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Racing with the Mono

  Racer Road Part Two

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The Road to Daytona

I did not do anything to the Ducati for six weeks after getting home. I was terrified by the amount of money invested in it. To reduce the amount locked away in bikes I decided to sell my other bikes in a desperate attempt to keep things under control. I sold my Tigcraft MuZ single and the 748 Biposto that was the road tool. This brought to an end six years of fettling the aircooled XT Yamaha single and four years of trying to set up a Tigcraft chassis; it also left me without a road bike for the first time in 25 years.

Decks cleared and the garage empty I decided on my strategy; the Supermono had been designed by the factory in Bologna using 1992 888 Corsa technology as its base. The only upgrade between the first 46 bikes and the second group of 20 made in late 1995 were detail bits (e.g. the second tranche had 10mm longer shocks and magnesium triple (fork) clamps) and the 102mm piston and barrel bringing the capacity to 572cc.

The bike was beautiful, but it was out of date, in Europe at least. I had seen them dominate the Supermono class for three years and then as my own SBK supported European Supermono class got under way, lose their edge. In the first year of full European competition, 1996, Alan Cathcart got his Vee Two tuned bike up to second place in the championship (should have won it actually). At the end of 1997 there were only three Ducati Supermono's in the field, two of those were at the back and one ridden by John Barton was being thrashed within millimetres of its life to get up occasional trips to the podium.

The idea was to rebuild the mono and use as many ideas as I could from the way the 888 had grown into the 996 Corsa. The 'mono is literally one cylinder off the Ducati twin, the horizontal one, using a late 888 Corsa cylinder head (drilled for wider stud spacing), but with a unique for Ducati plain bearing crankshaft running in the strongest sand cast crankcases you have ever seen. The vertical cylinders con-rod was still present however and was used to move a rocker mechanism located where the vertical cylinder would have lived.

SupermonoThe bike came with standard circa 1992 42mm Ohlins forks, full Corsa magnesium engine covers, a single twin injector 50 mm throttle body and G cams (the same as you get in a 916 SP and as fitted to the big Corsa's until the mid nineties). (See Supermono Tech).

As the mechanical work was under way the homework was going on into the Daytona expedition. A phone call to FIM tech inspector (and the man behind AFAM USA) Steve Whitelock got Johnathan Cornwell's phone number. I had known Cornwell for over a year, he was an ex-racer, now contracted to Ohlins as a technician, he runs the Ohlins truck at the SBK meetings, his particular responsibility was looking after the suspension of the Ducati Works teams.

I had never seen him race but he had always shown a great interest in the Supermono's. Although retired from 'everyday' racing he had raced a borrowed Spondon DR Suzuki at Daytona in 1997 and I knew that Muzzy had asked him to ride as a substitute for Gobert when Gobert 'no -showed' at Assen in 1996. With 20 years of Daytona experience under his belt, that was good enough for me. Would he ride my bike in the AHRMA Supermono race? yes he would, would he help with the updating of the suspension?, again yes he would.

As to what one could enter I was bemused by the apparent lack of information.  I knew of AHRMA , but they were only at the speedbowl for two days, the five days previous are run by an organisation called CCS, a commercial race organisation a bit like the British New Era club and the five days after are run by the AMA. The whole thing is a bit like New Era having a big club meeting at Donington the weekend before the Grand Prix and the Classic club having a couple of days during the week in the middle. I only found out through Cornwell and his friends who CCS were, I got all the forms and entered, never did receive the acceptance.

I decided I needed to get the bike properly bedded in and I wanted to ride the speed bowl, so I entered the CCS practice day and several races, Cornwell separately entered the AHRMA Supermono race, the target for the project. It was agreed that if all went well we would also post enter the inaugural Sounds of Thunder race on the main Daytona 200 raceday.

Getting there was another problem; the final decision was by air to Orlando, the ticket for me was relatively cheap, as Virgin were introducing a new service. The fare for a bike with spare wheels, tools and all the usual racing bits was about the same price but the cost tripled when the insurance, carnet and delivery to the circuit were added. Bruce Maus, (an ex Team Roberts mechanic) and a friend built the 'smallest supermono crate in the world' and we shipped the bike off to Heathrow in mid February, the bike had never turned a wheel in anger with just a few dyno runs to its name.

The wide section Marchesini was running late, we were banking on an outrageously quick 3-week delivery time, I had pulled every string I could to get a wide wheel before Daytona but we were running out of time. The reason for this is that Supermono's run 250GP size slick tyres, the type of tyres available for the 5.00inch rear rim that came with the bike were of old style constructions and, with the 'latest is best' philosophy we had in mind simply would not do. Squeezing a new type larger tyre built for a 5.5 inch rim onto the old narrow thing would not give us the edge we were looking for. Marchesini agreed to forward it to my hotel at Daytona as soon as it was machined, in the meantime John Bartons sponsor and entrant kindly agreed to lend me their 5.25 rim.

                                                                                 Neil Spalding

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