I picked the 848 for two reasons. It is absolutely, unashamedly beautiful in plain, flat white – simple, uncluttered and pure. If aesthetics is one reason, the second is less shallow – it is such a special experience to ride an 848. The noise, the feel, the performance, the handling. It really is an occasion. My dream bike, no question about it.
Tuesday started really well warm, early morning sunshine, twittering bird song and the promise of a day out of the office. But it was even better than a normal day off. Tucked round the corner of my hovel was a spanking new 848 Ducati that was already drawing admiring glances from next door’s kids as they went to school.
The ride to Brands Hatch was really chilled. The snappy fuelling and responsive, eager-to-rev motor making stretches like the echoing Blackwall tunnel a real grin-maker.
I arrived in plenty of time for the Focused Events rider briefing and sensibly (I thought) opted for the slower of the three riding groups.
Track time started at 9am. It took me a couple of sessions to find the right gears, lines, braking and peel-in points. Thankfully some bloke called Niall Mackenzie was on hand to offer some one-to-one expert tuition. As this was the full GP circuit and my first visit to this historic track, I was struggling with some of the blind turns like Hawthorns at the end of the back straight. Niall told me to go in much later than at first seems sensible as the apex is nearly out of sight. He also pointed out you can carry more speed in as the steep uphill gradient scrubs off far more speed than you’d think possible.
Speaking of scrubbing speed off, I found I was hardly using any back brake. Not only are the front brakes massively powerful – two fingers powerful – but the amount of engine braking from those two massive pistons churning up and down their chrome bores, does an adequate job already.
My perfect day, on my perfect track with my perfect bike turned to ratshit at Druids corner – entered in fifth on an uphill approach, taken in first and exited downhill.
It was a mid-afternoon session (not even the dreaded last session of the day) and I tucked the front on the fifth lap. I went feet first into the tyre wall after scooting across the track and grass on my butt. The bike grated itself into the tarmac as it slid on its side towards Graham Hill bend at the bottom of the hill.
I’ve been over and over the accident in my head but still can’t really fathom why I lost the front on the exit of the bend. All I can think of is that I fractionally backed off the gas which weighted the front-end when it was already scrabbling for grip. I dunno. What I do know is that my Rev’it! Leathers and gloves did a great job of protecting my skin. Having said that though, I might need all that body armour when I break the bad news to Al at Ducati UK. Sorry!