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Racing with the Mono

  Racer Road Part Seven

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Assen- the last hurrah

I had spoken to some Dutch friends at Brands, they were previous sponsors of Cees Doorakkers, an ex Dutch 500 GP privateer, quite successful one at that.  If we brought the bike would Cees like a ride at the Assen World Superbike meeting? Yes he would, was the response.  We were in business once again, we were still the only Ducati ever to win one of the SBK races and, with storm clouds forming over the future of the series I wanted it to stay that way.

I drove the van to Holland overnight, arriving on the Friday morning.  The Dutch character is the exact opposite of the Italians (excuse the aside, and it is intended without any malice, it is merely an observation by a third party, BUT the Italians seem to have lots of Rules - be it for racing or life in general and then ignore them completely, the Dutch seem to have very few, but do not even think about breaking one of themů..) it makes the noise test at Assen the strictest in the world, 105 db, and they use their own rev counter to check the revs you are doing, Supermono's are not the easiest things to keep quiet, it was here that all our efforts to produce good, quiet (well all things are relative!) power would bear fruit.

Cees was fast, he had diced against Alan Cathcart for years when riding his Bakker Yamaha and quickly discovered that the Ducati was a very different bike. 'I will have to remember how to ride this, it has been a long time since I rode a bike like this, its just like a big 125' he said, echoing John Cornwell's comments from Daytona. We finished the first session on pole and never lost it, the bike was also the fastest in a straight line (again!). Fiddling with gearing (now three teeth less than recommended!) got us a better lap time with a good drive off the corner's but lost us a few kph on the straight.

We adjusted the compression damping shims inside the shock to allow Cees to coast into fast corners with less interference from the engine, again Cees went quicker. We were making changes to the brakes in pit lane to get the power and feel that Cees wanted, bigger discs would have done it, but with no time to fit them even if such a thing had been available, we settled for the third different brake combination of the year, Ferodo on one disc and EBC sintered on the other.

We were on pole over a second ahead of the others and when the race started Cees jumped into the lead, he stayed there for five laps then the misfire came, I found the cause later, a loose Power group, owner error, but it was a bitter pill at the time.  Elliot Burgess won his third Supermono race that day, and I lost it.  Sorry Cees I owe you one.

The SBK supported European SuperMono cup ended that day, as did my role as co-ordinator, I planned to keep the 'mono but there was nowhere comparable that we could run the bike. The cost of spares was going through the roof (Ducati at least kept most parts available) but it would have been cheaper to run two 748's.

I decided later that year to move on, I knew we had built something pretty special and I wanted to test what I had learned on other Ducati models; The Supermono went west; Ducati Supermono 95/7, 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' is now owned by Jack Silverman in the States and is campaigned in the AHRMA series.  Now looked after, and further tuned, by Jeff Nash it clocked 152 mph through the Speed Trap at Daytona in March 1999, fastest single again.
Go for it.

                                                                                 Neil Spalding

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