Sometimes racing turns you upside down and the wrong way up. At last years Oschersleben Eight Hour the Schittko-KTM RC8 R finished on the podium with third place in the Open category after a great ride. This year the crusade ended differently but with strong emotions nevertheless.
Konrad Schittko, a dedicated KTM dealer from Unna in Germany, again prepared his endurance-RC8R with a freshly rebuilt V2-engine, new MAB-exhaust, fine-tuned chassis, adjustable Bazzaz quick-shifter, Beringer brake callipers with extra thick brake pads, custom fabricated calliper-adapters, tiny adjustable Magura controls for clutch and brake, closer fitting fairing parts, quick-change for the watercooler, reworked wheel-spacers on the front and rear, plus axles, modified electrics, a new lightweight lithium-battery, a mini-LED rear light for misty rain-conditions and much more.
The meticulously optimized V2 ‘weapon’ in numbers: 174 at the rear wheel at 10.800 revs, torque being 120 newton metres at 5.500, a 191kg weight including 15 litres of fuel.
The bike was created for the German GEC endurance series and to participate in the all-important 8 Hour during Oschersleben Speedweek. This popular event involves the Open class, which is unique for teams/dealers who want to participate with tuned-up bikes without violating pretty stringent Superstock rules. Riding alongside the full factory – or well-supported teams – of the WEC division is an inspiring challenge and a fantastic experience while any realistic chance of beating those crews is fairly remote.
Every racing project needs practice and track time to smooth out any issues. The Helldobler brothers (Thomas and Stefan) two hotshoes from the national Superduke Battle series, were set as the GEC riders for the Schittko RC8 R. Earlier in the year during the first roll-out tests in the south of France Stefan crashed and broke a collarbone. As a consequence the team couldn’t participate in the important 1000km event at Hockenheim. Afterwards some sponsorship trouble came up, then the next outing at Nürburgring, with Konrad stepping in as a rider himself, produced more problems when the engine refused to work properly in practice. On top of that, a thunderstorm overnight blew away half the paddock! The race was cancelled.
So after the GEC plans more or less faded away the 8 hours at Oschersleben was the last big gig that everybody was eagerly awaiting. Konrad got some sponsorship from Shell and asked KTM for a spare engine. Mattighofen responded and sent a full bike, a ‘RC8 R Track’, which had just returned from Superbike action in the Dutch championship. Schittko (a Superduke Battle lap record holder at Oschersleben) finally decided not to compete himself and wisely choose young guns Hendrik Ladiges, Oliver Schmidt and Thomas Helldoblers as riders. Finally some good momentum.
Qualifying 1 turned out to be hectic. The engine spat a valve shim, so the first day of practice was used to install the powerplant from the ‘RC8 R Track’ and repair the race engine to put in again after practice. Qualifying 2 finally went smooth as silk, the bike running strong as expected.
After a good start from a grid position 31st out of 40 starters, the German riders had to pit in the second hour to fit a new clutch. Later a broken chain sprocket had to be replaced. After continuing with good lap-times and regular stints the V-Twin Team was lying fourth in their class, when Ladiges suffered a spectacular and very nasty highside five hours into the race. The bike landed on its front and was damaged badly.
The wreck was brought to the pits. On first glance, everything looked pretty much totalled. Nevertheless giving up was not an option. After a second glance, Konrad and his team (set up entirely from Superduke Battle racers) set to work to rebuilding the bike. After cannibalising the spare machine and changing the forks, front wheel and lots of other damaged parts ‘Rakete’ Schmidt rejoined the race in the wake of exactly 59 minutes of frantic repairs. While Ladiges was out with a swollen knee, the two other riders kept on lapping flat out for two more stints and finally finished the race 8th in the class.
Endurance racing is all about team work and bloody-minded perseverance to the chequered flag. The Schittko KTM guys showed exemplary fighting spirit in a very tough race and were happy to celebrate an 8 H finish in style. Will everybody involved remember this incident and drama-filled race more than the podium-finish last year? You would think so!