New Champion Montano’s Team Offers Its Version Of Pro Thunder Finale

New Champion Montano’s Team Offers Its Version Of Pro Thunder Finale

© 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

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From a press release:

Lone Ducati 748 holds off Thundering Buell Hordes

Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia. Saturday October 27th, 2001.

On Tuesday October 23rd, Thomas Montano and the team from Munroe Motors arrived at Road Atlanta, Georgia, for the decisive showdown in the AMA Pro-Thunder series. Coming in to this last round, staged in conjunction with the WERA Grand National Finals, three competitors had the chance of winning the series… Ducati riders Montano and defending #1 plate holder Jeff Nash – who was a no-show owing to injuries sustained at the previous round in Virginia, and Buell-mounted AMA 750 SuperSport winner Mike Ciccotto.

The underlying battle was between the dominant brands of Pro-Thunder… title sponsor Buell was throwing in everything possible to try and win the series – Ducati had beaten them in previous years with Shawn Conrad in 1999 and Nash in 2000 – but Buell was determined to beat the Italian bikes. To this end they trooped out a couple of hired guns – Michael Barnes on Ciccotto’s back-up motorcycle, and Shawn Higbee debuting the new Buell XB9R Firebolt – in addition to their regular fast guys Dave Estok and Tripp Nobles.

The Pro-Thunder series has seen incredibly close racing up front this year, with any of these top competitors capable of winning, and Buell’s strategy for Road Atlanta was for Ciccotto to win the race, and have the other four riders block Montano out of a podium finish.

Montano’s team had their own plans however, when they hired AMA 250 G.P. Champion Jimmy Filice’s team owner James Siddall of World Sports to assist with chassis and suspension set-up. Siddall installed the data collection system off his 250 Yamaha onto the Munroe Motor’s 2001 Ducati 748R, and used his experience to optimize the race bike. Despite starting with their race-winning set-up from the last AMA round in Virginia four weeks previously, substantial changes were made to the Ducati… including different triple clamps for more trail, raising the front ride height 10 mm, raising the rear ride height 10 mm, and fitting stiffer fork springs with a raised fork oil height. All the efforts of the practice sessions came to fruition on Saturday morning’s timed qualifying session… Estok, Nobles, Barnes and Higbee all put in a quick lap to qualify, and then pulled in so as to leave the track clear for Ciccotto. Half way through the session, Ciccotto ripped off a 1:29.976 lap time, and pulled into the pits, his team confident of pole position – as Tom’s fastest time was only a 1:30.056. Montano stayed out on track trying to better his time, and then to the dismay of the Buell team members, Tom posted a scorcher of 1:29.862 to take pole position and the extra championship point.

Ciccotto came over to the Munroe Motors team and said ” If Tom can take it today, then he deserves it” – a very sporting gesture that shows the camaraderie of the competitors in Pro-Thunder.

Finally the time came for the race, and the strategy was simple: if Montano finished on the podium, he would win the championship. With the team crew members chain-smoking and biting nails at the trackside wall, the riders lined up for the start. At the green flag, Ciccotto shot away into the lead, and the pack spread out behind him. Barnes was in second followed by Higbee and then Montano in fourth. Estok was out immediately as his bike broke its clutch, and Nobles was trailing behind Montano as his bike developed a misfire. On lap two, Higbee retired when his bike broke, and then on lap three Montano passed Barnes to take second place.

Up front, Ciccotto was riding like a man possessed, and slowly drew away from Montano to lead by four seconds. Barnes was running about a second behind Montano in third place, while Nobles was a distant fourth. As the race wound down, Barnes closed in on Montano, and on the final lap was close enough to dive up the inside on the brakes going into the tight second gear turn 10 – from around 160mph off the back straight.

“I saw Barney coming up on my left side, his bike squirming hard on the brakes – but I’d been checking over my shoulder and I could see Tripp (Nobles) was a ways back in fourth place, so I just moved over and let him through” Montano explained, “…I knew third (place) was good enough, so I just motored around the last few turns and took the checkered flag”.

On the podium, AMA’s Ron Barrick handed Montano the Pro-Thunder #1 plate, as the teams congratulated each other on such a close finale and a great championship season.

Tom Montano and the team from Munroe Motors would like to thank the following companies for their support and for producing the finest racing products available in North America: DUCATI Motorcycles North America, ARAI Helmets, PERFORMANCE FRICTION Brake Pads, STM Clutches and Sprockets, NUTEC Fuels, AZIONE MOTO Performance Accessories, MBP Desmo Valve System, ALPINESTAR Boots and Gloves, DUNLOP Tires, and special thanks to James Siddall of WORLD SPORTS, and to personal sponsor VEHICLE SYSTEMS.

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