Moto GP

Whirlwind month for MotoGP’s newest rookie Damien Cudlin

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Australia's Damian Cudlin is a motorcycle racer in demand. In the last 3 weeks the 28 year old has raced a Production Superbike for his BMW Team in the IDM series in Germany, an Endurance Superbike for BMW Motorrad in the Le Mans 24 hours race in France, and a Ducati Desmosedici for Pramac Racing in the MotoGP World Championship in Japan.

Each team used different tyre brands, different suspension and different electronic systems to manage their machines, while the team's staff ranged from German, Belgian, and French to Spanish and Italian. Despite this, the versatile Aussie has managed to race all of them with success, making him an increasingly valuable asset for the 2012 season.

Heading into the final round of the IDM Superbike series in Hockenheim, Cudlin went into the event as a title candidate, however a small mistake while pushing for lead of the final race of the season cost Cudlin in the championship standings as he eventually dropped to 4th in the final rankings.

With no time to rest, Cudlin drove his car and caravan to France for the 4th round of the Endurance World Championship and the classic Le Mans 24 hours race. Going into the event as championship leaders, Cudlin and the BMW Motorrad France Team looked set for certain victory after securing pole position and leading for almost half of the race, however technical issues cost the team over 40 minutes in the box for repairs and the seemingly unstoppable #99 eventually finished in a disappointing 7th overall.

It was expected that Cudlin would enjoy a hard earned break with some of his BMW colleagues at the World Famous "Oktoberfest" after the gruelingLe Mansrace, but whilst on-route toMunich, Cudlin received the opportunity of a lifetime to replace grand prix veteran Loris Capirossi in the Pramac Racing MotoGP Team at the Japanese Grand Prix. Without hesitation, Cudlin and his wife Amy headed straight toFrankfurtand boarded a plane forTokyo.

"A message came through directly from Sito Pons asking me if I was interested to replace Capirossi inJapan. I was driving the car at the time and I almost steered it off the road. I honestly couldn't believe it. Before we knew it, Amy and I were sitting at the airport waiting to fly toJapan. I kept expecting someone to jump out and tell me I was on Candid Camera!" Cudlin joked.

Thrown in the MotoGP deep end, Cudlin faced the daunting task of learning the Motegi racetrack whilst riding the potent Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP machine for the very first time. While steady to begin with, Cudlin soon proved he was no joke at all, as he continued to reduce the deficit to the leaders with every session.

Qualifying ahead of MotoGP test rider and multiple grand prix winner Shinichi Ito, Cudlin looked set to claim more scalps in the race as he moved to 12th position and within striking distance of 11th placed LCR Honda rider, Kousuke Akiyoshi. However the impressive debut ended early when Cudlin lost the front of the Ducati and crashed out with 8 laps to go.

"The race was going to plan and although I was trying really hard at the time, I'd just got to the back of Akiyoshi and had started to plan my attack for a few laps before the finish, but then suddenly I was skidding across the tarmac and my race was over. It's really disappointing to have crashed out, especially as it's just the second time I've crashed in the entire 2011 season; talk about bad timing!" Cudlin shrugged. "Still, it was a great experience, one that I'll remember for the rest of my life, and I can't thank the Pramac Racing Team enough for giving me this opportunity. I hope it's not the last‰Û_"

With the next round of the MotoGP World Championship scheduled for Phillip Island in Australia, Cudlin says he'd "kill for the chance to ride it again" however the status of currently injured Capirossi is still unclear. Cudlin has also been linked as a replacement for Hector Barbera at the Aspar Team as the Spaniard is currently undergoing treatment for a broken collarbone.

"Obviously it'd be great to ride a MotoGP bike again with the experience I've gained inJapan, especially at a circuit I've raced on before likePhillipIsland, but it's out of my hands so I'll just wait and see what happens. If nothing else, I'm content to say I've ridden in MotoGP and had a great time doing it."

Main Photo: Cudlin aboard the Pramac Racing Ducati at Motegi

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