Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Thursday, August 11, 2005

One rung at a time…

Author: site admin
Category: WSBK

Back In December of last year I did a blog entry about how young Nicky Wmbauer had gotten a gig racing for Moto 1 on a Suzuki GSXR 600 in the World Superstock 600 Championship. I did a followup post in April after the first race at Valencia but haven’t had a chance to give an update since then…now is the time.

Nicky Wimbauer at Brands

So this past weekend Nicky was racing at the Brand’s Hatch circuit. As I mentioned in my preview for the WSBK races at the UK circuit, it is a very tricky track. Fast in places but technical in others. The elevation changes mean getting a good suspension setup is difficult and it is all that much harder on the Superstock 600 bikes like Wimbauer rides since they don’t have the high dollar forks and shocks like the superbikes. Despite these challenges, Nicky scored his best finish of the season…but before I get to the details of that let me give a quick review of what has happened over the first five races of the year.

As I mentioned after the Valencia race, the ex-Colorado based rider scored an excellent eighth place finish at the first race of the season. The second race of the season was at the Monza circuit but didn’t go so well as he was collected in a turn one pile-up. Despite the crash, he returned to the pits to get the bike fixed up and then returned to the track for the track time. While his 23rd place finish doesn’t sound like much, the fact that he had the work ethic to use the rest of race as a learning opportunity speaks volumes about him. Next up was the Silverstone round where he was doing double duty not only racing the Superstock 600 race but also riding as a wild card in the European GSXR-750 cup race. He carded a pair of thirteenth place finishes in the two races. He bettered that by one with a twelfth place finish at the next round in Misano, Italy. The final round before Brands Hatch race was the the complex Brno circuit in the Czech Republic. Wimbauer found the going a bit tougher but still brought home a fourteenth place result.

Prior to Brands Hatch, Nicky seemed to struggle with qualifying. However, this weakness highlighted one of his strengths which is his ability to be aggressive on the track in the heat of battle. In most of these races, he was starting outside the top 15 but has earned finishes inside that range in every race. Clearly he shines when it comes to the actual racing. I think its ultimately easier for a rider to learn how to turn in single fast laps in qualifying than it is to get the skills that come naturally when dicing with other riders. Its good to see that the Suzuki rider is already getting that critical experience. Another thing that impresses me about Wimbauer is his history of getting faster with each lap on the track. If his team’s press releases are to be believed, Nicky is regularly faster on the final laps of a race that he is in the earlier laps. As long as the limit to his speed is his lack of track knowledge, then the chances of him being able to close the gap to the front runners in the class are very good. Finally, the fact that the 17 year old could jump on an unfamiliar bike of larger displacement on an unfamiliar track and still earn a top 15 finish would also indicate that he has not reached the limits of his talent yet.

Alright, so with all this talk out of the way I think that the race at Brands Hatch is the right time to check back in with with Nicky’s Superstock season. First and foremost, Nicky finally put in a top ten qualifying effort allowing him to start the race from the second row in seventh place. Things improved even more once the green flag flew because Nicky was able to run with a group of riders who were all fighting for a top five result. When the checkered flag flew, Wimbauer crossed the line in an fantastic sixth place, 14 seconds down on the winner but racing in a tight pack with the fourth and fifth place finishers. He also turned in the 4th fastest lap of the race while closing the gap on the front runners after being slowed dicing with another rider in the early laps. Impressive stuff.

The final bit of news is that he is now up to 10th place in the championship battle. While he is 109 points behind the leader, he is only 7 points down on sixth place. A top five finish will be tough but isn’t completely beyond his reach. Hopefully his performances for the remainder of the season will continue to improve and that some team manager is ready to move him a rung up the ladder for next season by putting him on a Supersport or Superbike.

[image from the Nicky Wimbauer web site.]