Reviewing my experience at Silverstone, I realised two things; one that the half day session had been a huge amount of fun and secondly that I had actually learned a lot about riding in a very short space of time.
I also realised that I still had a huge amount to learn. Hanging off the bike didn’t feel natural at all and I still didn’t really understand when to start braking, how much speed to scrub off at the end of the straight before a corner or what gear to be in.
So armed with a discount voucher, I booked a second session at Ron’s school. In fact this was the final session available before it closed for the winter.
On the drive to Silverstone I passed through two torrential showers – this didn’t look too promising for the track. Luckily, the rain clouds seemed to part as they passed over the track leaving it dry while the surrounding countryside got a good soaking.
Unlike my first time at the school, I wasn’t sharing my instructor, Mick, with anyone else – perhaps they remembered how bad I was the first time? I let Mick know that what I most wanted from the session was to be smoother on the bike and to try and understand more of the track craft. By that I mean figuring out what line to take, when to brake and what speed to carry through the corner. Speed wasn’t my primary objective as I figured that would come as a by product of being smoother.
Just like the previous time, I had masses of butterflies in my stomach as I started the bike in the pit lane. Again the CBR600RR felt very strange after riding a Street Triple all week on my commute to and from work each day.
As before, I set off following Mick. For the first couple of laps, we let the tyres warm up, and then he started to up the pace. I tried to remember everything from my previous track day as I tried to keep up.
During the debrief, I was reminded to “look through” the corner and plan my line rather than fixating on his back wheel. The second session felt faster than the first, and I really started to enjoy myself as I got the confidence to sail past the breaking marker cones before starting to brake, and then turn in for the corners.
Another thing that struck me was how in previous sessions I had been fixated about what gear I was in for each corner. My new found confidence meant I stopped worrying about that altogether as I tried to ensure that the rev counter sat in the top third of the rev range so that I could drive out of the corners nicely.
While things were generally looking up, I was still plagued by basic errors and a distinct lack of consistency. However when I got a corner right, it did feel amazing! After the second session, Mick seemed as pleased with my progress as I was. The final session was about consolidating all that I had been shown and trying to reduce my lap time still further.
Because the bikes have no speedometers, no data logging, and because no lap times are posted it’s hard to quantify any improvement that you might have made during the day. Luckily I had put a GPS data logger in my pocket. This later showed me that while my fastest lap in the first session had been 1:50, by the third and final session, my quickest lap had reduced to 1:40. That’s a improvement of 10 seconds a lap in just 45 minutes of track time with an instructor!
The two graphics below show the kind of improvement I was seeing between the start and the end of the day. The left hand graphic shows that I was able to take this corner 15mph faster while the right hand graphic shows that I managed to reach a higher speed down the straight and carry more speed into Stowe corner.
Just to put things into perspective, quick riders will lap in the low 1:20s so I still have a long way to go before I hope to emulate them. It just goes to show that 25 years of riding on the roads counts for little on the track compared to a total of one and a half hours of instruction.
There is nothing nicer on a race track than the feeling of passing another rider, and in the third and final session, we did manage to pass a few riders despite being the first two bikes out on the track. However we were also passed by a few riders, so I still have much to learn, it seems. Again I seem to have achieved as much as I wanted and all without injury to myself or the bike.
If you’ve never done a track day before, then Ron’s school will measurably improve your riding. If however you are a quick rider already with a few track days under your belt, then I’d suggest an alternate way of improving which I’ll detail in another post.