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Yellow Brick Road

  End Game -  Knockhill & Thruxton

Knockhill

This was the first time the Sigma team had ventured north of the Border into Scotland. This was our first visit to the circuit, quite bumpy, bit like Mondello but with some startling elevation changes, situated in the hills due north of the Firth of the forth Suspension bridge.  Some suspension and gearing changes were required for practice and qualifying outings on Saturday. The weather was unseasonably cold and damp (at times the fog was so dense we could not see 30 feet in front of our faces; in the South East, just 400miles away, they were suffering record hot temperatures, it was August after all) but was dry for raceday.  The circuit is too short for a serious championship but is the only closed circuit in Scotland; to be a true British Championship we had to be there, so we were.

Again we found our major competitors whose bikes (unlike ours, 748's will only be legal for British Supersport in 2000) were also eligible for the British Supersport championship were using that classes practice sessions to gain additional information about the circuit. Despite this Elliot qualified as seventh 600-class bike. This round had been advertised as two individual races, one for up to 600's and the second for the unlimited class, but this was changed to a single mixed class race at the last minute.

The race however certainly provided the thrills, Elliott got a good start and was circulating right behind series second place holder Gus Scott (Yamaha R6) when, on the sixth lap, seven bikes went down in the first turn. Elliott was one of the fallers, a victim of the oil from the first bike.
Knockhill crash picure
The race was stopped and restarted, during the ten minute break the 748 was kicked straight, new body panels, seat footrests, handlebars and control levers were fitted, Elliott had a compulsory medical check and was back on the grid for the restart. Despite the crash Elliott was quickly back on the pace and came through to sixth place on aggregate.

Elliott said, 'I thought it was all over when we came back to the pit lane but Bruce, Neil and Iain went for it, we had a useable bike with a couple of minutes to spare, it has looked better though……, I couldn't believe it when the front just went, there must have been oil everywhere'

We left Scotland up to fourth position in the championship, one of our major competitors would not be out again this year, a leg broken in the big crash. There are two races still to go with 50 points available, roll on Thruxton.

Thruxton

Thruxton is one of the fastest venues in British racing, the kidney shaped course is famous for its speed and also for the very bumpy surface in the long, variable radius, off camber right hander .

The final meeting was a single day of racing, for the season finale the Organisers had decided to really put the teams to the test. (This, for the record, is me being very, very generous, four track outings in one day with no real time to fix things is why I gave up club racing, this was a final kick from a very badly thought out Championship calender). Technical inspection early on Sunday morning; two 25 minute practice sessions; and then two 15 lap (about 22 minute) races.

That is a complicated day and one that does not allow for any mechanical disasters; there is simply not enough time to fix anything big before the next track outing. We approached it in the same way as the Donington 'Endurance' round at the start of the year, good preparation. We rebuilt the engine (half the circuit is at 11000 rpm plus!), the suspension and the brakes; everything got the once over, we had managed to achieve a 100% mechanical finishing record and we were not going to lose it easily!

Elliott's practices were to see if our initial thoughts on suspension were right; when you need track time and the correct set-up you need to know where you are going and with this schedule we had to make a few initial major guesses. The victor is the team that can set their bike up to let the rider hold it flat out (on a 600 class bike anyway!) over the long, bumpy corners. Thruxton is the sort of circuit where you can go faster with less power if it makes the bike easier to drive.  The bumps and the off camber, varying radius corners, require easy flexible power and soft, long travel, well damped suspension (and, having tried to do this myself, a rider with a particularly low imagination threshhold).

The first race started well, Elliott sitting in fifth place following two other 600 class bikes, waiting for the last lap and a chicane braking manoeuvre, then, on the penultimate lap a group of three back markers got in the way at Church corner and broke the tow. Try as hard as he could Elliott could not quite get back with the opposition before the end. Fifth place was the result.

For the second race we changed a few settings and Elliott burst into fourth off the line, after eight laps he was approaching Gary Mason in third when the race was stopped; Gus Scott of Performance Bikes Magazine stepped off his R6 in the complex, thankfully without injury. The race was restarted and Elliott got through to third on aggregate, second Podium of the season.

Elliott said 'We knew if we could get the Suspension right we would be good here, there are not enough stop and start corners for the weight to work against us, its great to be on the podium again. It has been a good year, the preparation of the bike has been second to none; and its great to prove the Ducati 748 is still a very competitive bike against all the new lightweight fours'.

We didn't really know how it would pan out over the whole year, we wanted to prove the Ducati is capable of getting up there. We wanted to prove we could put together a full season, and do it reliably; most of all we wanted to prove that the three years of European competition experience we have just completed was valuable.   We have maintained, thanks to exhaustive preparation, a 100% finishing record. We have achieved fourth in a hard fought championship, and are probably the highest finishing 748 team in the world in a race series that includes the current crop of 600 class bikes.

We now want to prove what we can do at Supersport level; we have the experience of the bikes and their set-up, especially the standard chassis, and we believe we can keep going forward. To do this we are going to have to would have to change the British Supersport rules, obtain more power and retain the handling benefits we have.  Once we have done this we can start to look for the sponsorship that will allow us to do the whole year.

It is going to be a long busy winter, anybody want to sponsor a team?.

                                       Neil Spalding

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