Monday May 5, 2008
Preston and District - Round 1
I entered 3 classes which with a qualifying/trophy race and a final/points race in each class meant 6 races in a day.
The classes were:
Single Cylinder (race 4 and race 15)
Classic 250 (race 6 and race 17)
Open 250 (race 9 and race 20)
Got to the circuit just before 7am and went for a walk round the track. Puddles in a couple of places with mud and grass in others, but it all got cleaned up before racing started.
Three Sisters is a short circuit which is very tight and twisty - no long straight to have a rest, it’s hard work all the way round.
I’d only finished putting the bike back together the evening before (after crashing at Anglesey the previous weekend) so there hadn’t been any time to run it up and check it out.
In practice it was clear that the exhaust was blowing badly at the cylinder head so there was work to do before my first race. There must have been about 20 supporters turned up during the day, a good showing from DOC and DuN as well as other non-club members, so plenty of willing hands to get things done.
I only intended to use the Single Cylinder class for practice, with the intention of just doing a couple of laps then coming in once I’d checked out the exhaust. However the bike was running well and I was pushing hard and competing with the more modern bike so I stayed out for the full race and came in 8th of 12 finishers.
Only had a few minutes in the paddock before being called for the Classics qualifier - just long enough to get the helmet off, have a quick drink and get the helmet back on.
In the classics there was a delay in the assembly area as the ambulance went out for an accident in the previous race. It was a while before the track got cleared so we all had to stop engines to prevent overheating. Some of my pit crew (I’m sure they won’t mind thet title) brought up my starter (which I didn’t need as the Ducati bumps OK with a bit of a push once warm) and got most of the other, harder to start, bikes going again. Unfortunately only 3 250’s made it to the start line. The one to beat was a 250 Suzuki 2-stroke twin. We had a bit of a battle until we came upon a couple of 350 Hondas and a 500 BSA. The Suzuki managed to slip through but it took me a while to find the gaps and fight my way through. Thought I’d got away cleanly but the BSA caught me up eventually and slipped past before I realised he was there. I came in 10th of 14 finishers, second in my class.
After lunch, had my last qualifying race - Open 250 class (with the 125 class who are the fastest round Three Sisters). From the start I was battling hard and making up places, stuffing it past the modern 125’s and 250’s where I could. After a few laps it started to spit a bit of rain - this slowed them all down (and a few crashed out - many would have been on slicks) but enabled me to keep getting past them. I got the chequered flag in 2nd place overall - 1st of the 250’s.
Although I couldn’t find any riders or spectators who’d seen it, the race was later declared as having been red flagged, so the standings on the penultimate lap replaced the final positions. This still gave me a 2nd place trophy for the Open 250 class.
All the subsequent races were declared wet and got reduced from 6 to 5 and then to 4 laps as the ambulance had to go out a couple of times causing delays in the programme.
Just before going out for the Single Cylinder final, it was noticed that my fairing had become detached from one of the bottom brackets. A bit of panic duct taping ensued - ‘Team Never Prepared’ strikes again!
Starting from 8th place on the grid, I rode the socks off the little Ducati. 4 laps isn’t long, but I managed to make it up to 3rd place by the finish - I would have made 2nd but however hard I tried I couldn’t quite slip underneath the 636 Rotax - tried a few times but he kept closing the door on me and squeezing me out, we got close to swapping paint! He had the edge on speed between the corners but I closed up in every bend.
A quick pit stop before the Classics final, only to find that the exhaust bracket had fractured (probably damaged in the crash at Anglesey the previous weekend). Willing hands got to work with wire and pliers and I got out just in time.
Again, the Suzuki twin was the one I needed to concentrate on. We fought it out and he got the better of me but I wasn’t willing to let go. Pushing too hard I overcooked it into one corner, ran out of braking room and ran straight on to the grass. Had to re-join way down the field. Not enough time to make up many places, finished 12th of 15 finishers, 3rd of 4 250’s. It should have been 2nd rather than 3rd (but at least no one can say I wasn’t trying hard!).
A few more repairs to exhaust and fairing before the Open 250 (and 125) final, my last race of the day.
Had a good start and got ahead of one bike early on to make it into 3rd position. A bunch of bikes were behind me but I knew that I could hold them off to be 2nd 250 home. That was until I fluffed a gear change going into the left-right-left complex. They all came swarming past me and I didn’t have enough time to fight back.
No results sheets were available for this race at the end of the meeting (as the officials ran out of time) but I think I was 6th overall, 3rd in the 250 class (possibly 7th and 4th). Not bad, all things considered, against the modern bikes.
All in all a pretty good days racing. 6 races is about my limit, I was exhausted by the end, but very happy with my performance.
I think that the 20 or so supporters (an exceptional turn out) who came to urge me on got value for money!
Points start at 15 for 1st place, and as this the first round for Preston and District, my championship positions and points are:
Single Cylinder 3rd place 10 points
Classics up to 250 3rd place 10 points
250 class 3rd (or 4th) 10 (or 8) points
I think that I can safely say that I gave it my all. The bike performed faultlessly (except for gradually falling apart under the strain) and seems to be handling OK in spite of the crash at Anglesey - it’s currently back with Andrew for more welding and repairs on the exhaust and the frame where an engine mounting lug has cracked off again. I’ll be putting it back together and checking it out next weekend ready for Aintree on the following Saturday.
It’s going well in the classics and against the modern bikes too. The tight twisty nature of Three Sisters is a bit of a leveller - the handling of the Ducati makes up for the lack of power a bit when compared with newer machinery.
If the bike can stand the strain, and if I can keep up the pressure without making too many silly mistakes, it should be a good season at Three Sisters.
And finally (if anyone’s still reading after this mammoth write-up) I’d like to say a big thanks to:
Classic Ducati - for sponsoring my entry.
Caroline - for always helping out (and putting up with the early mornings).
Andrew - for all the work on the bike between races as well as on race day.
Judy - for being such a great supporter (and for feeding me!)
RD5, RudieMoto, Hawksley Engineering (Solo Starters) - for supporting me with discounts etc.
And everyone one who comes along to support me, help me out and cheer me on - it really is appreciated.
Thanks to you all for making it possible for me to live the dream!
PS Some great piccies have been posted on the Ducati up North forum. Have a look if you get chance.