Whitham remembers a wet Silverstone in 2002

When our Whit and his Belgarda Yamaha team-mate Paolo Casoli crashed and still finished 1-2 at the 2002 World Supersport race at Silverstone

Silverstone was a difficult weekend for me until race morning. We'd struggled to find a set up that gave me confidence around the fast flowing turns of the GP circuit, and I'd slogged through qualifying to a lowly fifth row start. I wasn't totally destroyed, I'd won from the fifth row years before at Phillip Island, but it was going to take some effort.

We woke up Sunday morning and the weather had changed. It was now pissing down. I'd said to Andrea the night before the only chance I had of a result was if it was wet . . . More chance of crashing too, but if I stuck my neck out I might get lucky.

When the lights changed the biggest problem was the spray from 18 bikes in front of me. To pass anyone involved going off line, and off line the puddles are deeper. If you hit a deep puddle the wheels leave the tarmac and you go sideways. If you go too far sideways, you're off.

My lap-board at the end of lap one said P14 and over the next five or six laps I worked my way forward. All you can do is focus on the rider in front, try to keep your concentration going, be smooth, and hope you don't get caught out by the ever changing conditions. By now the puddles were so deep that even on the straights I was having to close the throttle to stop the rear spinning. When a supersports bike is spinning up in a straight line, you know it's wet!

By half distance I was convinced the race may be red flagged at any time, but if less than two-thirds of the laps have been completed it'll be a two parter with the result being calculated by combining the times from both parts, so it was still important to keep pushing.

By now my lap board was telling me I was P3 and the numbers underneath were counting down quickly, so I knew I was catching someone fast. A lap later I caught Karl Muggeridge and passed him quite easily into Copse. By now I could see spray in front and when I saw my team-mate's lap board up at the same time as mine down the start straight I knew it was Casoli. And I could see P1 on his board so I knew he was leading the race. 

A lap and a half later I'm on his tail and looking for a way past. I made the pass up the inside into Stowe but was surprised at what happened next. Casoli was a feisty sort and decided he wasn't giving up without a fight. He was very competitive, especially with his team-mate. A lap later, going into a left hander on the infield section he came past going a full 10mph quicker than me. I remember thinking, "if he stays on going that fast, he deserves to win". No sooner had I thought it than both wheels slid at the same time and he was down.

I went over the start and finish and saw my pit-board said +7. That'll do, just bring it home. Half a lap later, coming out of a fast right I hit a puddle, the back slid out, I tried to just roll the gas off slightly instead of closing it to stop the tyre coming back too fast when it gripped again, and it nearly worked. But not quite. The bike did the laziest highside you could imagine and I was on my arse.

You never really know where the rest of the field are in a race like this, so I picked the bike up out of the soggy grass and set off again. Everything seemed to be working and the levers were all still on.

It's always best to check these things - I'd once picked a GSX-R750 off the floor at Cadwell and failed to notice the front brake lever was missing until I needed it at the next corner. I don't have to tell you what happened next. Suffice to say it hurt. In the end at Silverstone it didn't matter. I'd only just got back onto the tarmac when I saw the red flags.

Even cruising back to the pits I had a feeling if they took it back to the last full lap the whole field had completed I may have got the win. As I pulled into the pit lane I was pleased to be directed to the winners enclosure. The most surprising thing to me at the time was to see Casoli, who'd also got going again being ushered into the second place spot, apparently so few people were on the same lap they took the result back two laps, which was exactly two-thirds distance and the result I wanted stood!

Of all my races it's definitely one of the most memorable, both to me and to other people. I get asked about it quite often. And the picture from the winners enclosure is a cracker, the two Belgarda Yams proudly sitting there with battle damage and grass sods hanging off both of them.

Sponsored Content