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...?