Brands Hatch GP 9 May 2013

brands-GPHaving ridden the Brands Indy circuit a few times, I was curious to see whether the GP circuit really was as good to ride as people say. Checking the weather forecast last week, I saw that good weather was expected for the 9th, so I went ahead and booked myself into the novice group.

The track day was organised by No Limits which was good as they seem to be a pretty decent bunch of enthusiastic bikers. It cost £169 (US$260) which seemed expensive considering that they were running 4 groups; fast, fast/inter, inter and novices. Since the Brands GP circuit isn’t available that often I figured that the pros for riding this circuit at least once outweighed the cons.

I assumed that four groups would mean 4 x 15min sessions per hour, however it later transpired that each session would last for 20 minutes and so each group got 5 sessions during the day. Personally I think that this is better than 6 x 15 minute sessions for the day – especially on longer circuits like this one where the warm up laps really cut into your track time.

Brands-full-pitsI rode to the circuit arriving at 7:15am. The pits was already packed with vans, trailers and bikes and I couldn’t find a single empty garage! So I plumped for a reasonably empty looking one that had a few other occupants.

brands-garageBy 9am there were nine bikes in the double garage and three of them were Daytona 675’s! In fact, there was a great comraderie throughout the day and I met some really nice people and had some interesting discussions.

After finding a garage, I proceeded to sign on. Signing on normally takes 10-15 minutes however the queues at the desk were massive and I had to wait quite a while before getting to the sign on desk. With that out of the way, I rode the bike over to the noise test. Again, there was a stack of bikes waiting for testing but chatting with another rider waiting alongside me helped pass the time. The noise limit for the GP circuit is 102dB, so many of the racers were adding baffles and packing them with wire wool where necessary! 6,500RPM produced a mere 97dB from my Daytona’s Arrow exhaust even with the baffle removed.

Since every group was full, the briefing was held in the open air on the terrace near the food stall rather than in a briefing room. I doubt that there was a room big enough to house all the riders anyway! With that out of the way, we headed back to the pits to get out bikes ready. In my case, that involved removing the mirrors and number plate and reducing my tyre pressures. Although it was sunny, the air temperature was still a little on the cold side (around 12c, I think) so I chose to run 31psi in my front tyre and 30psi in the rear. Both tyres are the excellent all rounders; Michelin Pilot Power 2CTs. I find that these tyres are great in the wet and dry, and while maybe not the stickiest hoops around, they are consistently good especially on a midrange machine like the Daytona 675. For someone of my ability, I think that they are a really good tyre choice.

The first session on track was a little strange because the first half of the circuit is really familiar having ridden the Indy circuit a few times, but the back section of the GP circuit was all new. So although I felt comfortable initially, I soon found myself struggling over the unfamiliar sections of track. In fact I nearly had a spectacular off at the Sheen curves as a result of completely messing up my entry line on the blind approach to the right hander. A massive grab of the brakes saved the day and luckily no-one piled into the back of me!

After that session, I decided to seek out one of the No Limits instructors to ask if they could show me the racing lines. Matt kindly offered to help and said that he would meet me at the top of the pit lane when our group next went out. We agreed that he would show me the lines for 3 to 4 laps at a slow pace and that I would then lead to see how much I had remembered.

Riding with Matt was brilliant. Following the correct racing line makes the process of getting around the track both faster and much easier. The correct lines seem to lengthen the straights and shorten the corners. Matt judged the pace perfectly, and he gave hand signal showing exactly where to turn in for the corners. While I had been luke warm about the track after the first session in contrast I thoroughly enjoyed the second session. In fact that session with Matt turned the day into a brilliant one by giving me enough information to derive maximum benefit for the rest of the day. There’s a short clip below showing Matt’s racing lines for the GP circuit along with my attempt to emulate them afterwards so you can judge how well you think I did for yourself.

My fastest lap in the first session was a 2:14 which improved to 2:08 by the final (and fifth) session of the day. Unlike my other Brands track days where you hardly ever come across a pack of bikes, I did seem to keep encountering large groups of riders quite often; some of whom were slower than me. As a result, in my third session of the day, I posted lap times nearly 15s slower than my fastest laps as I got stuck behind these riders.

Overtaking them often proved to be difficult because they would be slow in corners and fast on the straights, or they would take a late entrance into corners and then cut across your path as they dived for the apex. As with all things, common sense is the better part of valour, and I figured that it would be better to bide my time until a decent and clear overtaking opportunity presented itself rather than take out or get taken out by somebody. Invariably this meant waiting for anywhere up to half a lap before I could overtake safely. If I was a faster rider, I guess I would have been able to pass more easily. One particular rider nearly drove me mad for two laps as I waited for a safe moment to pass; in the event I think the session ended before I even had an opportunity to pass.

Here’s a summary of my progress that day

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 5 2:14.27
2 6 2:09.51 Following Matt round the track
3 5 2:13.57
4 7 2:16.68 Lots of hold ups!
5 9 2:08.12 Sublime session – really fun!

I love the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch because it’s tricky and you can practice the same corners again and again each session as it only takes a minute to get around. The GP circuit takes things to another level. It is absolutely fantastic with a fast long straight and three fast sweeping right handhanders on the back section. If you get the chance to ride GP circuit, do it. You won’t regret it!

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