Ducati 1198S - I don't want to be Beaten even by Myself


I've been looking forward to this. This is stupid, probably illegal and completely pointless. There is no reason for me to do this, apart from the fact that I can. I'm not late, I'm not being chased. But as I turn left off the main road, I know I'm going to ride the next 7 kilometer as hard as I can.

The string of minor annoyances that make up life mean I need some catharsis. I stop and press the buttons on the Ducati 1198S until the laptimer appears. I let the clutch our and press the timer button. I'm riding angry and the Ducati 1198S loves it, guttural V-twin charging forward in the first few gears, wheel lifting over the bumps, big bars gently flapping as the front goes light.

Braking hard for the first set of bends, I'm certain I'm making up time already. The Ducati 1198S is so much faster and easier to handle than my old 1098S. Precise and accurate, it loves the tight corners. It falls on to its side. The corners are open and I can use all the power and road on the exit of the left hander. I'm no longer angry, but the Ducati 1198S is still making me feel aggressive.

I'm tense. A 230km/h wind is tugging at my overjacket, straining my neck, sending the motorcycle into shimmies over the bumps. This is the longest straight and I want to make up as much time as I can. The vicious road means 160km/h is all other 1000cc motorcycles could take on this section, but the Ducati 1198S is stable in comparison. I'm scanning every road exit/entry, looking for cars pulling out in the middle distance. I know I'm going much too fast to be sensible, but I don't want to be beaten, even by myself.
The split time. If I'm past the big crossing in 1.42 then I'm on target. I dart past a car, too close for comfort into oncoming traffic. I feel bad. Everyone else on the road is minding their own business, getting from A to B, I'm using the public highway to make me feel better. The tiny digital counter clicks onto 0:01:41, the big crossing flashes by. I'm on target.

Three hundred meters of rippled, curving tarmac will decide it all. I look to the long, blind, fast right-hander that conceals three road entrances and a Russian roulette surface with tree-lined run-off. The stakes are high here. Three years ago I didn't care. Then I could pile through at unbelievable speeds, but hurt friends and slurry slides during track days means caution. A tentative 125km/h is all I can manage. I'm impressed by my self-restraint, but also frustrated. Time is slipping away. I shouldn't be dawdling, the throttle should be pinned. Nagging self-doubt makes me go harder. I want to measure up.

The final few bends are depatched with the aid of the perfect Ducati 1998S steering. The Pirelli Supercorsas are as warm as I could hope for. I trust their grip, but there's little feedback. I lean and hope. Out of the last corner, the Ducati is alive, buzzing and shaking near its revving limiter. I can see the newspaper post that marks my own private finishing line in the corner of my vision. I tuck in, finger covering the timer button.

Ducati passes post, timer stops. Three second inside my record, a new average speed of 136.80km/h but there's no joy. Just like the time three years ago on my old motorcycle, I feel invigorated but relieved and I'm conscious of the risk I've taken. During the last three minutes I've put the ticking of tiny numbers above everything. Was it worth the risk? I find out when I stop. Stepping off the Ducati and swaggering down my path, I'm definitely swinging lower.
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