In September 2012, a friend suggested that we go on a trackday race training course. I replied “sure” thinking that it probably wouldn’t happen anyway. The next thing I know both a course and date have been selected – we were booked onto Ron Haslam’s Premier Race Training course at Silverstone (UK) at the beginning of October.
We arrived at Silverstone Experience Centre feeling a little like lambs to the slaughter. Although we’ve been riding road and offroad bikes for 25 plus years, neither of us has pretentions of being fast riders nor do we really want to go racing. After getting suited and booted and then given a briefing we were driven down to the pit lane by mini-bus. I started to develop a terrible feeling of butterflies in my stomach.
We were going to ride as a pair with a single instructor. He explained that the first session was about getting to know the bikes and track. We were to follow his line around the track, brake where he braked, and generally stay close behind in single file.
After riding a street bike with straight handlebars and an upright riding position, getting on a CBR600RR with clipons is an unnerving experience. It takes a lap or two at a gentle pace to start getting used to the bike. The bike’s sharp yet forgiving handling, its amazingly powerful brakes and seemingly endless revs are all a bit of an eye opener!
After the first few laps the instructor started to up the pace – I think he was fed up being passed by all the other trios of instructors and students. At this point, my lack of ability really started to show because I found that no matter how hard I tried, I just could not emulate his lines and speed through the corners. I end up lagging behind on corners, speeding up on the straights to catch up, and then piling into the next corner on the wrong line carrying too much speed for my limited ability – it wasn’t pretty!
I got off the bike at the end of the first session thoroughly demoralised. I suspected that I might be green on a track, but could I really be that useless! We had 20 minutes before the next session, and our instructor explained that we would have to start moving around the bike to get it to go faster round the corners. Using a bike on a paddock stand we practised bending our elbows, dropping our shoulder into the corner and moving our butt in the seat.
The second session was a revelation! The lines and speed that seemed impossible to emulate in the first session were suddenly easier to follow. Whereas before I had struggled to hustle the bike round the corners, it now positively wanted to throw itself at the apex! Of course, I ended up making loads of silly mistakes while trying to lean off including massively unsettling the bike as I shifted from side to side. I arrived back in the pits, after the second session, with a big grin on my face – I finally understood why riders hang off a bike to help it go around a corner faster!
The third session was more of the same, except that I got partnered with another rider (poor sod) and an instructor riding at a (much) faster pace. At times, I felt only barely in control of the bike and was saved more than once by the sublime handling of the CBR600RR and its ABS system.
Trying to remember so many things while riding at the limit of my ability was almost too much for my tiny mind – yet somehow we completed the final session with no mishap. I was both exhilarated and tired and I drove home at a gentle pace reflecting on how much I had learned and how much fun I had had in doing so.
I enjoyed myself so much and realised that I still had so much to learn that I returned to do this course again just two weeks later!