Kent, Washington – “Any event like this can be a success on a beautiful sunny day,” says one fictional event organizer, “but it takes a special effort to do this in the wet. So we arranged to have Ducati Northwest 2006 on the only full day of rain this month. No breaks, no let ups – just all rain, all day.”
“We’ve even,” confides our phony organizer, “arranged for a special torrential downpour this afternoon in time for the slow race. We figure we can save on service and fuel by ‘having to cancel'”, he air quotes, “the demo rides on the track due to the weather.” The quotes are entirely fake but there is a certain “truthiness” to them.
Yes, Wednesday September 20th was wet with some 0.29 in / 0.74 cm of rain falling, and then pooling almost exclusively on Pacific Raceways Road Course’s back straight thanks to poor drainage. Transforming the back straight into a sluicing, hydroplaning, floodplain was all part of an nefarious master plan to ensure that the Ducati demo fleet “couldn’t” take to the track. The demo fleet, however, was not out of danger from riders.
Bird let off the throttle dropping the bike sickeningly down and to the right. Miraculously Bird wrestled the Sport1000 through a slewing 360-degree turn, nearly flinging it into the row of demo bikes, before laying the Sport1000 almost gently on its side. The crowd, huddled under the hospitality tent (a few still holding false hope of a demo ride), issued mortified gasps and profanities – half shock and half disbelief at the improbability of the save. Who thought slow racing could bring the drama and excitement of a spectacular crash so close to so many spectators?
Minutes later Mr. Bird was back on the starting line, inching the Sport1000, its rear cowl scraped and right under-tail exhaust bent outwards, ahead in dry-clutch moaning slow motion. For the symbol minded present, Bird’s return seemed representative of how the event’s spirit fails to be drowned. His subsequent runs were, however, less boisterous.
Despite the weather, there were not a lot of brave faces being put on. Indeed, attendees were wearing genuine smiles, proving it takes more than a little rain to dampen the Ducatista spirit.
A few daring souls even braved the wet track, though it’s obvious that the supermotards are ruling the roost in the “cow floating” conditions.
A few of the more daring track leads and instructors however managed to get a knee down despite the conditions.
Inescapably the weather set the DNW2006’s tone, but this is the Pacific Northwest and it’s noted for precipitation. That meant that a large number of attendees forfeited their track fees. Track days are always a gamble, but for the next event one hopes the organizers will come up with a contingency plan for if the weather turns foul. Given the caliber of potential instructors on site, Two-Time World Champion Doug Polen for example, a rain-riding clinic could have stood in for canceled track time. Giving riders an educational take away allowing them to make safe use of the available track time could create an asset from a wet situation. Traditionally educational seminars at these events have been under attended, making such backup plans risky and should they be track based the chance of riders going down increased. Even this DNW was not without casualties – especially on the catwalk.
One model suffered a “chill” during the Ducati Fashion show and deserves special credit for bravely soldiering on. If you’re not sure how attractive one can look while gracefully turning blue in a tomato-red Ducati bikini, then Jenna Heath’s pluck offered the answer. The 2007 line of Ducati apparel features classic callbacks to 70’s and 80’s styles with a touch of modern Italian flair. It does not however feature parkas, pity for the models.
Off the runway, Ben Bostrom’s fashionable slacker attire proves underdressed for the wet-coast’s sopping autumnal embrace. Luckily Bostrom, having just jetted in fresh from California, was lent a down vest. That might have marred the ensemble of designer ripped jeans, Converses, and a tee – but practicality wins hands down.
What strikes you about the Ducati AMA rider is his easygoing attitude and accessibility at these events. Bostrom seems genuinely willing to spend time with fans, answer questions and do signings. Well that, and his freakishly developed forearms and massive hands. Wrestling the 999 around the tracks seems to build muscle.
Other motorcycling notables were around also. Doug Polen did a few morning turns around the track, and came away convinces that Turn 3 was “seriously lacking grip”. Michael Czysz, of the MotoCzysz, showed up in his rock-star tour-bus… Michael is the head of a MotoGP effort that is a near ground up redesign of bike technology in a bid to create a true American super-bike. Michael Locke, Ducati North America President, also flew in to soak up some of the Northwest’s Ducatista spirit.
DNW2006 was stronger than its predecessor events, DNW2004 and last year’s Desmo Daze, primarily due to greater variety of off-track events. The Concorso D’ Eleaganza offered not only a dry tent, but the chance to look at precious metals both old and new from throughout Ducati’s history. Trials riding featuring the previously mentioned Sean Bird added to the carnival feel. While the mournful wail of the Brother’s Powersports horsepower shoot-out drew in spec-sheet aficionados, giving them a chance to lay it on the line on the dyno. That back-dropped Mofius’ eclectic soundtrack of funk, soul, rock, and pop tunes for the event, tunes which set the beat for Womanipura, an all-woman fire-dancing troupe, crowd pleasing visuals… that or attendees were trying to get closer for the heat.
Short of snow, hail or the eating of the moon and Sun by the malevolent wolves Skol and Hati during Ragnarok, it’s hard to imagine that the conditions could have played out much worse for DNW2006. More importantly though, the spirit of the event outshone the grey skies and drizzle, even as participants played in the puddles.