Superbike Championship is so competitive now that to win a championship in your first year with a manufacturer would be an incredible feat. Carlos Checa illustrated this better than ever in 2011 by winning the title in his second year aboard the outdated 1198 Ducati. Continuity is key in this championship.
It’ll be two months before I get to put my leg over the RSV4 again and it’s true what they say: absence makes the heart grow stronger. I’ll enjoy Christmas at home with my family but I’ve no doubt that I’ll be itching to get riding again once the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. 2013 may be unlucky for some but I hope that it’s a good one for me.