Taree’s Damian Cudlin may well have made the biggest breakthrough in his career to date, with a brilliant performance in the German Moto2 Grand Prix in Sachsenring this past MotoGP weekend.
The young Aussie received a call from Tenerif Pons Kalex Team owner Sito Pons, just days before the race, offering the chance to substitute for the team’s injured regular rider, Axel Pons. Having impressed the team just weeks ago at the IRTA test in Aragon, Spain, where his skills were utilised in a development role, Cudlin jumped at the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to make his long awaited GP debut.
Showing instant promise in the opening free practice session, where Cudlin claimed the 13th fastest time, eyebrows really began to rise as he improved to 6th in the final free practice session on Saturday.
However his ambitions for a front row start in qualifying where dealt a heavy blow as the 42 rider field proved extremely difficult for Cudlin to find any clear racetrack, and being unable to improve on his earlier practice time, his best lap dropped him down the order to a 22nd grid position. Never the less, Cudlin’s performance still out classed established team mate, Sergio Gadea and put him in a fighting mood for Sunday’s 29 lap race.
As the heavens opened on Sunday morning, all indications looked as though Cudlin’s GP debut would be a wet one, however as the sun came out before the start of the 125 GP, the track soon dried and the umbrellas seen in 200,000 strong crowd quickly disappeared.
As the lights went out to signal the start of the German Moto2 Grand Prix, Cudlin launched off the line and escaped any carnage at the tight first turn. Slicing his way through the pack in the opening laps, Cudlin gained 7 positions and climbed onto the back of a train of riders in front.
Showing inspirational determination and speed, Cudlin had the Germans on their feet as he moved up the leader board lap after lap, working his way into 4th position and into podium contention with 7 laps to go.
The surge up the order proved costly to Cudlin’s tires though, and as he battled bravely with a wildly sliding motorcycle, a podium finish slipped from his grasp and Cudlin was forced to settle for a hard fought seventh at the flag, less then three seconds from the thrid placed Roberto Rolfo.
Still grinning after his electrifying performance, Cudlin managed to thank the people who’d made it happen and claimed to be the “luckiest guy on the planet” just to be sitting on a GP bike for the weekend.
Damian Cudlin says: “Normally I’m trying to scab some passes just to watch the GP bikes go around, and now I’ve just ridden one of them. Although I couldn’t quite manage the podium today, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t happy with this result. You probably won’t be able to wipe this smile off my face for a couple of days. I just desperately wanted to make the most of the chance that I was given this weekend, as they only come along like this once in a lifetime. For a guy with no money from Taree, I think I did alright today.”
“The Kalex guys are the ones I need to thank most for pushing so hard for me to ride their bike, and of course Sito Pons for taking a risk and giving me a run. As short as this buzz will be, it makes all the hard years on the road worthwhile, and I hope I can make a bit of breakthrough in my career now. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
With no time to rest, Cudlin repacked his bags and is currently headed to Japan where he’ll ride for GMT94 in the third round of the World Endurance Championship, the Suzuka 8 Hours race, on July 25.