Hi guys, how are we all? Me, I’m just about to head off to Magny Cours so it would seem the perfect time to check in with Team FB. Now, obviously last time out on track things were pretty sweet as we nailed the double victory at Lausitzring in Germany. It was even sweeter as the pace was much faster than last season, and Jonny Rea pushed me pretty hard to keep up the quick consistent laps. Everything felt good, and while the title may now be out of reach, there’s nothing quite like doing the double.
I may have mentioned this before, and it’s been pointed out to me on several occasions, but the Panigale is the only Ducati iteration to not have won at least one WSB title – no pressure! At least, not yet, as we’ll have another season on the L-twin again in 2018 before the new bike comes along. That being said, if the new V4 ends up also being called a Panigale, will that still count?! After riding all the special version Panigales and the GP17 this year, I really can’t wait to get my hands on the new bike. That being said, our work must continue on the twin and Ducati won’t be resting on their laurels just because there’s a new squeeze in the pipeline.
My current bike will keep getting all the Latin love they’re able to throw at it for 2018, and we have an amazing test squad who I know can get the V4 there or thereabouts before we have to switch our concentration to that. Anyways, not supposed to talk too much about it, though it was interesting to see the Stradale V4 engine launched at Misano and the response to it. Obviously it’s a little too large capacity-wise to go racing with, and we’ve yet to see the iteration we’ll eventually be riding, but given it’s also based on the GP15 engine and how incredible Ducati’s ‘R’ models tend to be, it’s going to something pretty special, right?
Not that I was thinking too much about in between Germany and Portugal, instead there was some camping and training going on with some enduro and MX’ing on the cards. I’ve spoken about this often in FB over the years, but in light of Valentino Rossi’s recent enduro accident, I’ll say it again! Riding these bikes is crucial to many riders to stay sharp, and I’ll count myself in that bunch too.
However you’ve got to be sensible about it, and as we saw with Rossi he had an innocuous, really slow off (were we told...) and simply got unlucky. Actually I’ve no reason to doubt what happened there, but then I have seen some crazy stuff myself, pre and mid-season, being on the same MX track as other GP and WSB racers. I’ve watched some doing huge jumps, cock it up and pay the price, injuring themselves. It’s a real head-slap moment, and then I have a chuckle to myself when I read the press release with a far, far blander description of why they’re bust up! Look, anything can happen, take Crutchlow slicing his hand up when tackling some cheese with a sharp knife. Hell, our wee dog Tor almost had me tumbling down the stairs the other day – you can reduce the risks, but can’t account for everything and none of us want to live in a bubble between race rounds.
One great thing about living in Andorra, and having rounds not a zillion miles away, is the ability to jump in the van and drive to some, like Portimao and Magny Cours. We didn’t race at the Circuit Algarve last year, though had positive tests. It’s still way too bumpy in places, but I was feeling good nonetheless.
And things were going pretty well from the off, we were in the hunt, enough that me and my side of the garage started hatching plans for Superpole and race one. But that all went out of the window when I had a little tipple over one of the bumps, causing me and the Panigale to initiate an impromptu yet short break from one another! This meant starting the first outing from ninth place, with Jonny on Pole, balls... Could have been worse mind you, Tom Sykes had a horrendous crash in practice seeing him out for the weekend!
I managed to barge my way through fairly well, but by the time I got past folk like Eugene Laverty (who was going really well), Jonny had pulled a decent gap. I could match his times, pull some time back here and there but he was just too far. Had I got away with him it could have been a different story, but a second place isn’t too shabby.
In the second race both me and Jonny made good initial progress, but then I came a little unstuck trying to get past a couple of guys. But the time I did, that gap was there again – Groundhog Day! Later on I actually crashed, it was my fault, I essentially eased off a bit and shutting the throttle earlier than normal the front overloaded, meaning me and the Portuguese tarmac got an unplanned second date of the weekend together.
The one bonus was that we did make some progress on the bike and the subsequent test the following day went really well, too. Guess I’ll just have to make up for it in France, but you’ll already know if I did or not by now!
The L-twin might be on the way out, but Chaz has got another year on it before switching to the V4. Another day, another podium.