Unlucky debut at Vallelunga

A first race weekend at Vallelunga that despite difficult weather, started out great but with an ending where luck was really lacking,

Ever since free practice on Thursday and Friday, the weekend was characterized by truly unpredictable weather. Clouds, flashes of clear, rain and consequently constantly changing asphalt conditions. Most of the rounds we could not turn because the track was neither wet nor dry, effectively making it almost impossible to get back into a decent rhythm ahead of Saturday’s qualifying. In fact, it happened that an almost dry track set-up was prepared and suddenly just minutes before the start of the session the rain started to fall again or even exactly the opposite. The only “positive” aspect was that in any case this uncertain condition was the same for everyone.

Saturday morning we arrive at the circuit and finally the condition of Qualifying 1 is clear: rain and a wet track! Clear visor and a very clear indication from Marcello “Paolo, please brake also hard but brake only with straight bike!”. From the first launched lap I can’t find confidence, except for a high-side at the big corner with a joker worth a season but it seems more than turning on water to try to make time on an icy surface. Crossing the finish line on the third launched lap I decide that at the end of what was supposed to be the fourth I would go back in and try to get the set-up changed, especially at the rear. Too bad that shortly thereafter, at the entrance to the Cimini corner, as soon as I try to engage the bike, the front locked up and I ended the session badly. Luckily without consequences (thanks VirusPower for the airbag-equipped suit!), less than an hour later Team X Gear has already fixed the little damage done.

In the afternoon for Qualifying 2 we return to the uncertain weather of the previous days. However, I feel confident, we understood what the lack of grip was coming from and the bike was adjusted accordingly. We had to try at all costs, P19 in the morning was definitely not a starting position to aim for a strong result. Around 2 p.m. the track starts to dry out and we decide to prepare an almost dry set-up while fitting rain tires. We start to turn and the times drop, from the table displayed at the pit wall I see the P9 sign but I think I have more. As we turn the asphalt is getting drier and the bike setup is working better, so much so that after 4 laps launched I realize it would be necessary to pit for further suspension hardening. I re-enter quickly, even faster the few clicks on fork and monoshock hydraulics, so I am ready for the last two good laps. The track is now dry, one can gently “force” the entries and the chrono drops again. At the third sector of the four of the track I arrive to have a clear advantage even on the provisional pole time but unfortunately three corners from the checkered flag I find another competitor who was proceeding slower and I am forced to close the throttle too caught. I close the qualification with a more than satisfactory result anyway, a P6 that would have made me start from the second row of the grid but above all with the knowledge that I could run even better times.

Sunday morning we woke up to the surprise of clear skies and pleasant temperatures. For the umpteenth time this weekend the weather forecast didn’t get us even remotely right! The race is a little after 11 a.m. and we are sure to run on completely dry asphalt, maybe not too hot but with a proper compound we can get great grip. At the 10-minute mark before the start, the pitlane opens and I am ready to go and line up on the grid. The bike is warm, the setup has been adjusted to the new condition and for the first time since Thursday the black visor, in short, nothing is missing, not even the tension that begins to be felt. Past the first few corners, on the straight before Campagnano corner, I open the throttle hard so as to keep the engine and tires at the right temperature but disaster happens. Chain breakage ends my weekend before I even get under the light and forces me to watch much of the race in the company of marshals waiting for the tractor that would take me and the bike back to the parc fermé.

It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to start the season but that’s what racing is all about and I want to focus on all the good that was there this weekend. We were able to adapt to some very tricky weather, get back up after a crash and get back on track faster than before, basically we gained awareness that we can race for positions that matter. Thanks to all the sponsors for the support as well as all the people who came by the curcuito to support me, we will be back in June at Mugello even faster and I am sure we will go and take what bad luck took away from us.

Paolo Perucatti #31

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