Last weekend saw the final round of the phenomenally successful Monocle Racing Series and the second outing for Morongoa Mahope on her Ducati Panigale V4. Mahope was signed by Ducati South Africa last month. She was the sole lady competitor in the prestigious BOTTs class on the day. The class was also joined by international racing star Sheridan Morais who took a guest ride. He finished both races but withdrew from the standings.
Each round and outing is serving as a learning curve for Mahope as she comes to terms with one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful track motorcycles, and the more she rides it the clearer it’s becoming that she is quite willing to grab the bull by the horns.
The team attended a practice day on the Wednesday and Friday before the weekend to allow her more track time on the Panigale V4. “On Friday, we started changing the suspension, and it felt much better. We still need to improve on the setup, but I was okay just to ride the bike and feel what I can do on it.”
On the morning of race day, the team switched from cut slicks to full slicks; a tyre Mahope had never yet ridden on. Despite this, she managed to up her pace and claim tenth on the grid during qualifying. “The slick tyres gave me confidence; I had no issues with the bike and felt so good. During qualifying, I thought my time was a bit slower, but then it turns out I did a 2:09, so I was very happy with that.”
Race one began with a red flag in the first lap after an incident in the midsection of the circuit. Thankfully, with no one injured, the race was able to be quickly restarted. However, as she is still getting to grips with the power of the bike, her starts were not as she would have liked, seeing her drop back down the grid. However, as she started gaining rhythm, her times fell, and she began overtaking riders. Soon she not only got back to her starting position but also gained two more places, finishing eighth and dropping her lap time by almost two seconds.
“Before the red flag, I messed up the start; I’m not used to so much power, so I lost a few positions. After the red flag, I had a chance to fix it, and during the race, I found a good pace and started catching some riders while also improving my lap time. The fact that I was able to catch and pass some riders gave me a confidence boost because I was initially unsure what the response would be if I were to try and overtake any rider on the same bike as me. The more I passed riders, the more confidence I had to go for the next person.”
Race two saw yet more improvements as she found herself in a five-way tussle for the podium, dicing with some experienced BOTTs racers and managing to hold her own among the other riders. With much cheering from her jubilant fan club, she eventually crossed the line in seventh place, dropping her lap time again by more than a second.
“I have a feeling that if I can get a good start and get to run with the front guys, I could match their pace.”
With the season over, the team will begin concentrating on next year. “For now, my goal is to get more saddle time on the bike and get ready for next season. There is the Ducati Family Day coming up, and that will be good practice for us. For now, we focus on nothing else other than saddle time.”