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Racing the Testastretta

The 998s goes to Snetterton and Silverstone

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Alex Buckingham gets it on at The World Endurance Round at Silverstone: May 2002The reason for racing in 2002 is to see how we can get on with Ducati's latest toy, the 998S Testastretta; have a look at our Technical page for a run down on the technical side of things.

Two bikes were bought for a private team with the bikes prepared by Sigma and entered by enthusiast Rupert Murden under the Sigma Corsa Superbikes banner.

The plan was to enter a couple of Endurance races; send the bikes off to the TT and then do a few more races through the year. At World level it was decided to enter the Stocksport class.  Stocksport is for carefully prepared unmodified motorcycles, with most of the field on Super Production bikes (same standard style engines but WSB spec chassis) this might have seemed a bit optimistic.

We thought that by choosing the Superstock category we could try and actually win a class on a street twin and prove that the standard chassis is good enough to take on the rest of the field on their heavily modified fours.

Before the Silverstone World Endurance race though there was the British Endurance championship Six hour race at Snetterton in April. The bike could be prepared to a much more open formula with the KRC rules being essentially 'anything goes', we were much more focussed on the Superstock category and chose to stick tightly to those rules as a test for what was to come.

Six hour races are fun, long enough to prove a point but not so long that you cannot have a really good sprint; we won our class first time out last year with a 996SPS, this year it was to be more of a test; the first time out for the Testastretta.

998s: on the chocks waiting for the start of the day at SnettertonThe bike qualified well the increased rev range allowing us much more leeway in gearing, incredibly the best rhythm for the circuit was a setup only using the first five gears, such is the width of the powerband on the bike.  Power however is not everything.

It was clear something was not right; as soon as the bike hit a bump on the straight it would break into a wobble; not violent but enough to really put you off, as we moved the chassis settings around it was clear we were in trouble; the tyres we were using were the latest Dunlop slicks and it was quite obvious that these were not fitting in well with the Ducati's new found power characteristics.

There was some improvement for the race but not enough to really put everyone at ease.  In the end we hit another problem; the clutch was gone before the second rider had finished his stint, a fantastic effort saw us miss only three laps while the very hot plates were pulled out new ones piled in and the clutch buttoned back on. 

One of the reasons for the problem is the bikes sheer torque, another is our decision to read the Superstock rules really carefully, too carefully, for the record the new 998s engine needs additional air cooling for the clutch when being raced; further back in the field than we wanted to be we were really getting back through when after 4 hours the second clutch let go….In a desperate pitstop the plates were swapped again and the bike rolled out, there was no chance of a successful result so we used the time to try and iron out the handling problems, Dunlop D208 tyres made a difference as did different fork height positions.

Not a race to remember but we had learned a lot. The bike was serviced and did several trips back to the dyno before being delivered to it owners for the trip to Silverstone. The FIM was kind enough to confirm that a more generous reading of their rulebook would let us ventilate the standard clutch cover; hopefully that particular nightmare would not be rearing its ugly head again!!

Alex Buckingham and John Barton were the riders for Silverstone and by the end of practice on Saturday had shocked the paddock with Alex Buckingham being the fastest Superstock bike and eighth position overall on the grid. Alex said ' For a long time during the damp first practice we were on pole; it would have been nice if it hadn't dried out!'.

The race was equally shocking with the riders getting the bike up through the traffic into a good position and then suffering when a tyre needed replacing in the final stages. Alex again 'This was my first time on a Ducati and the first time on Dunlops; I should have been on one five years ago. Its so easy to ride mid corner, really quick.'

Final position was 11th overall and second to Yamaha Austria's R1 in the Superstock category, one of the best results a Ducati has had in World Endurance racing for many years.

Full details of Practice from the World Endurance website

Final results of the race, first Superstocker is Yamaha Austria' R1, our 998S was second……

I think that means we can build a good bike……………

 © Neil Spalding 2002. All rights reserved

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