My shin now healed, it seemed my run of bad luck was not over yet! We discovered the 899's freshly rebuilt engine had a leaking head gasket, forcing me to head over to the UK for another extra trip. Super dad stripped our Ducati down as far as possible at home, I then put in 2 very late nights with Ray Eggleton at the P&H Motorcycles workshop. Took the engine apart, replaced both head gaskets (to be safe), engine back together, and the bike back to a rolling frame. At home, dad turned the 899 into a proper motorycle again. Just in time for a quick test at Croft on the road to Knockhill!
Only 4 laps in at Croft, I was forced to stop as the bike pushed an abnormal amount of water out through the overflow. We feared the worst, having to skip Knockhill due to mechanical issues, luckily Larry Carter happened to be at Croft. Through Larry we got in touch with a bunch of other Cup riders, and quickly found a spare engine to borrow if worst came to worst. A great example of why I feel BSB is the best paddock to be in!
Meanwhile, as a last ditch effort, Ray Eggleton suggested we try a different radiator cap. Mine could have been weakened when the head gasket was leaking. Rik Rooney, a fellow Cup rider also at Croft, agreed to switch out radiator caps as a test. Miracles do still happen, my bike now stayed good for the last two sessions! With some confidence, but not completely convinced, we set off for Knockhill in Scotland..
Friday - FP
Our only session on the first day would be 20 minutes of free practice at 17:05. I'd never been to Knockhill before, but the track looked like a lot of fun, and we'd get more laps in a session due to it being short. No more engine problems on my mind, I felt comfortable straight away and put in mid pack laptimes!
Saturday - QP/Race 1
Due to a ridiculous amount of rain (welcome to Scotland), all morning sessions were cancelled or postponed to the afternoon. Come qualifying, the track was drying but still damp, and I knew I would do great due to my testing experience in these conditions. However bad luck still haunting me, a deflating front tire (leaking valve) cost me a top 10-15 spot on the grid. Still, P17 was my best so far this season! Race 1 I was pushed off track in the early stages, and never able to close the gap back up. I finished 19th, lapping virtually the same speed as everyone up to P12.
Sunday - Race 2
For the Sunday race I made a change to the rear suspension, in an attempt to create more grip, as the track felt very slick on Saturday. My start was good, I was right in the group I was supposed to be with. The suspension gamble I took did not pay off, like everyone else I was still sliding everywhere, except now my bike didn't feel like mine anymore. Seeing points slip away, I finished a lonely race in 18th.
We left Knockhill with mixed feelings, a couple mistakes made by both myself and others prevented me from reaching my true potential. Still, best result so far this season and my laptimes were very consistent. The potential is there, and we know exactly what to work on in the 7 week summer break!