Having finally come back down to Earth I can now write a report that sums up one of the best experiences of my racing life J
About two weeks ago I received a phone call from mike ‘Spike’ Edwards asking me if I fancied racing his Ducati 848 at Misano as part of the 848 Challenge at World Ducati Week. Once I had picked myself up off the floor and Mike explained that due to a family commitment he couldn’t go I managed to squeak out a ‘yes’ (I think my actual response was ‘f**k, yeah!’ but that’s not so lady like so we will stick with ‘Yes’ for now). For those that don’t know, I am a bit of a Ducati girl at heart and this is a dream come true for me.
A few days of form filling and chasing emails with the Italian organisers and it was all agreed.
Mike is sponsored by P&H Motorcycles and they had agreed for me to ride his fully prepped bike and would provide the pit crew and everything I needed. As I was already travelling out to support Ryan in the same race everything was sorted so we just needed some pit crew to pick up my job for Ryan and we were all set to go.
Ahh.. but not quite! Having lost some weight in the last 6 months I suddenly realised that I didn’t have any leathers that fit me. I had been chatting with Guy from Held at Snetterton about a new ladies suit coming out so I asked him for some more details. Both Ryan and Spike are sponsored by Held and as soon as Guy knew the situation he zipped into action and before I knew it 2 new suits arrived for me to try on and as an added benefit some new boots too! Being a girl I obviously went for their prettiest suit and then set about mowing the lawn on the hot Wednesday afternoon in my new suit and boots to get it into a good moulded fit for me.. an odd sight and not sure what the neighbours now think!
After a not so great year last year I have not ridden much this year.. well hardly at all, 3 sessions in freezing February and then a race at Donington on my SV in March and 4 laps of Brands trying not to crash Ryan’s bike. But, I am a Ducati lover and was so excited but also terrified as I had not ridden anything with more than 60bhp for 2 years!
We arrived at Misano on the Thursday afternoon and everything was getting set up so after a late night we were at the circuit at 7.30 in the morning for the Italian version of scrutineering..this is slightly less detailed than the UK version..I.e. is it a Ducati, yes, ok pass! I was already feeling a bit strange as I had pit crew and felt like a factory GP star J
The downside (no, really it is!!) is that it is 35+ degrees heat and baking sunshine. Nice if you are on a beach not so great on a bike in leathers! It was very tiring doing anything at all and trying to keep on top of fluid intake meant I felt like a bloated hippo most of the weekend! WDW 2012 attracted 65,000 Ducati enthusiasts (+ Ryan who currently does not fall in that category, but will explain that one later..) and there is lots going on but we hardly moved from the Gazebo as it’s too hot
We have 2 practice sessions scheduled on Friday morning and as I have not ridden in so long I need to get out and do as many laps as I can. I am learning the complex Misano circuit as I go and also how the bike handles, it’s a big challenge. Everyone seems so fast out there as they are all seasoned racers. I think that most/all have either won or been placed in recognised UK championships and damn they are fast! I try not to get intimidated and relax into riding a beautiful Ducati in the most amazing surroundings.
After the first session I return to discover Ryan’s engine has decided now is the time to pack up (big end we think) he heads out on Mikes bike for the 2nd open session but after consideration decided not to take the offer of riding it in the open race as it’s a lot of money for nothing if it goes wrong.
With Friday afternoon free we get some time on the beach in our factor 50 - don’t want sunburn under leathers do we! And then another late night as the Italians seem incapable of managing food orders and serving before midnight J
Saturday morning and it’s qualifying time. We have two sessions and tbh I am terrified. I came to Misano with the complete expectation of being last by a considerable amount given my lack of riding and time on this bike but also given the standard of the people I was out with.
I come in after the first session having made lots of mistakes and discover I am not last and indeed I am only a few seconds off people I see as superstars! The downside of this is I decide that if I try a bit harder I might go better...well we all know that doesn’t work! So with arm pump and ragged lines I don’t go any better in qualifying 2. But I am not last on the grid and I am looking forward to racing.
Sunday is race day and it’s hot and we are out in the middle of the day in scorching weather. By the time we are on the grid I am melting away and sweat is dribbling into my eyes. I am not known for great starts so I am planning a ‘steady away’ approach. Lights off and I am away.. brilliantly! I pass about 5 or so people and it’s all a bit hectic. I soon realise that whilst I can try and hold them off they will pass me so best not to get caught up in any incidents and get going. I am now chasing down a French lady racer who is massively experienced and is racing in the Italian Ducati Desmo Challenge. Next thing I have passed her on the brakes and I am giggling like a nutter. I keep my head down and try to keep calm. About lap 6 I make a mistake and miss my gear into the first corner, with a few delayed thoughts I managed to get a gear then have to amble round to make the corner. This drops me back a bit and means that as I come toward the end of lap 9 I am passed by the leaders and my race is over. But, I have gone quicker again and was not last!
Race 2 and I am exhausted by now with the heat and lack of sleep over past few days. My start is not so great as I pull a few nice wheelies down the start straight – looked cool though apparently! This time I take a while to get into rhythm and up to speed and it take me a few laps before I pass the French girl again. I am now able to see Sarah and another rider in front of me and just want to hang on and not drop back. Ryan has been giving me tips on getting out of the corners and on about lap 7 I really put this into play.. only to be met with a launch out of the seat, headbutt the screen and apparently a big ‘oooohhhh’ from the grandstand. I stay on but I am a bit more hesitant towards the end of the race. I do however just manage to avoid getting lapped and once again finish the race. My lap times are better still and almost up with Sarah’s for this race which makes me really happy.
So, the racing is over and we pack up and home to Blighty. I have had the most amazing experience, done much better than I expected to but equally know that I could do so much better with some time on the bike.
I cannot thank Mike enough for putting me forward for this opportunity of a lifetime. Huge huge thanks to P&H Motorcycles for letting me ride their bike and providing me with the best pit crew in Ray and Matt. Big thanks to Guy and Jean at Held for giving me an awesome suit and boots to race in and to Guy for coming out to support. Thanks to Harry for being chief bitch, to Ryan and Stacy for just being the best laughs and moral support and to the other riders for being so supportive and encouraging. Finally, thanks to Ryan for doing his best to stay smiling, despite not riding and for not being embarrassed of me on the bike (or in my bikini in the paddock!)
Ciao x http://www.phmotorcycles.co.uk/ http://www.held.de/1-1-Home.html