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 TT Ace Barton in Endurance Success

John Barton

John Barton of Crosby, Isle of Man was a member of the Manchester based Motomax team which recorded the best result by a British entry in last weekend's Le Mans 24-hour bike race.

Riding one of the new GSXRR 1000 Suzukis, the team of Barton, Pete Jennings and Russell Baker finished 21st overall and sixth in class out of a total 56 starters. 'We could have been a lot higher up, but we had to come back from two crashes,' revealed TT regular John, back at his sports therapy clinic in Kermode Close on Wednesday.

Jennings was at the helm for the first stint, which started at 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon, but the race was barely a few seconds old when the Suzuki was T-boned by another rider's machine at the second turn - a hairpin bend.

'Pete managed to remount and return the bike to the pits where the mechanics worked hard to get us back in the race. We lost nine or ten laps, but the bike still wasn't right as it kept misfiring.'

Various alterations were attempted, but none appeared to work and the Suzuki was brought back into the pits after every couple of laps to try another possible solution until finally it was diagnosed that gravel had got into the fuel system when the bike was dropped, and this had clogged up the fuel pump. 'By that time we had dropped to 49th, right at the back of the field, but we all rode well during the night - indeed recording our best times - to emerge into Sunday morning holding onto 20th position,' continued 'Bart', a regular Combination team player for Marown Football Club.

But then, at about 6.30am, Baker slid off - undoing much of the good work and dropping them back down to 30th. 'Luckily there wasn't much damage so we kept plugging away to finally get back up to 21st at the finish.' The team, backed by the British Derbi importers, were very pleased with the result, which guarantees them an entry at Le Mans next year.

John had limbered up for the event with a third place overall in a British Endurance six-hour event at Snetterton with former Senior MGP winner Tom Knight on Bart's own 996 Ducati production bike. 'I was pleased with that result as it was my first ride on a short circuit for 18 months,' says John.

He was very impressed with the new 1000 Suzuki he rode at Le Mans. 'It's an awesome piece of kit, and we rode it more or less standard except for some new fork internals, a different shock and a pipe. It has excellent mid-range power.'

Having last ridden a World Endurance series in 1994 with Lee Pullan and Simon Beck, John is now hopeful of riding the Brno six-hour event in three weeks time.

John Watterson for TT

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