Spanish 500 cc Grand Prix Jerez, May 6 2001 Determined Walker Eyes Jerez Brave Briton Chris Walker is determined to take his place with the Shell Advance Honda Team in this Sunday's Spanish 500cc Grand Prix despite a painful shoulder ...
Spanish 500 cc Grand Prix
Jerez, May 6 2001
Determined Walker Eyes Jerez
Brave Briton Chris Walker is determined to take his place with the Shell Advance Honda Team in this Sunday's Spanish 500cc Grand Prix despite a painful shoulder injury.
Walker, 29, is delaying his departure for Jerez in southern Spain until the last minute so he can continue intensive treatment with a specialist in England. Walker has only been able to so do some light training in the gym, mainly riding an exercise bike as he can't do any upper body exercise.
Joining Walker in the Shell Advance squad will be his teenage teammate Leon Haslam with both riders eagerly anticipating the first of ten consecutive European races of this Grand Prix season.
Especially Walker who wants to be in top physical condition for Jerez which is the first track this year where he will benefit from pre-season testing after two fly-away GPs in Japan and South Africa.
"I want to be in the best shape possible because Jerez is the first track I've been too where I know where I'm going and we've at least got a base set-up for the bike," Walker said.
"Hopefully I won't be a million miles away from the pace starting from Friday practice. It has been difficult being at tracks where all the other factory riders have done of a lot of testing and racing."
"Jerez was the track where I first rode the Shell Advance Honda 500 in winter testing and I'm confident we came away from there with a good set-up."
Despite the pain from a broken right shoulder blade, and having never even seen the Welkom track, Walker scored his first world championship point of the season in last week's South African GP. Walker broke his shoulder when he crashed on the first lap of the opening race of the season in Suzuka and aggravated the injury when he fell in practice at Welkom.
"The crash at Welkom really put me back to square one," Walker said.
"When I got home it felt the worst it had ever done. Riding against these guys when they are going as fast as they have in the first two races is hard enough when you're fit, so it causes a real problem when you're riding injured."
Shell Advance team boss Jeff Hardwick knows how keen Walker is to ride at Jerez where the Englishman completed six days of pre-season testing.
"Although Chris will not be 100% fit I expect him to improve on his past performances," Hardwick said.
"It is very hard when you have been riding Superbikes for so many years to adapt to the completely different handling of a 500 GP machine. Chris learnt a lot at Welkom and now he is using a set-up similar to the other HRC riders.
"With this sort of progress I think, by mid-season, Chris will be racing up near the front. He is getting closer by half a second a lap at every Grand Prix."
The anticipation is always for warm, early summer weather in southern Spain although if rain does arrive Shell team manager Jeff Hardwick believes young Haslam will be right on the pace on his less powerful Honda V-twin.
"With Leon, watch out if it rains," Hardwick said. "In testing earlier in the year he was very fast in the wet on the twin."
Haslam is keen to score more world championship points and come out on top in his own private race in the Honda 500 V-twin class against the likes of Japanese ace, Haruchika Aoki.
"Finishing in the points and trying to be the fastest V-twin rider is what I'm looking for, and that means racing Aoki," Haslam said.
"It is going to be good to be at the first European race after so much travelling and I like the Jerez track, it's a good circuit for the V-twin."
The Spanish GP at Jerez is run in a frenzied atmosphere with more than 140,000 fans attending the race. The circuit is one of the most demanding of the season with many long corners and a high-speed back straight.