Number 39 is definitely my favourite number, the Daytona trip included a seat in row 39 on the
way out to Florida, A visit to Cape Canaveral and launch pad 39 followed as did the delivery of the Supermono to garage 39 in Daytona.
The final race number was 39 and the trip home was in row 39, the race report (such that it was) was on page 39 of the MCN, you have to stand back and ask how much prodding you need to adopt a lucky number!
All this did not stop the shippers losing the bike for three days 'en route' however. When the bike finally came home we had only three-weeks to Donington. Before
we left we knew we had a problem with making the additional power we needed and keeping under the Euro championship noise regulations, the mod's we had made to the Skorpion pipe had improved matters but not enough
to make me comfortable. We also had to find the source of the vibration that affected the engine during the Daytona race.
The bike was stripped within a couple of days of getting home,
the ball bearing behind the clutch on a Supermono is of the plastic cage type (like the ball bearings on the crank of a modern 748/996 engine) and had obviously got hot and soft when the
anti-hop clutch rubbed in Daytona practice, as a result the balls were loose in the cage and the shaft was free to wobble about. We changed all the bearings in the gearbox just to make sure
there would be no problems. While inside we also checked the main and big end bearings, the big ends were in particularly bad shape, and this after only 300miles! The engine was rebuilt with new
bottom end bearings as well. The top end neede just one rocker and a thorough reshim. We resolved to do a little research on Ducati's preference for oil. The piston and rings were OK
despite the obvious evidence of sand blasting the top of the piston from the Daytona circuit.
It took a few days to get the parts. As soon as the bike was back together we had one
opportunity, the Saturday before the Donington SBK to run the bike on a Dyno (all of the above is on top of a full time job, any potential sponsors out there!). We made some headway (see Supermono Tech) with the power but during the course of a very quick booking I managed to miss my footing and sprain my
ankle while hopping off the bike. I was desperate to get the swelling down before setting off for a practice day at Donington on the Sunday and ended up going out for some dinner with a pack of frozen
beans duct taped to my ankle. I set off for the circuit the Sunday evening. The bike still as it was at Daytona but with a refreshed engine and lighter springs on the suspension, Callum Ramsay was
going to meet me there.
Hobbling nicely I greeted Ramsay and, after some initial rain had
passed he headed out for some laps of Donington. Callum had never raced a four-stroke before, and asked his mentor Niall Mackenzie for advice before taking this
one, he said go for it. Very soon we had some confused Ducati owners and track day participants in the garage, what was it and why did it keep blitzing past them on the straights, we just smiled.
We sorted some gearing options and changed a few basic things, like the ride height, but the main point of the day was to give Callum an idea of the feel of a Ducati. As far as I could tell he
was going well and looked really comfortable, but we would not know for sure until the race weekend the next week.
The race weekend dawned with violent rain storms, half the Midlands were flooded (I decided that I must have done something like forget my Hail Mary's or
whatever 'cos the weather seemed to get very extreme just before each time this bike went out). We set up camp at Donington and took the bike off to be scrutineered, straight through the sound meter and tech
inspection, just the way it should be. First practice went superbly, straight onto pole, there is no doubt that if it is your first race of the season you are going to have more problems than teams with
one race under their belt. So it was with a lot of our rivals having set-up and reliability problems.
After we had understood Ramsay's desire to rev the bike to death we set about making sure the
valves were 'in shim'. Throughout the meeting we were moving suspension around to 'De Daytona' the settings. We ended up with a softer more compliant motorcycle, more suited to
Callum's 60kg weight than the previous set-up. He could not go as fast as he wanted, one of our sessions was almost snowed off, the Superpole immediately beforehand was cancelled. Because
the Supermono is so nice to tyres it never builds any temperature into the rubber unless it is pretty soft, as we were already using 250 qualifying tyres, Dunlop simply had nothing softer. We
finished on Pole with the fastest top speed under our belt as well. Second went to John Barton
with the Ducati Supermono 'Ram Air' bike, very quick, it never seemed to have the grunt coming out of slow corners quite as well as ours but the noise from the airbox as it resonated at high speed more
than made up for that.
The race was almost an anti-climax, we kept the engine and tyres as hot as we could before the
start (it was literally freezing) and then Callum simply outdragged everyone to the first corner and buggered off. I was stunned, I knew we had built something special, the Daytona experience
had showed it was quick, but in Daytona I had nothing familiar to compare it with, here we were on home territory and it was a rocket, took me a week to stop grinning this time.