Brands Track Day 12 Nov 12

What started out as a promising dry (but cold) day soon changed into a typical winter day… cold with fine misty rain, followed by heavier drizzle, and finally rain… and quite a lot of it! I enjoyed two dry sessions, followed by a session with light misty drizzle (mizzle?) and then a final session in the rain.

The event was run by ClubMSV and the organisation was pretty slick and low key. They even included breakfast and lunch in the £99 ($160) ticket price! I also booked two instructor sessions, and arranged them for sessions 2 and 4.

Like my last Brands Hatch outing (two weeks ago), there were far fewer bikes than you would expect to see on a typical summer track day. The novice group had 15 riders which meant that each bike pretty much had the track to itself. Only once did I come across a pack of about 6-8 bikes bunched together. However within a lap the group had dispersed and I was riding on my own again – I overtook a few riders while the other faster ones pulled away from me.

Although I was apprehensive before venturing onto the track, that feeling soon disipated within a lap or two. My lap times for the first session were pretty consistently around the 1:14 mark with a quickest time of 1:13. I was much more comfortable with my gear selection for the different corners and that allowed me to focus on my body position a bit more.

In session 2, I followed the instructor round the track for a couple of laps before he waved me on so that he could follow me and observe. After about 8 laps, he signalled me to pull off the track into the pits. I was slightly surprised (and annoyed?!) that he hadn’t allowed us to run to the end of the session for the debrief.

He confirmed that I wasn’t really hanging off the bike much (even though I thought I was!), and that my body position still needed sorting out. He reminded me that I needed to move my head and shoulders over to the inside of the corner much more than I was so far doing. He also stressed the need to transition from one side of the bike to the other more smoothly, so that the bike didn’t become unnecessarily unsettled. Other aspects of my riding were OK he thought; my racing line was OK and I was getting on the power quickly and smoothly. So yet again, body position is the thing that I really need to be working on.

So for session 3, I was intent on focusing on body position. This time I really felt that I was starting to position my body better. The laps felt quicker and I was braking much later on the Brabham straight before the right hander at Paddock. Where I was lifting off the throttle as I crossed the start/finish line at my previous trackday, this time I remained on the throttle until the first braking marker, changing down from 5th to 3rd gear before turning right down the hill. Paddock really is a sublime corner!

The corner at Druids which seemed impossible to get right also at the previous track day also seemed far less of a problem. Despite the fine misting rain the track still seemed to have good grip and I didn’t feel that I needed to back off. I felt that I was running lap times down to about 1:08 that session, although checking the lap timer would confirm that.

Pilot Error

As I pulled into the pit lane at the end of the session, I was keen to see my lap times and hoped for improvement. I parked the bike up in the garage and pulled by phone out of my pocket. Oh $#!T%&#!!, … I’d forgotten to start the lap timer before I’d gone out for the session! What an idiot! I had no way of knowing how much better I had been doing. Luckily I quickly realised that I could use the video footage to get a lap time to the nearest second instead. Phew!

During lunch the weather began to deteriorate even more, so that by the time of my 4th session, it was raining. I was sharing a garage with Andy, an intermediate rider and great company, who confirmed that although soaking wet, the track was no longer greasy and that he was getting good grip running his set of wet tyres.

I had a chat with the instructor and we agreed that I would go out for the 4th session, and that he would follow and observe. I set off pretty gingerly but by the end of the second lap I started to get a lot more confidence in my tyres and the grip level on the track. I started that session running 1:32 and ended up lapping at 1:25 – I was shaving off about 1/2 second per lap as I became more confident. And this time I’d remembered to switch on the lap timer!

In the debrief, he confirmed some improvement in my body positioning and seemed (slightly) impressed that I was still accelerating hard down the straights in spite of the rain. Although I had one more session available to me, I decided that common sense was the better part of valour, and that I would pack up and head home rather than risk crashing the bike in the final session – the weather looked like it was getting worse anyway.

Here’s a summary of my progress that day

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 12 1:13.14
2 8 1:11.59 Pulled in early, grrrrrrr!
3 ? ? Fastest session? Forgot lap timer, doh!
4 10 1:25.80 Rain!

I estimate that in the 3rd session, I was lapping at close to 1:08 to 1:09 but only the video would confirm it.

After getting home, I downloaded the files from the GoPro video camera, and discovered that after the first session, I must have switched the camera from video mode into camera mode by mistake – so when I thought I was switching the video on and off at the start and end of the session, I was in fact taking an unwanted photo!

I really was not having much luck with technology!?!

Does it matter that I don’t have video or some lap times? Not really, as I still learned a tremendous amount and I am beginning to feel that I am improving (albeit slowly) and the bike and I got home in one piece.

What I did miss is the ability to quantify (from the lap timer) if I really was getting on the gas faster and decelerating/braking later into the corners. This is where the benefit of the RaceChrono software comes into play.

What else did I learn? Check and double-check your equipment and settings before you head out on track!

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