The end of May saw the Ducati Club head to Assen, as enthusiasts of the Italian bike marque flocked from several countries to the Dutch TT circuit for some fantastic racing action.
Also attending the event were UK based Knight Road Racing, who headed for Holland with rider Rik Ballerini ready to fly the flag for Britain.
An entertaining rider briefing involved a Dutchman speaking English, and enlisting a hard of hearing Yorkshire-man to subsequently translate instructions into French, and eventually led into Friday practice. During the opening session Rik was black flagged on his second lap after after an oil leak almost saw him crash out. Back in the pits a quick inspection revealed that it was caused by the oil filter not sealing properly.
Rk qualified with the 4th fastest time during his session, but started further down the grid than expected after times from other sessions were added to the mix. This saw him start 7th in the Open class, and 19th in the Twin Cup, as he tried to get to grips with the Traction Control on the bike.
The Twin Cup was an ideal opportunity to test some new settings ahead of the Open Class race, but Rik had a massive high side at Mandeveen, the first of the double apex corners before you hit the back straight. A quick check over at the medical centre revealed that there were no serious injuries, and Rik returned to the paddock limping but otherwise fine – so decided to carry on, swinging his leg over the team’s reserve machine.
Ahead of the Open Class race it started spitting with rain, so Rik decided to go out on ContiRaceAttack Rain tyres. Team Principal Alan Knight had just changed the internals on the forks, which led to much guesswork as they had no settings available for them.
As a result of running late, Rik was forced to start dead last from pit lane, with even the pace cars having to move out of the way. The start of the race was dry, but soon the occasional spitting turned into a sustained bout of heavy rain, leaving the famous Assen circuit soaked.
After three laps of struggling with the traction control on the back-up bike, Rik realised it hadn’t been turned on. Able to pick up the pace, he started to work his way through the field, picking riders off one by one. Heading into the final lap the signal came from the pit wall that Rik had fought his way up to 2nd place and catching the race leader. All through the final lap he got closer and closer until Rik caught him at Mandeveen, and drove hard out of the exit to pass him on the run up to the Meeuwenmeer Kink.
Keeping it pinned all the way down to the entrance to Ramshoek, he openend up enough of a gap to ensure the second placed challenger was unable to out-brake him into the Geert Timmer chicane, and he powered down the finishing straight to claim an unbelievable win.
Back in the paddock they tried to send him away – but it turned out that starting from the pit lane, his transponder was a lap down as it didn’t pass the start line trigger. Checks with the other riders in the field also confirmed Rik had won the race, so he climbed the famous Assen steps to claim his trophy and the obligatory bottle of champagne.
You can find out more about the race winning ContiRaceAttack Rain here.