Carl Stevens

Fast Bikes - - COLUMNIST -

Alot can hap­pen in a month. We’ve been flat out (lit­er­ally) at Brands Hatch and Oul­ton Park in the Du­cati Per­for­mance Tri-Op­tions Cup, and hav­ing a bloody good time as well...

Still in a race-bike limbo from hav­ing no R6 to race in Su­per­stock, we man­aged to bor­row a dif­fer­ent Du­cati Pani­gale 899 to race at Brands; al­beit with a stan­dard set of front forks and stan­dard damper, as the one we used at Don­ing­ton was be­ing re­built. But a big thanks to 777 De­mo­li­tion and Wes­ley Pearce for com­ing to my res­cue. I was par­tic­u­larly keen to make Brands, as it’s my home track and there’s noth­ing bet­ter than rid­ing with your friends and fam­ily around – who all came out in force.

That’s not to say it makes rid­ing any eas­ier. Af­ter a pretty dif­fi­cult prac­tice and qual­i­fy­ing, try­ing to dial in some feel­ing, we man­aged to nab P16 on the grid for the fol­low­ing day’s races. So af­ter stiff­en­ing the bike to within an inch of its squidgy life, the lights went out for our first race of the week­end; and an ab­so­lutely go­daw­ful start (as per). Even though I can’t seem to launch these things for love nor money, I tend to be pretty good at re­deem­ing things on the first lap. It wasn’t long be­fore I’d clam­bered up into 13th, and was hell-bent on chas­ing down 12th un­til the bit­ter end. I was so busy chas­ing down the 959 in front and avoid­ing the end­less ar­ray of back­mark­ers I didn’t even think about my class po­si­tion in the 899 se­ries. Turns out I bagged P1. Com­ing into Parc Ferme I was a lit­tle dazed, as the mar­shal waved me straight through and into the win­ners’ en­clo­sure: Fi­nally my first Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship podium... F*ck yes! Cham­pagne and a tro­phy given on top of the podium at my home track with my friends, fam­ily and spon­sors there gave me an unrivalled buzz like I’d just dropped enough drugs to se­date Man­hat­tan. Boom.

With the sweet scent of cheap Cham­pers still adorn­ing my leathers, we were aim­ing for the ex­act same in race two, with an­other dry race on the cards. Un­for­tu­nately, my team mate in Stock 600s had a lit­tle off-track ex­cur­sion in warm-up, mean­ing we were also busy get­ting his bike re­built in time for his race. Sod’s law, it meant I missed the pit lane win­dow for my own race, and had to start right at the back of the grid in 37th. Where’s the jus­tice in that? Keep­ing with tra­di­tion I got the old 899 tied in knots off the line mak­ing me dead last be­fore some pretty bold moves to carve through the field. I lit­er­ally gave it ev­ery­thing I could to grab 13th over­all, although I missed out on top 899 and an­other tro­phy by 0.2 of a sec­ond. Bas­tard!

Thank­fully though, we had the chance to do it all again at Oul­ton Park; back on the orig­i­nal 899 I rode at round one, but this time with some snazzy look­ing Ital­ian sus­pen­sion called Mupo. So af­ter a pretty aw­ful free prac­tise and qual­i­fy­ing leav­ing me 17th on the grid with ab­so­lutely no feel­ing from the bike, we made some mon­u­men­tal changes for race one. It was a bit men­tal; the whole race was in­cred­i­bly close and af­ter some un­spec­i­fied car­nage, a restart and some more sus­pen­sion tweaks, we man­aged to get the el­bows out and steal an awe­some 13th and an­other class win – which was un­real con­sid­er­ing the trou­bles we had through­out the week­end.

Race two didn’t ex­actly go to plan with the most hor­ren­dous brake fade I’ve ever en­coun­tered; drop­ping from 11th to 17th and not scor­ing points for the first time this year. Shit. But, with an eight week break we have enough time to test, re­fine (es­pe­cially the sus­pen­sion) and gen­er­ally sort my life out. I’m lead­ing 899 in the Du­cati Tri-Op­tions Cup, so it’s not all bad. The plan is to keep it that way.

Well, that’s a bloody waste! Oul­ton was kind to Carl. Tin pots ahoy!!!

Carl’s been switch­ing 899s like they’re go­ing out of fash­ion. Pretty Boy, look­ing, erm...?

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