LUSK rider Thomas O'Grady made a successful visit to the top grade of the British Championship scene last weekend, when he competed in the Ducati 848 Challenge class at the ultrafast Silverstone track. Silverstone is the longest track in the British Championship scene at 3.66 miles long, and it is one of the fastest.
Thomas has been competing in the Clubman's Championship aboard his three-year-old R6 Yamaha, and the move to the Ducati was a big step up for the talented rider. Having spent some time in Spain earlier in the year, getting valuable coaching from the former British champion Woolsey Coulter, Thomas found the coaching to be top class and was also impressed by the way Woolsey kept an eye on him during the season. I have witnessed first-hand the way Coulter keeps his pupil in hand, and like a good garage, his after-sales service is topclass.
After arriving at Silverstone, Thomas spent Friday learning the course, with Lee Johnston doing laps on a push bike to gain knowledge of the fast bends and the blind apex corners that make Silverstone so different. Free practice comprises of just 20 minutes, and Thomas had to make a number of changes to the Ducati that Coulter normally rides in this class. In qualifying he took two seconds off his best time in free practice and qualified in a very creditable 26th place. There were two races over the weekend, and every time Thomas went onto the track, he was able to take another two seconds off his times.
Finishing 26th in race one and 25th in race two, Thomas was delighted with his weekend's work. 'I had to make some changes to the bike, which is basically standard, except for the race can and some suspension, and the bike is shod with Pirelli tyres, the same that I ride at home. 'It is a very fast course, nothing like we have at home, and I had to make major changes to my riding style to get used to the fast corners.
It is a real eye-opener, and with the competitive edge in the British Championship, you have to be inch-perfect with your cornering,' said Thomas. He went on to say: 'I was going down the Hangar Straight at more than 150mph, and when you approach Stowe corner you imagine that you have to brake, but yet you keep going, going, going, and then at the very last minute you knock down three gears. 'It is frighteningly fast, yet it was a real learning curve.' Thomas hopes to be out at Mondello next weekend, finances providing, but the learning experience that he received at Silverstone will definitely stand to him, and hopefully he will be able to take the learning curve one step further.