Monza: Brown and Morris share the spoils

A pack of 848s heads home to Italy to battle it out at Monza

After a month off, the Rapid Solicitors Ducati 848 Challenge took to the air for the second of its fly-away rounds this season; this time to the historic Monza circuit. Scene of so many memorable races, a quick glance at the circuit map surely raised the expectation just a little higher than normal as the riders faced the prospect of tackling one of Europe's fastest circuits.

Free practice on Saturday afternoon was fought out in over 31 degree sunshine as the riders took advantage of the three sessions available to them to learn the circuit. Robbie Brown (Ducati Manchester) was immediately on the pace, eventually posting the day's fastest time of 1'55.971. Kenny Gilbertson (AOR/Boast Plumbing) was soon on it, as was Leon Morris (Buildbase/JHP Racing) and Mike Edwards ( who all got into the 56s. Bike magazine's James Haydon (Ducati UK/Mercedes Vito), racing for the first time in over three years since his retirement from the professional ranks, kept the rest of the pack honest with an 1'57.8.

Sunday morning qualifying went the way of free practice with Brown posting a pole time of 1'55.17, followed by Gilbertson, Morris and Edwards on the front row. Making a welcome return to the front end of the grid was Mark Cheetham (Shorrocks Motorcycles) who lined up next to Darren Fry (Buildbase/JHP Racing) while Ricky Holden showed some great form to line up alongside Haydon to complete the second row.

Race 1 was delayed by ten minutes due to unexpected heavy rain and it was enough to give many riders a dilemma as to what tyres to run. The grid formed with many on full wets, a number on a combination, and a brave few gambling on full drys. As the lights went out it was Morris who led the pack safely through the notorious Rettifilo chicance, followed by Gilbertson, Brown, Fry and Edwards. But while the rain had stopped, the track wasn't drying fast enough for those who had gambled on dry tyres and the field started to stretch. A number of riders, including Edwards and Haydon, backed off deciding it was too dangerous to continue on dry's. At half distance Brown passed both Gilbertson and Morris to take the lead and started to open a gap, while Stuart Poyser (Poyser Racing/P&H) had gained eleven places to get himself into sixth and the front of the chasing pack. It was Brown who took the chequered flag, a maiden victory for the Ducati Manchester team, followed by Morris and Gilbertson, as the now diminished field completed the first of their two races at Monza.

The second race formed up in more seasonal conditions with all the bikes on dry tyres. Morris again got the best of the starts and on exiting the first chicane was leading from Brown, Gilbertson, Edwards, and Hoyles (Hypemoto Racing), but it was Brown who led after the first lap. Morris and Brown started to stretch out a gap over the chasing pack during an enthralling battle for the lead. Cheetham, having got up to fourth place was forced to retire on lap two as was Haydon on lap seven having been well in contention. The battles in the mid-pack were no less exciting, with Holden, Clinton De Tarnowsky (P&H/Ohlins), Jamie Poole (Moto Rapido Racing) and Hoyles all trading places. Brown and Morris were a split second apart as they started the final lap and it all came down the final corner, the Parabolica. As Morris put the pressure on Brown mid-corner, the Ducati Manchester bike momentarily lost rear grip allowing Morris to dive under Brown mid-corner and win the race by just 0.5 second. Edwards completed the podium places, with Gilbertson, Fry, and Poole completing the top six.

Three-time World Champion Troy Bayliss was on hand to present the trophies and congratulate the winners, having spent the morning with the riders in the paddock.

Robbie Brown, reflecting on his maiden race win in his first season on the Ducati, "I'm really pleased to finally get a race win this year. The Ducati Manchester team have been working really hard on the bike setup and we knew we had it in us to get our first win - and what a great place to finally do it."

Leon Morris was equally pleased to get back to winning ways, extending his lead in the Championship to 49pts, "Hats off to Robbie, that second race was probably my toughest ever, especially in this Monza heat. He's been on the pace all weekend so we've had to step up to keep with him. It was fantastic to win that second race."

Race 1 Result: 1. R Brown, 2. Morris, 3. Gilbertson, 4. Fry, 5. Poll, 6. Poyser, 7. Holden, 8. Edwards, 9. Hopkins, 10. De Tarnowsky, 11. Cruickshank, 12. Keen, 13. Cope.

Race 2 Result: 1. Morris, 2. R Brown, 3. Edwards, 4. Gilbertson, 5. Fry, 6. Poole, 7. De Tarnowsky, 8. Hoyles, 9. Holden, 10. A Brown, 11. Linsdell, 12. Poyser, 13. Keen, 14. Poll, 15. Pearce, 16. Connolly, 17. Cruickshank, 18. Cope

Championship Standings: 1. Morris 170pts, 2. Edwards 121pts, =3. Fry 115pts, =3. R Brown 115pts, 5. Gilbertson 106pts, 6. Poole 51pts, 7. Holden 46pts, 8. A Brown 45pts, 9. Hopkins 42pts

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